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CHAPTER 1: JOEY CLADEN
It was just another peaceful day in Downtown St. Louis, Missouri. The streets were packed with cars, the sidewalks were bustling with people, all going to their jobs, which were all hard at work.
Everything went as a perfectly normal eight o’ clock morning, until some shouts echoed from the nearby supermarket. “Hey, get back here, Joey!”
And that is where our story starts. A kid burst out of the front doors of the supermarket with his prized thirty-five dollars he had snagged from the cash register.
He had long, blonde, spiky hair, blue eyes, and was wearing a white tank-top with a denim jacket and jeans. He ran as fast as he could from the owner of the supermarket, who was puffing along behind him, unable to keep up due to age and being overweight.
The kid known as Joey hit an intersection and was about to cross it when a police car blocked his path. He looked to the street next to him and saw another police car blocking that way as well.
He turned around and saw that the pot-bellied supermarket owner had caught up with him as well, and was panting heavily.
“We got you Joey, there’s no escaping now. Make it easy on yourself and give the money back to Mr. Hollinsberg,” said one of the policemen, who had stepped out of the vehicle.
“Tch, fine, whatever,” said Joey, and he gave the precious thirty-five dollars back to the store owner.
That kid you just read about, the kid who just robbed a supermarket and got caught, that kid’s name is Joey Claden, and he was known by just about everybody in the city. He robbed stores, stole food, and did pretty much anything he could to get some goodies. And he didn’t always get away with it either. Half the time, he got caught in the deed, but due to the fact that he was a minor, only fifteen, and he only stole small stuff, he was almost always let off…almost. He had done his fair share of time, but he never learned his lesson. No matter how much he was put in a juvenile detention center, he always robbed again.
This was one of those times where the police decided to let him off, so he walked back home dejected. When he got to his house, he grasped the handle on the front door, but hesitated. Finally, he opened the door, and the stench of smoke hit him. He held his nose as he walked in and saw his mother laying on the couch, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other. This was usually what Joey came home to. His mother, Teresa Claden, was unemployed, and lived off of welfare checks. Why the government decided to pay welfare to this deadbeat, Joey thought to himself, was beyond him, but they did it anyway; just enough to support her smoking and drinking habits.
“Oh…you’re back,” she slurred when she saw him, almost thirty seconds after he walked in.
“Yeah, and I see you never left. Still just sittin’ there with your smokes and booze, not doing a thing to get us out of this dump.”
What Joey referred to as ‘dump’ didn’t cover the half of it. It was an old rat hole of an apartment with mold everywhere you looked, half-working appliances, one bedroom, one bath, and a kitchen that was about six feet by seven feet (literally), so they had some TV trays set up in the equally abysmal living room for when they ate, and that’s if they ate.
As previously stated, Joey’s mom lived off of welfare, and whatever wasn’t taken up by the rent was used for beer and cigarettes, so there was barely ever any money for food. The cabinets and refrigerator were always empty, which meant most nights, Joey went to bed hungry. Also as previously stated, there was only one bedroom, and of course his mom, the almighty queen that she was, couldn’t give that to her only kid, so Joey was stuck sleeping on the couch. After having been inhabited by Teresa for so long, the bed was covered in cigarette butts and crumpled beer cans, meaning most normal people wouldn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole anyways. It didn’t matter though; Joey’s mom used the couch in the day when he was gone, so when Joey got home, that was in no better shape than the bed.
This was why Joey stole all the time; his mom didn’t have enough money to support herself, let alone her kid, and stealing was the only way he could survive. Joey’s dad died a couple years after he was born, so this was what he was stuck with. He tried telling himself that she only did this in remorse for his dad, but in the end, he couldn’t escape the fact that she was just another hopeless deadbeat. It was already apparent that this was going to be another foodless night, so when Joey’s mom got up to go to her bedroom, he wiped as many butts and cans off of the couch as he could and went to sleep.
When he got up in the morning, his mom was still passed out, so Joey got dressed and headed out for the bus stop. None of the kids on his bus talked to Joey; they were all good kids with good grades, and giving Joey’s status as a criminal, their parents forbade them to hang out with him, for which Joey felt he couldn’t blame them.
Joey got good grades himself, usually straight As and Bs, and he was going to use this to get a scholarship, go to college, and leave his mom in the dust while he lived the life he was missing out on as a kid. When Joey got to school, he walked in, sat down in his first hour, and copied down the notes the teacher wrote without a word. No one talked to him for the entire class period, or in the three to follow, which didn’t bother him much. Joey was happy on his own. When he got to lunch, he immediately headed over to one of the empty tables and sat down, not having enough money for food. An earthquake radiated from his stomach, and he looked around at all the kids, eating their food, not a care in the world.
He looked back at his stomach, silently telling it that it was out of luck, when someone sat down across from him.
“Hey, Joey.” Her name was Rachel Manson, and she was the same age as Joey, with long, brown hair down to her mid-back.
“Hey, Rachel,” Joey said, wondering what she was doing there. She was pretty much the only person in the entire school who talked to him, and she knew just as well as the rest of them what he did. The exception with her, though, was that she knew about Joey’s mother. Joey had never told anyone about this, so how she knew was beyond him. Every time he asked, she would just get a smile on her face and say, “You don’t need to know.”
She had a cheeseburger on one of those cardboard tray things, which she slid across the table over to him, saying, “You need to eat.”
He didn’t want to accept it at first; that was her money, not his, but finally, he said, “Thanks,” and dug in.
She watched him eat with a sad smile, and Joey realized how pathetic he must have looked; acting like he got a cheeseburger maybe once every few years, even though it was true.
“Hey, do you wanna come over for dinner today?” she asked when he was done.
“Oh, uh…” Joey said. She invited him over to her house a lot, mainly to keep him fed, which meant her family knew about him too.
She was one of three girls. One of her sisters was eighteen, and her name was Addy. She was at school with Joey and Rachel, while her other sister, Kayla, was twenty, at home, working a job, struggling with the times.
“Yeah, sure,” Joey finally answered.
“Okay, my parents will pick us up after school,” she informed him, and she left to join her friends.
Dinner with the Mansons went as usual; talking, laughing and gorging. When it was all over, Joey could tell none of them wanted him to leave, but he didn’t want to stay there and be a burden on them, no matter how much they insisted he wasn’t. Joey went back to his apartment, where his mom was still passed out (Joey would have been surprised if she had even gotten out of bed this morning), and crashed on the couch. The next day after school at the supermarket, Joey busted out of the front doors with his stash of frozen dinners, and took the alley route, which was longer, but he was also less likely to get caught by the cops.
Joey went inside his apartment and completely ignored his mother, who said, “You stealin’ again? You ain’t ever gonna amount to nothin’. Need to make an honest living like me.”
“Oh, what, like you?” Joey retorted.
“I earn my way by being an honest, good-to-heart citizen of this fair city,” his mother responded as proudly as she could.
Joey fought back the urge to say “Screw you” while he put his stash in the freezer, and she got up and stumbled into her bedroom. Joey warmed up the oven and took out a Salisbury Steak dinner, popped it in, and in an hour, ate all six steaks. Immediately afterwards, he went to sleep.
The next day, as school ended, and he was walking towards his bus, Rachel caught up to him, with her customary, “Hey, Joey.” What was not customary was her look of deep concern, which Joey immediately questioned.
“I know you’re only doing it to survive, and it’s not the stealing itself I’m worried about, but I don’t like you getting in trouble for taking advantage of your main food source. Which is why I’m asking you, please, don’t go back to that woman! Come stay with--”
“I have told you once, I have told you a thousand times, I am not going to--”
“Stop being stubborn!” They both stopped, and people had turned their heads in their direction, but almost immediately moved on. There were tears in Rachel’s eyes now, which was why Joey avoided them. “Please,” she begged, and he finally gave.
“Fine. But only for a little while, until I can get a job and support myself back home,” he said, and she gave him a look that quite plainly said, We’ll see about that.
