A/N: Chapter 5! Things are happening now! Yay! Its been a long time coming, so I'll say it now. By the end of the chapter, Fugu's true form and background will be revealed! Thanks for those who actually bothered following/reading up to this point.

Chapter 5: Land of Dark Rebirth

"The means by which my powers can be returned resides in the realm of the Hollows…Hueco Mundo."

Urahara smirked slightly while everybody else reacted with shock and surprise.

"You can't be serious!"

"Hueco Mundo!?"

"It's too dangerous."

"Why there!?"

After waiting for everyone else to settle down, Urahara spoke calmly. "I thought as much. Even if the solution had been in Soul Society it would have been too risky, given that you're trying to avoid the Gotei 13. And if you knew of a better way in the Living World then you would have appeared there. Hell would likely be too dangerous even if it were more easily accessible. That only leaves Hueco Mundo, but the reason you didn't reform there was because it would have been too dangerous for you alone in your weakened state. Did I miss anything Fugu-san?"

Fugu just chuckled. "No, that about covers it Urahara-san."

"And what is there in Hueco Mundo that can fix you that can't be found here Fugu? You can't expect us to help you with so little information." Isshin speaks up, in one of his rare serious moods.

There was a pause as Fugu decided how to reply, before, "...a friend."

"We're your friends too though!" Orihime piped up.

Fugu smiled. "Thank you Inoue-san. But I meant a specific friend."

"A Hollow?" Rukia asked, with stern eyes.

"No. He's a Shinigami. And before you ask more, that is all I will say for now."

"...We'll help you." Ichigo spoke calmly and seriously.

He's like his father in that, he is generally goofy or angry, but he can be serious when the situation calls for it, Fugu thought.

"Ichigo?" Rukia asked, surprised.

"We need to find out whats going on and I can't see any other way. And anyways, theres not much he can pull with all of us there. If I can kill Aizen, then I think I can take a cripple and his friend." Ichigo finishes with a friendly smirk at Fugu.

"True, and I was hoping you would see that as well." Fugu replied smoothly.

"So we'll be helping Fugu-san?" Yuzu said hopefully.

"Not we," Isshin cut in, "they. Ichigo and the others will go with him. We will stay here."

"What!?" Karin exclaimed angrily. "Why do we have to stay here? Last time we didn't know what was happening and we were powerless, but this time we can do something!"

"Someone will need to stay behind to protect Karakura, and you're too young to go anyways. I won't let my daughters be put in such a dangerous situation."

Karin just glared at her father and grumbled mutinously.

Urahara smiled slyly at the exchange and spoke cheerfully. "So! Tomorrow morning myself, Fugu-san, Kurosaki-san, Kuchiki-san, Yasutoro-san, Ishida-san, and Inoue-san will be going to Hueco Mundo to find Fugu-san's friend. I will contact you when we are ready." As he finished, Urahara smiled and took a sip of his tea. Everyone took this as their dismissal and started getting up.

x

After saying their goodbyes the Kurosaki family and Rukia went home. The drive home was done in tense silence as everyone thought about what the next day would bring. Broken only by Karin's grumbling at being left behind.

Upon getting home Rukia and Ichigo went up to his room, Isshin making sly remarks as the ascended the stairs. Once they were there they settled into their usual positions; Ichigo lying on his bed with Rukia sitting on the floor against it.

They sat in silence for a while before Rukia spoke up softly. "Are you sure about this Ichigo...?"

"Yeah. He can't hang around here like this forever. He won't. He'll find a way to do this either way, so we might as well help him so we can keep an eye on him. And if something goes wrong we'll be able to deal with it, together."

"Okay...I trust you." She reached up and held his hand as they lay there, and he squeezed back softly.

Meanwhile a pair of younger girls were listening outside the door. As the pair inside fell back into silence, the girls pulled back from the door. "We can't let them leave us behind again Yuzu."

The blonde girl looked back at the bold expression on her dark haired sister's face nervously. "I don't know Karin...maybe they're right. It could be really dangerous."

"We can handle ourselves Yuzu. We've been training. And even if things do get tough, the others will be there to help us. Ichi-ni wouldn't let anything happen to us."

"I guess so..."

"Its easy. We'll sneak through after them tomorrow. Urahara won't stop us."

"What about dad?"

"Um...he has to work tomorrow morning. We can tell him we're seeing them off." She said confidently.

