Peter's world is rocked when a mysterious warrior named Slayer shows up who is intent on training him to be a real fighter. But along with this man comes demonic figure who wants him to make him an...
Chapter 8: Holy Ghost
The rain poured and the thunder roared in downtown New York City as Hotshot and his enslaved minions gathered in a large church. The holy structure was quiet, not a soul present as Hotshot stood at the center altar with the glowing soul stone in hand. Mary Jane, Aunt May, Vanessa Fisk, and Elektra stood with him, emotionless and cold. The skin of his victims was pale, their eyes burning bright red with malevolence. Only a mere collection of flesh, their life force was fading and only the rogue demon's power fueled them. Hotshot was growing more powerful by the second, fueled by the souls of the innocent. But it was not enough for him.
"This is perfect!" grinned the malevolent being, "Nothing beats the spiritual energy of a church! And I'm gonna need every last scrap of it!"
Holding the stone high, the stained glass windows shuttered as the thundered roared. The ominous glow of the stone inundated Hotshot in an aura of energy, his demonic face contorting in a fit of ecstasy.
"So many souls yet so little time! The strength of an entire city in the palm of my hand! No one will stand in my way now! I'll show Hell they can't stop me! I'll show Heaven they can't ignore me! Everyone will know my power! Everyone!"
"I don't think so, ugly!" came a voice from the church entrance.
Not threatened by the new presence, Hotshot turned to face Slayer with a sinister grin. His greatest enemy who had vanquished him many times before struck no frustration in him this time. The warrior may have bettered him before, but this time was different. Now he was flushed with the power of souls. Even his skills couldn't beat that.
"Jack...glad you could join me for the party!"
"Ha! Some party," scoffed Slayer, taking out his sword, "No booze, no hookers, not even a single tablet of crystal meth! If this is your idea of a party, save the invite to your next birthday."
"Joke all you want, Slayer! You're power is nothing but cheap magic tricks! I've got the power of soul on my side!"
"Souls that you stole!" shot Slayer, "You gave up your soul a long time ago, Hotshot. You're still every bit as barren as the pits of hell where you belong!"
"Ha! Hell couldn't handle me any better than this pathetic world!" roared Hotshot, "And when I get through with you, I'll have enough power to enslave everything from Heaven to Hell!"
"Not if I have anything to say about it!" yelled Slayer as he lunged forth.
The symbols on his hands glowed bright yellow as he cast a spell, increasing his speed to blinding limits. He easily flew past the four soulless women, pulling off a flip in mid air before landing at the altar and thrusting his sword right into Hotshot's gut. But the demonic figure merely grinned, reacting swiftly as he caught Slayer's sword with both hands.
"Errrrrrrrrr! You...won't...win!" grunted Slayer, trying to beat Hotshot's new strength.
"I already have, Jackie boy."
With a simple spin move, Hotshot punched Slayer in chest and sent him flying across the church. He landed with a hard thud against the stone wall, both his body and his ego wounded from such a blow.
"Ugh!" he grunted, struggling back to his feet, "Guy's been working out."
"With so many souls, I don't have to!" laughed Hotshot, "If you think I'm strong now, just wait till you see me with every soul in this city in the palm of my hand!"
"That's NOT going to happen!" shot Slayer, "Not as long as I'm still breathing!"
"Guess we'll just have to change that," grinned Hotshot, "Elektra, keep my old friend busy, will you? I hear he has a thing for scantily clad women."
Obediently, the mindless Elektra turned towards Slayer with her sinister red eyes and attacked. Even under Hotshot's control, she still had the skills that made her a deadly assassin. Only now, she was much stronger with his evil fueling her being. And to aid her, Hotshot armed her with new sighs he forged from his own body.
"Ah hell..." groaned Slayer.
Elektra's attacks were swift and efficient, starting with a flying kick. Slayer easily avoided it, but he didn't avoid the quick back kick that hit him as soon as she hit the ground. He fell back off balance, giving Elektra plenty of time to unleash a barrage of punch combos, all of which were like shots from a metal baseball bat.
"Argh! I hate demon slaves!"
Going in for the kill, Elektra tried to stab Slayer when he was down with her sighs. But the agile warrior avoided it by rolling to the side and rising to his feet with his sword in hand. Taking a defensive stance, Slayer ignored the sting in his body as he stared down the emotionless woman.
