Sorry for the long delay in updating. Been VERY busy lately. Yay for real life problems!
Chapter 12: Control
"Urahara-san!" Chad exclaimed, emerging from the Senkaimon within Urahara's basement. Naturally, the shopkeeper was waiting for him.
"Sado-kun?" Urahara sounded genuinely confused. "Where is Inoue-chan? I thought she was with you?"
"She was, but the Dangai was invaded by an Espada," Chad quickly explained. "Ulquiorra took her as bait for Ichigo's Hollow!"
Urahara's eyes widened. "That's bad. That's very, very bad. Especially with her powers of reality rejection… Did Ulquiorra hint that they knew about her powers?"
Chad shook his head no. "Do you have any way to contact Ichigo?" the large young man queried.
"No," Urahara responded distractedly, obviously thinking of what to do. "… No matter how I look at it, we have to send in a rescue party. Ichigo is strong, but I don't think he's strong enough yet to just take Inoue-chan from Aizen's grasp, not if Aizen is expecting him."
"I'm going," Chad half-stated, half-demanded.
"Of course. Ishida-kun will probably join you if we can contact him," Urahara mused.
Chad blinked. "Huh?"
"Ishida-kun has been training with his father, who cut him off from all external contact," Urahara quickly explained. "Ishida Ryuuken is probably at the hospital at this time if you wish to talk to him. I will contact Hitsugaya-taicho and Soul Society and see if they will offer reinforcements."
His face set to a determined mask, Chad nodded. "I'll be back." With a thought, he activated both arms and vanished with a Paso Del Viento.
Urahara blinked, then smiled. "That's new. It looks like he's gotten much stronger." Then he too disappeared, flickering into a Shunpo.
Chad dashed to the hospital and to the nearby park before he felt another presence behind him. "And who are you, with that strange Hollow-like reiatsu?" a cold voice asked. "I highly advise against attacking my hospital."
Chad turned around to see a man who looked like an older version of Ishida Uryuu, with a slightly more rounded face. "Are you Ishida Ryuuken?" Chad rumbled.
Thank Kami! "I need to see Ishida Uryuu. Something grave has happened, something he must know!"
"As I told those two Shinigami, Uryuu will come back when he is ready, and not before," Ryuuken stated with a glare.
"Would you please grant me an audience with him?" Chad pleaded. "I'm not here to force him to come back, but to inform him of the fate of one of our friends!"
Ryuuken narrowed his eyes at Chad, pushing his glasses up his nose. Finally, he nodded. "Stay right here. I will be back momentarily." Ryuuken disappeared with a flash of Hirenkyaku.
A few minutes later, Ryuuken reappeared. "Uryuu will be along shortly."
Indeed, a scant minute later, the younger Quincy arrived. "Chad?" Uryuu asked in surprise. "When did you get back?"
"Just now, but there's no time!" Chad fervently answered. "Inoue's been captured!"
"What?!" Uryuu gasped. "Details, now!"
"Inoue and I were in the Dangai, returning from Soul Society. Ulquiorra appeared, and said he was on orders from Aizen to kidnap at least one of us as bait for Ichigo. We argued briefly, but Inoue was the one taken," Chad summarized.
Uryuu nodded. "Right. Where is Kurosaki?"
"Already in Hueco Mundo. I'll give you details along the way," Chad told him. "Urahara's currently trying to get reinforcements from the Shinigami."
"Don't count on any help from them," Uryuu told him bitterly.
"Don't forget that Rukia and Renji are Ichigo's friends too," Chad countered.
Uryuu's eyes widened at the rebuttal, but then nodded. He turned to his father. "Thank you for the training, Tou-san, but I must go."
"What is so special about this girl, this Inoue?" Ryuuken questioned coldly.
"…She has the power to reject reality within a limited area of effect," Uryuu answered reluctantly. "If Aizen gets that power…"
Ryuuken's eyes widened, then narrowed. "I see. Go, then, Uryuu. Use my training well."
"Thank you, Tou-san. Let's go, Chad." Remembering that Chad didn't have a high-speed technique, he began running normally through the streets.
"You're slow." Uryuu was surprised to see Chad dash past him in a speed comparable to his own Hirenkyaku, though it was still slower.
Uryuu rapidly caught up, however. "Looks like you've gotten a lot faster." He eyed Chad's new arms. "And stronger."
Chad grunted an affirmative. "Yoruichi-sensei is a sadistic trainer."
Insecurity crept slowly into Uryuu's thoughts. Could Chad have surpassed me as well? Uryuu shook his head, focusing on the present. Orihime comes first.
