The hollow called Stratus sat in a small cave deep within the huge mountain. It was a spot he had picked out for himself after much wandering of the labyrinth like tunnels. Very few came this way. He knew this only because he would spend much of his time sitting and detecting the various spiritual powers the moved through the mountain. Minutes upon minutes, hour after hour, he was alone. He even set up traps along the chambers around him. There might be creatures capable of great degrees of stealth. After days of checking none of these traps were triggered or disturbed. The could be suppressing their energies like he was, but to avoid all his simple devices seemed impossible. Well not impossible just not likely. The low intellect creatures couldn’t find their way out of paper bag. But it wasn’t those weaklings he was worried about. It was those the ruled over them. The Arrancar. Lord Amago, Azrael, and Madoka. The fearsome trio that stood atop the power pyramid of this grand mountain. Any of those three could make short work of Stratus. It was quiet. He was alone in his chamber so he relaxed somewhat. He couldn’t be sure where the big three were at. Amago rarely left the mountain so he had to be somewhere. Why would he hide himself? The leader wasn’t one to avoid people. He had power to spare, what would did he have to fear? As for the other two it was somewhat more troubling. Unlike his master Madoka did leave the mountain quite often. From time to time he’d go on trips to the human world. The number of visits and time of these visits varied too much to figure a schedule. If he left, he left. There was no way to know how long he’d be gone even if he did know when he departed. And then there was Azrael. There was little he knew of the newly made arrancar. Since his creation Stratus had done his best to avoid him. There was something about him he just didn’t like. And yet despite his efforts he did spend some time in the other’s presence. Thankfully it wasn’t alone. What little he could get from the Espada #4 was that he lusted for battle. There was the aura of hostility that never went away when he was in the room. Each time he saw the man his hand was either on his weapon or said weapon was drawn. It was like he was uncomfortable being still. Sometimes Madoka would take him along on his trips. Stratus could only wonder how productive such a person would be. When he wasn’t with the larger arrancar it was unknown where Azrael spent his time. There was not telling when he would pop up, hopefully someone else could take the brunt of his fury.
He put that worry away and retreated to the back of his cave. Knowing that he was alone he was ready to make his move. The back of the cavern was dimly lit by the luminous crystals that frequented the deeper sections of the caves. Stratus had taken the time to farm them himself. He grinned as the object of his search came into view. There on the rocky ground he had bound and gagged two spirits he had captured from the Human world. Crystal held their feet and hands, while the rest of their bodies was covered in the sticky green slime. The only part not covered by the rubbery goo was their eyes and nose. He wasn’t sure if covering them completely would kill them, but he wasn’t about to take the chance. All this time he was fearful that someone would find them here, thus his long sitting and searching. But thankfully the slime and crystal gave off a signal similar to his own. It was a excellent method to mask the human’s spirit’s reiryoku. Bending over he picked up the frantic eyed humans. He gently tucked bound humans under each of his arms. The slime quickly adhered to his skin as he moved towards the central chamber. The further he traveled the darker the tunnels got. Even in the darkness Stratus continued to detect for any spiritual signals. His heart was beating rapidly in his chest. Still he didn’t detect any of the three arrancar. It wasn’t long before he found himself in the central chamber. With one final sweep of the room Stratus strode forward and jumped over the lip of the massive pit. As he fell he tried to keep his mind focused. The beating in his chest was going even faster than it had a minute ago. He was nervous and the further he dropped into the dark pit the worse it got. Stratus had been falling for what seemed like forever when his armor suddenly rattled. In that instant he focused on stopping his fall. The hollow stopped mid-air. Above him it was completely dark, but the shadow that was below his seemed much different. He could feel now what the armor had already detected. A small shiver went up his spine as he recalled the strange presence that lurked below. Stratus poured his spiritual power into the slime of the human on his right. The slime crystallized in the next second it shattered. Before the freed human could say a word Stratus held him by his hair.
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt much.” Stratus said to him. “I think” he said to himself and dropped the human spirit. It took only a second for the spirit to vanish into the darkness. Stratus stood there on the empty air waiting. He didn’t hear anything and didn’t feel anything. Several more minutes passed and there was still nothing to speak of.
“Maybe I’m too high up.” Very slowly he began to let himself drop again. Before he could drop another foot his armor rattled again. “I guess not.” he muttered. Now he focused his energies into the left subject. The crystal formed then shattered. This time it was a female that he held. “Let’s try something different this time.” he said released a strand of slime from his right hand and wrapped it around her slender waist. The sticky line fused with itself once he completed making the circuit around her body. “Down you go.” said Stratus as he released the human. Her eyes widened as she fell from the hollow’s perch. Stratus allowed out more slime as she descended. There was no tension on the line almost instantly. It would seem he was closer to the bottom than the though. Probably no more than thirty feet. The line started to move the human must have landed and was trying to move around. Suddenly something tugged the line and his armor rattled again. There was definitely something happening, was she trying to run? There was a second yank and then the rope changed direction. More yanks came to the line then it went slack. Stratus pulled on the strand. Seconds later he pulled up the an empty rope. He gave a sigh and looked down. Nothing to see. He told himself next time to bring more souls. Putting that note to the side he began his ascent. It was only recently that he had learned how to fly, so this took longer than the drop. As he went he tried to recall what had happened when Madoka had taken him down to the bottom. The conjoined souls had been taken down and a new hollow had been born. A single hollow had been dropped in and then an arrancar had emerged. It didn’t make sense. Stratus wasn’t sure what was down there, but his curiosity was just bubbling now. Somehow he had to figure it out and try it himself.