"I normally don't fight girls...especially ones who dress like you," he commented, "But on this occasion I say what the hell! Hyaaahhhhhhhh!"
Unleashing his own attack, Slayer hit Elektra with a series of sword swipes. Instinctively, she blocked them with her sighs, but was driven back. Any normal combatant would have been knocked off balance, but in her enslaved state Elektra was like a living statue. She pushed him off and started attacking again, swiping her sighs in a blinding attack that forced Slayer on the defensive. He grunted hard as he was driven back. The odds were still in her favor.
Back in the center stage of the church, Hotshot grinned at Elektra's utility. She was good for some high class killer who sold herself like a common street whore. As much as he wanted to kill Slayer himself, he needed to secure his power.
"Have fun, Jackie boy," he grinned, "But I've got work to do!"
Holding the soul stone high in the air, lightning flashed and illuminated the area through the stain glass windows of the church. A cold gust swept through the holy walls. The air grew tense with sinister intent. The stone began to glow, the power focused on the demonic figure.
"It's time!" grinned the demon.
Every candle in the church came to life, lighting up on its own by an unseen force. The cold air engulfed the center altar, bathing it in a dark haze. Holy relics crumbled into dust and the cross hanging overhead flipped upside down. The demonic figure pushed the podium where the priest stood out of the way and approached a large table with a brass cross. His eyes flashed red, causing the cross to suddenly dissolve into dust. And on the table, he carved an ancient symbol representing great evil.
"Yes...it's all coming together," said Hotshot ominously.
Stepping into the center podium, Hotshot was surrounded by a series of luminous rings. Each ring bore small seams of text similar to the soul stone. As he took his rightful place, the rings erupted in a yellow glow and the soul stone shined brightly like a miniature star.
"YES! I FEEL IT!" proclaimed Hotshot.
"Oh shit..." groaned Slayer, stuck in a grapple with Elektra.
Mary Jane, Aunt May, and Vanessa Fisk watched on indifferently. They were nothing but witnesses to Hotshot's ultimate rise to power. They could do nothing and neither could Slayer. The demonic madman was truly on the brink of attaining invincibility.
"IT'S OVER WARRIOR! YOU'VE LOST! THIS WORLD IS MINE!"
But just as Hotshot was ready to declare victory, an annoying voice echoed from the ceiling.
"Hope you kept the receipt, Hotshot!" said Spider-Man, swinging down and kicking Hotshot right off the altar.
He knew that voice. He hadn't expected to hear it, but it was undeniable. The human/demon hybrid was fuming. He was so close, only to be interrupted by some costumed punk. He expected Slayer to stand in his way, but not a puny little shit like Peter Parker.
"You put on a hell of a light show," remarked the vigilante, "Ever think of getting a job in Hollywood?"
"You little punk!"
His eyes glowing bright red, Hotshot gripped the soul stone and unleashed a barrage of bright blasts. To Peter, it was like being hit by fireworks on steroids. But thanks to his spider agility, he back flipped his way out of harms way and landed atop the altar.
"You wanna hassle my hometown, Hotshot? You're gonna have to go through me!" said Spider-Man, his words seething with determination.
Still burning with hatred, Hotshot scoffed. An insidious grin formed, looking more humored than annoyed. His laughter filled the halls. This kid may have been annoying, but he was just little bug at this point.
"Oh this is too rich!" laughed Hotshot, "I beat your and you still try to play hero?"
"Not this time, pal. You messed with my family, my home, my whole life!" shot Peter, "I'm not gonna just sit by and wallow in self pity while you try to pull a Norman Osborn on me!"
"Kid, I didn't just mess with your life! I destroyed it!" grinned Hotshot, "And I had a damn good time doing it! HA!"
Peter didn't want to believe the deceitful demon. But looking at the cold gazes of his aunt and girlfriend, devoid of all humanity, it was hard to deny. A burning anger raged within, mixed with the immense guilt of dragging his loved ones into this mess. There was no escaping the truth. Hotshot knew it. And he was going to make sure it would haunt Peter Parker for the rest of his short life.
"You might as well accept your fate, Parker," said Hotshot, "There's nothing left for you to fight for. You try to be a hero, but in reality you're really just a kid who stumbled onto some power. Look at you! Hiding behind a mask, wanting to seem selfless when you're even greedier than me! You don't do this for your family! You do it for yourself!"