"Okay Karin..." her twin replied quietly. "As long as you're sure."

x

As the early dawn of the next morning arrived, Urahara, Tessai and Fugu waited outside Urahara's shop for the others to arrive. "So Urahara...I might as well get this out of the way beforehand this time...You figured out who I am, who my friend is, my plan for getting my true form back, and what I want after already haven't you?"

Urahara smiled widely in response. "Yes, I believe I have."

This just made Fugu chuckle slightly. "Why am I not surprised...Will you join me then?"

His smile faded slowly and Urahara tilted his hat forward, replying "No, I'm afraid not. Had you asked me a century ago I might have but...I've made my peace. I say this often, though many think I'm merely joking, but nowadays...I really am just a humble shopkeeper. I perform the service required of me, no more no less. I'll help you get your power back, but thats it. Beyond that I won't aid or hinder you."

Fugu merely nodded and replied, "I respect that. And I thank you for the aid you have given me. That alone is more than I could have hoped for. I really appreciate it."

Before Urahara could reply the others showed up. So he merely gave Fugu a smile before stepping forward and saying boisterously, "Is everyone prepared!"

"Yep." Inoue replied cheerily, while Ichigo, Rukia, Sado, and Ishida merely nodded. Urahara sense a couple of other presences out of sight, but he merely smirked and ignored them.

"Okay, follow me~!" Urahara turned on his heel and went to the trap door, climbing down the ladder to the basement with the others following behind him. Once they were all down they walked through the sandy, rock strewn, field to stand before a pair of gigantic rock formations, each with a wooden beam sticking out of it. "Tessai, if you'd do the honors. I'll be going with them this time."

"Of course", the large man replied before shunpoing onto one of the beams. He bent over in a half-crouch and pressed his palm to the wood, chanting, "My right hand is the stone that bridges worlds. My left hand is the blade that binds reality. The black-haired shepherd is hung from a chair. Stratus clouds come, and I strike down the ibis."

As he spoke his hand glowed with a blue energy. It spread to cover the beam he was on then shot off across to the other one, covering it as well. The fine blue line stretched between the beams before splitting open in a shape like an eye, with only darkness visible in it.

As Tessai held it open Urahara stood before the group gathered. He spotted something behind the rocks a ways back and saw Tessai looking there too. He caught Tessai's eye and gave a slight nod, before addressing the others. "By now you're all familiar with Garganta. No turning back now. Everyone ready?" After a quick look over the troops Urahara grinned. "All right, lets go~!" And with that he sprang into the Garganta with the others on his heels.

As soon as he was in the Garganta, Urahara brought the spirit particles together under his feet and formed a wide and solid path, stretching from the entrance to far ahead. Once this was done he glanced back to be sure the others had followed and saw them all racing after him. Sado had brought Fugu into the Garganta with him, as he wouldn't have been able to make the leap into it. He was still half carrying him as he was struggling to keep up with his misshapen body.

Slowing his pace a bit, Urahara spoke up loud enough for his words to carry back. "No rush, lets keep the pace casual, so the star of the journey can keep up."

Fugu smirked back. "Much appreciated Urahara-san." And stumbling out from under Sado's arm, he limp-jogged along with them, keeping pace barely.

As they ran, Urahara kept the way paved with his path of spirit particles, stretching forward into the distance and back to the entrance.

x

Once everyone was through Tessai held his position and continued holding the Gargnta open. After a few moments a pair of girls crept out from behind the rocks. "Whenever you're ready. Jump through and form a path through out of the reiatsu in the space. Continue forward and you will eventually come out the other side." Tessai said in his steady, booming voice.

The twins paused and looked at the large man confusedly. "You're...not going to stop us?"

"Urahara and I both agree, you're old enough to contribute now. There are less mature Shinigami amongst the Gotei 13. Now go. You can help but there are still very strong Hollow in Hueco Mundo. You'd best stay with the group."

Karin opened her mouth for a second as though to say something. But instead she merely closed her mouth in an expression of determination, nodded, and jumped into the Garganta.

A moment after, Yuzu said quietly, "Thank you Tessai-san," before following her sister.

Tessai let the Garganta close behind them, stoically looking at the space where it had been before jumping down from the beam and walking away.

x

The Garganta opened over the sand of the wide desert land of Hueco Mundo. Moments after, Urahara Kisuke jumped out and landed softly on the ground, followed closely by Ichigo, Rukia, and Ishida. With Sad and Fugu following shortly after.