Several minutes later, they arrived back at Urahara's shop, where most of the Shinigami had gathered. "Ah, Sado-kun, Ishida-kun," the shopkeeper greeted. "I was just explaining the situation…"
"And?" Uryuu looked at the short, white-haired taicho. "Will you help?"
Hitsugaya sighed. "Ishida-san, I owe Inoue-san my life. Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is that I, and the rest of the Shinigami stationed here, need to stay here to help protect the living world from Aizen."
"Hitsugaya-taicho!" Rukia stepped forward. "I am going with them."
"What? Kuchiki-san, did you not hear what I just said?" Hitsugaya asked, his voice low and his eyes narrow.
"I did, but even with me gone, you still have five perfectly capable Shinigami, two of whom can use Bankai," Rukia pointed out. "I only have Shikai, and my ice powers are not as developed as yours. I am not really needed here, and Orihime is my friend." She shook her head. "I cannot just leave her there!"
Suddenly, a cell phone rang. Everyone blinked as Matsumoto Rangiku answered her Soul Society-issued cell phone. "Matsumoto here. Yes. Yes. But sir! … Understood. I will pass along the information."
"What was that about?" Ikkaku asked bluntly.
Matsumoto did not look happy. "We have new orders. We are to return to Soul Society. To ensure we comply and return to Soul Society safely, they are sending Kuchiki-taicho and Zaraki-taicho to escort us all."
Rukia and Renji looked positively mutinous. Glancing at them, Hitsugaya was reminded of Yamamoto's words in their previous conversation. Kurosaki Ichigo, how is it you gain our loyalty so easily, so effortlessly? "Kuchiki-san, Abarai-fukutaicho, I don't like it either, but the alternative is making Soul Society our enemies while we chase after your friend who may or may not be rescued by Kurosaki, Ishida-san and Sado-san."
Renji clenched his fists in helpless anger. "Don't wait for us," he bit out bitterly to Uryuu and Chad. "We'll catch up if we can."
"When we can," Rukia corrected, meeting her childhood friend's eyes fiercely.
Renji nodded at her in acknowledgment. "We WILL catch up," he assured his friends. "One way, or another."
Uryuu's hardened eyes flashed. "Very well. Urahara, please open the way to Hueco Mundo. If we cannot count on the Shinigami, there is no point in waiting. I should've known better than to count on Shinigami to aid a Quincy and a spiritually gifted human." He was gratified to see all the Shinigami save Rukia and Renji flinch.
"That's not fair, Ishida-san," Yumichika responded, running a hand through his hair. "You're judging us all on the orders of our boss. For all you know, he's organizing a powerful force to invade Hueco Mundo as we speak."
"That's not fair, Yumichika-san," Uryuu mocked. "Your people judged all the Quincy because our leaders were ignorant and refused to negotiate with you Shinigami. For all you knew, they could have been devising a way to modifying our Quincy arrows to not completely obliterate a soul from existence. If you can paint an entire race with a single brush, why can't I? And don't even give me that shit about 'That was then, we've changed since then.' You're being led by the same people, governed by the same laws. Change doesn't happen until you want it to happen, and so far I've not seen a single Shinigami save Kurosaki Ichigo and Kuchiki Rukia who showed a shred of compassion of the plight of my people."
There was silence for several moments as the Shinigami, even Hitsugaya, tried to formulate an argument. Finally, Hitsugaya looked Uryuu straight in the eye. "I cannot refute your argument, but allow me to reveal part of our soutaicho's plan as he revealed it to me."
"Yamamoto-soutaicho plans to lure Aizen and his forces here to the living world, where special provisions will be made to ensure the population's safety, while allowing our strongest forces to launch a full-scale assault sans limiter," Hitsugaya related. "If I am right, then this is the reason for our being recalled now, to leave virtually no protection in the living world. You could use this as a powerful distraction to infiltrate the enemy's base of operations and rescue Inoue-san."
Uryuu's mind whirled. "That… is quite an opportunity."
"Indeed," Chad murmured aloud, his own not-insignificant intelligence easily appreciating the chance being given to them.
"Hitsugaya-taicho is correct," Urahara stated solemnly, pushing back his hat so his face could be seen clearly. "I completed the preparations to protect the living world just earlier today, prior to Chad-kun's return. If you'll follow me, I'll open the way to Hueco Mundo. I highly suggest you find Ichigo before infiltrating Aizen's base of operations." He walked back into his shop, and the only two non-Shinigami in the group followed.
