Hello all my faithful readers, it's good to update. This chapter has been flowing rather freely, and the majority of this chapter is the Ichigo versus Hollow Ichigo fight.
Hado 63: Soren Soukatsui (Twin Lotus Blue Fire, Crash Down)– fires two stronger versions of Hado 33: Soukatsui.
Bakudo 1: Sai (Restrain) – the very first Bakudo we ever see. This locks a person's arms behind their back, elbows bent so the hands are held near the top of the spine. It looks rather painful, but is extremely easy to break by any Shinigami with even average strength. Its only practical purposes appears to lie in distractions, binding humans who are getting in the way of Shinigami duties, and for introductions to Bakudo for Shinigami.
Bakudo 61: Rikujokoro (Six Rods Prison of Light) - this technique creates six wide, flat bars of light into an opponent's midsection, preventing them from any movement whatsoever. This technique is seen a couple of times in the anime and the manga, leading me to beliefve this is a popular mid-to-high-level Bakudo.
Without further ado…
Chapter 8: Hollow Reassurances
Three days passed, but it had not been a pleasant few days. More and more Hollows were appearing every day, and while the majority of them had been weaklings, there had been a two Gillian attacks.
Ishida theorized, and the various Shinigami agreed, that it was likely due to the high numbers of spiritually strong people in the area. Ichigo himself wasn't sure, wondering how far Aizen's power had extended, but in the end, it didn't matter. No matter what the cause is, we can't do anything about it.
Ichigo was worried about his upcoming fight with his Inner Hollow. It would take place that night, and between his Kido training with Tessai, the various Hollow attacks, and sparring with Renji, he had little time to work on summoning Hollow Ichigo's Zangetsu.
It's not like I haven't made progress with Kido, though, Ichigo thought to himself, trying to keep high spirits. Over the last three days, he'd learned another two Kido. One was Hado 63: Soren Soukatsui, which was essentially firing a more powerful Hado 33: Soukatsui twice. The other was Ichigo's first Bakudo, one he knew quite well: Bakudo 1: Sai. This was the same Bakudo that Rukia had punished him with at their first meeting, that same night when Rukia had given Ichigo her Shinigami powers.
Ichigo still needed the full incantation for Hado 63: Soren Soukatsui, but he had gotten decently good at Bakudo 1: Sai. It certainly helped his mood that he was able to practice on Renji, and occasionally Rukia. Ichigo still wasted quite a bit of reiatsu using the Bakudo, which made it a little weaker, but he knew that before he had begun training in Kido, he wouldn't have been able to do it at all.
I still need to figure out how to use my Hollow self's sword… The pressure weighed on him, but Ichigo knew he had a history of performing well under pressure. Finally, the morning of the final day, he sighed. "Tessai-sensei, I need your advice on a matter unrelated to Kido."
"How may I assist, Ichigo?" Tessai queried.
"It's like this…" The orange-haired Vizard explained the whole situation, how he would be once again fighting his Inner Hollow, but that he was certain he needed to learn how to use the second Zangetsu.
"Have you attempted it while wearing your mask?" Tessai suggested.
Ichigo nodded. "First thing I tried. Figured that as it was my Hollow's sword, wearing my Hollow's mask would help."
"And I assume you've attempted it the same way you summon your own sword," Tessai mused.
"Yeah. Even tried calling out Zangetsu the way I originally had to when I first gained the ability," Ichigo admitted.
"Are you sure that the second sword's name is Zangetsu?"
Ichigo sighed. "I can't think of anything else it could be. Even my Inner Hollow refers to it as Zangetsu."
"Perhaps there's a command phrase you need to use to make it split in two?" Tessai thought aloud.
Ichigo felt his hopes rise. "That might just be it!"
"The only question is, what is the command?" Tessai reminded, sending Ichigo's hopes crashing down again.
"I was able to take his Zanpakuto just by focusing my will and reiatsu down it, reasserting my mastery," Ichigo muttered. "It's got to be something like that." An idea struck him. "I'm not sure, but I think I've got it!"
"Try it," Tessai suggested, privately eager to see his pupil succeed.
Shifting Zangetsu to his right hand only, Ichigo raised his left hand. Hollow! Ichigo yelled into his mind. As your King, I demand your sword!
Hollow Ichigo cackled his approval. That's more like it, King. No more of that pitiful, "Won't you tell me?" shit! The sword is rightfully yours, won by blood and sweat, by right of conquest! Now take my sword, and slaughter your enemies!
The Hollow's white reiatsu swirled around Ichigo's left wrist before moving forward, shaping itself into the form of Zangetsu's Shikai. Ichigo looked at it, and smiled at the white Zangetsu in his left hand. "There we are."
"Let's see how strong your Getsuga is now," Tessai suggested.
"I like the way you think, Tessai-sensei." Ichigo cross his arms over his body, so the white Zangetsu was on the right, and his black Zangetsu was on the left. Both blades had their edges aiming outwards. "Getsuga Tenshou!" Ichigo commanded, pumping reiatsu into both swords as he swung the swords until they were both directly in front of him.
The effect was very interesting to look at, to say the least. On the left and right sides were Ichigo's standard Getsuga Tenshou attacks, but in the middle where they met, the Getsuga's power had increased so much it was almost purple in color. The power mix was gradual, so the outsides were blue, but the further towards the middle it was, the darker and larger the blast was. The Getsuga plowed through three boulders before finally using up its energy and exploding on the fourth, blowing away a large chunk of it.
Ichigo smirked. "That was good."
"Ichigo, your fighting style so far has been based around using one sword," Tessai warned. "You need to learn or develop a style that involves both swords, or this new development will prove more of a hindrance than a help."
Ichigo frowned. "Yeah, you're right." He hefted the white Zangetsu with his left arm, scowling as he realized that it wasn't as strong as his right. "Any ideas?"
"I've got one," Urahara's voice rang out as he Shunpo-ed next to them.
It was a testament to Ichigo's battle experience that he didn't jump, though he did give Urahara a dirty look. "How long were you listening, Urahara?"
"Only since I felt your Hollow's reiatsu at work," the shopkeeper said cheerfully. "Anyway, there's a Shinigami taicho, Kyoraku Shunsui, whose Zanpakuto takes the form of two swords."
"Great!" Ichigo said with a smirk. "It'll be good training to spar with a taicho."
"But…" Urahara paused.
"But…?" the Vizard-in-training repeated.
"He's not really available. He can't come here, as he's needed to protect Soul Society, and you can't go meet him, as you're the primary defender of Karakura Town," Urahara finished.
"Well, fuck." Ichigo scowled. "Guess I'll just have use what I know and improvise against my Hollow."
"Before then, care for a spar?" Urahara offered with a secret smile, his hat and hair casting a shadow on his face where only his left eye could be seen.
Ichigo nodded, remembering how Urahara had taught him how to use Zangetsu when he'd first achieved Shikai. He recalled how Urahara had never once brought out his Shikai, and knew that the wily ex-Shinigami would have several tricks up his sleeve. He jumped back and tried to find a stance he was comfortable with, using both swords. He settled for keeping his arms at his sides, so his Zanpakuto were angled forward and up, while sticking out to the sides somewhat.
Ichigo frowned, the stance unfamiliar to him. He was accustomed to using one sword; he'd fought that way for quite some time now, and he'd gotten quite good at it. He shook his head. Even if I have to start from the beginning over again… so long as I get stronger!
Urahara gave that same small smile as he held up his Zanpakuto, still sealed in a cane. "I think I should release my own precious Benihime, or I'll lose to your mastery of the Getsuga Tenshou. So… Awaken, Benihime!"
Now that Ichigo had a chance to look at it, Urahara's Zanpakuto was quite an exquisite one. While the handle was a little twisted, resembling the cane it had been, the sword was straight and thin. Nevertheless, a simple U-shaped decoration at the bottom of the blade added style, in addition to what looked like a knotted red string taking the place of a hilt. He had to admit, it suited Urahara well.
"Yes, Benihime is a lovely Zanpakuto," Urahara agreed out loud, seeing Ichigo's appreciative gaze. "Quite powerful as well, but not nice at all in Bankai. So I'd rather we stick to Shikai and Kido."
Ichigo nodded, then realized. Wait! Can I even use Kido with both my hands full?! Fuck!
"Then let's begin." Urahara dashed at Ichigo at speeds far faster than the orange-haired Shinigami had been capable of when he'd first regained his powers.
However, Ichigo had trained in Shunpo directly under Yoruichi, the Goddess of Flash. It was nothing for him to track Urahara, and he met the slash with his black Zangetsu, blocking. The blow shook his right arm, but his human training paid off as Ichigo was able to hold Benihime from continuing further.
Ichigo counter-attacked with the white Zangetsu, the sword flashing as he could almost feel his Hollow's thirst for blood within it. However, before he could make contact, Urahara disappeared. The sudden lack of resistance to his sword almost made him stumble, but Ichigo caught himself quickly and reached out with his spiritual sense. Where is he?!
Ichigo spun to meet Urahara's energy blast, his swords charging as they cut through the air. "Getsuga Tenshou!"
As he'd had his swords next to each other as he spun to reduce air resistance, it created a stronger Getsuga, all of it a blue-purple. His Getsugas met Urahara's crimson energy blast, and both exploded.
"Maa, that's surprising…" Urahara said cheerfully through the smoke of reiatsu. "I put a lot of power into that one, but you still managed to match it!"
Despite listening carefully, Ichigo couldn't tell where Urahara was. Well, if I can't pinpoint… Putting his swords in the same position as before the shopkeeper had appeared, he slashed and released a silent Getsuga Tenshou. While it was slightly weaker than before, Ichigo felt the possible element of surprise was worth it.
His spiritual senses screamed a warning and Ichigo responded instinctually, twisting his upper body to block a potentially crippling slash from Benihime with his black Zangetsu. "Nice block," Urahara complimented.
"Thanks," Ichigo said with a smirk before disappearing with Shunpo.
Urahara hadn't expected that, but recovered gracefully. "Copycat!" Urahara called out as he swept his trained eyes across the area, looking for his opponent.
"Hado 33: Soukatsui!"
The clog-shod man Shunpo-ed to his left, allowing the fast Hado to completely pass him by, piercing a hole in a nearby rock. "Good attempt, Ichigo!" Urahara said, seeing Ichigo pick up Zangetsu. Ichigo had stuck his right sword into the ground to free his hand for the Kido. "But I've trained with Yoruichi for ages! You'll have to try harder than that to beat me, I'm afraid."
"Fine then!" Ichigo dashed at Urahara with all the speed he could, holding his twin Zanpakuto together as he slashed at Urahara, who blocked with Benihime.
"You're not fast enough or skilled enough yet to use both of them easily," Urahara said calmly. "Your Zanpakuto is strong, but it is heavy, and detracts from your speed. Wielding two of them increases your attack power, yes, but at the cost of your agility." He spun and slashed at Ichigo, who blocked with his black Zangetsu and swung the white one at Urahara's side, hoping to catch him. Urahara merely disappeared, reappearing on Ichig's other side, managing a moderate slice before Ichigo could spin and try to cut him. Urahara merely disappeared and reappeared several meters back. "What use is a second weapon if you cannot catch me with it?"
Ichigo frowned. He'd noticed the same thing. Right now, the only thing the second Zangetsu is good for is in Bankai mode, as Tensa Zangetsui is much lighter than Zangetsu's Shikai form. He let the white Zangetsu dissipate into spirit particles, and took his familiar stance, with both hands on his trusty weapon. "Then let's try this again!" he yelled, flaring his reiatsu.
"Yes, let's!" Urahara unleashed his own significant reiatsu as they stared at each other for a moment before rushing at each other. They struck, Zanpakuto clashing as they tried to overpower each other.
Zangetsu was covered in the ethereal blue flame of a Getsuga, trying to overpower a similarly enhanced Benihime.
The scene reminded Ichigo of his fight with Kyuchiki Byakuya at the Soukyouku. He smirked and lowered his head, creeping Urahara out a little. He let go of Zangetsu with his left hand, his right struggling to maintain the fight against Urahara's power. Ichigo quickly raised his hand and pointed his index and middle fingers. "Hado 4," the orange-haired Shinigami began with a smirk, his fingers glowing a whitish yellow, "Byakurai."
At this point-blank distance, Urahara could not dodge completely, but he made a valiant effort anyway. He leapt back and to the side, but the Byakurai still pierced through part of his shoulder. That's not good, Urahara thought to himself. He might actually beat me! He smiled mischieviously. And that just won't do.
Keeping the Getsuga in his blade with some concentration, Ichigo dashed after Urahara, who leapt back and gathered his reiatsu, pointing the palm of his left hand at his attacker. "Bakudo 61: Rikujokoro," Urahara murmured, too low for Ichigo to hear.
Ichigo never saw it coming. One moment he was almost upon Urahara, the next he felt six wide, thin things slamming into his midsection from all around him. Suddenly, Ichigo was forcibly stopped cold. He quickly experimented with moving any part of his body, and found he was completely bound somehow. His eyes could make out long, wide yellow beams sticking out in his peripheral vision and below him. A Bakudo! Ichigo realized, summoning up his strength and trying to break out. He grunted as he made no progress whatsoever.
Urahara held Benihime to his side casually as he approached Ichigo. "It seems Bakudo is still your weakness, Ichigo," he commented with a smile. "That was a level 61 Bakudo, which requires more than just brute strength to break out of."
"So I see," Ichigo replied dryly. "Alright, you win. So, how DO I get out of this?"
"You need to be familiar and skilled with Bakudo at least up to the level that you are entrapped in," the shopkeeper instructed. "After that, you would have to unravel the Bakudo with your reiatsu until it's weak enough for you to break free with sheer strength. As for how… that's for you to figure out!" Urahara said cheerfully.
"Damn you, Urahara!"
Urahara ignored him. "An alternate method is to have someone else destroy or disrupt the bonds holding you there. In this case, someone would need to destroy the beams holding you there. The final method is simply to wait for it to wear off."
"Well, as I'd like to be able to move again soon, and I have only just gotten started with Bakudo, would you mind releasing me?" Ichigo requested with a sour look on his face.
Urahara smiled wider. "Not normally, no, but you should see this as training, Ichigo! Try to weaken the Bakudo until you can break free! If you can't before your fight with your Hollow…" Urahara shrugged. "Well, it's a free Bakudo to help restrain your berserker body."
Ichigo frowned, feeling out with his reiatsu. He closed his eyes, visualizing his body, trying to feel how the foreign reiatsu was freezing him. He decided to start at his extremities. To his mild surprise, there was no enemy reiatsu in the muscles of his hands. Methodically, Ichigo moved up his arms to his shoulders… nothing.
OK Ichigo, think! I'm frozen, can't move an inch. Except for my mouth. If it's not stopping my muscles directly, it must be stopping the muscles from getting the signals. He frowned. Perhaps the nerve endings then?
Within his mind's eye, Ichigo tried to zoom in and visualize his nervous system. This time, he hit jackpot. In the majority of his nerve endings was a small concentration of reiatsu he recognized as Urahara's. Well, let's try the obvious… He focused some of his reiatsu and annihilated a few offending nerve blockers, only to frown as the blocking reiatsu seemingly regenerated.