Once they were all together Rukia turned back confusedly and said, "Why hasn't the Garganta closed yet?" Her question was quickly answered as Karin and Yuzu jumped out to alight next to the others, with the Garganta closing behind them.

"What are you two doing here!?" Ichigo shouted in surprise and anger.

Karin opened her mouth to shout back, but before she could say anything Urahara cut in. "They have every right to be here. They have powers now, they help defend the town, they are stronger than most shinigami, and" Urahara smiled, "some might say they are more mature than you. Not myself of course."

Rukia sighed. "Its pointless to argue about it now anyways. The Garganta is closed. We can't send them back without us even if we wanted to."

"We're not leaving Ichigo. We're here to help. Deal with it." Karin said icily.

Clearly unhappy, Ichigo simply replied, "Fine. Now where are we going? Where is this friend of yours Fugu?"

"I have no idea."

"...WHAT!?" Urahara smirked as Ichigo rounded on Fugu in anger. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T KNOW?"

Fugu had a slight smile as calmly replied, "I know my friend is in Hueco Mundo, but I'm not sure exactly of where. He was a master of reiatsu control. There is no way we could simply find him. But no doubt he will sense us. So its not so much a matter of us finding him, as him finding us."

"So, what, are we just supposed to wander around until he comes to us?"

"Yes."

"..." Ichigo stared blankly at Fugu. "Urahara-san, please tell me you have a better plan."

"Nope!" Urahara replied cheerily.

There was a long pause before Ichigo simply said, "Lets go." And started walking off into the desert. The others looked at each other for a moment, before silently following him.

x

"And what do we have here?" The man said as he moved his scrying pool to focus on the area where he'd sensed the familiar reiatsu. The pool showed a party of people trudging through the sand. There were a couple older men, one greatly disfigured, several teenagers, and two younger girls. He looked closer at the disfigured man curiously.

"What is it master?" A voice spoke up behind him. The man turned slowly to face the girl behind him.

"It seems I might be getting a visit from an old friend..."

x

After walking for a short time they all felt a slight pulse of reiatsu from a distance to the side. They all turned that way, but Rukia, Ishida got puzzled looks while Urahara seemed excited.

Fugu smirked. "About time he showed up."

"And that wasn't any normal reiatsu flare," Urahara said excitedly, "he used Reraku to directly send that down our spirit ribbons so only we would sense it. It takes a great amount of reiatsu control to pull that off."

"Yes, he always was good at that. And I imagine he'd only have gotten better since I saw him last. Shall we go see hime then?"

And with some nods of affirmation they set off toward the source of the flare. But as they drew close they sensed another flare of the same signature further off in a slightly different direction.

"He's leading us somewhere it seems." Ishida said.

"No need to worry. He's probably just taking us somewhere we can talk. And so he can make a dramatic entrance."

"You Shinigami and your flare for the dramatic..." Ishida muttered.

"You're one to talk you fancy jerk." Ichigo shot back.

"Hey, well at least I don't-"

And the two continued bickering as the group followed the flares. Every time they got close to the origin of one flare, they'd sense another one somewhere else. Just as some of the groups patience were wearing thin they reached the last flare, and hadn't sensed another.

"Now wha-" Ichigo started, before an unfamiliar voice cut them off, causing everyone to whip around.

"You all must be tired from the long walk. Please come in and sit down." The voice came from a tall, pale, and skinny man with long dark hair tied back in a pony tail and brown eyes, wearing grey silk robes similar to those of a Shinigami with a katana sheathed at his hip. Next to him and back a little stood a shorter woman. She was slightly pale and wore robes of the same style as the man, and had a belt of knives around her hips. She also had brown eyes and a braid of black hair coming down from beneath a skullcap style...bone fragment.

At the sight of the girl, everyone but Fugu and Urahara got into a battle stance and put their hands on their weapons, with the Arrancar woman doing the same. Rukia spoke up, "You said your friend wasn't a Hollow!"

"Ah." The man said. "I'm not a hollow, though yes my friend here is. Or was. She's an Arrancar now, but she means you no harm," at that he paused and looked at her, making her exit her battle stance, "nor do I. I adopted her as my apprentice. Now if we could all calm down and come inside to relax, hopefully everything could be explained." After saying that he looked at Fugu, who nodded back, making the stranger smile.

Karin cut in, saying, "Sorry to break up the introductions but...inside where?" To punctuate her question she gestured at the desert around them, empty of everything but sand and the occasional small tree of stone.