Hotshot's words stung worse than any pain he could have inflicted. The resolve of Peter Parker and Spider-Man was shaken to its core. Hotshot was unlike any other enemy he had faced. He knew how to hit him where it hurt. He had all the advantages. Spider-Man was just a bug to him, one he could squash without a second thought.
"You're a sick bastard, Hotshot!" scowled Peter with rage.
"Maybe..." grinned the demon, "But I still beat you!"
"Errrrrrrr! BEAT THIS!"
The time for taunting had passed. Spider-Man wouldn't hear another word of this madman's babble. Leaping into the air, he came down on Hotshot with a heavy kick. But the demonic figure was ready for him. He swiftly dodging to the side and slamming the masked teen with his fist, knocking him back onto the altar. Peter felt the hard sting surge through his body. His vision momentarily blurred. But he could still see Hotshot standing over him in a domineering poise.
"That all you got?" grinned Hotshot, savoring his groans of agony.
"Ugh!" coughed Spiderman, "Are you kidding? My bones are still intact."
"Ha!" scoffed Hotshot, "You've got guts, kid. I'll give you that."
"You're going down, Hotshot!" he yelled with rage, "If it's the last thing I do, I swear you're going down!"
"Forgetting something, Parker?"
Turning to his mindless minions, Aunt May and Mary Jane came to life and attacked Peter. Their skin was ice cold and their loyalty unbending. And Peter could do nothing to get through to them.
His spider sense told him they were going to strike. He should have reacted, but he just couldn't strike the people he loved.
"Ack!" grunted Peter as MJ's fist collided with his face.
It was like being hit with a crow bar. The zombie women didn't hold back, tearing into Peter with no remorse. Mary Jane grabbed him by the neck from behind, choking the life out of him while Aunt May relentlessly pounded into his gut. Blood spattered from Peter's throat, his vision growing blurry from the harsh blows. And there was nothing he could do about it.
"Ain't this ironic?" laughed Hotshot, "Taken down by the people you swore to protect. It'd almost be poetic if I actually gave a damn about poetry. Hahahahahahah!"
Thrown to the ground, Peter's limbs trembled as Mary Jane and Aunt May kicked him repeatedly. He wanted to strike Hotshot, but he couldn't get through his loved ones. But while Peter was enduring such a beating, Slayer took notice as he remained locked in combat with Elektra. His sword was now locked with her sighs, the strength of a warrior and a mindless minion locked in a bitter struggle. With their great skills, they fought to a stalemate. And if the tides were to turn, it would have to come from Peter.
"Come on, Parker! Pull yourself together!" grunted Slayer, "You have to fight back! Forget your doubt! Forget your insecurities! Just pick yourself up and FIGHT!"
Just as Slayer said those words, Elektra got off another punch and sent Jack stumbling back. Their fight went on and Spider-Man's wasn't done yet. He was still breathing, but his loved ones were still in his way. For so long, he did what he did for them. Now they were gone. He couldn't even call himself a hero after having failed them. Peter's traditional drive wouldn't win this battle. Instead, he needed something more.
So much...it hurts so much. Can't win like this. I'm sorry Uncle Ben. I'm sorry Aunt May, MJ, Gwen...everybody.
Aunt May hit him with another hard kick, causing him to cough up more blood. It was a sickening feeling, yet Peter Parker refused to submit.
NO! Stop it, Parker! Don't go out like this! Stop whining like a baby and get up! Forget about the pain! Just tough it out! I'm not going down without a fight!
Foregoing his loss, doubts, and bodily pain, Spider-Man caught the drone Mary Jane's leg before it could hit him again. And despite what every fiber in his being told him, he threw her across the church with all his strength.
"Sorry MJ. Hope you won't remember any of this," grunted Peter, returning to his feet.
"Kill him already!" demanded Hotshot.
Aunt May obeyed, but Peter was ready for her. She tried to punch him, but he caught her in mind stride.
"I am so going to be grounded for this."
Gritting his teeth in anguish, Peter threw his beloved aunt across the church with all his might. Her flying body impacted Mary Jane, who was just getting up. He couldn't believe he had just crossed such a line. But he wasn't thinking like a hero anymore. Now, he was thinking like a warrior.