Cazador was feeling uneasy. He had been for the last few hours that he had traveled with Nel and her former Fraccion, and that troubled him. "Something… something has changed," he murmured.
"Eh? Cazador, you say something?" Pesche asked.
Perhaps these guys know something I don't? "Something feels different," Cazador admitted. "I'm not sure what, but I'm positive that something bad has happened."
"Something bad?" Dondochakka repeated. "Like what?"
Cazador had not been in control of Ichigo's body long, and didn't really have the experience required to draw the more common analogies. However, he decided to try anyway. "It's like… like suddenly having this feeling like your enemy has some ace up his sleeve, or like you're just about to step into his trap, but you just don't know it yet." He knew those feelings from personal experience. Ichigo really is a tricky, stubborn bastard when he wants to be.
Pesche looked up, one bony hand on his chin. "That's rather specific. I suppose it comes down to, whoever your enemy is, what could possibly change to give him an advantage?"
Cazador fell silent. That was actually a damn good question. A more powerful Arrancar?
Maybe Aizen invaded Karakura already and we weren't there to help fight back? Ichigo suggested darkly.
Cazador shivered. That's a chilling thought. What's wrong? You're not normally this morbid.
You're not the only one getting this bad feeling about things, Ichigo informed him with a strained voice. At times I get the crazy feeling of familiarity, as though there's the barest of scents of something I should recognize. It's like I should know what it is, but the answer keeps eluding me. It's taking every shred of patience I have not to try to take back my body right now and check on my friends.
Cazador blinked. He suddenly had a suspicion, a horrible suspicion of the truth. Does that feeling get stronger when I do this? He purposely reached out with his spiritual sense, feeling out the reiatsu in the air.
Cazador could swear he could feel his mental partner perk up. Yes, it's much stronger this time! Ichigo paused. Wait. If the feeling is stronger when you're sensing reiatsu…
Then you're probably detecting traces of one or more of your friends, Cazador finished grimly. Which explains my bad feelings as well.
They're going to use my friends to lure us in, Ichigo agreed tightly.
"Um, Cazador? You're leaking more reiatsu than usual, don'tcha know?" Dondochakka pointed out nervously.
Cazador's eyes narrowed, making Dondochakka jump back in fear. "We're not alone," the orange-haired Arrancar muttered. "Show yourself!"
A new Arrancar Sonido-ed several meters front of Cazador. "Impressive that you could detect me," the newcomer complimented, his voice a low baritone. The Arrancar was tall, muscular, bald and extremely dark-skinned, and his mask fragment seemed divided into two parts. Atop his head lay a single line of small spikes along the crest, and he also wore a thick bony necklace. He wore Aizen's uniform with obvious pride. "My name is Zommari Leroux, Septima Espada. I come bearing a message from Aizen-sama."
"What is the message?" Cazador inquired with a scowl, mirroring Ichigo's own.
"Aizen-sama wishes to invite you to join our cause, and to inform you that a human girl, Inoue Orihime, will die if you do not appear before him within the next twelve hours," Zommari relayed.
Inoue! Ichigo's voice was full of worry.
Cazador frowned. He knew without asking that Ichigo would break their deal in a heartbeat if it meant saving his friend, and he actually liked the current arrangement. Well, looks like I have no choice. He let loose a wild grin. Best kill this one now then! "Alright, I'll go see Aizen… after I kill you!" Cazador shouted, dashing at Zommari with Sonido.
Zommari merely shook his head, and let himself be stabbed. Cazador blinked. "That was too easy."
"Indeed it was."
Cazador spun, seeing another Zommari standing a few feet away, completely unharmed. He chanced a glance at the one he'd stabbed, only to find that it was gone. What under the heavens…? "How did you do that?!" he demanded.
"Out of all the Espada, my Sonido is the fastest," the dark-skinned Arrancar answered with only the barest of hints of smugness in his voice. "What you just saw was my Gemelos Sonido. When I move at my maximum speed, I can create up to five after-images of myself."
"That's impressive, but I'm still going to kill you," Cazador complimented with a grin. And that's something we'll have to try. Speed is our specialty, eh Ichigo?
"I fail to see the point of this fight," Zommari stated, looking his opponent dead in the eye. "I have performed my duty as Aizen-sama's faithful servant and informed you of the girl's capture, and you are not fast enough to keep me from leaving. There is nothing keeping me here." In the time it took Cazador to blink, Zommari was gone.
"Damn it!" Cazador cursed, stabbing Zangetsu into the sands of Hueco Mundo angrily. I'm not gonna get a better shot than that to kill him!
We can worry about that later, Cazador! We have to go save Inoue! Ichigo insisted.
What about your other friends? I'm sure they're already on their way. We can wait for them.
Have you forgotten what Zommari said already? Aizen's gonna kill her in twelve hours if we don't show up! Who knows where the hell my other friends will end up in Hueco Mundo?!
Cazador frowned. I can't believe I'm the one telling you this, but it's not exactly a good idea chargin' in alone, when we don't know the full capabilities of everyone there. I enjoy a good fight, but going alone is suicide!
He has a point, Ichigo, Zangetsu murmured quietly.
Ichigo seethed with frustration, not wanting to acknowledge the point but knowing what they said was the truth. What about with Nel then? he questioned. If we can get her to recover her powers, then we'd have a former third Espada on our side. If that ain't sufficient backup for a quick in-and-out mission, I don't know what is.
Cazador thought about that possibility for several seconds as he turned to view the Arrancar he was currently traveling with, who were currently hiding behind a large sand dune. He sighed then shook his head slowly, negatively. From the looks of it, Nel's gonna need a damn powerful trigger to regain her old form in that short of a time. So, no.
We don't have any way of knowing when or where our backup will appear in Hueco Mundo! Ichigo pointed out. For all we know, they will be too late!
And I'm telling you, I am NOT going to try to assault Aizen's fortress without backup! You heard Urahara – We are the last resort against Aizen! It's foolish to risk us for a single woman!
Listen to you! Ichigo spat. You are not my Hollow, you are a coward hiding in a Hollow's skin!
Cazador bristled at the insult. I am no coward! I merely have no interest in your friends; I only want to grow stronger! Why should I risk my skin for your friends? You lost to me in our last fight, horse!
Suddenly, Cazador realized that perhaps he had gone a bit too far when he felt Ichigo's reiatsu levels rise dangerously. The next thing he knew, the Arrancar felt himself dragged into their Inner World. The first thing he saw when he arrived was Ichigo's back. The Shinigami had drawn his Zanpakuto and was looking up at the crimson moon that hung in the sky.
"…Cazador de la Luna." Ichigo turned to view his Hollow counterpart, his eyes determined. "How do you feel about another deal?"
"It's obvious we won't agree about this situation. You earned control of my body, and you still have over a week left before our next scheduled fight," Ichigo admitted. His brown eyes hardened. "But I can't let Inoue get killed. So, I have a deal to propose."
Cazador's eyes glittered in interest. The last deal we made turned out really well for both of us. "I'm listening."
"We fight, once more for control. If I win, I get control of my body and we return to our bimonthly fights. Nothing changes."
"And if I win?" Cazador leered.
"You keep my body for as long as you want it," Ichigo told him, "and I won't argue with your decisions any longer."
"Truly a tempting offer," Ichigo's Hollow side contemplated. "There's no real risk to me in this deal – either I win and I gain eternal dominance, or I lose and get the chance for dominance later." He grinned insanely. "Let's do it."
To Cazador's mild surprise, Ichigo grinned tightly, holding his Zanpakuto in front of him, in an all-too-familiar position. "I'd hoped you would agree. Bankai!"
"Bankai so soon, Ichigo?" Cazador taunted, drawing his own Zangetsu. "A sign of weakn-!" Cazador found himself cut off as he instinctually brought his cleaver in front of him horizontally, just in the nick of time to block Ichigo, who had suddenly appeared right in front of him to delivery a brutally vicious downward slash.
Ichigo's Hollow side let loose a sharp cry of pain as the Getsuga raged against his Zanpakuto, pushing him into and through two of the sideways skyscrapers that made up Ichigo's mind before landing in a crater on a third.
Cazador got to his feet, bruised and bleeding slightly in several places. "Not bad," he admitted. "But…"
Without warning, Ichigo materialized in front of him in another impressive display of his mastery of Shunpo plus Bankai speed enhancement, already swinging his Tensa Zangetsu, a silent Getsuga already charged and ready. "You talk too much!"
Cazador blocked, now wielding two Zanpakuto that were crossed together in an X – he'd barely managed to manifest his alter ego's Shikai Zangetsu into existence so he could block. The two Zangetsu were successfully holding off Ichigo's Bankai, though he was buckling as Ichigo focused more power into the move.
With a burst of Sonido, Cazador disappeared, leaving Ichigo's Getsuga to collide harmlessly into another skyscraper. I don't stand a chance like this; I have to use Resurreccion! He used Sonido several times, trying to gain enough distance to buy himself enough time. "Tear the sky as-!"