Ichigo paused. It must be coming from those bars of light. Maybe I need to cancel out the root of the my being bound in order to regain movement? With that new thought in mind, Ichigo moved his area of focus to his midsection, where he could sense where the Bakudo was entering his body and nervous system. With a frown of concentration, the bound Shinigami used his reiatsu to sort of pinch off the enemy reiatsu, creating a dam of reiatsu that the Bakudo could not penetrate.
After he managed to get one of the six bars he could tell were attached to him, Ichigo was surprised to see the bar in front of him suddenly just dissipate, no longer being attached to anything. His lips curled up into a smirk. It only took a few more minutes, and then Ichigo was completely free. He stood tall, proud of his accomplishment.
Oi, King! Ready to fight?! I know I am!
Just a sec, I'll be right there. "Oi, Urahara, remember, same rules as last time. If he wins, open a way to Hueco Mundo for him. I win, everything stays the same." He sent a cocky smile to Urahara and Tessai. "Back soon!" With that, Ichigo pulled himself into his Inner World.
He and his Inner Hollow traded bloodthirsty grins. "Ready to get this started?" Ichigo proposed.
"Was waiting on you, King. Or should I say, Former King?" Hollow Ichigo taunted.
"You think you can rule, then come take my crown!" Ichigo challenged, readying Zangetsu.
His Hollow side did the same, a manic grin growing on his face. "Don't worry, Ichigo, when I win I'll honor my end of the deal. I won't devour you. After all, who better to fight me than my supposed good half?! I'll only grow stronger with you here!"
Ichigo snorted. "Then prove it, Hollow!" Both he and Hollow Ichigo disappeared in a flash of Shunpo, their blades once more clashing. Ichigo's strength had grown so much that both he and his Hollow half were only using their right hands to swing Zangetsu, leaving their left hands open.
"Hado 4: Byakurai!" they announced in tandem, a mirror image as they dodged, breaking their deadlock. "Hado 33: Soukatsui!"
The two enormous blue fireballs met and exploded against each other, creating a large smokescreen. Ichigo took the opportunity to leap back and quickly gripped a strip of Zangetsu's cloth before swinging his Zanpakuto above his head, charging it as quickly as he could, creating a wind that began clearing the smoke in the process.
"Getsuga Tenshou!" the Hollow bellowed, his light blue Getsuga streaking out of the rapidly clearing smoke at Ichigo.
Now that Ichigo could see his opponent, he could think tactically. It's too far to throw and hope for any chance of it hitting him, not with our Shunpo speeds. Best go for a wide area effect! Ichigo smirked, and stopped spinning Zangetsu, catching the Zanpakuto in his hand as he swung it against Hollow Ichigo's Getsuga, deflecting it and unleashing his own. "Getsuga Tenshou!"
Ichigo's Getsuga, far stronger than his normal ones, raced at his Hollow self, but the Hollow hadn't been standing still, doing nothing.
The spiritual manifestation of Ichigo's Hollow powers used Shunpo and appeared above and to Ichigo's right. "… wait at the far heavens!" Hollow Ichigo cried out, finishing the incantation. Two streams of blue energy streamed into his left hand, creating a shuddering blue orb. "Hado 63: Soren Soukatsui!" The orb suddenly turned into a circular stream of fiery blue energy whose diameter fluxuated between one and two meters wide, shooting forward at a speed comparable to Ichigo's Bankai. Both shots had been fired as one, creating a very powerful blast.
"Shit!" Ichigo yelped, trying to dodge. He mostly managed, but had to use Zangetsu to block when it would have clipped his arm. I am SO glad Zangetsu is strong enough for this!
"Not bad, Ichigo!" the Hollow complimented. "Gotta say, that's a nice attack. Kinda like a Shinigami version of a Cero in a way."
"Not bad yourself, Hollow me," Ichigo returned. "And thanks for the reminder that the Getsuga is much better close up!" He dashed up, attempting to strike his Hollow side with a Getsuga-enhanced Zangetsu.
The Hollow readied his own sword and Getsuga, clashing with Ichigo into another deadlock. He grinned as Ichigo brought his let hand onto Zangetsu as well, adding extra power. Ichigo was slowly but surely overwhelming him. Not for long… "Bakudo 1: Sai!"
Ichigo was hit by the point-blank Bakudo, but broke it before it could bring his hands behind his back. Even so, it lessened Ichigo's intensity for a split second, which is all his Hollow self needed to leap back out of Ichigo's reach and get into position. "Let's take this to the next level, Ichigo! Ban-!"
"Shit!" Ichigo quickly raised Zangetsu to horizontal level. "Ban-!"
Outside Ichigo's mindscape, Urahara and Tessai waited. They had bound Ichigo's Hollowifying berserker form with Bakudo 99: Bankin, and now merely waited in the event that it would not be enough to hold him. Because Bankin wraps a foe head to toe in fabric, they had no idea if he was repeating his last transformation, or if there was something new in there. Either way, they weren't curious enough to find out.
"Do you think Ichigo will win this round as well?" Tessai questioned.
