"You were a mistake." A voice in the night, echoing through his mind. A face, mysterious in a purple haze. And an eye, red and black, with pupils of flame. It made him feel nothing, save one thing: Rage. "I'll kill you, bastard!" Conflict. Fire and smoke, earth and thunder. Steel on steel, eye to eye. Father and son draw blood, till another voice breaks the fever dream. "Itami... Itami, snap out of it!" He awoke from his daydream, and reflexively reached for the blade on his back. Katsuro's eyes snapped open, revealing the red-and-black pattern of the Sharingan. Before he could swing his sword, Katsuro remembered where he was: He was perched atop of Ramen Ichiraku, hidden under the shadow of the new moon. He looked to his right and saw Yoru, her arm clutching his shoulder. Her mask covered her face, but Itami could tell that she was concerned. "Itami, are you alright?" Sheathing his blade, Katsuro deactivated his Sharingan. They'd been watching the warehouse across the street for hours. He must have lost himself. "I'm fine. Where's Dei? Captain Mokuzai?" She pointed towards the rooftop a few buildings to their right. In the dark, Katsuro could barely make out two darker shadows perched, overlooking the street. One of them turned and waved, before being dragged back down by its partner. "They decided to get a different angle," she said. "We didn't want to wake you." Katsuro shrugged her off and got back into his crouch. "You should have. We can't afford to lose the targets." She paused for a moment, then shrugged and leaned back. She pulled her porcelain rabbit mask off, letting her long, red hair swing to her waist. Her eyes were black voids on the moonless night, but her pale skin was still visible. She laid flat on the rooftop, showing off her body to the world. Katsuro ignored her. She did it just to annoy him, but he'd gotten used to it."You shouldn't take your mask off. There's a reason we have them." He adjusted his own tanuki mask to emphasize the point. She didn't even react. Bloody women. He focused on the warehouse again, just in time to watch a shadow slip into the alley next to it. He sat for a moment, wondering if it were a mistake. Just as quickly, he activated his Sharingan. It didn't let him see in the dark, but it came pretty close. Katsuro saw the chakra systems of his comrades, and a few more in the alley below him. As well, he could see the vague muscle movements that would have been invisible to most others. It only confirmed his suspicions: The targets had arrived. "Yoru. Yoru! Wake up!" he whispered. She lifted her head a bit. "What? You can sleep, but I can't?" Mokuzai and Dei landed on their rooftop. "You saw that?" the Captain said. He looked at Yoru. "Mask on, girl! We have them for a reason." Dei snickered behind his monkey mask, earning him a kick in the groin from Yoru. "Yes, sir." She snapped it back on and got to her knees. "Wait, saw who?" "We did, Captain. What's our strategy?" Mokuzai unsheathed his sword and started carving a map into the rooftop of the ramen shop. "Itami, Yoru, follow the mark in through the alley. Stay hidden until I give the signal." He drew two arrows moving into the side of the warehouse. "Dei, go in through the roof. The skylight should open easily." Another line, arching from point A to the center of the warehouse. "Meanwhile, I'll go in through the front..." One final line to the front of the warehouse. "And distract whoever's inside. Understood?" "Understood." "Affirmative." "Copy that." Mokuzai left first, leaping off the roof and landing without a sound. None in the restaurant noticed him, and he managed to make his way to the front door of the warehouse. Dei followed, giggling a bit as he leapt over the street, casting a shadow on the road. Yoru glanced at Katsuro, gave another shrug, and both of them followed Dei. All three landed on the roof of the warehouse, Dei setting himself up by the skylight, and Katsuro and Yoru leaping down to the alley below, careful to remain hidden. Katsuro's radio started buzzing. "Reading you, Captain." "Breach in three. We want to make this clean." "Acknowledged." Katsuro felt his chakra and channeled it into his arm, applying his nature transformation to it. "Earth Release: Earth Spear." His arm turned dark, and felt slightly heavier than normal. Then he saw the spark in the sky. "Go." Katsuro slammed his arm into the door, piercing the metal. Pulling back, he ripped the frame off its hinges. Yoru sprinted in before him, blade drawn. There were ten other people inside, all lightly armed and armored. The most he saw was a naginata on the leader, the others equipped only with tanto. They'd already engaged Mokuzai, who was easily fending them off with a fire jutsu. Dei burst in through the roof, gliding on a gust of wind. Yoru leapt in the air and shouted "Water Release: Water Blade Technique!" Katsuro heard a rumbling from beneath the ground, and a jet of water pierced through the concrete floor, piercing through two of the targets. Dei landed and performed Wind Release: Wind Cutter Technique, bisecting another three. Mokuzai caught another in a blast of fire. The rest rushed for the hole Katsuro had entered through. Blocking two of their knife attacks with his earthen arm, Katsuro stabbed another with his chokuto, then whipped it out of his side and into one of the attackers caught on his arm. "Cloud-Style Flame Beheading!" The fire-imbued blade sliced through the attacker it was thrust into, and released a blast of fire into the other two. One was incinerated in the blast, but the other was only burned. "Itami, take him. Yoru, Dei, on me." Katsuro grabbed the terrorist by the collar and dragged him into