"Hotshot!" yelled Spider-Man, his words simmering with anger, "Now it's just you and me!"
Hotshot grunted in frustration. The kid was a fighter, but now he was just getting on his nerves.
"You're out of your league, Parker!" scoffed Hotshot,
"Do the universe a favor, ugly...shut up!"
Then, in a show of defiance, Peter removed his mask and tossed it aside. Even Hotshot was surprised. This wasn't the Spider-Man he had observed. He'd never remove that mask in the middle of a fight. Something was very different now.
"I'm through hiding," said Peter, spitting up blood, "Even if Aunt May and Mary Jane really are gone, I'm not gonna stop fighting. And no force, not even a real life demon, can stop me!"
Gritting his teeth in determination, Hotshot's supercharged aura erupted with rage. The soul stone was glowing brightly, invigorating the demon madman with great strength. Yet Peter remained poised to fight.
"You wanna die, Parker? Fine by me! You're suffering will only make me stronger! And you'll die by my hands knowing you failed everyone you ever cared for!"
"So be it," said Spider-Man without fear.
Clenching his fists, Hotshot lunged forth. All the training Slayer had given Peter would have to pay off now. He couldn't afford to be fancy here. He just had to win. And as he took a deep breath, the young vigilante let his spider sense guide him.
With the agility of a spider, Spider-Man dodged Hotshot's incoming punch. It was so hard the demon madman's fist made a hole in the floor. He swifly turned around and tried to grab him, but the nimble vigilante slipped through his grasp and did a backwards handspring, hitting Hotshot right in the chin.
"You're gonna have to do better than that, pretty boy!" taunted Spider-Man.
"I'm just getting warmed up, punk!"
He tried to karate chop Peter with his free hand, but the agile teen bent back and avoided it as if it were a limbo stick. Hotshot tried to kick him, but he managed to roll to the side and avoid the blow. Still on the ground, he saw his window. With super human reflexes, Peter shot up and kicked Hotshot right between the legs. This time, he felt it.
"Ack!" grunted the demon.
"Guess that part of you is still human," grinned Peter.
With Hotshot stumbling, Spider-Man unleashed a barrage of punches and kicks all over Hotshot's demonic figure. Most of his body was like hardened volcanic rock, but Peter kept at it, ignoring the pain in his fists. Hotshot grew more enraged as he tried to counter, but Peter's spider sense kept him a step ahead and he stumbled back. It was very frustrating. Even Slayer couldn't avoid him this well. And the punches were starting to add up.
"You sick, demented excuse for a demon! I'll bet Satan himself thought you were a jerk!"
"Argh! I'm too strong! Even for them!" grunted Hotshot, enduring another blow to the face.
"Yeah right! With a face like yours, you're probably too ugly even for them! Me? I'm a New Yorker! Hell doesn't have anything you can't find downtown!"
Hotshot tried to grab the nimble vigilante, but Spider-Man easily slipped under his legs and jump kicked him in the back. The demonic figure stumbled, allowing Peter to make his move. Pouncing on his back, Spider-Man pounded away at his head. Hotshot howled with rage, but couldn't beat back the nimble teen. Falling to the ground, Hotshot was actually being beaten by a punk kid. It was mortifying, even for him. He was a figure of great evil. How could a mortal like Peter Parker get the better of him?
"Had...enough...demon?!" yelled Spider-Man in between punches.
"ERRRAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" howled Hotshot in frustration.
The soul stone suddenly came to life, glowing brilliantly as Spider-Man pounded away. Suddenly, he was knocked off Hotshot by a punishing kick from Vanessa Fisk. It was a dirty trick, but Hotshot could care less. It only took him a second to recover. And as he stared down the young vigilante, a sinister grin formed on his demonic face.
"Too bad your folks ain't here to see you fail!" yelled Hotshot, shooting up and grabbing him by the neck.
"Ack!" choked Peter, blood seeping down the side of his face.
The seven foot creature of darkness held the hapless vigilante high in the air, gazing at him with his demonic eyes. He was so enraged, yet eerily calm. A pestilent mortal was defying him, but his fate would be no different than the rest of his enemies. He was through playing games now. It had to end here.