"Hard to say…" Urahara muttered. "I suppose it depends on how skilled Ichigo is when they are both at full power. Since he has the power of dual wielding with both swords in Bankai…" He paused, looking at Ichigo's bound body. "Ichigo's Bankai form is extremely powerful, and I cannot deny his strength when wielding a sword. But using two swords requires a different style, one he hasn't learned yet. So the question becomes, who is better at it? Ichigo… or his Hollow?"
A pulse of reiatsu alerted them to Ichigo, and they could see Bankin slowly crumbling under its immense pressure. "Ichigo must have gone Bankai," Tessai said aloud, taking on a battle stance.
"Ichigo has grown even stronger than the last time we did this…" Urahara replied with a smile, silently releasing Benihime into Shikai. "How much time do we have before he breaks free?"
Tessai eyed his Bakudo with a critical eye. "I give it three minutes," he finally said. "I hope Ichigo finishes this soon."
Back within Ichigo's Inner World, the orange-haired protector clashed against his Inner Hollow, black against white, twin swords fighting for supremacy. "Getsuga Tenshou!" Ichigo barked out, trying to overpower his Hollow half as his Tensa Zangetsu was engulfed in the powerful black Getsuga.
"Ruthless, aren't we?" the Hollow commented as he deflected Ichigo's attack to his right, twisting to the left to completely avoid the blow.
Ichigo smirked, turning the deflection into an all-out spin, letting Tensa Zangetsu slip forward from his hands until he was holding on the chain. As he spun, he charged the Getsuga further. "Only to horses that need to learn their place! Getsuga Tenshou!"
Hollow Ichigo barely managed to put up his sword in time to try to block the empowered Getsuga, and the white representation of Ichigo's Hollow powers was pushed back as the white Tensa Zangetsu struggled to dissipate Ichigo's energy attack. The Hollow took only a second to flip his Tensa Zangetsu upwards, deflecting the attack skywards. "Not bad, Ichigo."
Ichigo readjusted his grip on Tensa Zangetsu. "You're not half bad yourself, Hollow."
"You've come far in using Zangetsu the way he was meant to be used," Hollow Ichigo complimented with a grin. "I'm glad; it means that when I take over, I'll be that much stronger!"
"Thanks, but you should know by now… I am going to win!" Ichigo said seriously, with a small smirk forming on his face.
"You wish!" Hollow Ichigo's grin grew further as he dashed and slashed at Ichigo, who blocked it readily. "Ready to take it a step further? I can't wait to fight someone at speeds even faster than this!"
Ichigo smirked as he used Shunpo to dash back and begin swinging Tensa Zangetsu above his head, charging it with another powerful Getsuga. "As I thought, because I gained the ability to use your sword, you gained the ability to use mine."
The Hollow part of Ichigo's soul let loose a grin reminiscent of Kenpachi as he raised his hand. "Bakudo 1: Sai!" Ichigo wasn't even affected as he shrugged off the Bakudo like it didn't exist. Hollow Ichigo's grin only widened as he used Shunpo to try to slice Ichigo before his opponent could block. "Of course I can use your sword, Ichigo! I am the Hollow part of your power, and I contain the Shinigami part within me!" the Hollow laughed. "Anything you can do, I can do!"
Ichigo let out a genuine grin as he stopped spinning his sword, slapping it into his hand with a raging Getsuga covering it, slashing at his deadly foe. "Anything but get a tan, you mean!"
"Hey!" Hollow Ichigo sounded almost affronted as he leapt up in the air to avoid the silent Getsuga Ichigo had unleashed, but his own mischievous grin gave him away. "I'll have you know that white is much better than boring old black! At least I don't look like I just came from a funeral!"
"No," Ichigo agreed, slamming Tensa Zangetsu against its duplicate. "just an asylum for the crazies. I wonder where your straightjacket went?"
Both opponents pushed their weapons harder, using both hands to try to define who would be King this time. "This is your mind, remember? If I'm crazy, what does that make you?"
"Point to you," Ichigo conceded as he broke the deadlock, jumping backwards to put some distance between them. "Come, let us take this fight even higher!"
He and his Hollow half raised their left hands, calling forth another Tensa Zangetsu apiece. The second the new swords were manifested, both of them disappeared, moving at speeds far faster than previously, on par with Ichigo's Bankai while wearing his mask when he fought Grimmjow.
In the real world… "Awaken, Benihime!" Urahara said quickly, unleashing his Shikai as the high-level Bakudo restraining the berserker Ichigo was suddenly obliterated by a pulse of even stronger reiatsu. The reiatsu pulse that Ichigo had emitted was unreal in sheer power. In this state, he might even beat my own Bankai! Urahara had to admit, he was both frightened and awed by Ichigo's rate of growth.
"Bakudo 81: Danku!" Tessai bellowed, creating an enormous square Kido barrier that would block most reiatsu, including Kido attacks up to level 89. The barrier was mostly transparent, allowing him to see his Bakudo 99: Bankin shatter like dropped china. "Urahara-dono!"
"I know," Urahara replied softly. "He's summoned the second sword, and used it in Bankai. Be prepared for extremely high speed combat."
