It's been a year boys and girls! How are you? I'm still the same. It's been a year and it's all the same, it's really depressing. Well, we have a new chapter so go read it if you can. I can, so the same could be said about you most likely.

Betaed by Sir Godot, he's pretty fast so to reward him go read his fics.

Chapter 7: Dream On

"So you don't know anything… Guess I should've expected that. Sorry for the trouble, Aizen-san."

Aizen just smiled pleasantly at Shirou and waved his hand dismissively. The man took off his glasses and cleaned them. He gave Shirou a hard look before speaking. "It's no trouble. More importantly, you look exhausted. With the state of affairs the Seireitei is in at the moment, this is unacceptable. You should take some rest, Yadomaru-fukutaicho."

The young white haired man blinked, not expecting something like that. "Maybe, I'll do that once I'm finished for today."

He was exhausted, that much was true. He hadn't slept for how long now? Was it two days? No, it must have been three. Yes, he hadn't slept from that time he had woken up a hung over Soifon. He must have looked like death with his eyes redder than they normally were and skin paler than many thought was possible.

Never mind that, there were more important things at the moment. He still had places to be and people to see. So far, he had visited only the third and fifth division. And the worst of all, these visits hadn't accomplished anything productive.

"I'll see you around, Aizen-san." He said and turned around to exit, not waiting for Aizen's reply.

He yawned as he walked down the halls of the fifth division. Most of Shinigami he met on his way looked pretty down. They must have felt much like the people in his division. Keeping a division together after a loss of a captain, and not just any loss but betrayal, was damn hard.

No matter, if things went well, he'd have Soifon ready to take over the full reigns of the division in a week at most. That of course was assuming she would be able to tame her Zanpakuto. Bankai required the complete subjugation of zanpakuto, after all.

Sometimes he wondered if just beating Her would let him use Bankai, but then again, he had to do it outside of his inner world. That meant materializing Her and that required cooperation and knowledge of Her name. And just like that he had made absolutely no progress on that front.

As he approached the exit from the fifth division, he noticed that there was some kind of commotion nearby. Several dozens of Shinigami were surrounding something or someone. He was not sure what exactly was happening, so he walked up to them to find out.

"What's the commotion about?"

"Huh?" The nearest man turned and looked at Shirou. "Yadomaru-fukutaicho! Well, fourth seat Jinrai challenged third seat Ichimaru to a duel… and well, both of them decided to go at it right away."

The young man nodded and tried to push through the crowd, in which he was successful. Even if he was from another division, he still was a vice captain and that meant some authority, regardless of his location in Seireitei. So when people noticed just who it was that was pushing them, they gave him way, especially with his quite unusual looks.

In the center, surrounded by shinigami, were two people. One was a small kid with silver hair and fox-like smile. He was practically dancing around the attacks of the other man. His opponent was a portly guy who looked like he was in his mid-forties. He was unshaven, but his light brown hair looked to be well cared for.

"Who is who?" He asked the nearest Shinigami.

"The kid is Ichimaru Gin, the pompous old bastard is Jinrai Kinishi."

Just when Shirou got participant's names, Ichimaru seemed to have gotten fed up with playing around with his elder. In a few swift blows the man was butchered like a pig. Gin just stood there, his clothes stained in blood as he looked at the final gasps of his opponent.

There was something oddly familiar about him. Shirou couldn't quite tell just what, but there was that something that made him think that he had seen the kid before. Then the kid looked up, probably feeling the young man's firm gaze on him, and Shirou knew just where exactly he had seen this Ichimaru Gin before.

"Ya want somethin'?"

"Do you have an older brother?" He looked like a younger version of that guy he was in his dream or memory or whatever that was. Still, the resemblance was astounding, from the way he held himself to the way his face held that creepy look no matter the situation.

"What's dat to ya?" The kid cocked his head to side in wonder.

The young Yadomaru spared him several more seconds and sighed already turning away to leave. "Doesn't matter." He threw at Gin before disappearing in the crowd of Shinigami that still surrounded the boy and now dead fourth seat.

"How rude." He heard the kid say over the sound of other members of fifth division talking.

It really didn't matter. His division held the records of all shinigami to have existed since founding of Gotei 13. He could just as easily have someone look through them as he could try to get out the truthful information out of that kid. He was pretty sure that whatever Ichimaru Gin said, it had a greater chance of being a lie rather than the truth.

Still, it was strange. The boy looked like that guy could be his twin, or even him and yet one was kid and the other looked to be in his mid-twenties. How could it be? Was it some sort of precognition? Were those not simply dreams or his memories, but visions of future?

The young man rolled his shoulders. His back was giving him hell after three days without any significant rest. Shirou decided to let it rest for the moment and do as Aizen had suggested. He indeed needed rest and maybe resting would clear up his head, since right now he was coming up with strangest of ideas.

When he arrived back at his office in the second division, two unexpected visitors were waiting for him, Kuchiki Byakuya and a vaguely familiar woman. He already knew what this was about. He hadn't come to their wedding. Byakuya, privy to information not everyone even among ranked officers knew, was probably worried for his former short time mentor. Thus a visit of him out of concern would be nice of him, except that he wouldn't admit it and go about the whole situation in a typical Kuchiki way.

"Yadomaru-san! We've been waiting for you. Don't worry about wedding thing. You probably were too swamped with work to come, with current events and all."

Strange, being so straightforward wasn't very Byakuya-like or Kuchiki-like. The young man was smiling all the way through. He was probably still on that emotional high from all he had experienced in last few days which, unlike for the Gotei, were quite happy.

"It's nice to see you. I suppose everything went alright without me there?" Shirou replied with sarcasm evident in his words.

"Don't flatter yourself too much or Hisana here would think you a fool." The other young man replied with equal tone of sarcasm.

Shirou couldn't believe it. Kuchiki Byakuya had actually taken a joke positively and even managed to reply to it in his own, if clumsy, way. It wasn't much of a joke, nevertheless the black haired young man wasn't much of a joker either and usually treated them as insults. He was the most serious and humorless a person you could find in all of Soul Society. Even old man Yama had his own sense of humor. Still, Shirou supposed that just showed how good of a mood Byakuya was in.

"Right, I suppose I didn't introduce you. This is Hisana, Hisana this is Yadomaru Shirou. I have to thank you for encouraging me that one time." The young woman by his side gave a small bow of her head to the young Yadomaru, trying to appear as ladylike as she could and failing in small details.

"You're welcome… I guess. By the way, have I seen you somewhere before, Hisana-san? Your face seems awfully familiar." At his words the young woman's already pale complexion seemingly become even paler, before she composed herself.

"Maybe if you've been to Inuzuri before, otherwise I don't think so. I would've remembered someone… like you." Hisana fell silent awkwardly uncertain just how the white haired red eyed pale skinned man would react to what she said.

"There's no need to hold your words, I do look kind of strange, but it's nothing for Seireitei standards. We have giants and many others, especially in the twelfth division." And he generally stood by that. Some might think of him as a freak, but that generally subsided once they met Kurotsuchi Mayuri or one of the other twelfth division's members.

"Anyway, Hisana wanted ask your advice on something, so I'll leave you two here."

As the young Kuchiki left, Shirou saw Hisana fidget uncomfortably before she spoke. "Can we talk somewhere more private?"

The young man nodded and began walking towards his office. Something about Hisana was… off. He had impression he had seen her somewhere before, but perhaps that was not it. Perhaps he was just imagining things, like with that Gin kid, though Gin was a bit more complicated.

His head was driving him crazy. He really needed some rest. His office was as messy as always. The thin blanket that usually was on the couch was lying on the floor. One of the two desks was put aside to give more room. Since Yoruichi had never used the office before there had been no real need for two desks, though he couldn't just put it in a warehouse. There were strict rules about division owned property, and it served nicely as a shelf too.

He cast a brief look at a can with coffee, but decided against drinking. After Hisana's business was done, he would try sleeping and drinking coffee worked directly against that goal. He plopped himself onto a chair he had been using for the past ten years and cleared out the space on the desk in front of him so he could see newest member of Kuchiki house. Normally the piles of papers on the desk concealed him from everyone if he didn't do anything to prevent that.

"Is this private enough?" Shirou finally asked as Hisana lowered herself onto the couch.

"Yes, this is a nice place you have-" The woman began deliberately slowly, trying to ease up herself so her words would flow more smoothly.

"Can you get to the point please, not to be rude or anything, but I still have a lot left to do."

