Chapter 17 Having Faith: Ichigo's Visored Training

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This Chapter has an OST Scene

[Unspecified District, Karakura Town]

Current Time...

Ichigo, along with Naruto and Kurama, approached an area where the trio had detected a sudden increase in spiritual pressure a few hours after they departed from Ichigo's house. Ichigo had suspected that the people inside were expecting him though how they would react to the presences of both Naruto and Kurama was still unknown.

Naruto could tell that Ichigo was feeling a bit uneasy about coming to this place. During their walk Ichigo told his two companions the little bit of information he knew about the Visoreds, the group of Soul Reaper that he was looking for, with most of it having come from his dad and his own limited interactions with one of their members, a man named Shinji Hirako.

What Ichigo had said made this group seem suspicious to even someone as thick as Naruto.

"These guys sound like a bunch of weirdos; don't you think, Ichigo?" Naruto asked.

Ichigo smirked in response to Naruto's question as he found an opportunity to poke fun at Naruto to lighten the mood.

"Says the guy who still WEARS that much orange in public," Ichigo retorted, causing Naruto to start glaring daggers at him, so to speak. Naruto's outfit had been a source of many jokes from the Soul Reapers, and everyone else in Karakura Town for that matter, especially after Naruto made a few "changes" to said outfit after Yumichika accidently destroyed the entire top half of his tracksuit a few days prior to the Espada's attack on the town.

Naruto, when he wasn't in his Soul Reaper form, still wore the same pants that had come with the tracksuit but he now wore a short-sleeved coat that was very similar to the one he wore during his battle with Pein. This coat,however, was orange instead of red as with the previous version; it had a black flame pattern along the hemline and a black Uzumaki Clan symbol the back of the coat. Underneath the coat Naruto wore a black long-sleeved shirt with a red version of the Uzumaki spiral over where his heart would be.

Naruto's continued overuse of orange in his outfit was noticed by everyone in Ichigo's hometown. As his outfit was commented on even in his world, however, such a reaction from the people of this world, living or dead, was not much of a surprise to anyone; his response to these comments, most of which were unflattering in their nature, was even less shocking to those who got to know him.

Before Naruto could say anything to Ichigo that would have eventually lead to a fist fight between them Kurama interrupted the two teens.

"Can you two go at least ten minutes without getting into a pissing contest for once? (turns to face Ichigo) Last time I checked, Ichigo, you decided to come to this place for an actual reason... so why don't you and the idiot that is my jinchuriki try to at least focus on something other than annoying each other, okay?" Kurama asked in a very serious tone.

Kurama managed to stop any further arguments between his two companions though he knew that the effect he had would only be temporary; ever since Kurama was given a human form he has basically been the one who kept both teenagers in line the entire time. Even though Naruto and Ichigo had become very close friends in the time that Naruto had been staying in Karakura Town their personalities meant that such scuffles were inevitable and very common; now that the trio was on their own for now, however, the Tailed Beast realized that he would have to be the voice of reason among the threesome and that this might make Ichigo's training a long ordeal for him.

Kurama got out of his train of thought when he noticed that they had finally at what appeared to be their destination; the trio was surprised to see that the location where the spiritual pressure was emanating from appeared to be nothing more than an abandoned warehouse.

"This is their hideout? Are you sure we're the right place, Ichigo?" Naruto asked Ichigo who simply nodded; Naruto could tell that the spiritual pressures were very close but it was obviously being distorted to make it difficult for anyone to trace their sources.

"It's true that I'm not really good at sensing spiritual pressure but... I don't know why but my gut tells me that this is the right place," Ichigo explained to his blond-haired counterpart.

Before Ichigo could say anything else, however, Kurama did a palm strike into what appeared to be thin air; to the surprise of both Ichigo and Naruto Kurama's hand was actually blocked by an unseen barrier.

"Well at least that means someone is in there," Naruto said as he kicked the barrier to see if he could break it as he did not want to wait.

The eyes of both Kurama and Ichigo twitched as a result Naruto's actions.

"Though I doubt they'll let us in if your kicking their barrier like that, Na-" Kurama retorted until, to his shock, the door of the warehouse actually opened.

Naruto smirked at this before he turned to face Kurama.

"You were saying?" Naruto asked in a smug tone.

Ignoring the intense glare coming from Kurama the young Uzumaki began to walk towards the entrance until Ichigo grabbed his right shoulder.

"What's wrong, Ichigo?" Naruto asked.

"I'm the one who decided to look for these guys so it's probably best if I'm the one to enter that place first, Naruto," Ichigo answered; Naruto, though taken aback by this sudden change in Ichigo's mood, simply nodded in agreement.

Ichigo took a deep breath to clear his head before he walked past the barrier and through the door with Naruto and Kurama following his lead. The moment the trio walked past the entrance and into the dark warehouse the door slid shut behind, causing alarm bells to ring inside Naruto and Kurama; their alertness only increased when they heard an unknown male voice.