Just then, they saw the berserker Ichigo's Hollow form. It was, once again, the form of the lithe white lizard-man hybrid, but this time there was a black sword in its right hand, and a white in its left.
Urahara raised his Zanpakuto, and not a moment too soon, as less than breath later Ichigo's berserker body had struck it with black Tensa Zangetsu. "Sing, Benihime!" Urahara yelped quickly, slashing at the Hollow and unleashing the blood-red tiara-shaped attack.
The Hollow was thrown back, but managed to use the white Tensa Zangetsu to absorb the majority of the impact. It slashed at Urahara, and a silent black Getsuga rocketed at Urahara.
"Sing, Benihime!" Now, Urahara's trusty crimson shield blocked the majority of the attack, though a portion still managed to slice part of his hat, sending it flying. How nostalgic, Urahara thought to himself, remembering how the newly reborn Shinigami Ichigo had done the exact same thing. "Time to get serious, I think."
"Move over, Urahara!" a new voice yelled out.
Urahara skillfully blocked another one of the Hollow's moves, and quickly glanced at the voice. He smiled, recognizing the bone-straight shoulder-length blond hair of the leader, and all of his companions. "Good to see you."
Hirako Shinji grinned, gripping his Zanpakuto. "I said, move over! It's our turn to fight him!" The Vizard had arrived. "Hachigen, barrier!"
"Alright." With a clap of his hands, five barriers appeared around the berserk Hollow form of Ichigo, creating a cube to which he was bound.
"He's fast," Urahara warned. "I don't know how strong you are now, but don't undestimate him."
"I'll fight him first," Kensei volunteered. He eyed the berserker Ichigo with distaste. He much preferred orderly fights, and this Hollow appeared to be extremely bloodthirsty.
"Alright. We'll swap out every three minutes," Shinji ordered. "Except Hachigen. You're to maintain the barrier."
Tessai quietly approached his old Lieutenant. "Hachigen. I am glad you have continued your training. You appear to have truly surpassed me."
"Thank you, sensei." Hachigen sat down to meditate, allowing Kensei inside the barrier with a frown of concentration.
"Blow it away, Tachikaze," Kensei stated strongly. Even I know better than to take on a taicho-level Bankai without releasing. His Zanpakuto glowed, then shrunk down to a long survival knife, approximately 7 inches long.
His eyes widened as Ichigo was suddenly in front of him, and Kensei barely managed to block a strike from the beast's white Tensa Zangetsu. He leapt back, charging a large amount spiritual energy with wind, with the help of Tachikaze. It quickly formed a glowing white orb, which he shoved into Ichigo when the monstrous form pursued.
An enormous blue blast was unleashed, obliterating two more boulders behind where Ichigo had been. I hope that got him, otherwise I'm dead already! Thankfully for Kensei, it struck true and successfully knocked the Hollow form several meters.
Without further ado, Kensei quickly summoned his Hollow mask and put it on. It resembled a flat rectangular hockey mask covering his face, with three slotted holes lined down each side. At the left and right sides, it extended around, covering the sides and back of his head in the shape of a hexagon.
"Wow, mask and release already?" Shinji asked, incredulously.
"What the hell, Kensei?!" Hiyori yelled angrily. "He can't be that strong to warrant so much power!"
"You're wrong, Hiyori. I barely got him, and if he'd used both blades, I would be dead right now," Kensei replied, loudly enough to be heard by everyone. "Remember, he's in Bankai, with a Hollow mask, and we already know Ichigo's approximate reiatsu level WITHOUT either of those."
"Even so, we've fought him before with his Hollow mask in Bankai," Rose remarked. "He wasn't nearly this fast then."
Kensei narrowly dodged a slice, kicking Ichigo further away. Shinji frowned. "He didn't have the second sword then either,"he pointed out.
"Perhaps it compounds the effect of his Bankai?"Lisa postulated.
Kensei he quickly dodged to the side and punched the berserker in the head with his left hand, his Hollow-enhanced strength sending Ichigo flying. "It's lucky that this version can't think and plan too well."
The Hollow version of Ichigo screamed in an incoherent rage, stabbing the white version of Tensa Zangetsu into the ground before pointing three sharp claws at Kensei, a red orb of spinning Hollow energy quickly forming.
Cero! Kensei realized, but he was too far away to stop Ichigo from using it without cutting off his limbs. He powered up a Cero of his own to counter it.
Urahara watched in awe. So strong! Who would be stronger? Myself, or one of the Vizard? Have I been slacking on my own training?
Meanwhile, Ichigo and his Hollow self fought in the air, preferring the added maneuverability. I have to finish this quick! Ichigo could feel his heart pumping harder and faster than what ought to be good for him, his muscles were burning, his bones shuddered a little more at every impact. I don't know how much longer I can last! Ichigo decided to try something new. "Getsuga Tenshou!" Ichigo fired at his Hollow, slashing both blades across his body to create an extremely powerful Getsuga. Hollow Ichigo prepared a Getsuga in each blade to cancel it, but wasn't expecting Ichigo to appear behind him, another Getsuga at the ready as he slashed.