"You're a kid, Parker. A freakin' kid. Don't you see? It's over! Your family, your love, your whole livelihood! The world hates you! Nobody trusts you! So why do you keep pestering me? Why can't you accept your fate?!"
Peter was choking on his own bile, every inch of his body stinging with hot pain. Yet he fought on, not giving into defeat. Even if his loved ones were gone, he wouldn't stop fighting. He couldn't allow a being this evil to succeed. Slayer showed him how to be a warrior. It was finally time to start fighting like one.
"Because...it's my responsibility!"
Hotshot's calm demeanor disappeared as his annoyance boiled over. Yet over with Slayer, still locked in battle with Elektra, he couldn't help but smile.
"Time to die, Spider-Man!" proclaimed Hotshot, "I'm gonna enjoy this!"
Before Hotshot could react, Peter shot a load of webbing right into his eyes. The demon's reaction was all too human, falling back in shock as he stumbled in disarray. Spider-Man fell to the floor, coughing up blood and in a world of pain. But he wasn't done yet.
"You're going down, Hotshot!" yelled Spider-Man.
With a grunt, Hotshot ripped the webbing off his face just in time to see Spider-Man lunging towards him. Instinctively, he raised his hands and caught his fists in mid stride. It happened so fast that Hotshot didn't take note that he was still holding the soul stone. And as soon as Peter touched it, something that defied reality happened.
"What the..." grunted Hotshot.
The stone erupted in a pulse of bright light. Hotshot and Spider-Man were both consumed by the energy. Off to the side, Slayer saw what was going on and his all seeing eye flashed bright yellow.
"Wow..." he said, stuck in a grapple with Elektra, "Guess Hotshot forgot the stone knows no ownership. This should be interesting."
He couldn't let Peter go it alone. With a hard grunt he kicked Elektra off and ran towards the center of the church. The light show around Peter and the renegade demon raged on. Hotshot felt some of the power slipping away. It was going into Spiderman and healing his injuries. The cuts on his face faded and his muscles bulged beneath his costume.
"NO! LET GO OF MY STONE!" yelled Hotshot, finally pushing Peter off.
The young teen fell back, but the damage had been done. Whatever power resided in that stone affected Peter immediately. The stinging pain Hotshot had inflicted was gone. He felt a new rush of energy the likes of which he never felt before. It felt as though he could take on the world. Hell, he could even give Flash Thompson a run for his money.
"Wow! What a rush!" said Spider-Man, flexing his new muscles.
"Good job, Parker. Looks like Hotshot didn't read the whole text," said Slayer with a grin, "If he did, he'd know that the power of souls is indifferent. It goes wherever it can, even into a kid from Queens."
Hotshot grunted at his new weakness. He still felt the strength of the stone, but it wasn't as intense. Panting hard, he turned towards his minions.
"You two! Attack!" he yelled to the soulless Aunt May and Mary Jane.
Except this time, they did nothing. They just stood there indifferently.
"What are you waiting for?!" yelled the renegade demon, "Your master gave you an order!"
Spider-Man was confused. Near as he could tell, his aunt and girlfriend were still soulless drones. But they no longer followed Hotshot's will. A slow smile spread across Slayer's face, his all seeing eye revealing the reason.
"Looks like the tides have turned," grinned Slayer, "I think the ladies have a new master."
"New master?" said Peter, piecing it together.
But in his rage, Hotshot fought back.
"Not for long! Elektra! Vanessa!"
This time, his orders weren't ignored. Elektra and Vanessa attacked Spider-Man and Slayer. Instinctively, Peter scrambled.
"Uh...stop them?" he said to Mary Jane and Aunt May casually.
Without hesitation, the two women stepped in front of their new master and took the blunt end of the assault. Aunt May took on Vanessa and Mary Jane took on Elektra. Vanessa and May soon found themselves in an iron grapple while MJ fearlessly charged Eleketra, drawing her away from the central area. Without souls, will, or humanity it was a bitter stalemate. No minion would let their master down.
"Wow...this is indescribably cool," said Peter, standing with Slayer against their foe.
The final battle was upon them. Now it was just Hotshot verses Slayer and Spider-Man.
"Ready for the real party, Hotshot?" said Slayer, holding his sword at the ready.
"I'd ask you to come quietly, but this time I'd rather beat the crap out of you for all the pain you've put me through!"
Gripping the stone firmly, Hotshot regained his composure. He was wrought with frustration and anger. The fires of hell couldn't even compare to how angry he was. Hotshot was a demon. These two were just mortals. He couldn't die. They could.
"You punks are pathetic!" grunted Hotshot, "Need I remind you I still have this!"
The soul stone glowed brightly, casting an ominous aura throughout the church.
"I'm through playing around! No more games! This time I'm not holding back!"
"And neither will we," said Slayer.
The soul stone burned with intensity as Hotshot tapped every ounce of power he could from the ancient relic. His body was surrounded by a golden light, invigorating him with newfound strength. It didn't take an all seeing eye or a spider sense to see how strong he was. But like true warriors, Slayer and Spider-Man stepped up.
"Wow, talk about having a colorful personality," commented Spider-Man.
"Less talking, more fighting!" yelled Slayer, unleashing his attack.
Together, the two warriors fought Hotshot. Slayer struck first with a wave of slashes from his sword while Peter did a jump kick. Fueled by his hatred, Hotshot used the power of the soul stone to create a shield against Slayer's sword while knocking away Spider-Man's initial blow. But fueled with the power he siphoned off, Peter quickly recovered and fought on.
"Say cheese, Hotshot!" he said, hitting the demon with an uppercut while Slayer drop kicked him in the gut.
Spider-Man and Slayer didn't let up. They coordinated their efforts with Slayer slashing his demonic flesh while Peter hit him in the face. Hotshot thrashed about, but couldn't organize anything strong enough to counter his enemies. The two warriors charged with all their might, but despite these blows Hotshot was still invigorated by the soul stone and he could take everything they threw at him.
"Ha! Is that all you got?!"
Showing off his mastery of the power, Hotshot's evil eyes erupted in a fiery glow. Fueled by the soul stone, he unleashed a blast from his eyes that hit Peter head on and sent him flying.
"I've got plenty more where that came from!" growled Hotshot, blocking another blow from Slayer.
"I take it we're not talking card tricks," grunted Slayer, "Guess I'll have to use some tricks of my own!"
Stepping back, the symbols atop Slayer's hands lit up. Clenching his fists, Slayer shot a blast of pure chi intense enough to combat the simmering power of the soul stone. Hotshot fell back, holding the stone as shield against the intense barrage. Windows shattered and candles flickered as the two combatants fought on. The bitter rivalry fueled their determination. Neither side would submit. Recovering from the blow, Peter looked on in awe at the light show before him. Even the four zombie women took notice.
"Ugh!" grunted Slayer, "Gotta...keep this...up!"
"Nice try, Jackie boy!" grinned Hotshot, "But even your magic can't beat the power of soul!"
With a hard grunt, Hotshot unleashed a counter burst that overwhelmed Slayer and knocked him to the ground.
His armor tore under the force, gasping for air as he hit the floor. Hotshot remained standing, the soul stone glowing brilliantly. Slayer had gambled and lost. In the end Hotshot had the upper hand. He was no match for the power of soul.
"This has been a long time coming, Jack!" grunted Hotshot, hovering over the downed warrior, "You've been annoying the hell out of me for too long! It all ends here!"
Holding the stone over the warrior's body, an aura of golden light surrounded Hotshot and hit Slayer. The agony was instant.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" howled the warrior, paralyzed by pain.
"YES!" proclaimed Hotshot, "YOU'RE SOUL IS MINE, SLAYER! YOU CAN'T STOP ME! NOBODY CAN STOP ME! I AM DEMON AND MAN! I AM THE DARKNESS HELL COULDN'T HANDLE! YOU CAN'T STOP ME! HEAVEN CAN'T STOP ME! NOBODY CAN STOP ME! AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!"
Clenching his fists with rage, Peter Parker ignored the lingering sting in his body. This had to stop. Hotshot couldn't be allowed to continue this madness. He hurt him more than any other foe he had faced before. It was time to take a stand. It was now or never. And for once, Spider-Man's choice was clear.
Uncle Ben, if you're out there I'll need your help with this one.
Leaping into the air with all his might, Spiderman pulled off an acrobatic flip in mid air, putting him right over Hotshot's glowing figure. Focusing his mind on a single shot, Peter Parker let out his last line of web fluid right at the soul stone. And when he felt it make contact, he pulled with all his might.