Joey followed her to her sister Addy’s car, where Rachel explained to her his decision, to which she replied with a simple, “Good,” and started up the engine. They got to the Mansons’ house, where Rachel explained to the rest of her family, and they all had similar reactions to Addy. Rachel showed Joey his bedroom, which was nice and clean, much unlike his couch back home, and she left him to himself to do whatever he wanted. Joey’s mind was moving at a million miles an hour; he was unable to believe that he actually had a family who cared about him.
After school the next day, Rachel’s parents took him out to buy some descent clothes. When he came out of the store, Joey was wearing a navy-blue long-sleeve with red stripes across the chest, along with a pair of nice jeans. They were going to make the adoption legal, but as Rachel stated, becoming siblings would make things slightly awkward for her and Joey. Despite this, he could finally maybe make the city like him a little, even though he knew that would take a few years.
It took a few tries, but finally, Rachel got him to sit with her and her friends at lunch, and instead of completely ignoring him, they all greeted him with more enthusiasm than he could have ever expected. And that was when he realized that he was in for a good life.
Joey and Rachel walked to the bus together, talking about random things, when it started; the event that changed Joey’s entire life, and made a happy life at all, let alone one with Rachel, utterly impossible.
“Hey, Joey Claden!” They both looked around and Joey spotted a man standing on the roof of the school, staring down at the two of them.
“Yeah,” Joey answered, “who are you?”
“I am the one who’s going to kill you,” he said, making Joey’s eyes widen in shock. He jumped down from the rooftop with his fist raised, and in a bout of reflex, Joey pushed Rachel out of the way. He rolled out of the way just as the man came crashing down onto the pavement, his fist leaving huge cracks all over it, and Joey’s jaw dropped. How could anyone be that strong, Joey asked himself. Joey backed up on his hands and legs, but the man just kept walking towards him, glaring at Joey, and he knew his life was about to end.
CHAPTER 2: SPIRIT MOUNTAIN
Joey backed up, trying to get away from the guy, but he kept coming, his fist raised. Joey eventually backed into a tree, but was too scared to register that he just had to back around it. Rachel was twenty feet away, her hands over her mouth, and her eyes wide, probably more in shock than Joey.
“Time to die, kid,” the man said, and he landed his fist on top of Joey. His sheer strength blasted a crater into the ground, uprooted the tree, brought dust up around Joey, and sent him sliding back across the ground. He came to a stop near the road where the buses were parked. Joey was still too shocked to get to his feet, or to avoid the large rock that the guy had picked up and was ready to throw at him. He only registered what was happening when the rock was flying at him. Joey threw his arms out to try to catch it, closing his eyes and turning his head away, waiting for the rock to break his neck, but it never came. All he felt was some tiny pieces of rubble bouncing off his legs.
Joey looked, and gasped at what he saw. A wall of inky-black fire was in his hands, and it looked like it had destroyed the rock and saved his life. He didn’t know what was going on, but he got back to his feet and focused his energy into his hands. A wave of black fire shot from them at the man, who didn’t see it coming and took it head-on. He stumbled back from the force of the fire, and Joey amped it up a notch so that the man was eventually forced off his feet and slammed against the ground. After a few seconds, he got back to his feet, said, “We’ll meet again,” and leaped off. Joey looked down at his hands, his eyes once again wide in shock, and then, he looked at the people all around him. Their eyes were wide too, and they were looking at Joey with something other than disdain. It looked more like…fear. He looked back down at his hands, and then turned around and ran.
He headed straight into the woods near the school, trying to get as far away from them and Rachel as possible. He wasn’t really sure where he wanted to go, but wherever he went, he only hoped he never faced that guy again. As he ran, the question came to mind, what was he? All this time he had thought he was just a regular kid, albeit with a few more issues, but he certainly didn’t think he had superpowers. He kept on running, but a sudden flash of light appeared around him, and when it faded, he was not in a forest. He was on top of a mountain overlooking a small village set into the trees, on the edge of which was a huge ravine which looked like it dropped down into nothingness.