"Attacking from two sides? Good idea, Ichigo, but you forgot the other avenues of exit!" Hollow Ichigo slashed upwards at Ichigo while letting himself fall through the air. Naturally, Ichigo blocked, but that provided the extra momentum needed to the Hollow to escape Ichigo's first blast and put Ichigo directly in its path.
Ichigo was forced to expend his second Getsuga to cancel the first with a curse. Naturally, the Hollow took advantage of Ichigo's momentary distraction, and had Shunpo-ed directly in front of Ichigo, whose arms and swords were at either side of his body, having just completed canceling the Getsuga with one of his own. Hollow Ichigo smiled cruelly and slashed down with both swords.
Ichigo, to his credit, reacted swiftly, and managed to keep the blow from cutting off his arms by raising his twin Zanpakuto to block, but the muscles and tendons between his shoulders and neck had had been cut moderately, and Ichigo felt the bones in his arms crack, causing even greater pain as he struggled to hold his Hollow self back. "You took advantage of me being preoccupied with canceling my own attack, and landed a blow that almost killed me," Ichigo muttered, feeling out with his reiatsu to see how bad it was. My strength has been cut significantly, and I'm at a huge disadvantage now. My only hope is to surprise him and spear him through!
"That, Ichigo, is why you only put yourself in that sort of position if you're sure you can keep your enemy between yourself and the attack," Hollow Ichigo lectured. "Not that you'll get a chance to use that! I can tell already, your arms have lost some of their strength; I cut too deeply on you! Admit it Ichigo, you've lost!" He laughed, only to abruptly stop and narrowly avoid a crippling slash from the side.
"Don't underestimate me!" Ichigo hissed, eyes blazing in determination, ignoring the searing pain in his whole body.
"I must admit, Ichigo, you continually impress me. Even critically injured, your strength being sapped, you still almost manage to win. I would say I am proud to call you King…" Hollow Ichigo disappeared from sight, and Ichigo whirled on instinct, using both swords to block one of his Hollow's. "… but I have stolen your crown!" The Hollow slashed with his left Tensa Zangetsu, and bloodthirsty grin on his face.
Ichigo felt quite odd. He was bleeding, he had lost; he knew that. Why doesn't this bother me more? And why doesn't this hurt? He looked down, seeing a white Tensa Zangetsu embedded in his torso. Then he saw his feet slowly disintegrating. I'm sure this should hurt, but I feel fine… "Remember our deal, Hollow."
"… My name is not Hollow."
Ichigo felt a spark of curiosity as his limbs began dissipating as well. "I thought you didn't know your name?"
The Hollow smiled, looking a bit more like Ichigo now. "That was then. My name… is Cazador de la Luna (Moon's Hunter)."
Ichigo smirked, feeling his neck and head begin vanishing. "Then, King Cazador, you have two weeks to get as strong as you can in Hueco Mundo. Show them our power, because you won't get another chance!" With that, he was gone.
"I look forward to your next attempt, Kurosaki Ichigo." Cazador gave another bloodthirsty grin, turning as Ichigo's Inner World's sky changed to a starless night sky, one with a bright full moon shining down upon the sideways skyscrapers. However, the moon, instead of white, was blood red. "For now though… I am King!"
In the real world, Ichigo's berserker Hollow form froze. Seeing this, Lisa – the current Vizard fighting, now that Kensei was taking a break, stopped as well, expecting Ichigo to emerge triumphant.
Instead, Cazador stopped and took a look at himself. He was unique among all the non-Menos Hollows he and Ichigo had seen. Most of them were very dark colors, but Cazador saw that his body was almost sheer white, with red decorations. He flexed his claws. "Interesting… I've got to give Ichigo credit, this form certainly feels incredibly strong." He eyed his twin Zanpakuto curiously. "I still have the Zanpakuto… does this make me an Arrancar?"
The Vizard were frozen stiff in shock. They could definitely tell that was the Hollow speaking, and even if they hadn't heard the tones of a Hollow, the way it referred to Ichigo as someone different. "Ichigo… lost?" Lisa asked, astounded.
Cazador nodded at her. "Barely, but yes. Guy's got spunk, though, and I'm sure he'll win the next time we fight." He laughed. "Ichigo's too strong and stubborn to do anything but! Oh, the fight will be glorious!"
"Orders, Shinji?" Hachigen requested.
"…" Shinji was torn. This was an abomination, a Vizard who had lost to his Hollow, and was now a force of annihilation, with the powers of both Hollow and Shinigami readily available. On the other hand, Ichigo had confided that he and his Hollow had a deal, and the Hollow had already confirmed that he had not eaten Ichigo's soul, merely suppressed it for the moment. "… Let him go, Hachigen."
"Shinji?!" Hiyori screeched. "What the hell do you think you're doing?!"
"Ichigo will win the next time they fight," Shinji said with a frown. "Even his Hollow admits that. He'll be back in two weeks. In the meantime, let his Hollow grow stronger. If nothing else, it'll decrease the number of Hollows out there."
"What if it joins Aizen?" Love pointed out.
"Well, let's ask," Shinji suggested. "Oi, Hollow Ichigo!"
"My name is Cazador." Nevertheless, he cocked his head curiously at the Vizard. Cazador half-expected the Vizard to attack, and was honestly surprised they hadn't. "What is it, Vizard?"