a corner, while Mokuzai, Yoru, and Dei moved off to the table where the terrorists had been gathered. Igniting his sword on fire, Katsuro waved it in front of the injured man's eyes, snapping him out of his shock. "Captain, look at these!" "What are all these barrels for?" "Wake up, trash." Katsuro plunged his blade into the man's shoulder, eliciting a violent scream. "Whom do you serve?" The man's groans transitioned into a low, rasping, cough, which Katsuro recognized as laughter. "Do not laugh at me, scum. Do you know who I am?" His face may have been hidden, but Katsuro's eyes gleamed with the crimson light of the Uchiha clan. The captive's laugh only rose higher, earning a backhanded slap from Katsuro. "What's so funny?" Coughing up blood and speaking through pain, the captive sputtered "B-because, s-son of the Sage! It'll just please the Dusk even more that we managed to kill one of the last of the Uchiha!" Katsuro almost asked him what that meant, before he realized the truth. "Dei, no!" he screamed, turning towards his fellows. He was too late, however, to stop Dei from lifting the lid of one of the many barrels stacked up in the warehouse. He couldn't see it, but Katsuro knew from what the terrorist had said and the look on Dei's face the reason for what happened next. The explosion tore off half of Dei's face, shattering the rest of his mask. Metal shrapnel stored in the explosive-tagged barrels flew into his chest, sending out a spray of blood. Mokuzai's mask was broken by one of the stray pieces, traveling into his eye. Yoru's leg was caught in the explosion as she dove for cover, ripping it off as she was sent spiraling into the air, landing a meter or two from Katsuro. Katsuro was stunned, but managed to sprint over to Yoru, ripping his sword out of the captive as he went. "No, no, no!" Damn that fool! More a monkey than his mask made him out to be. It made more sense to treat Yoru; Dei was clearly dead (Katsuro fought back a smile at that irony), and Mokuzai was more than likely dead. But Yoru was still breathing, and her injuries were comparatively less severe. Katsuro had no idea how to use medical ninjutsu, but growing up in a land without shinobi taught him other methods. "Hold still, Yoru." Channeling his fire chakra through his sword, Katsuro pressed it against the stump of Yoru's leg, cauterizing the wound. She screamed, but it trailed off as she grew weaker. "Stay awake, you fool! I can't carry you alone." Helping her to her feet, Katsuro and Yoru stumbled for a few moments till they were able to Body Flicker out of the building. Leaping to the top of a neighboring rooftop, Katsuro laid Yoru out against the flat cement. "Stay here." The mission always comes first. Falling to the ground, Katsuro noticed that a number of people had started to gather around the front of the warehouse, drawn by the spreading fire and the sound of the explosion. As he tried to race back into the building, he was grabbed by the ankle, tripping and falling. Drawing his sword, Katsuro turned to see the deformed face of Mokuzai, half-flesh and half-porcelain, staring at him. "M-more... Bombs... Stop... Katsuro..." "Captain..?" Freeing his leg from the near-dead man's grip, Katsuro got to his feet, dragging his blade behind him. "What are you talking abou-?" More booms rocked the foundations of the building, and Katsuro saw more pillars of fire open up in the warehouse. "More barrels!" Mokuzai roared, as a large piece of the roof fell on top of him. Katsuro didn't bother asking any more questions: The man was dead. Instead, he focused on the task at hand: Stopping the explosions. Activating his Sharingan, Katsuro examined the fiery scene. Rubble was everywhere, the flames spreading across the wooden supports and the concrete falling apart. Some of the barrels were broken, but hadn't exploded. Others were still on fire and were in pieces. Dei's body lay in the middle of ground zero, surrounded by wreckage. But his eyes caught what an untrained shinobi would not: The sparking fuses spread out across the warehouse, slowly but progressively stretching across the floor, connecting numerous barrels together. As well, they stuck into the walls. Katsuro guessed that they were connected to other warehouses across the village. This was a planned attack, a bombing on a massive scale. And if Katsuro didn't stop it, the death toll would be enormous. The only question was, how to stop it? He couldn't extinguish the fire, since he had no skill with Water or Wind Release, and he couldn't stop the fire from growing. Controlling the fire... Pulling off his left bracer, Katsuro snapped out his kote. Forming the Tiger seal with his hands, the scroll in his arm shooting out and unfurling, he yelled "Fire Release: Great Fire Destruction!" A great jet of fire burst out of the scroll, bathing the remaining explosives in pure flame. The resulting boom deafened Katsuro, and almost rendered him incapable of burrowing down into the earth, using the Hiding Like a Mole Technique. He managed to dig his way back out to the building he'd hidden Yoru on, and leapt up to the roof as a massive wave of fire roared out of the warehouse. A few of the gathered civilians were caught in the blast, but the fire didn't spread any further thanks to a few shinobi hidden in the crowd blasting it with water jutsu. The building itself collapsed inwards, and the underground tunnels beneath it fell apart, dragging the smoldering wreckage into the sewers. If Katsuro could guess, the fire lines were extinguished in the collapse. The other warehouses would go on inactive. Other teams would be advised to take more caution when investigating them. For now, