Chapter 7

Hollow Rising

Ichigo sighed as he stood on top of a neighboring building overlooking Slade's safe house. If you could even call it that. It was an old abandoned warehouse located on the outskirts of the city. Surprisingly it wasn't heavily guarded. He had only counted three in the front so far. But then it clicked inside of Ichigo's mind.

"Of course it doesn't have heavy security. He thinks he's untouchable. Well De Luca thought the same thing. Something tells me that this time however, wont be as easy."

Ichigo quietly flash stepped away and landed inside the warehouse's gates. Unfortunately this didn't go unnoticed by the warehouse's security and they met him head-on.

He watched as they formed a line. They held their semiautomatic rifles in front of them, Ichigo slowly reaches behind his shoulder and grasps Zangetsu before whipping his blade out to the side. Almost immediately his armed opponents raised their firearms and had their laser sights planted on Ichigo's chest.

What he did next surprised them. He flipped Zangetsu upside down and planted the blade into the ground and walked up a few feet.

One of the guards actually chuckled. "So it' hand-to-hand combat you want, eh? What do you actually hope to accomplish? Three of us, one of you. What can you possibly do?"

Ichigo shrugged. "I'm going to put my boot across your face."

This only served to anger the guard who had spoke.

"Oh is that right? Well why don't you meet me halfway skull boy?"

"As you wish."

The two opposing fighters began to walk towards each other

"You never should have came here freak. When we're done with you, Slade is going to rip you apar-"

Before he could finish his sentence Ichigo lashed out first with a quick jab to the man's throat sending him down to his knees in a coughing fit.

"You said…(cough)….that you…(cough) were going to kick me in the face…"

Ichigo raised his brow underneath the mask.

"You calling me a liar?" Asked Ichigo.

Ichigo didn't let the man answer as he launched a quick switch kick downwards that connected with the man's jaw knocking him out cold.

Click.

"Aw shit!"

Ichigo quickly dashed towards Zangetsu while the other two guards unleashed their weapons, shooting anything that moved. As Ichigo rushed by he grabbed his blade and dived around the corner of the warehouse.

"Why didn't you use flash step Ichigo?"

Ichigo smiled. It had been a long time since he had heard that voice. Zangetsu had been silent for what seemed an eternity.

"Good to have you back old man. And to answer your question, flash step takes out all of the fun."

The spirit actually chuckled. "I have always been with you Ichigo."

The teenager nodded as he shielded his head from the debris being caused by all of the stray bullets.

His ears perked up as silence fell over the area.

"Go check and see if he's down."

"You go check."

Ichigo stifled a chuckle. As his opponents continued to argue he took his chance and bolted from the corner and hit his stride going directly toward the closest guard.

They never saw him coming. As he reached the first guard he grabbed the man's wrist landed a jab to his chest and twisted him into the position as an human shield. He was directly behind him.

He watched as the free guard began to adjust his rifle trying to get in a spot where he could land a clean shot without wounding his comrade. He couldn't.

Ichigo spoke. "You've got a choice. Take the shot. And risk wounding, or even killing your partner. Or lay your weapon down. You two walk away, and drag the unconscious one to safety. No one dies. But if you do decide to take the shot, you'll be dead before you feel the recoil."

The guard hesitated, but eventually laid the gun on the ground and put his hands up in surrender.

"Good choice. Now leave."

All Ichigo got was a nod and in moments the three guards were gone. He then turned his attention to the large door of the warehouse. The building looked like it had been built in decades past. Even for its age it had a strong base, a solid foundation. He made his way up the stairs and slowly pushed the door open.

It was what he expected. Old. Dusty. More dust, and cobwebs. Shattered windows adorned the first story. If he tried to release much of his power, he would risk the entire building coming down around his head, strong foundation be damned. Ichigo had to admit, Slade was crafty. No one would think that this would be the lair of a renowned villain. It was perfect, in terms of location. Outskirts means hardly any civilian or public visitors. And the strays that did wonder too far, would surely see the security and leave.

Then something gained Ichigo's attention. Not a visual, a scent. It was familiar, it was the smell of gas.

"That can't be good."

"So you finally came…"

Ichigo's head perked up. Slade. But his voice was coming from everywhere. A intercom system must have been built into the building.

"Damn right I did." The masked teen spat.

"Heh, you must know. What I did was strictly business. Nothing personal."

"You made it personal when you tried to bring a building down on one of my people."

There was a silence that filled the room, a uneasy feeling crept into Ichigo. All he could do was play the waiting game.

"Disappointing. When I heard that you had broke into the Titan's Tower I was intrigued. Someone with enough skill, and the boldness to accomplish such a feat, was certainly deserving of my attention."

"You're going to pay for what you did to Jinx. She's barely holding on…"

"I thought you may have been the one. A worthy apprentice. Someone I could pass my knowledge to. That was why I contacted Blood in the first place. To see what you were capable of. But you are just like Robin. Let your emotions get the best of you. Your downfall will be that you care too much."

Ichigo retorted. "Your downfall was pissing me off. So why don't you come down and we can settle this."

"As you wish…"

In a flash Ichigo found himself on the defensive as he was being pushed back by the man known as Slade.

"How did he…I didn't even sense him…"

He didn't have too long to contemplate as Slade unleashed a flurry of strikes. All Ichigo could do was block and wait for an opening. And when the opening came, Ichigo took full opportunity and landed a thunderous kick to the chest that sent Slade flying into a nearby wall. Unfortunately for Slade, the building's walls just didn't hold up as he crashed through it completely.

Ichigo gazed at the now destroyed wall. Waiting for his opponent to emerge. And emerge he did. The remains of the wall blasted in all directions as Slade lunged toward him.

Ichigo caught the masked man's head in a viselike grip. Ichigo spun around and began smashing Slade's head into the nearest wall. Over and over Slade's head bounced off one of the beams. Ichigo felt Slade pawing at this hand. Clawing, scratching, doing what ever he could in his power to loosen the grip of Ichigo. It was to no avail.

"How is he still conscious and fighting still? Any normal man would of either been unconscious or at least concussed by now."

Ichigo finally granted Slade's release as he hurled his opponent toward the opposite wall. Ichigo was going to end this quickly. Something that the bastard didn't deserve. Ichigo flipped his hand to his back and removed Zangetsu.

Slade was up again within moments and hurled himself at Ichigo but stopped short when Ichigo met him halfway and with a strong thrust met Slade head-on with Zangestu. Both combatants were still. Staring into each other's eyes until Ichigo ripped his sword out of the now impaled Slade. He watched as Slade collapse to his knees. What came next made Ichigo jump back into an defensive stand.

Slade's body began convulsing. Twisting and contorting itself in all directions and positions. Then it began to…spark? Electricity began jumping in all directions from his body.

"What the fuck… "

Ichigo slowly made his way to his downed opponent and snatched Slade's mask off, and what he came face to face with made him growl out in frustration. It wasn't Slade. It was nothing but a decoy. A cyborg. Slade was more cunning then he gave him credit for. With the robotic Slade fighting Ichigo, the real one could sit back and analyze Ichigo. See his openings, weaknesses, any vulnerabilities in his defense. Maybe even try to copy it himself to corporate into his own style.

"You didn't think it would be that easy, did you X?"

Ichigo inwardly snarled. Slade's voice once again ranged out from the COM system. This was nothing but a game to the bastard. And the worst part was Ichigo could do nothing but play along for now.

Ichigo stretched his arm out and grasped his hand around the robotic skull of his opponent and with a might squeeze crush it into nothing but scrap metal.

"I'll admit though X, I am impressed. If you want to fight me all you have to do is come find me at the top floor. I'll be waiting."

Ichigo scoffed. "Yeah? What's the catch Slade? A few dozen more fake knockoff versions of yourself? Or a half-dozen guards armed to the teeth?"

"No catch at all X. I've been waiting for someone like you for a very long time."

The orange haired thief shook his head at that remark. "Well when you put it like that, I don't know if I really want to find you. Kind of creepy."

"Such juvenile insults doesn't suit someone of your stature X. The stairs will lead you right to me. You want your revenge for your comrade? Find me."

"Oh I'm going to do more then find you, creepy bastard."

"Hahahaha."

Ichigo looked up the stairs and placed his gloved hand on the rail and slowly but surely began ascending the staircase.

"Fuck lot of stairs." As Ichigo continued his way up memories from the past began to flood his mind. What led his family to leave from their home.

"Ichigo Kurosaki, with a heavy heart, I am here to place you under arrest by order of Central 46."

Yamamoto.

"Please Ichigo, don't make this any worse than it already is. Think of your family. Your friends and all of us here care for you."

Rukia.

"Ichigo don't do anything rash. I'm begging you as a comrade and as a friend. If you force us, we will have no choice."

Renji.

Flashback

Ichigo was being stared down by the strongest beings in the Soul Society along with all of their lieutenants. He was shocked. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. He took that back he could believe it. That the bastards from Central 46 would pull something like this. What he couldn't believe however, was the Shinigami actually following that order.

"After all I've done. Everything I gave for you. You do this? If it wasn't for me, there wouldn't even be a Soul Society left!"

Silence.

He looked at all of them standing before him.

Yamamoto.

Jushiro

Retsu

Kenpachi

Byakuya

Kurotsuchi

Shunsui

Gin

Komamura

Renji

Rukia

Toshiro

And Soi Fon.

They all wore solemn looks upon their faces. All except Mayuri Kurotsuchi. He was just thinking of the experiments he could run on the young substitute Shinigami.

"Ichi?"

Ichigo's body froze. Yuzu? Of all the times for her to appear…

He turned and gave her a small smile just to reassure her.

"The hell is with all this noise."

Karin. And if they were here it wouldn't be long before his old man showed up. Ichigo should of bought a lottery ticket because his prediction came true within a few moments. Now the Kurosaki family in its entirety were staring at the Shinigami intruders.

"Dad take Karin and Yuzu and run as far as you can possibly can. Go to Kisuke. You two can keep them safe. Now get going!"

"Won't be a far run."

Ichigo nearly died. As he turned to his left the mad hatter himself was standing there. While continuingly fanning his face he walked to Ichigo's side and stood beside him.

"Sorry Ichigo. I couldn't resist knowing why all of the Soul Society's most powerful warriors are leaving it unattended. Must be a really important reason. And then I sense them heading to your doorstep. I just had to ..oh hey Mayuri! Still wearing the creepy getup eh?

"Why you insolent little rat!" The clown faced captain roared out.

"Silence!" The eldest captain bellowed out. And silence he got. He gazed over to Byakuya and nodded.

The Kuchiki stepped forward but stopped when a arrow planted itself in the ground. Ichigo grinned, couldn't keep away eh Ishida? The grin disappeared when he saw that he had brought both Orihime and Chad with him.

"Damn it you guys shouldn't have came! "

"We're friends Ichigo what did you expect?"

"I am not friends with the brute I just came for the Soul Reapers."

"Hey Ichigo!"

Byakuya cleared his throat. "Please see reason Kurosaki. No one here wants to see any bloodshed we all just-"

He never finished his sentence as silence filled the air. There was something that landed on top of his head. And when everyone heard a purr it was the first time that Ichigo had ever saw Byakuya lose his composure as he let out a roar and began swiping at his head. Sadly the fiend that was resting there jumped right before any of Byakuya's strikes connected.

The black feline then transformed into a beautiful dark-skinned woman.

"Yoruichi, about time you made it." Kisuke laughed out.

"Nice entrance." Ichigo spoke.

"You know I'm one for the dramatics." Yoruichi laughed.

"There wasn't anything dramatic about that you damnable hellcat!" Were the words that came through the gritted teeth of Byakuya.

Yoruichi made her way to Ichigo's back and wrapped her arms around him. "Oh don't be such a sourpuss Byakuya."

Her grin disappeared when she felt the glare of her former student, Soi Fon fall upon her. She instantly unwrapped her arms from around Ichigo and held them up in a innocent manner and responded to her one time apprentice.

"I get it. Hands off of him, right Bee. So possessive, and for once it is about someone other then me"

Ichigo didn't understand what that exchange was about and quite frankly he didn't care.

Yoruichi, Kisuke, Chad, Orihime, and Ishida. Things looked better then they did a few moments ago but they were still outnumbered. No way was he going to his father stay. He had to get his sisters out of here and fast.

"Old man. Take your people and leave."

"We have our orders Ichigo." Answered Renji.

Ichigo turned to his father and gave him a nod. Isshin gritted his teeth, the last thing he wanted to do was leave his son. But he knew Ichigo would never forgive him if he stayed. He quickly put a hand on each of his daughters' shoulders.

"Dad?"

Before the girls could protest they were gone. Ichigo caught one of the captains ready to follow. And appeared in front of Kenpachi and delivered a punch that sent the towering captain flying back. And much to Ichigo's chagrin it only served to excite Zaraki. The thought of another fight with Ichigo made the 11th squad captain grin.

"Ichigo we are still outnumbered. Any plan?" Asked Urahara.

"Yeah. It's about to be here."

"Huh?"

Within seconds Ichigo's prediction came true. Now there were joined by the vizards.

"What took you so long Shinji?"

The blonde vizard smirked. "You know us Ichigo. Save the best for last."

"This could be problematic Yama." Spoke the flamboyant Shunsui.

Yamamoto couldn't disagree. Taking Ichigo alone posed a problem in itself. Then when you add Urahara, Yoruichi, and his friends it went from a problem to a higher level of difficulty. But now that the vizards had thrown their hats into the ring, the advantage they once held wasn't as clear as it once was.

"Vizards. Why have you intruded? This doesn't concern you."

Shinji shook his head. "I beg to differ. Remember the provisions that were signed after the war? It clearly stated that if any vizard was attacked by a Shinigami it would be looked upon as an act of war and a direct violation pertaining to the clause."

Yamamoto sighed. "No one within your group, has been attack. This issue is with Ichigo Kurosaki."

"That's bullshit!" Hiyori spat.

"Ichigo, is a vizard. Even if he isn't with us. It doesn't change what he is. He is one of us." State Shinji.

Yamamoto eyes narrowed. "Then you leave me no choice."

End Flashback

Ichigo shook the past from his head once he reached the top of the stairs. Before him was a door, so he slowly opened it which led to one giant room. And on the opposite side of the room stood his target. At least he hoped it was Slade. Not another robotic version of him.

"I was wondering when you were going to show up. I had started to think you had gotten lost."

"Why did you do it? We were working for you. There wasn't any need for you to try to bring the entire building down on her."

"Like I said X. Nothing personal. I needed to see your reaction. Though I must say it was disappointing. You and Robin have one glaring similarity."

Ichigo snarled. "And just what would that be?"

"Attachment. So emotionally attached to the ones on your team. You will learn that there will always be casualties. Fortunately you were able to escape that tonight. How is Jinx by the way?"

Ichigo didn't even bother to respond as he placed Zangetsu on the ground.

The two began to walk towards each other and then collided midway.

Slade began with a flurry of attacks that Ichigo was able to dodge and countered with a knee to the chin of Slade, causing Slade's head to snap up.

Ichigo threw a right openhanded strike to Slade's face then followed up with a spinning backhand, then finally finishing the combination up with a high roundhouse kick that seemed to stun Slade.

Ichigo followed up with a spinning back kick but Slade had read his movements perfectly and caught Ichigo's leg while he was in rotation and slammed him down to the ground.

Ichigo quickly got back to his feet and launched another attack, throwing a left straight that Slade swatted away and then countered with his own uppercut that landed flush.

That was the opening Slade needed as he was able to connect with a series of solid strikes. All Ichigo could do was cover up and try to withstand what seemed to be a never ending attack from his opponent.

"Is this all you have X? I was hoping to at least break a sweat."

Slade then sent a haymaker toward Ichigo but it never landed. Ichigo caught his hand. Then landed a haymaker of his own that sent Slade down to the floor. As Slade tried to push off the ground he was met with a punt-like kick to the ribs that sent him crashing over a table.

Ichigo watched carefully as he couldn't see behind the desk. He had to be cautions as he walked toward his enemy.

His eyes widened as he heard a thud, and without warning the large desk was sent flying his way at an incredible speed. Ichigo leapt over it and watched as it crashed through the wall and fell to the lower section of the building. As he turned back his face met solid steel as Slade smashed him with a collapsible staff.

He followed with a swinging strike that snapped Ichigo's head to the left and then Slade quickly brought the staff the opposite way causing the thief's head to go the right.

He then brought the staff down in a downward strike that landed on the outside of Ichigo's left knee, bringing him down.

Slade quickly grabbed the thief and slung him against the wall while tightly holding his weapon against Ichigo's throat.

"I expected more. Maybe if I had made sure that the girl died-"

Not the best choice of words…

Slade didn't get to finish his sentence as Ichigo let out an animalistic roar. The teen reached his hands up on each side of the staff and snapped it in half, leaving it in two edged pieces.

Slade's eyes was on his weapon but when he looked up he was met with a hard head butt causing him to reel back. Before he could get his senses back together Ichigo landed a right hook. Then a left hook. Slade appeared to be out on his feet as he kept walking backward as Ichigo's punches kept connecting until Slade was pushed up against the wall.

In fact the wall may have been the only thing keeping Slade up at the moment. Ichigo was relentless. Left hook, right hook, right straight, left uppercut, and then followed that up with a clinch. Ichigo reached around and grabbed Slade's head with both hands and threw a knee that cracked his opponent's mask and Slade's knees buckled. Seeing this Ichigo, with his grasp still around Slade's neck tosse him back to the opposite side of the room and watched as his body landed with a thud.

"Ichigo are you alright?"

"Yeah Zangetsu. Just trying to get my second wind."

He walked to his downed opponent and began to watch for any sign of life. He was still breathing. Ichigo hated the bastard but he wasn't going to kill someone who wasn't a immediate threat. It was Slade's lucky day. As Ichigo began to walk away, Slade grabbed one half of his former staff and with the edged part, shoved it into the back of Ichigo's left leg.

"Ahh!" Ichigo let out a scream of pain.

He instantly hit the room floor on one knee. He quickly pulled the blade out his leg, holding it within his left hand.

Slade walked over to the other half of the staff and picked it up slowly.

"You know X, for a moment there. I sensed something not entirely human within you. And that is something, I won't risk to come back on me in the future."

He turned around but was met with a sharp pain running through his lower torso. He looked to find Ichigo staring at him. He followed Ichigo's arm and found the cause of pain. The piece that he had stabbed Ichigo with was inside his body right up under his ribs. The effects were immediate. Slade began to back away but couldn't as Ichigo's grasp was still on the weapon.

"That was for Jinx, you son of a bitch."

With a mighty tug, Ichigo snatched the weapon out of Slade. No sparks this time. There was a dark liquid coming out of Slade's wound. The wounded man slowly back to the wall and slid to the ground.

"I was wrong… you are nothing like Robin."

Ichigo watched on.

Slade let out a gurgled chuckle. "You just might survive this boy."

Ichigo raised his brow. "What are you talking about?"

"There's a war coming…something like you have never seen… and this city will not be the only place dragged into it."

Slade began to struggle to get his words out but was able to speak one last time.

"This is just the beginning…"

With that Ichigo watched as the life left Slade's visible eye and his body slump.

Ichigo took a step backwards and felt the pain shoot through his leg.

"Damn. Got to get this wound taken care of, but first…"

A loud explosion occurred and the flames could be seen from miles.

The Titans were watching from their tower with wide eyes. What could of caused such an explosion? While conversing, they were interrupted by the television with a news report. The teens watched the television as one of the anchors began to speak.

"We've just been given information on the recent event that has everyone watching from their homes. It would seem a warehouse on the outskirts of our city has just went up in flames. No word on the cause, and the police department is denying comments at this time. Stay tuned for all the updates on this event."

Raven asked. " Do you think it was…"

Before the group could continue they were interrupted by Gizmo.

"Got'em."

Good to be back

-BH