"I don't think so." Ichigo said coolly, Shunpo-ing so he was right behind Cazador's left shoulder, Tensa Zangetsu already in motion.
Cazador was forced to abandon his Resurreccion attempt in favor of getting the hell out the way with Sonido. He wants to keep me from using Resurreccion, giving himself the necessary advantage to win, he realized with a smile. A cunning, ruthless, practically heartless plan. Ichigo's definitely serious about this fight, with everything on the line like this. He frowned, though, as he once more crossed blades with Ichigo before disappearing with Sonido. Problem is, I can't find a flaw. Ichigo in his Bankai is far too fast to escape, too strong to beat down with brute force. My only hope is a distraction. Cazador locked blades with his opponent once more, only to find the wind knocked out of him as Ichigo took advantage of Cazador's occupied arms and kicked him in the stomach as hard as he could. Cazador was sent flying into another crater.
"…Ow," Cazador grunted. I just need two seconds! "Getsuga Tenshou!" he cried, swinging his Zanpakuto together instinctually as Ichigo dashed at him.
Ichigo suddenly found that his speed was a detriment as he was suddenly too close to dodge the twin Getsuga. He was forced to block. It only took him a second to deflect the blast upwards, but the Shinigami had the sinking feeling he was too late.
He was. "Tear the sky asunder, Zangetsu!" Cazador screamed gleefully with a maniacal grin, holding both Zangetsu in front of him.
"Fuck!" Ichigo cursed, materializing his second Tensa Zangetsu, knowing he'd need it in just a moment.
As the smoke cleared, it occurred to him that this was the first time Ichigo had gotten a chance to see Cazador's Adjuchas Resurreccion form, so he studied it closely. Cazador's Hollow mask had expanded, wrapping entirely around his head and forming a curved horn on either side. As before, the mask stopped at the upper jaw, allowing only Cazador's lower jaw to be seen. The mask had crimson marking forming a pattern around the Cazador's head, but another marking trailed down from each eyehole, down to where the mask ended. Slightly surprisingly, the markings continued past the mask down to his neck. A long mane of orange hair flowed down from the back of the mask, all the way down to mid-back. Two long, curved horns aiming forward had appeared as well, giving Cazador a fearsome look.
The scale-like red-on-white armor that Cazador had sported as a Gillian had changed as well; instead of covering the entire torso, it only covered his rib cage up to his shoulders. His Hollow hole was in the middle of that armor, with red markings extending outwards from that hole, presumably to the back, with a couple of the lines reaching up to meet the markings on the neck. The lizard-style frills no longer grew around his neck. Instead, the frills had been changed into what looked like red fur surrounding all but the very front of his neck, though the fur still angled upwards much like the frills did.
There was more of the same fur surrounding his ankles and wrists. Cazador's crimson leggings still bore white wavy lines as they had in his Gillian Resurreccion, and similar blood-red lines wound down his arms from where the markings on his armor met his shoulders. The lizard tail that he'd sported as a Gillian was completely gone, and Cazador's feet still resembled a human's, except the toenails had extended and curved to resemble claws.
"That's better," the Arrancar said, casually shrugging his shoulders to make them pop. "It was a good strategy Ichigo, trying to keep me from unleashing my Resurreccion, but you were doomed to fail!"
Ichigo grit his teeth, angry at his failure, but still determined to win. "I may have failed to keep you in your previous form, but I refuse to lose here!"
"You think you can last long?" Cazador taunted. "We are using both of our Tensa Zangetsu; your body can't hope to last long in the speeds we'll be fighting at. But unlike you, I have high-speed regeneration! I can keep this up forever!"
Ichigo Shunpo-ed behind Cazador, swinging with his left Tensa Zangetsu, only to be summarily blocked as his Hollow self held his sword over his shoulder. "You may have the regeneration, you soul-leeching bastard…" Ichigo growled out, before disappearing again. He began to circle around Cazador, using several successive Shunpo that made him seem to flicker in and out of existence, at times leaving three or four afterimages at a time. "But I WILL NOT LOSE!"
Cazador stood still, keeping both his Zanpakuto at the ready, waiting… waiting…. There! He barely blocked a strike from Ichigo… only to realize that he'd only blocked one of Ichigo's swords when he felt his right leg get cut off by the second one.
Ichigo attempted to press his advantage, striking repeatedly, but Cazador managed to block every strike and then Sonido out of the way on his remaining leg. In the time it took Ichigo to catch up using Shunpo, Cazador's leg had already half-regrown. I need to use more power!
Apparently, Cazador had the same thought, as they slammed all four of their blades together, all of them smothered in a violent reiatsu. "GETSUGA TENSHOU!"
Several minutes before…
"What do you think Cazador's doing?" Pesche whispered to his comrades as he watched Cazador stare into space, making subtle movements as though having an internal dialogue.
"I don't know, don'tcha know," Dondochakka responded, confused.
"Maybe he's talkin' to himself?" Nel suggested.
"Ah, maybe he's trying to figure out what to do next?!" Pesche postulated excitedly.
"Could be," Dondochakka acceded. He repressed a shiver at seeing a wide, malicious smirk form on Cazador's face. "But I don't think we're gonna like what he's thinking, don'tcha know."
Suddenly Cazador froze. Then a pulse of reiatsu erupted from him, and all three observers got a very strong feeling that they should get the hell out of there and watch from a much, much longer distance.
"Run away!" Pesche cried, and the three of them scrambled for cover several more sand dunes back, out of sight.
They were just in time; Cazador's body was beginning to look around, searching for a target. Seeing none, and sand in every other direction, the berserker began walking towards the palace in the distance – Las Noches.
Seconds later, the berserker clutched his head and let loose a Hollow roar. He slashed out with his left hand, a black Tensa Zangetsu appearing mid-swing. A silent Getsuga was unleashed upon the sand dunes, sending sand flying everywhere. His right hand held the white Zangetsu, still in Shikai state. He began running towards Las Noches, slowly changing with every step he took to Cazador's Resurreccion form.
"This is… exceedingly odd," Pesche said quietly as they shadowed the body of their friend. "Normally a Resurreccion is instantaneous, but this one seems to take time. I don't think Cazador's in control of his body."
"What would make that happen?" Nel queried.
"Maybe he hasn't eaten enough Hollows recently, and now he's struggling to put down the Hollows he has?" Pesche answered somberly. "Although I've never heard of that happening to an Arrancar before…"
Another wave of reiatsu emerged, coinciding with when Cazador completed his Resurreccion. The white Zangetsu changed shape to Tensa Zangetsu, and the transformation sped up. It took mere seconds for the berserker to completely assume the form of Cazador's Resurreccion.
"He seems to have a purpose, don'tcha know," Dondochakka observed. "He hasn't done anything but head towards Las Noches."
"To be fair, it is the biggest structure around," Pesche justified. "Maybe he's looking for someone strong to fight."
"Let's make sure we're not seen then," Nel whispered in fear. Both her companions nodded.
Ichigo's Inner World
Ichigo lost the war of Getsugas and found himself flying through a skyscraper himself, his hands and arms bleeding from parts of the Getsuga that had gotten him. "Damn it!" he swore, keeping his eyes on Cazador. There has to be a way to beat him!
"You're not doing too badly, Ichigo," Cazador admitted. "I thought for sure my Resurreccion form would annihilate you, but you've gotten stronger too." He grinned, a fearsome sight combined with his mask. "But you're still no match for me. Not when your bones are already cracking from the strain of using both Tensa Zangetsu, and you don't have high-speed regeneration to repair it!"
Ichigo scowled, bitterly acknowledging that truth. Something Cazador said nagged at him, however. It had ever since Cazador had used his Resurreccion. There was something about high-speed regeneration that just refused to leave Ichigo alone, and he was afraid it would start to affect his reaction speed if he didn't figure it out. High-speed regeneration… my mask… He eyes widened. Wait, I could use my mask in here, when I learned how to use the regeneration! Ichigo barely kept a smirk from forming as he thought furiously, using Shunpo to avoid a crippling slash from Cazador. He began spinning both Tensa Zangetsu by the ends of their chains, charging up a Getsuga. Come to think of it, Cazador could use my power initially… he was in Arrancar form, which is a mixture of Shinigami and Hollow. Why can't I do the same?
"Cero!" Cazador screamed, a Cero having been forming in between his horns.
"Getsuga Tenshou!" Ichigo roared, slashing both Tensa Zangetsu across his body.
The black crescent attack Ichigo unleashed slammed into Cazador's crimson Cero, slicing into it and forcing the Cero to split into two separate ones, each of which missed Ichigo by a mile. Unfortunately, by the time the Getsuga had reached Cazador, it had run out of power and merely dissipated. Ichigo took advantage of Cazador being unable to see him through the Cero to Shunpo to a slightly safer location.