"Well, well, well... so you've finally decided come here... Ichigo; I wasn't expecting you to bring friends along with you, though," the voice said in rather smug tone.


OST:

"Hurricane Suite" (from Naruto Shippuden)(link: www. youtube .com watch?v=6WyGsA-3n1g&feature=player_detailpage)

(after the .com add a slash symbol and don't forget to backspace the open spaces)


Said friends looked up at the source of the voice and were surprised to see that standing among the collapsed floors of the building were eight people who were looking down at them... and they appeared as if they were expecting them. As the trio eyed the group standing before them Naruto and Kurama the voice of Kenja call out to them. Since Kurama still lived inside of Naruto he has a mental link to the zanpakuto even if he can't use the blade.

"Naruto, Kurama... stay on your toes; I have a feeling things are about to go south really fast," she warned them; taking Kenja's advice to heart both Naruto and Kurama immediately got into fighting stances in case things got ugly very fast.

One of the mysterious people, who appeared to be the possible leader of what appeared to be the Visoreds, walked to the edge of one of the collapsed floors to look down at the trio. It was a man with brown eyes, jaw-length blonde hair which he kept in a straight cut, and had a smile on his face that only revealed his upper teeth. He was wearing a black long-sleeved shirt, a white tie, grey pants that Naruto recognized as being as the ones worn at Ichigo's school, and a weird hat. What caught Naruto and Kurama's attention, however, was the sheathed sword that the man held on his right shoulder; there no doubt in either of their minds that the blade was a zanpakuto.

The man with the weird smile began to speak to Ichigo from the floor he was standing on after he quickly glanced at the two who accompanied the Substitute.

"You look so serious, Ichigo, though I kind of expect that from you; I could say the same thing for the defensive reactions from the shinobi and Tailed Beast," the man said; as one would expect from them the eyes of both Naruto and Kurama widened in shock at this.

"How do you know who we are?" Naruto asked as he clapped his hands together similar to how Jiraiya held his hands whenever he activated his Sage Mode.

Before anyone realized it Naruto was suddenly engulfed by a large explosion of orange spiritual pressure and strong gusts of wind that dissipated almost as soon as it had begun, revealing that the young Uzumaki was now in his Soul Reaper form.

Kurama, meanwhile, reached for his blade while making sure that he did it slowly enough so that these Visoreds, if that's who these people were, did not notice. The close proximity between himself and Karakura Town meant that Kurama couldn't release his chakra as freely as he did during the Espada's assault on Karakura Town. Though the Tailed Beast had learned how to use the sword that he now carried with him, and learned to use it very well, among the use of a few other skills he still preferred to fight with his released forms and that problem alone was enough to make him cautious.

The man's weird smile grew a little bigger when he saw the hostile reaction from Naruto; as luck would have it for Kurama none of the strangers had yet noticed his attempt to reach for his blade.

"We have our ways; don't you two worry about it, however, as we'll explain it to you in due time. (he refocuses his attention to Ichigo) Since you're here you must have decided to join us, am I right?" the man asked.

Ichigo, who had been holding his head down the entire time while he was deep in thought, finally looked up at the mysterious man with a smirk on his face.

"Screw you!" Ichigo said rather bluntly, causing the man to nearly trip over in surprise.

"I have no intention of joining you and your little gang; I'm not that desperate so don't even think about it. I'm just here to use you... Shinji," Ichigo declared.

The now named Shinji narrowed his eyes at Ichigo when he said that.

"Oh, is that so?" Shinji asked rhetorically before Ichigo continued to talk.

"I'm only here for one thing and I'm not leaving here until I get what I came for; I want you to train me to control my Inner Hollow. After that we're leaving since there are other things we have to deal with once that's done," Ichigo said in a blunt tone.

"Do you really think it'll be as easy as that? What if we refuse to teach you?" Shinji asked.

Ichigo grabbed the cloth-wrapped tang of his zanpakuto before he gave his answer to Shinji.

"Then I'll make you teach me... with brute force," Ichigo said as he readied Zangetsu for battle. Shinji smirked at this display of bravado from Ichigo.

"I'd like to see you try," Shinji retorted as he unsheathed his blade.


End of OST Scene


Ichigo immediately charged at Shinji and, once he was close enough he made a vertical chop that would've cut Shinji in half had he not blocked the attack with his zanpakuto, cauing the two combatants to lock blades together.

"You don't have nearly enough strength to force us to train you, Ichigo. You might as well-" Shinji said before he sensed someone closing in on him from his right.

Shinji turned to look that way and was surprised to see that Naruto was now charging at him.

"Ichigo's not alone, you idiot!" Naruto yelled as he attempted to slash at Shinji with Kenja in her sealed state.

