"We are all Born dead. The end exists Before anything begins. If living Is a constant quest for awareness, The awareness we gain at the end is the real goal. In other words, death Is the discovery and complete understanding Of the end. We are not permitted to seek awareness. Those that cannot transcend death Will not find awareness in anything."
Ichigo's recent battles with the Arrancar have proven that if he wants to protect his friends he must get stronger, and the only way to do that is to control his inner Hollow. Ichigo turns to the Visored, ex-Shinigami who have been Hollowfied, to teach him. But before his training begins, Ichigo must do battle against his Hollow self--winner takes his soul!
Ichigo goes to the Visored to control his inner Hollow.
Ichigo meanwhile, heads off to a warehouse district where he finds Shinji Hirako and the Visored. Shinji thinks that Ichigo is ready to join them, but Ichigo says that he is just here to use them - he wants them to teach him how to control his inner Hollow. Since Shinji is not going to teach him that easily, Ichigo brings out his Shinigami form and attacks. The two seem to engage in an intense fight, but the other Visored notice that neither is trying very hard. They realize that Ichigo is afraid of his inner Hollow, so he is holding back in order not to awaken it. Tired of watching the fight, Hiyori Sarugaki takes over by knocking Shinji out. She explains to Ichigo that they wanted him in their group, but it is not actually his decision. They are the ones who get to decide, and so they have to see his strength first. When Ichigo refuses to show his Hollow side, Hiyori reiterates that it is not his choice. With that, she brings out her Hollow mask and promises to drag out his inner Hollow.
After Ichigo's inner Hollow goes out of control, the Visored agree to help him.
Hiyori puts her mask on, scaring the other Visored, and appears in front of him with her hand on his chest, telling him to really die. Although he survives the hit from Hiyori, he still gets hurt and his Hollow side slowly starts to take over. Hiyori urges him to go ahead and initiate Bankai, and she knows that he is afraid he will lose control. Claiming not to care if he uses his Bankai or not, she attacks him with her mask on again. As Ichigo is getting beat up, he wonders how Hiyori is able to put on the mask and retain control. He tells himself that that he will not surrender his soul to his Hollow side, but the darkness soon covers his eyes and that side emerges. It immediately grabs Hiyori’s throat, breaking part of her mask, and starts choking her. The other Visored spring into action and pin Ichigo to the ground in order to save her. Shinji Hirako breaks off Ichigo’s mask and tells Ichigo, who has turned back to normal, that he cannot control his Hollow side with just his body and willpower alone. In any case, he decides that Ichigo passes and promises to teach Ichigo how to control the Hollow.
The Visored prepare to control Ichigo's inner Hollow.
Back at the Kurosaki house, Yuzu is crying because of her brother’s disappearance, so Isshin tries to cheer her up. When Rukia Kuchiki gets home, she reports that she was not able to find Ichigo either, and later that night, she wonders where he went, as she can not sense his spiritual pressure.
Ichigo spends most of the next day on a special exercise walker while the Visored lounge around going about their normal lives. He finally gets so annoyed that they are making him do this that he kicks the machine at Hiyori, though she pulls Shinji into the path of the walker in time to take the hit. Ichigo and Hiyori start fighting about what she is making him do until she throws the machine at him and tells him to paddle until he passes out. Shinji steps in to diffuse the situation by explaining that the Hiyori Walker is the foundation for the training. How many days Ichigo can continue paddling decides the level of training - for Shinji to teach him how to control the Hollow, Ichigo has to do it for at least 3 days. In anger, Ichigo reveals that he has figured out that the machine drains his spiritual power so that the Visored can see what his maximum is. He thinks that he can go five days on it, but there is no point to it, and he is running out of time. Shinji, however, feels that Ichigo should not be talking about time when he does not even know the Hōgyoku’s awakening period. Ichigo is shocked that Shinji has known for many years about the Hōgyoku, the Arrancar, and Sōsuke Aizen. Shinji decides to allow Ichigo to proceed to the next step. As he knocks Ichigo out with a power from his hand, Shinji tells him not to regret this.
Shinji then instructs the Visored Hachigen Ushōda to put up a barrier around the building and opens up a passageway to an underground training area. Shinji thinks to himself that Ichigo is going to become completely Hollow, so he should eat instead of be eaten. Once underground, Shinji has Hacchi put up another barrier to contain Ichigo’s body and place a Bakudō on him. Ichigo meanwhile finds himself once again in his inner world facing his white Hollow self.
When Ichigo asks where the Zangetsu is, the Hollow replies that he is Zangetsu as he pulls out a blade that mirrors Ichigo’s Zanpakutō and attacks with it. With the inner fight started, Ichigo’s body begins transforming into a Hollow and breaks through Kidō that Hacchi placed on him. Lisa Yadōmaru enters the barrier to fight Ichigo's transforming body. In Ichigo's inner world, Hollow Ichigo reiterates that he really is Zangetsu. He says that he and Zangetsu have always been one and the same, and both are Ichigo’s strength. Hollow Ichigo used to be a part of Zangetsu, but as the Hollow side got stronger, it got control and Zangetsu thus became part of it. Thus, the more Ichigo tries to draw out the Zangetsu’s power, the easier it is for his Hollow side to control his soul.
Having heard this, Ichigo concludes that if he defeats his Hollow side here, then the Zangetsu would return as the core of his power. His Hollow side thinks that it is impossible for Ichigo to do this, so Ichigo goes into his Bankai stance. In response, Hollow Ichigo takes on the same stance, and the two initiate Bankai at the same time.
Ichigo Kurosaki is surprised that his Hollow self can also initiate Bankai. Hollow Ichigo explains that he learned it when Ichigo did. The two then envelope each other in Getsuga Tenshō. Hollow Ichigo easily deflects this attack and responds with one of his own at point blank range.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Lisa Yadōmaru has her hands full fighting the Ichigo that is gradually turning more and more into a Hollow. Once 10 minutes have passed, the Kensei Muguruma takes her place and continues the battle. Back inside Ichigo's inner world, Hollow Ichigo reminds Ichigo that it was his Hollow side that first used the Getsuga Tenshō in Bankai. He says that Ichigo is imitating it poorly. Hollow Ichigo then grabs Ichigo’s sword, turns it white, and makes it disappear, saying that he can't use Bankai.
Ichigo continues his battle with his inner Hollow.
Shinji Hirako and the Visored use a seven person rotation of 10 minutes each, so each person can rest for 70 minutes between fights with Ichigo. During his turn, Kensei cuts Ichigo’s arm, but he soon realizes that Ichigo has high-speed regeneration. In response, he fires a huge energy blast. However it still does not manage to do any significant damage to the regenerating Hollow. As she watches the fight, Lisa thinks about how the struggle for Hollow control takes about an hour.
Ichigo finds himself once again back in the sideways world with the now-white Zangetsu disappearing from his hand. Because Ichigo calls it Zangetsu, his Hollow side asserts again that he is Zangetsu before throwing Ichigo into a building. Hollow Ichigo then asks if Ichigo knows the difference between a king and his horse. If there are two beings with the same appearance, ability, and power, one becomes the king and the other becomes the horse. The reason for this is simply instinct. The person who becomes king needs to want to fight, to want power, and to mercilessly crush his enemies. Ichigo’s Hollow side accuses him of using reason to fight and feels that Ichigo cannot hurt anyone if his sword is still in its sheath. Claiming that this is why Ichigo is weaker, the Hollow Ichigo throws his Zangetsu into Ichigo’s abdomen. Hollow Ichigo says that he will not let a king weaker than him ride on top of him, and since Ichigo is weaker, the Hollow is going to destroy him to become the king. As he seems to lose strength, Ichigo thinks about instinct, the desire for battle, and not handing over his sword. With this, he suddenly grabs the white Zangetsu that his Hollow side was pulling out of him and transforms it black again. Hollow Ichigo manages to get away in time, but his right hand has now turned Human. The word instinct once again permeates through Ichigo’s mind.
Ichigo Kurosaki wakes up in a mysterious world facing a Kenpachi Zaraki that is ready to kill him. Ichigo tries to tell Zaraki that their fight is already over, but Zaraki asserts that a fight is not over until only one person is left alive and that you do not need a reason to fight. Zaraki claims that Ichigo wants to fight and wants power - they were born that way. With Zaraki urging him to fight and memories of his past battles filling his mind, Ichigo finally regains his senses in his inner world and pulls the sword out of his abdomen.
He stabs Hollow Ichigo with it, and turning Hollow Ichigo clothes black, just like his own. Hollow Ichigo decides to let Ichigo be king for now, but he warns that if Ichigo lets down his guard even a little, he will crush Ichigo. He also says that if Ichigo wants to control his real power, then Ichigo needs to stay alive until he appears again.
Ichigo regains his consciousness and Yamamoto learns of Aizen's true intentions.
In the Human World, the almost completely Hollow form of Ichigo is now fighting against the Visored Love Aikawa. Watching from outside the barrier, Kensei Muguruma tells Lisa Yadōmaru that out of their group, Hiyori took the longest to do this with a time of 69 minutes and 2 seconds. In comparison, Ichigo has already taken 68 minutes and 44 seconds. Ichigo's Hollow body in the real world had been charging a Cero to fire at Love, but when the internal fight ended, there was a large explosion. The real Ichigo sheds the Hollow skin and falls to the ground soon after. He tells Shinji Hirako that it does not feel bad, and then tells himself that he will not allow his Hollow side to crush him.
Elsewhere, Orihime Inoue is coming back from school while trying to keep from being depressed about Ichigo not showing up. She thinks about going out for snacks with Tatsuki Arisawa, but then remembers that Tatsuki has not been energetic recently either. When she arrives home, Mrs. Shinmura tells her that her house guests have moved some unusual equipment into apartment. She finds that Tōshirō Hitsugaya and Rangiku Matsumoto have installed a special giant television screen in her apartment that allows them to communicate with Soul Society. Using it, Hitsugaya contacts Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto and learns that the Sōsuke Aizen’s true objective has been confirmed.
Jūshirō Ukitake had been investigating the Great Spirits Library when he discovered a document unrelated to the Hōgyoku that Aizen had accessed. This document had been about the Ōken - the key of the royal family. Inoue does not know what they are talking about, so Rangiku and Yamamoto explain that there is a king of Soul Society who has a symbolic and absolute existence. This king lives in a different dimension inside of Soul Society, and the key opens up that dimension. From all of this, Yamamoto has concluded that Aizen intends to kill the king, but it is more complicated than that. The location of the key is only orally passed down between generations of the captain-commanders of the Gotei 13, so there are no written records. What Aizen had been looking at was the way to create the key, and this requires 100,000 souls along with a jūreichi - a place with a great density of spirit particles. The current location of this in the Human World is Karakura Town, and if Aizen completes a key in the way the documents say to, then everything around there would be wiped out forever.
Yamamoto says that the Gotei 13 will stop him, and they have four months before the Hōgyoku awakens completely. Until then, Aizen will not attack. Yamamoto estimates that the decisive battle will be fought in the winter, so they need to train and prepare for it. He also specifically asks for the help of Inoue and everyone in the Human World. He wants her to go tell Ichigo. After Orihime runs out, Rangiku leaves too to go tell Ikkaku Madarame and Yumichika Ayasegawa. Yamamoto stops Hitsugaya from going with her because there is someone who has been waiting to speak with him. At this time, Renji Abarai is training Yasutora Sado as Inoue hurries her way towards Ichigo.
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