She blinked at the interruption, but didn't let it distract her and continued, albeit a little faster. "Ah yes, of course, you are Vice-Captain, right?" The woman stood up and spoke. "First off, I have to thank you for encouraging Byakuya-sama to follow through with his feelings." She bowed her head slightly and sat back down.

"Yet, you did not have me come here just to thank me." The white haired man remarked coolly.

"Yes, Byakuya-sama is truly a wonderful person, I wish I could be like he is someday, but I do not deserve all the devotion I get from him. I am a vile woman. The only reason I stand here today is because I hoped to use Byakuya-sama to find someone. Yet, seeing him-"

He understood now, she wanted some sort of personal favor from him. She probably wanted Byakuya do it at first, but his bright attitude scared her away, so she tried to find out who could help her if not resolve the matter then at least approach the young Kuchiki with that matter.

"Seeing him happy like that makes you apprehensive about approaching him with that matter. I understand." He concluded for her, again interrupting Hisana.

She went silent and looked firmly at him, resolved about her decision. Her lips were pursed, her gaze – strong. Shirou sighed seeing that conviction. She was strong, not in a physical sense, but in a mental one. All strong people had that same gaze, each different in some way and yet very much alike. People weren't born with it, they acquired it with experience, and something told him she had her fair share of that.

Smiling slightly he began. "I see. He is a student of mine, you see." The young man paused for a moment to consider his words. "I taught him, even if it was only for a short while. So I won't ask more questions, I won't tell him about this talk, and I will try to find that person you are looking for." He was about to be finished when another thing came to mind. It was a bit sentimental of him maybe, but he shouldn't regret saying that, even if it wasn't something Yadomaru Shirou would say if he wasn't so tired.

"In return, try to make him a happy man."

He awoke when something was poured over his face. His eyes snapped open and his hand immediately went for the offending object. When his vision focused on the thing in his hand, he found out that it was a square bottle of expensive whiskey smuggled from the real world by the brainy guys from the twelfth.

Shirou turned to look at the person who had poured it over his face and found an annoyed-looking Soifon there. "Why the fuck would you do this?" He asked, his voice low as he scowled and a vein on his temple pulsed.

The black haired young woman crossed her hands over her chest and spoke. "To wake you up, isn't it obvious? You shouldn't sleep while on duty, you know." Somehow she looked very pleased with herself and despite her obviously serious demeanor, she couldn't quite hide that smile that was threatening to appear on her face.

The young man sat up on his couch while rubbing the bridge of his nose and then corners of his eyes. Shirou yawned, casting a longing look at the now half empty, thanks to Soifon, bottle of whiskey and then spoke, deciding to be a smartass about it. "I haven't had any good shuteye in three days, and I'm off duty, by the way. Since I'm highest ranking officer in the second division I can give myself a day off anytime I want." Seeing that it had no effect on the girl he asked what interested him the most. "Tell me you have good news."

"I do." This time Soifon couldn't stop the smile from blooming on her face. Not the smug smile she put on when she thought she was better than someone. Not the smile she had around Yoruichi. Honestly, he hadn't seeing that kind of smile of hers, but it definitely looked cute.

"You look happy." Shirou smiled despite himself. He couldn't help it; her smile was of the infectious kind. "I guess your training was a success." He got up, his cheeks tinged pink, and trying to save them both the embarrassment turned to the window overlooking one of the main training grounds of the second division.

Soifon coughed, clearing her throat and answered. "Yes."

Deciding that she probably got back into her all business mode once again, Shirou turned back and walked over to the chair and plopped himself onto it, nearly sloshing the whiskey all over the papers as he had forgotten that it even was in his hand. "So, what's it called?" He asked sounding a little sheepish while he made sure none of the important papers were stained with alcohol.

"I'll leave it as a surprise for the captaincy test." Soifon said, looking at the training ground outside while leaning against the wall next to the window.

The white haired man looked at her for a moment trying to judge her mood, then leaned back in his chair and spoke. "Well, cheers for your Bankai then… whatever it's called. Bottoms up."

"You're becoming a drinker, Yadomaru-san." The girl said, removing herself from her place by the wall and repositioning to the couch.

"And you're way too serious, Soifon." He said before taking another sip from the bottle. It was pretty damn strong and burned his throat, but he found himself enjoying the warm feeling that settled in his chest. He wasn't sure if it was even the right way to drink that, but he didn't care as half the bottle had ended up being poured over him anyway. "Yoruichi-san was on to something back there, you should relax more."

"…and a slacker too."

He gave her a slightly offended glare before taking another gulp of the drink and speaking. "Shut it. I did more work than you think."

"Do you have something concrete then?"

That was the question that's been bothering him as well. He honestly didn't know how much he could trust those weird dream visions of his. Yet there was nothing 'concrete' he could give her, so he guessed there were more sleepless days of searching archives ahead and he wasn't looking forward to that. Even if he delegated half his duties to the current fourth seat, there was still a lot he had to get done in the division.

"Maybe, I'm not sure yet." He answered, not willing to discard the entirety of his assumptions. Shirou yawned and continued. "Anyway, go have someone call for a squad assembly. We need to address the men, you won't believe the things happening in the third and fifth division."

Next Day

The sight that greeted Shirou in the twelfth division was much better than what he had seen in the other captainless divisions so far. Sure, there were people rushing from place to place, but it looked more like a controlled sort of chaos. It seemed that the chain of command was intact or Urahara had made plans for the case of his disappearance, or something like that anyway.

In the center of that chaos was a strange looking man giving out orders. Kurotsuchi Mayuri. Shirou had looked up some general information on him before giving a visit to the former division of Urahara Kisuke. The man wasn't really all that different from what one would assume of him based on just his looks. In all honesty, Kurotsuchi should have been kept in the Maggot's Nest, but so far the benefits outweighed the risks.

"Third seat Kurotsuchi Mayuri." Shirou said, finally announcing himself without any sort of greeting. "It seems things are quite busy in your division."

The man's eyes widened slightly. He was no doubt ready to demand an explanation of what lieutenant of Second Division was doing in Twelfth, but then his mind seemed to register the word Shirou put right next to 'division'. Then suddenly Mayuri smiled, a wide creepy smile that showed his gums and then disappeared just as suddenly. "Yes, they are, so be quick about it, I don't have time for mundane concerns."

Shirou eyed the Shinigami around them with an obvious look about him that said that the matter was private. Kurotsuchi immediately caught on to that and motioned for him to follow. When they reached a room which was probably some sort of lab, judging by the way it looked, the twelfth's third seat turned to Shirou and stared at him expectantly.

"My concerns are not so mundane, I fear. How do I start… the situation with Urahara Kisuke and his associates is very suspicious. It might have very well been a set up, it might have not been a set up. Still, there is no denying that there is something more to it than Urahara experimenting on creating hybrids."

"Yes, I have been able to read the reports. The idea is fascinating."

"What I want are Urahara's logs and any notes he may have left." The unspoken threat was there. As an effective commander of the Second Division Shirou had all the power he needed to have Kurotsuchi back in Maggot's Nest by the end of the day. Yet he didn't press the man, he wanted to give him some room for barter, so he would feel more 'conversational'.

"Hmmmm… I wonder." The man rubbed his chin and looked at the luminescent lamp on the ceiling.

He must have caught on to the other thing Shirou had left unspoken. The other reason they were speaking at the moment was because Kurotsuchi Mayuri was suspicious and Shirou knew to expect something from him. If everything worked out they would have some sort of alliance. An alliance born out of mutual distrust.

Turning his eyes back to the white haired man, Kurotsuchi spoke. "Everything has a price, information especially so. An equal exchange, how about it?"

"That's reasonable, but I don't understand what you would want from me."

The man smiled and pointed his index finger upwards and began. "Ah, that is quite simple. I want whatever record the second division might have about me. Any 'misinformation' about me will be cleaned up and I want a recommendation of your future captain for the time I eventually apply for the position myself."

So, he wanted to become a captain. Just as expected, but it wasn't a secret anyway, so there was no need to jump in triumph. He was a scientist first and foremost, and he and Urahara and every other successful scientist had to be amoral to be successful, so in the end it wouldn't be much worse than with Urahara as the head of the Twelfth.

His mental health was another problem altogether, however. A problem which he would let the fourth division handle. Making sure Captains of Gotei 13 were at least a bit sane was in their jurisdiction.

"That's not too difficult." Shirou nodded in agreement and allowed himself to look around and ponder about his course of action.

Cleaning up any left over documents would be an easy task, especially so when Mayuri couldn't confirm that the information really was 'cleaned up' so to speak. The danger of tracking devices was still there, but he was willing to take the risk.