“Wh-Where am I?” Joey asked himself, not really expecting anyone to answer.
“You are on Spirit Mountain, child.”
“Whaa!!” Joey nearly jumped clear off the mountain, and when he turned around, there was an old man standing there, looking at him with curiosity on his face.
“And who are you?” Joey asked, wondering where he had come from.
“I am the Sage of Spirit Mountain, my name is Felix Morio. I am the one who brought you here, Joey Claden.” he answered.
“And where exactly is Spirit Mountain?” Joey asked.
“It is in the exact center of Spirit Village, which is located in the exact center of Clearwater National Forest in Idaho,” Felix answered.
“Okay, Felix, why did you bring me here?” Joey asked.
“Because, you are one of us; you are the host of a Spirit Beast,” he answered.
“And what’s a Spirit Beast?”
“They are demons that take root in us at our birth. You are their host, their life source. As a result of this, you are granted a taste of their powers. And, as you have probably already realized, you are not the only Host in existence. In fact, there are hundreds, possibly even thousands of Spirit Beasts out there, roaming the world, looking for where they belong. Here at Spirit Mountain, we harbor astray Hosts, take them in, give them homes, and teach them to control their powers,” he explained.
“Hey, Old Man.” They both looked around and saw a kid who looked a little older than Joey, walking over with a not-so-happy look on his face. He was wearing a dark-green jacket with a white shirt, and blue jeans. He had short, spiky, dull-brown hair.
“Yes, what is it, Marcus?” Felix asked, looking at the kid with a smile.
“Who’s the kid?” he asked, looking at Joey with a searching eye, the kind that everyone looked at him with.
“He is a Host, just like yourself, Marcus. He will be living here from now on,” Felix told him. This was news to Joey as well as Marcus.
“Oh, is that a fact?” he said, and his eyes squinted in interest, and Joey began to wonder what he was thinking. “Well, I’m interested to see just what all this kid has going for him. I say we should test him; get him to prove his worth,” the one known as Marcus suggested.
“Oh, a fight, then, eh? Well, as long as it isn’t lethal, I haven’t a problem. Play nice, though, Marcus, I know how you can get,” Felix said sternly, and then he backed away, while Marcus popped his knuckles.
“Well, come on kid, let’s see what you got,” Marcus said as he got down on all fours.
“Uh, okay,” Joey said, and he raised his fists and formed black fireballs around them. Marcus smiled when he saw them and charged, galloping across the ground like a rabid beast, ready to pounce.
Joey fired a wave of black fire down at Marcus, but he leaped over it, and before Joey knew what was happening, he was on top of him, pinning him to the ground.
“That really all you got kid?” Marcus said, and he opened his mouth to reveal huge pincers, like a giant insect.
“Get…off of me!” Joey sent a wave of black fire from his hands, which sent Marcus flying off of him and crashing to the ground. He immediately got back to his feet, and Joey expected him to charge him again, but he instead fired a little yellow blast from his mouth. Joey hadn’t seen it coming, so he was surprised when it had. The blast somersaulted through the air, and it hit Joey in the stomach, blasting him off his feet with a sizzling hole in his shirt. Joey smacked to the ground, the sense knocked out of him, and Marcus was on top of him, clinking his pincers hungrily, like he was going to eat his head off.
“Now, now, Marcus, I said no lethal attacks!” Felix intervened, and Marcus got back to his feet, then turned around and walked off. Joey got back to his feet as well, massaged his head, and watched Marcus walk off into the huge building situated at the center of the mountain summit.
“Who is he?” Joey asked Felix, still looking after Marcus.
“His name is Marcus Rockwell. I brought him to Spirit Mountain when he was ten-years-old, that was six years ago,” Felix explained.
Joey continued to look after him, getting angrier and angrier about Marcus trying to kill him by the moment.
“He really is a nice boy, you know,” Felix said, as if he had Joey’s my mind.
“Oh, yeah? It looked to me like he was going to bite my head off if you hadn’t stepped in,” Joey conveyed to him.
Felix laughed lightly and said, “Yes, he seems cruel at first, but he’s been through hard times.”
“Really? What happened to him?” Joey asked, looking at the door through which he had entered.
“Hmm. Maybe someday he’ll tell you,” Felix answered, as he headed towards the building as well, leaving Joey to his thoughts.
He sat down on a boulder and buried his face in his hands, unable to believe everything that had happened that day. First, he was a thief who stole for the sole purpose of surviving his miserable life with his deadbeat mother, then he was living with the Mansons, getting ready to build up for a new and better life, and then he was here. A super-powered kid who was going to have to fight to make his way through the world. Out of all three, Joey preferred the Mansons. And then he began to wonder what had happened to Rachel. Had the guy who attacked Joey come back? What if he had hurt her or worse? If he had, it was Joey’s fault.
Joey was the one he was after. If he had just handed himself over to him, chances were he would have just killed him and then left, never bothering St. Louis again. It wasn’t like anyone would have missed him. It would probably be that no one even noticed he was gone.
“Oh, hello.” Joey turned around and saw a girl standing there, staring at him with a curious but much more pleasant look than Marcus. She was wearing a pink hoodie and white sweatpants, and had black hair to her mid-back.
“You live here too?” Joey asked, wondering what she could do.
“Yes, my name is Stacy Dyanne. And whom might you be?” she asked him.
“Name’s Joey.” he answered, standing up so as better to talk to her.
“Nice to meet you, Joey. I’m guessing Felix located you and teleported you here?” she asked.
Joey nodded. “Who else lives here, besides you, Felix, and Marcus?” he asked.
“No one, it’s just the four of us, counting you. Everyone else lives in the village below,” she answered.
“Oh. Hey, what’s your relationship with Marcus?” Joey asked, knowing it was a bit personal, but it had spilled out of his mouth before he could stop it.
“Oh, Marcus and I have been friends since a young age,” she answered, seemingly unfazed by the question.
“What happened to him?” Joey asked, another question that slipped.
At this, she got a sad look on her face as she looked down at her feet. “I wish I knew,” she answered. “I’ve asked him multiple times, but he never answered. He just got this sad look and ignored me completely. I know it was something really horrible, though. Usually, he’s a pretty easygoing guy once you get to know him, until you talk about his past, then it’s like he goes into a trance,” she told him, still with the same sad look on her face.
“Yeah, well, he didn’t seem so easygoing when he pounded me into the dirt,” Joey said, massaging the burns on his stomach from Marcus’s blast.
“It’s nothing personal,” she assured him. “He’s just really strong, stronger than me anyway. Plus, you don’t have as much experience as Marcus and I do. Once you’re here for a while, you’ll learn to hone your powers, and who knows? Maybe someday you’ll beat him.”
Joey looked back down at his feet, still unable to believe what he really was.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Joey,” she said, and she turned around and walked towards the building.
After a few seconds Joey followed her, and entered a huge room with hallways leading off from all three sides. He played eeny-meeny-miney-moe and went down the hall on the right, and turned into the first bedroom. He laid on the bed, and once more began thinking about Rachel. She was honestly a lot safer in St. Louis than she was with him, but Joey still couldn’t help but wonder where she was, or what she was doing. He eventually fell asleep. When he woke up in the morning, it took him a minute to remember where he was. When he finally remembered, he got up and went back outside, looking out at the forest.
He still had trouble believing all of this was actually happening. One moment, he was with Rachel, looking forward to a happier life, and the next, he was here, isolated from the world with no one but an old geezer, a ‘donkey’, and a mystery girl for company.
“Hey, kid!” He turned around and saw Marcus standing there, looking at him with a grouchy look.
“Yeah, what is it?” Joey asked, showing him he wasn’t happy to see him either.
His eyes squinted at Joey’s tone, and he was afraid he was going to blast him off the mountain, but he simply said, “Felix wants us, but don’t ask why, because I don’t know.”