Please let this work! Ichigo thought frantically, as he brought his left hand, the one holding the white Tensa Zangetsu over his face. To his satisfaction, he could see his fingers starting to emit the sinister-feeling Hollow reiatsu. He could feel his mask there, just waiting to be called into existence. He allowed himself to smirk now. "Hey, Cazador," he called calmly, Shunpo-ing several meters behind the Hollow.
Cazador turned around, and while Ichigo couldn't see Cazador's eyes clearly behind the mask, he was sure they had widened. As it was, the rest of his Hollow self's body language expressed shock. "No…" Cazador whispered.
Ichigo's smirk widened. "Oh hell yes." He tore at the air in front of his face, ripping his mask into place. He wore the old mask, the white one with red tribal marks only the left side, though Ichigo could not see this. "Time to take your rightful place, Cazador…"
Cazador blinked, and then Ichigo was gone. He felt pain in his abdomen and looked down – a black Tensa Zangetsu was embedded within his stomach. Holding it was a masked Ichigo, who tore the blade up, all the way to his Hollow hole before pulling it out. I've… I've lost… Cazador realized as he felt his feet begin to disintegrate. "Damn it. I never expected an idiot like you to realize you could use my power here as well."
Ichigo took off the mask and crushed it. "You only have yourself to blame," he revealed quietly.
"It was you who reminded me… I am Vizard," Ichigo said heavily. "A mixture of Shinigami and Hollow. If you can use my Shinigami powers, I can use your Hollow ones!"
"Perhaps so, King," Cazador conceded, his torso starting to fade away. "And you have just earned my Adjuchas mask."
"What do you mean?" Ichigo demanded.
Cazador laughed, his neck already gone. "Figure it out on your own, King! My liege should be smart and strong enough to figure it out without my hand-feeding him the answers!" With that, he was gone.
The Vizard narrowed his eyes. "Fine." He turned on his heel, noting that the night sky was fading into the sunny sky Ichigo's Inner World had had originally. "Now to save Inoue. You with me, Zangetsu?"
The Zanpakuto spirit had been sitting on a nearby flagpole since Cazador had faded. He jumped down now and looked Ichigo in the eyes. "Always. I would recommend checking in with Urahara however; perhaps you can acquire allies as a Shinigami that you could not as a Hollow."
"How would I… Never mind. Since I am back in control, I should be able to use Cazador's Garganta ability," Ichigo figured out. "Thanks for the advice, and for training with me."
Zangetsu nodded. "You have grown strong, Ichigo. Now go and demonstrate your strength!"
Ichigo found himself back in Hueco Mundo, and felt a strange mask on his face. He removed it and looked at it – it was the same shape as the mask he was used to, but it had a stripe going up and down each eye, a stripe that stained the teeth of the mask and reached down to the bottom of the mask. It also felt heavier than the old one. Heavier… and stronger… Ichigo realized, shattering the mask in his fist. So this is what Cazador meant by his Adjuchas mask…
That taken care of, he glanced at himself – he was back in his Shinigami outfit. "Good," he murmured.
"Who're you?!" Pesche demanded as he and his friends jumped out from behind the dune they had been hiding behind.
"You're obviously not Cazador de la Luna, but you came out of his body, don'tcha know!" Dondochakka agreed.
"Me?" Ichigo asked. "I'm Kurosaki Ichigo. Cazador is the Hollow that lives inside me. I gave him control for a while, but now I'm back in charge."
"You look like a Shinigami!" Dondochakka accused.
"I am, sort of," Ichigo replied.
"Aren't Shinigami evil?" Nel asked innocently. "They kill Hollows for no good reason!"
Ichigo thought about how to respond to that. "Well, Shinigami think Hollows are evil, as they eat humans to survive," he finally said. "And a lot of humans become Shinigami after they die if they're not eaten by Hollows. So Shinigami and Hollows fight each other, each side trying to get stronger."
"Does that mean you're going to kill Nel?" Nel asked fearfully. Pesche and Dondochakka tensed, ready to intercept any strike Ichigo may attempt.
Ichigo violently shook his head. "No. No I'm not. You may be a former Espada, and a Hollow, but I'm not going to kill you. You guys eat other Hollows to survive, right? As long as you don't go after humans, I won't go after you. Besides…" He looked at Nel and smiled gently, patting her cracked mask very gently. "You look like a little girl to me. And little girls in my world need to be protected."
Nel's eyes widened. "You're the nicest Shinigami Nel's ever met!" she informed him, wonder in her voice.
Ichigo chuckled lowly. "I'm probably the only Shinigami you've ever met, outside of Aizen and his gang." That reminds me… "Listen, I need to go back to the human world for a while. Try to stay out of trouble, ok? I'll be back really soon."