"If I'm to call you by your name, my name is Shinji," the de facto leader of the Vizards replied. I must be in a dream. I'm talking hospitably to a Hollow, and it's not attacking me. "Anyway, my friend here has a question." He nudged Love.
The afro-wearing man sighed at Shinji's obvious deflection of the Hollow's attention. "Just wondering, now that you have your freedom for the moment, what are you going to do with it?"
Cazador was finding this rather surreal as well. Shinigami, well, Vizard and Shinigami, not attacking me and trying to make me bring Ichigo back... Are they really going to just let me go? "Well, I'm really fucking hungry. Let me tell you, considering I've never BEEN hungry for anything but battle before, needing food is quite the odd sensation. I'd go find some humans out there, but they're weak-ass pansies, the majority of them. I want a challenge, and I'm no ordinary Hollow! Not to mention it'd break the terms of my deal with Ichigo for me to eat a human… So I'm gonna figure out a way into Hueco Mundo, and go on an all-you-can-eat buffet on Menos!" Cazador was surprised to suddenly find a shoe in his face. It dropped, and he glared at Hiyori. "What the hell was that?!"
"Since the men are too fucking scared to ask, I'll do it!" Hiyori raged. "Do you or do you not have any thoughts about joining Aizen?!"
"The thought did cross my mind for a bit," Cazador admitted, watching the Vizard tense warily. "But then I realized I'd have to serve someone aside from Ichigo, and that idea pisses me off! Speaking of, you never answered why you hit ME with your fucking shoe!"
Hiyori smirked. "I felt like it."
Surprising everyone, Cazador chuckled again. "Alright, I can respect that." Then he spiked his reiatsu, reminding everyone that he was, at heart, a Hollow and had no problems killing them all. "Just don't do it again or I'll shred your intestines!"
Finally, Urahara's scientific mind could not take it any longer. "Hey, Cazador," he called cheerfully. "I'm curious, can you release the Bankai, or is that now your base Zanpakuto for you?"
"Good question." Cazador wasn't stupid – he wanted to know everything he could about his new form before he left for Hueco Mundo. It would suck to suddenly get killed by a newbie because I don't know how my body works! Cazador casually dismissed Ichigo's black Tensa Zangetsu and eyed his white one. He cautiously attempted to release the Bankai, and suddenly a small plume of smoke enveloped him.
Cazador could feel his body reshaping itself, and in an instant, it was done. Tensa Zangetsu was gone, reverting back to the elegant cleaver of Zangetsu's Shikai. His lizard-like body was gone as well, showing Ichigo's own body, with minor changes. There was a Hollow hole in his sternum, and the eyes were no longer Ichigo's brown on white, but Cazador's amber on black. The top left part of their Hollow mask, the part with red stripes on a white background, was the only part of the mask remaining, attached from the hairline down to the eyebrow. What the mask did not cover was revealed to be Ichigo's own face, with a maniacal grin. Cazador's clothes had also changed – he wore neither the Arrancar uniform that Aizen's army wore, nor Ichigo's Shinigami robes. Instead, he wore a simple white sleeveless vest that he left open, and relatively tight crimson leggings. Cazador was shoeless as well, and Zangetsu was carried on his back much the same way Ichigo had carried his version. A close inspection would show that Cazador's toenails and fingernails were both a little longer and sharper than most.
"Ah, there we are," Cazador said, stretching his limbs. "Much better, I'm more familiar with this form, even if I'm not as strong in it." His voice was smoother now, more like Ichigo's, even if it didn't have the odd dual-voice effect Ichigo had when he wore his mask. "Hmm..." His grin widened as he slashed out into midair, creating a small Garganta instinctively. "Adios!" Before anyone could say anything, he had jumped inside, disappearing towards the endless sands of Hueco Mundo.
Relatively short chapter, I know, but I think the fight makes up for it. In any case, Hollow Ichigo now has a name! For people who call him Ogihci or Ogichi or Shiro or any of the other popular variations, I refer you to the original Japanese manga, where his kanji is merely the mirror image of Ichigo's own. That does not translate quite right to those common names. So I decided for something new.
Therefore, for a name, I had a few criteria. Firstly, it had to be Spanish. In the manga and in the anime, all Hollow-related techniques appear to be in Spanish, all Quincy techniques in German, and all Shinigami techniques in Japanese. Secondly, it had to include something along the lines of "warrior" or "hunter" or "berserker". Finally, it had to relate to what we already knew. Zangetsu translates roughly to Cutting Moon, and the Getsuga Tenshou means "Moon Fang Heaven-Piercer". Therefore, since Zangetsu and Hollow Ichigo were both part of Ichigo's powers, they must have similar bases.
From there, I suddenly recalled that Athena, the Greek goddess of the hunt, was represented by the moon, and from there, it flowed together. Moon's Hunter, or Hunter of the Moon. I know enough Spanish to read and write it, not speak and hear it, so it was a simple matter to translate. Cazador de la Luna, Cazador for short. Thoughts?
In terms of the fight, hope the banter is just as good as their last fight. I had random bursts of inspiration, which certainly helped.