He turned around and walked off, not even waiting to see if Joey was following him. He eventually walked towards the building, entering after Marcus, following him into a small room towards the center of the building. Both Felix and Stacy were in there, both looking grim.
“What is it?” Joey asked, which seemed to voice Marcus’s thoughts.
“The Host who attacked you at your school,” Felix said gravely. “He’s resurfaced in St. Charles, Missouri, and he’s tearing the town apart looking for you. Luckily, he doesn’t know where we are, so he won’t come looking for us too, but he isn’t stupid. He knows if someone’s trying to kill you, you won’t stay in the same area, so he’s searching in all the towns bordering St. Louis, but after he’s done there, he’ll almost certainly resign to looking in St. Louis. And when that happens, he will be merciless to anyone who might know where you are.”
“Okay…and I’m guessing you want us to stop him?” Joey asked, really hoping the police had it handled.
“Yes,” Felix said simply, making Joey roll his eyes indignantly. “Only a Host can stop a Host, and the three of you are the only ones up to the challenge. I must stay here and protect the village.”
“Well, which direction do we have to go to get there?” Joey asked.
“Oh, about five-hundred miles southeast of here,” Marcus said casually.
“Okay, so how in the world are we supposed to get there?” Joey asked. To this, Felix smiled. That was when Joey remembered how he got to Spirit Mountain. Felix made a slight wave of his hand and a vortex opened up in midair. In the vortex was a blurry image of a few buildings, that Joey immediately realized were in St. Charles.
Marcus and Stacy walked through the portal without hesitation, and after a few seconds, Joey followed. He came out at the same scene that had been shown in the portal, and Marcus and Stacy were standing there looking at him, Stacy with a soft smile, Marcus with a cold, irritated expression.
Joey tried to avoid his eyes when an explosion behind him sent rubble flying past him and bouncing across the ground. Joey turned around and there he was; the same guy that had attacked him at school, looking at him with a deathly glare. It was time to see if he could survive against the world of Hosts.
CHAPTER 3: A TASTE OF POWER
The Host walked over to them with his fist clenched, probably preparing to land it in Joey’s face. Marcus got on all fours and galloped towards the Host, ready to rip his head off with those pincers. He leaped, but the Host swatted him aside like a fly, and he went bouncing across the ground and landed in a building.
“Marcus!” Stacy yelled, and then she glared angrily at the Host, who dawned an amused smile at her. While he was distracted with her, Joey fired a wave of black fire at him that he jumped out of the way of, and it flew by and smashed into a house, almost completely blowing the front wall off. The Host dived down on top of Joey with his fist raised, and he knew first-hand just how much that would hurt if it hit, but luckily, Stacy was there to help. She spat a regular fireball (just orange and yellow in color) up at him, and it hit him head-on, but he just kept coming like it was nothing.
“Move!” Stacy said, and she leaped out of the way, leaving Joey to fend for himself.
The Host crashed into the ground, the shockwave from his mass tearing it apart and sending Joey flying, then sliding across the ground into a tree. The Host advanced towards Joey with his fist clenched, and got bombarded by a bunch of yellow blasts from behind. He turned around and saw Marcus on all fours, ready to charge again, but not wanting to get thrown away again. Joey fired a wave of black fire at him, and the Host dropped to all fours, and, thinking Joey had got to him, he let up. Unfortunately, he was wrong. The Host turned around and smashed his fist into the ground, making a shockwave that sent concrete up in spikes, ready to run Joey through. He dived out of the way, and a rock hit the tree, snapping it cleanly in two.
Joey got back to his feet to find the Host charging him with his fist raised, but Joey was ready for him. He conjured a ball of black fire in his hand, ducked around the Host’s fist, and aimed the fire at his gut. Unfortunately, the Host was ready for that as well. He landed his knee in Joey’s stomach, picked him up by the back of the shirt with both hands, then tossed him across the road and landed him in a house, making it collapse on top of him. Joey blasted his way out of the rubble to see what the others were doing, and was surprised to see bright-green wings protruding from Stacy’s arms. She used these to glide around effortlessly and shoot fireballs down at the Host, who tried to throw rocks up at her, but kept missing. Meanwhile, Marcus sneaked around behind him on all fours, ready to pounce.