Pesche quickly made an executive decision, grabbing Nel's hand. "Right. Come, Nel-sama." Nel looked reluctant, but let herself be dragged back by Pesche and Dondochakka. Once they were out of earshot, Pesche began fervently whispering to her. "It's best to just let him go."
"He is a Shinigami, and who knows if he'll change his mind? Like he said, to Shinigami, Hollows are evil, so he wouldn't think twice about going back on his word to kill us!" Pesche tried to explain.
"Itsyugo wouldn't do that," Nel argued, her lisp butchering her pronunciation of Ichigo.
"You can't know that," Pesche countered. "You've known him for all of three minutes! He could be trying to fool you!"
Nel pouted, not wanting to concede the point. "… If Nel has to…"
In the meantime, Ichigo had summoned his mask and looked at it – it was the lighter Gillian mask. "OK… should work." He put it back on his face. "Now… how do I create a Garganta? Well, Cazador just slashed in the air like this with his claws…" Ichigo tensed his left hand into a claw shape, charged it with some Hollow reiatsu, and swiped with it into the air. He was rather surprised when he felt the Hollow reiatsu form a strange pattern in his fingertips, and saw the Garganta form. "That was… surprisingly easy. When I thought that Hollows learned things by instinct, I didn't realize it was THAT instinctual…" He let the Garganta close and this time set his mind's eye on Urahara's secret underground training basement, thinking that perhaps it would take him directly there. This time, when he opened the Garganta, he stepped into it.
All of a sudden, Ichigo felt himself falling. Reacting instinctively, he channeled reiatsu to his feet and began to air-walk. "So… this is the place between dimensions…" It was rather turbulent; it took a strong will to maintain his air-walking technique by solidifying the spirit particles in this void. Ichigo looked around. Behind him was almost pitch black, but in front of him was lighter, a sort of grayish color. Ichigo headed towards the lightest part, hoping it would take him to his preferred destination.
Not long later – maybe half an hour of running and maintaining the air-walk, Ichigo found himself at a barrier. Instinctively, he made the same clawing motion as before, and tore open the barrier between worlds. He emerged into Urahara's training basement, as he had wanted. Quickly removing his mask and crushing it, Ichigo let the Garganta close. "Looks like I'm back. Time to check up with Urahara." And once I'm done here, I'll see if I can open a Garganta straight to Inoue! His hands tightened into fists. Inoue… I'm coming for you!
And that's that. Bit a shorter chapter, I understand... But I figured it was a good place to stop. Cazador refuses to invade Las Noches alone, Ichigo is desperate and fights for control... but now that Ichigo is back in control, he has more options available than Cazador did. Cazador couldn't just open a Garganta back to the human world - neither he nor Ichigo wants anyone else to know that Cazador even exists, let alone was in control. Plus... neither really thought of it until after Zangetsu practically pointed it out to Ichigo. Ichigo and Cazador ARE intelligent, but they can't come up with every possible action.
As you all may have surmised, I have decided to stick with the "mask in stages" idea. I rather like it, and think it has excellent potential. This fight didn't have much by way of banter, because Ichigo didn't feel like he could have fun here; this was an all-or-nothing chance he was taking against Cazador, who had evolved into an Adjuchas. Cazador as a base hollow was win their second fight, Cazador as an Adjuchas could have really kicked Ichigo around if Ichigo hadn't also trained under Zangetsu and fought the various Hollows that Cazador ate. Even so, Cazador had a clear advantage in power, and in the ability to use high-speed regeneration. The only reason Ichigo won is because he had the ability to pull out Cazador's Gillian mask, which more than offset the power difference.
It gets a little complicated, but here's how I see it. Cazador, when he entered his Resurreccion form, was almost completely Hollow, with only enough Shinigami power to indicate that he was indeed an Arrancar. This is the equivalent to a Vizard's Bankai, which allows the user to unleash all Shinigami power, with only enough Hollow to indicate that he was a Vizard. However, a Vizard also has the ability to draw on the Hollow mask, and acquire a further increase in power Hollow in nature. An Arrancar does not seem to have that extra ability (unless you count Ulquiorra's Resurreccion: Segunda Etapa form, which appears to be pretty much unique to him - I have yet to see anyone else display it).
As a result, Ichigo's Bankai plus Gillian Mask was at least if not equal to Cazador's Adjuchas Resurreccion. Throw in Cazador's surprise, and Ichigo was able to win. If Cazador had expected it, the fight would have been prolonged, at least.
Anyway, NeoRyu777 signing off. Read and review!