"Right," The stranger said before gesturing down, causing the sand to be blown away a bit, revealing a trap door. "Here." He reached to open it, but the Arrancar rushed forward and opened it first. He looked at her briefly before shrugging and walking down the stairs it revealed. The Arrancar blushed slightly before following him down.

The others all paused and looked at each other before cautiously following the pair down. Ichigo was taking up the rear and just before he went down he looked around the area and noticed something. About 100m to the side was a group of footprints that appeared before leading off into the distance...Footprints identical to those leading to the trapdoor..."Dammit!"

At the bottom of the staircase was a fairly large circular room that seemed to be carved from the same silvery quartz substance as the trees of the Menos Forest. The only features of the room was the smoothly carved floor, ceiling, and circular wall, and another small trapdoor to the side. The wall also seemed to be covered with small holes throughout it. At the opposite side of the room stood the stranger and the Arrancar, facing them.

"First things first," the stranger started, "introductions. We already know who all of you are, and your stories. So we'll cut to the chase and introduce ourselves." Everyone but Fugu and Urahara gave a slight start of surprise at that before the stranger continued. "I am Sato Daisuke, ex-Captain of the 5th division." He gestured at the Arrancar, "And this is my...assistant, Puellam Aranea. I rescued her from some other Hollows many years ago and trained her. I'm also the one who helped turn her into an Arrancar."

Fugu smirked and stepped forward to stand between the two groups, facing Sato. "Got that bored did you? Seems just like you."

Sato smirked back. "Hey, its been a slow couple centuries since you disappeared."

Urahara smiled widely, his suspicions confirmed.

Turning back to the group, Fugu said, "We'll need a moment to discuss the procedure to restore me. Ishida, we might need your assistance as well." Sato's eyebrows raised at the request.

As Ishida casually walked over to the pair, Ichigo looked around in confusion and Rukia spoke up sternly. "We're not seriously going to just leave them alone are we? We still don't know what he might be planning! Or who he is! We can't just let him go off with a mysterious ex-Captain who is probably a fugitive himself! And why do they want Ishida too?"

As Rukia started toward them Urahara put his cane out in front of her, stopping her in her tracks. "Let them go. I've already worked out who they are and what they want. They mean us no harm. And I trust my guest. And Ishida-san is going with them as well. Do you not trust Ishida-san and myself?"

Rukia stopped and grunted with frustration as the three exited the room down through the trap door, leaving Puellam to watch them. "Fine. I do trust you Urahara-san. For better or worse." And with that they all settled back to wait for the others to return.

x

A short time later the three came back and stood together facing the group. Sato addressed them, "After discussing the situation I'm pretty sure I can restore my friend's powers. And with your okay I'll do that now."

There was a pause before Ichigo sighed and said, "Do it."

Sato nodded to Ishida and Fugu before drawing his zanpakuto. Some of the others flinched slightly, but made no move to stop him. He held it out before him with his right hand on the blue and black hilt before holding his hand left hand over the guard. Then he moved his hand over the blade while saying, "Liberate, Ryu no yokai [A/N: Draconic Specter]." As his hand moved over the blade there was a slight flare of light and the weapon morphed. His zanpakuto turned into a jian with a silver pommel and hilt and a black hand wrap around it. The guard was set with a sapphire and the blade was black and almost seemed like it was made of obsidian with blue veins running over it.

Once Sato finished releasing his shikai he motioned to the other two. He switched his zanpakuto to his left hand and set his right hand on Fugu's shoulder while Ishida stood in the other side and put his hand on Fugu's other shoulder. Ishida started absorbing the latent reishi in the air of Hueco Mundo and channeling it into Fugu with his Quincy powers while Sato did the same using his zanpakuto. Fugu screwed up his face a little bit as though in pain as they pushed more into him. As they channeled it in Sato also worked to unravel and untwist Fugu's reiatsu, trying to sort out the damage to it. Next Sato upped the absorption and focused it on Fugu, converting his gigai into pure reishi and channeling that into Fugu as well.

When they saw the gigai dissolving away Orihime cried out and stepped toward them saying "Wait!" but Urahara put out his arm and stopped her, Sato and Ishida ignoring her cry. As the gigai faded away it revealed Fugu briefly as he first appeared before them in his ragged, ash grey cloak. But they only saw that a moment before his clothes and flesh turned to a pure, oily black again and he burst apart into a small but dense cloud of black particles. Upon seeing him burst apart, both Orihime and Yuzu cried out again and covered their eyes, thinking him dead.