Unfortunately, one of Stacy’s fireballs made the Host turn away so that he saw Marcus, who immediately fired one of his yellow blasts at him, which landed right in his face. He was sent straight into the air and landed back on the ground, sliding a few feet, and allowing Stacy to fire a bunch of fireballs down at him to subdue him. Marcus leaped forward and landed on the Host’s chest, baring down on him with his pincers, but failing to intimidate him. The Host wrapped his hand around Marcus’s neck, got back to his feet, and threw him right at Stacy, knocking them both to the ground. Joey got up out of the rubble and ran to the Host with both hands engulfed in black fire, but the Host turned around and saw Joey coming, raising his fists to prepare himself.
Joey stopped cold and waited for him to come to him, knowing that the Host’s short-ranged attacks would be easy to dodge once Joey got used to them. Joey fired a wave of black fire at the Host, but he barrel-rolled out of the way and charged him with his fist raised. Joey had a sudden idea and held his hands out, and formed a wall of black fire in them, hoping it would be enough to block his brute force. The Host’s fist landed right in the shield and broke through it like it was made of cardboard, and the Host then swung his arm around and broke the entire thing completely. He then landed his fist in Joey’s gut and sent him flying and bouncing across the ground, smashing through a tree and coming out about fifty feet away.
Marcus came up from out of nowhere behind him, saying, “Stay back kid, I’ll take it from here.” He galloped at the Host headlong, and the Host raised his fists to counter him. Marcus then traveled in a zigzag pattern to throw him off, and it seemed to be working. He jumped right on past the Host, leaving him slightly confused, and completely open to Marcus blasting him with a barrage of blasts. Stacy flew past Joey and followed through with a barrage of fireballs, which put the Host on the ground. Joey charged forward with his hands engulfed in black fire, but before he could get to the Host, he was back on his feet, and was fully prepared to counter him. Joey fired a wave of black fire, Marcus fired a barrage of yellow blasts, and Stacy fired a barrage of fireballs.
The Host saw the predicament he was in, and immediately saw a way out of it. He held out his arms to either side of him, built up strength, and slammed them together with all the force he could muster, generating an intense shockwave that caused rocks to shift up around him, forming a shield to protect him. The combined attacks from all sides caused a massive explosion that sent smoke and flames rising above the rooftops, visible from the other side of the city. The Host charged Joey with his fist raised, and he prepared to blow him away with a wave of black fire, but Marcus came from out of nowhere and knocked him out of the way, letting the Host run past.
“Agh! What’s the matter with you!” Joey said bitterly, giving him a deadly glare.
“Haven’t you been paying attention!? Your powers alone wouldn’t stop him! Heck, it takes all three of us just to give him a small headache! You could try for a million years, but you would never be able to beat him on your own, kid! That’s why I’m saying, just leave him to Stacy and I!”
“Look, Felix didn’t bring me to Spirit Mountain just to sit back and watch! I’m a Host too, I have every bit as much right to fight as you do! And besides, it’s like you said, it takes all three of us just to begin to faze him,” Joey reminded him.
He seemed to agree with him on that, but before they could continue, Stacy shouted, “Uh, guys, you wanna put your rivalry on hold and help!?”
The Host’s aim with boulders had improved, and it was becoming much more difficult for her to avoid them.
“Cover me!” Marcus said as he galloped forward straight at the Host. Joey charged up some black fireballs in each hand and waited for an opening, but wasn’t ready when Marcus leaped aside to give him the floor. The Host went completely unopposed as he slammed his arm against the ground right under Marcus, sending him floating up into the air. The Host used the opening to land his fist in Marcus’s stomach and send him flying, and only then had Joey registered that he should probably help. He fired a wave of fire at the Host, but he saw it coming a mile away and leaped out of the way long before it hit him. Stacy met him in the air and fired a few fireballs at him, but he blocked them all and dropped back to the ground like nothing had happened.