"You lose Hotshot!" yelled Spider-Man.
"MY STONE?!" he exclaimed, his demonic eyes widening with shock.
But before the demonic figure could do anything to save his precious power, Peter slammed the small stone into the ground as hard as he could. And with a deafening bang, the ancient relic shattered. Suddenly, an intense glow surrounded both him and Hotshot. Intense pain followed.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" howled Hotshot.
"AUGH!" grunted Peter.
Panting hard, Slayer watched in amazement as a whirlwind of golden light inundated the church. Hotshot and Spider-Man were at ground zero, taking the full force of the chaos. Aunt May, Mary Jane, Vanessa Fisk, and Elektra all stopped their fighting and faced the light with indifferent gazes. Suddenly, four beacons of rainbow colored light emerged from Spider-Man and Hotshot. And in one last blinding flash, they engulfed the four enslaved women.
"Ugh..." they all grunted, the color returning to their skin as they collapsed unconscious.
When the light faded, the church reverted back to normal. The altar Hotshot had created for his ultimate bid for power was gone. The symbol he carved faded. Now all that was left was a weakened demon, cowardly gasping for air.
"No...all gone...it's all gone," panted Hotshot, his imposing form shriveling in defeat.
"You once had a soul, Hotshot," said Slayer, picking himself up and gripping his sword, "Every living thing is blessed with that gift. But you squandered your soul on greed and hatred. You ignored the balance good and evil must maintain. You got a taste of what it was like to be truly alive again. Now, you're going back where you belong."
Gritting his shark-like teeth with rage, Hotshot tried to reach up and grasp Slayer. But the loss of his power rendered him too weak. Only this time, it wasn't Slayer that had bested him. It was a punk kid in a costume who called himself Spider-Man.
"I'll...be back," grunted the demon madman.
Grasping his sword, Slayer severed Hotshot's head in a single slash. And in the face of pure chi, his demonic figure dissolved into dust.
"And I'll be ready," said Slayer.
Hotshot was gone. The battle was one. Slayer was sore beyond description, letting out a tired sigh as he put his sword back in his case. But his job wasn't done yet. Making his way over towards the tired Peter Parker, Slayer smiled and helped him up. Losing the soul power had been draining, but it was all worth it.
"You okay?" asked Slayer.
Peter rubbed his sore head and cast the warrior a bewildered look.
"Are you ever going to stop asking dumb questions?"
"It's what I do," sighed Slayer.
As his head stopped spinning, Peter attention quickly shifted towards his loved ones.
"Oh man! Mary Jane! Aunt May!" he said, rushing over to their unconscious bodies.
They weren't moving, but their skin was no longer cold and pale. Peter frantically felt around his girlfriend's neck for a pulse, his mind racing at the thought of losing the people he loved. He already lost his Uncle Ben. He didn't want to lose anyone else.
"Are...are they going to be okay?" asked Peter, softly cradling Mary Jane's head.
Slayer frantically scanned their spirits with his eye. The nature of the soul stone was so ambiguous. There was no telling if they had been soulless too long to be saved. But much to his relief, he saw that there was just enough spark within their spirits to bring them back from the brink.
"They'll be fine," said Jack, his eye flashing to confirm it, "They were lost...controlled by Hotshot's whim. I guess some souls are stronger than others."
His words brought a sense of relief like no other. Hugging Mary Jane close, a tear fell down Peter's face. He couldn't help but smile. He fought with all his heart and saved his loved ones. And for all the punishment he endured as Spider-Man, having people like Mary Jane and Aunt May in his life made it all so worth it.
"Did you know this was going to happen?" said Peter with a smile.
"Didn't have a clue," said Slayer with a humored grin, "I didn't know if you'd show up. I was ready to fight by myself, even if it meant a fight to the death. But you still showed. You made a choice even when you thought everyone you cared for was gone. You know what that says?"
"You're a true warrior, Peter Parker. And don't you forget it."
The young vigilante from Queens couldn't help but smile. Through all his strife and struggles, Peter Parker had grown a lot. At times, he wasn't sure if he was a hero or just some kid in a costume. But now, holding his loved ones in his arms in triumph over a great evil, he was beyond all doubts. His path was clearer than ever. He was more than just a hero. He was a warrior.
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