Ishida stepped back, his job done. But Sato kept working, pumping reishi into the cloud and moulding it. As he worked the particles replicated, more of them appearing and the cloud began to take shape. After a time Sato sighed wearily and stepped back, Puellam moving to catch him and lead him to the side as he nearly fell over.

Everyone in the room watched as the cloud of dark particles came together like a liquid and morphed into the form of a man. The black slowly faded away as it finished the transformation.

Standing before them was a fairly tall man about the same height as Sato. He had medium length wavy brown hair and a sharp featured face. He wore an outfit similar to what Sato had on under a dark cloak, but beneath it it could be seen that he had a fairly athletic build. At his hip was a katana with a silver and black handwrap in a black sheath. As soon as he finished forming he took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh of relief and opened his eyes revealing green irises.

"Its good to be back..." he spoke smoothly, the rasping and wheezing of his crippled form gone. "My name is Yamasaki Masao, ex-Captain of the 9th. About two hundred years, at the time of the Quincy 'War', ago I was a Captain and member of the Gotei 13. I was already opposed to the war with the Quincy, but knew it had to be done. Then I received orders from the Captain Commander to take my Vice-Captain, Yamasaki Kasumi, my wife, to go exterminate particularly strong group of Quincy. As it turns out, they weren't all strong. The group was considered strong, because some strong members had gathered to protect their women and children. All of whom I'd been ordered to kill, but upon seeing them I refused to go through with it and my wife agreed. So I spoke with their leader, one Ishida Kiyoshi."

At the mention of this Ichigo and some of the others turned to Ishida and noticed that after helping restore Yamasaki's powers he hadn't moved back to them, but now stood beside him.

"I told him why I'd been sent and what I'd decided. I told them to get out of there before back up was sent. The other warriors protecting them led them away, while myself, my wife, and Ishida Kiyoshi stayed behind to cover their retreat. Just as the last of them made it away Captain Commander Yamamoto arrived with two of my colleagues in tow. The other Captains left to chase the retreating Quincy while Yamamoto stayed to deal with Ishida-san, my wife, and I. We fought him, but the fight ended with my wife being killed and I would have died with her were it not for my zanpakuto's...unique abilities. But I was very close to death and these past two hundred years I've been surviving in a sort of stasis, slowly regenerating my reiatsu. These last several years I'd regenerated enough to be able to sense the world around me to an extent. And spread out as I was I was able to tell hat was going on throughout the worlds, to a small degree. Thats how I knew Sato was in Hueco Mundo, and how I found all of you. But as you've already learned, I was so close to death that when I regenerated I was too...incomplete. I had been too long in that form and was still too weak. But I couldn't live that way anymore and felt it was time to take a chance or die trying. And I lived. But until I met all of you I still did not know what had happened just after my death; what happened to the Quincy." At this he gestured to Ishida and he stepped forward.

"When I first saw Yamasaki-san, I could see he recognized me and he seemed to already know I was a Quincy. So I got him alone and questioned him. He immediately revealed all he just told you, feeling he could trust me. I had heard this story in part before from my grandfather, though I never knew much about the Shinigami until then. After he had been defeated, my ancestor Kiyoshi managed to escape. He had a son among the children who'd been there and his son had stayed behind, hidden, wanting to stay with his father. This had saved him, because Kiyoshi later learned all the Quincy who had fled were killed by the two Captains who followed them. The only reason Kiyoshi and his son survived is because Yamamoto was too busy killing the 'traitors'."

After Ishida finished, Yamasaki spoke again, quietly, "I was in a hellish purgatory for two hundred years because of Yamamoto. He took my life from me, killed my wife, and condemned me to that unlife. And now that I'm back...I swear. I am going to kill Yamamoto Genryūsai."

A/N: Well there you have it folks. The truth behind the mysterious Fugu. And the main plot finally revealed. Honestly when I first started this story I figured this scene would have been in the second or third chapter. I thought I would have the story done within a couple months. I also thought I was a good writer. As it turns out I was wrong on all fronts. So now, some years later I can write better, I'm a bit more mature, and I've finally reached this point in the story.

Now then, for the next part. I have a few other stories, and honestly this story has only caught the attention of like...three or four people. All whom I know personally. So until this story gets more of a following, or I finish all my other projects (HAH), or I just feel like it I will be putting this story on hold in favor of my more popular ones and my books.

Thanks for reading. *tips hat*