Shinji immediately pushed Ichigo away from him, ending that deadlock, before jumping back several feet which allowed him to dodge Naruto's attack though only after the shinobi's blade got to within millimeters of hitting him. To the Visored's surprise Naruto then threw the small blade at the Visored who easily dodged that attack; before he could open his mouth to retort, however, Shinji saw that a there rope attached to the end of the knife that connected it to something underneath the right sleeve of Naruto's shihakusho.

"That guy must've learned how to use his spiritual energy in order to change the length of that rope which is why he was able to throw the blade; he's even more skilled than I thought he would be. That doesn't explain why he threw his weapon at me like that, however," Shinji thought to himself though he would soon wish that he hadn't gotten the answer to that question.

Before the Visored knew what was going on Naruto grabbed the end of the rope and pulled it back, causing the tri-pronged kunai at the end of the rope to follow suit.

"I got you," Naruto said with smirk as he made a hand seal.

"What the-?" was all Shinji could say before he heard a weird sound coming from behind.

Shinji turned around and was horrified by what he saw: four pieces of paper floating in the air, all of which had strange writing that centered around the kanji for 'explode'. The leader of the Visored realized what that meant but before he could react the pieces of paper suddenly and violently exploded. As the blast subsided it appeared to everyone that Shinji had been caught in the blast; fortunately for the Visoreds their de facto leader eventually jumped out of the emerging column of smoke. Though Shinji had evaded death the explosives had done their deal of damage as his left arm, which was the part of the Visored closest to the explosions, was badly burnt and was unusable for the rest of the fight.

As Shinji turned to face Naruto was rather impressed, though annoyed, with the ninja's improvisation.

"Now I get... at some point before you came here you attached those explosive strips of paper to the rope that's tied to your zanpakuto but it was tied loose enough so that they would separate from the rope with enough tension. When you threw your blade and pulled it back the tension was enough to separate the tags from said rope, allowing you to detonate them without risking any chance of damaging your zanpakuto. Am I right?" Shinji as he pointed his blade at Naruto.

"That's right and it looks like it worked since you now have only one arm to fight me with; why don't we just finish this fight already, Shinji Hirako?" Naruto said as he prepared to release his shikai.

Before Naruto could release that shikai, however, the space around Naruto and Shinji suddenly shattered like a panel of glass, revealing that Naruto and Shinji had been placed in a barrier of some sort; the moment that barrier shattered happened Naruto was suddenly felt sharp changes occuring in Ichigo's spiritual pressure.

Naruto turned around and was surprised at what he saw; Ichigo was lying on the floor, with pieces what Naruto recognized as fragments of a hollow mask on the floor above Ichigo's face, while Kurama and three of the other Visoreds pinned him down. What was probably the most unusual part of this scene, however, were the other three Visoreds; two of them were lying on the floor, unconcious, while the third was sitting down with her back to the wall and appeared as if she was frozen in fear which, based on her gaze, had something with Ichigo or, as Naruto quickly guessed, his Inner Hollow.

Naruto's eyes narrowed at Shinji upon seeing this; even if he and the Visored were placed in a barrier it didn't explain how he failed to sense any drastic changes in anyone's spiritual until that barrier was undone.

"What the hell happened? And how come I didn't sense it?" Naruto asked Shinji as the man, who already sheathed his blade, walked towards the others while holding his injured arm.

"The reason is rather simple; we already figured that you and the Tailed Beast were going to tag along with Ichigo whether he wanted you to come or not so we took precautions. In order to test Ichigo's strength without your interference, I made the dumb decision to place you and me in a special Kido barrier that placed us in a pocket dimension so that you didn't realized what was happening; I left Kurama outside in case something went wrong on that end. Had I known I was going to get my ass handed to me like this, however, I would of just let you get involved. Enough about that, though; if you don't mind I need to speak with Ichigo, Mr..?" Shinji said rather nonchalantly.

Naruto sighed at this explanation, since he felt as though he had been played for a fool, before he finally introduced himself.

"Naruto Uzumaki," he said in annoyance. Shinji nodded at the blond-haired Uzumaki before walking towards Ichigo.

At this point Kurama, who had gotten off of Ichigo walked over to Naruto as Shinji began speaking to the Ichigo and his fellow Visoreds.

"What the hell happened to you guys?" Naruto asked Kurama as his Tailed Beast sheathed his sword.

"That brat cowering in fear right now made the mistake of forcing Ichigo's Inner Hollow out into the surface after two of those Visoreds try to stall me; I knocked one of them out while Ichigo's Inner Hollow knocked another of them unconcious. I had to work with the remaining Visoreds just to bring him down since I'm too deep in this town to use any of my tails," Kurama explained.

Naruto simply nodded before the two heard Shinji's voice.

"Ichigo Kurosaki... you passed the test. As soon as we get patched up we'll teach you how to control that Inner Hollow of yours," he declared.

"That damned Shinji better know what he's dealing with or things will get far worse than what the others saw," Kurama thought to himself as he and Naruto prepared for whatever mess they've gotten themselves into...

Next Time – The Battle Within: Ichigo vs. Inner Hollow, Part 1