"I consider it an investment in my future." The blue haired man said and then added as an afterthought. "I'll send any documents Urahara has left behind tomorrow."

When Shirou was on his way to exit Kurotsuchi spoke again. "I'm looking forward to the results of your investigation."

Pausing for a moment the white haired man stood there in silence. After several seconds he replied. "And I'm looking towards the results of our partnership."

Shirou awoke with a jerk and found himself in his office on his couch, wrapped in blanket and sweating a cold sweat. The young man rubbed his hair and his hand was left as wet as it would have been if he put it into water. He grimaced and got up.

It was past midnight and the only lights outside came from unseated Shinigami doing rounds. He paced with single thought in his head: the Hollow World. Hueco Mundo.

Something was happening there. Something big. He was sure of it. But even if he knew that something was happening there, there wasn't much he could do about it. There wasn't much he knew about that place either.

He couldn't do it alone, that he was sure of. He also was sure that he wouldn't be able to just waltz in there. Only Hollows could go there as they pleased, and they still had to open a special portal to the place, but they had the ability to do that.

Perhaps Kurotsuchi could do something about the portal. But he himself would have to take care of organizing some sort of expedition. Alone he wouldn't amount to anything in a place like that, especially not without Shikai.

He didn't have enough authority to introduce the notion of an expedition into the hostile territory belonging to Hollows. Hollows far stronger than any normal Shinigami would even think of encountering in their lifetime.

If he wanted to go there he would need a couple hundreds of talented Shinigami, and that meant funding and time to find them, a promise of something great to find and just a whole lot of luck.

There were many ways he could go about acquiring funding, and time was something he had in spades, since it would take a few weeks for Soifon to get used to her captaincy when she passed her test and then an indefinite amount of time for Kurotsuchi to take care of the portal problem.

The promise of finding something great wasn't so easy, since he didn't know what he was looking for out there. He also needed something that would make the Central 46 want the expedition to happen. And that probably was the hardest part.

There was also the fact that if he wanted to go with the expedition, or even better, lead it, he needed to find a replacement for himself. Someone who would be talented enough to meet the skill requirements, since there was no Yoruichi calling in her favors, and someone responsible enough to take his duties seriously. Maybe he could request a transfer from another division, but that would have to wait until he could make a list of potential candidates.

And there was also another very, very important thing. He had to regain the feeling of fighting with his life in danger. Too much time has passed since he was even remotely close to the danger of dying.

He trained for a few hours every day, but that was enough only to keep in shape so to say. He had to keep his skills as sharp as he could, since he had no Shikai. But to be able to fight effectively in hostile territory and hostile conditions, he needed more than that.

He'd have to confront that woman again about her name. Even if there was almost no chance of her giving it away, he had to try. And like Urahara had once said, women were all about persistence. Or something like that. He had most likely said something similar, but not quite the same thing.

The young man rubbed his face and sighed. Switching the lights on he went to his desk and started on the report that should have been finished already, but wasn't due to him being too busy with the investigation.

AN: We have Mayuri on scene now. He will appear sometimes. Well, token evil teammate, so… yeah. I like him. The reason? I like strange/creepy characters. I also like his design and zanpakuto. Although, he won't do much fighting.

Also, I went back and tried reading this thing from prologue onwards and was horrified. And I thought this chapter was bad... If this one's bad then those are horrible. Either I myself grew up a lot since I posted the rewritten version or my writing skills have become so much better, I don't know. But that was terrible and by third chapter I wanted to rewrite it for the third time (If you don't know and you most likely don't, Dreamer has already been rewritten when the first version reached its fourth chapter or something like that) I compromised with myself and edited some things to be truer to the newest revelations in manga (asauchi nature and zanpakutos mainly) as well as added some lines where it felt appropriate. Everything from prologue to chapter 4 had been updated. 5 and 6 are not so bad so I'll edit them sometime later.

Leave a review, if you're not a stingy jew like me, be better than I am! Also point out mistakes and inconsistencies, if you see any.

P.S. We also have a story cover now, the original image is by some deviantart person I think (I think, I'm not so sure), and is a fanart for Dogs: Bullets&Carnage manga done by Miwa Shirow, which I fucking love and which manages to have even less backgrounds than Bleach. I have photoshopped the picture a little making it into what it is at the moment and that's it, there you have it.