Joey leaped at him from the side with his fist engulfed in black fire, but the Host backed out of the way and grabbed Joey’s wrist so that the fire wouldn’t hurt him. He lifted him up over his head, swung him around like a rag doll, and tossed him into a two-story house, which collapsed down on top of him. Stacy flew around, trying to look for a good opening to hit him, but she knew it was going to be difficult, if not impossible, with both Joey and Marcus out of the picture. Now with only her to focus on, the Host kept her well within his sights as he picked up a rock and took aim. She tried to dodge it, but he hit her in the arm, and she squealed in pain and dropped to the ground, her arm deeply cut from the impact.
The Host was walking over to Stacy with his fist ready, but her arm kept her from moving anywhere. She spat a fireball right at the Host’s face, which probably saved her life, as he stumbled back, screaming in pain, his hands clutched over his burnt face. Stacy staggered back to her feet, her arm bleeding all over the place, and spat a few more fireballs at him, knocking him to the ground. Marcus walked over with his arm wrapped around his stomach where the Host had hit him, looking at him with disgust. “Where’s the kid?” he asked Stacy angrily.
“Over there.” She pointed to the building Joey had landed, hoping he was okay.
“Go see if he’s okay, I’ll get rid of this garbage,” he said savagely, glaring down at the Host.
“Okay, but be careful,” Stacy said as she turned around and ran to see if Joey was okay.
Marcus watched her run over to the destroyed building, hoping Joey was still alive for the sole purpose of killing him himself, but that would have to wait, as he had other matters to deal with.
He charged up a final blast to finish him with, but the Host’s eyes snapped open, and his fist rose up and landed on the ground, causing a shockwave that tore the ground apart and made Marcus drop on his rear while the Host got up and leaped away. Marcus got back to his feet and saw that the Host was diving right on top of the building Stacy and Joey were in, ready to kill them both. Marcus fired a yellow blast out of his mouth, and it traveled parallel to the ground, but then veered upwards and caught the Host in the stomach. The blast didn’t even slow him down as he dropped on top of the building, demolishing it completely. Stacy flew out of the dust with Joey in her arms, landing on the ground and waiting for the Host to come out. Marcus didn’t have a clear view of what was happening, so he ran forward to assist Stacy.
Joey was completely out cold, and Stacy knew she had to protect him. He was the target of the Host. The ground cracked and erupted in a line towards Stacy, leaving her with zero reaction time. She squealed in fear as she dropped into a ravine created by the Host’s attack, dropping Joey at the same time, and landed hard on her rear. “Oww,” she groaned as she rubbed her backside. She looked over at Joey and saw he was still unconscious, and also that he had cracked his head open when he landed. Stacy looked up and saw the Host at the top of the ravine, glaring down at them as he prepared to come down.
He looked towards the other side of the ravine, and right at that moment, Marcus flew over the whole thing right at the Host, who was blasted back and both of them went out of sight. Stacy was in too much pain to see what was going on, and Joey was still out, which meant they were both useless. Marcus swung around the Host’s arm and flew off just as he swung it to try and hit him. Marcus flew through the air and landed fifteen feet away, making sure to keep his eye on the Host so he wouldn’t pull a fast one.
“Who are you?” Marcus demanded, using the time to catch his breath.
“My name is Lance Johnson, but don’t bother introducing yourself, I really don’t care,” he told him, which didn’t concern Marcus.
“Okay, then, why are you after the kid?” Marcus asked, and he was fully prepared to beat an answer out of the Host if he had to.
“Because, that boy has amazing potential. He can become stronger than any Host on the planet, especially if he awakens the full power of his Spirit Beast. It would be a load off the shoulders of the whole planet if he were eradicated before he could awaken his full power. That’s why I want to kill him,” he explained.
“Well, if you wanna get to him, you gotta go through me!” Marcus declared, bending lower to the ground to dodge whatever the Host had coming.
“Very well, then, brat. I’ll snap you in two no problem, then I’ll kill that girl, and then I’ll kill the kid.”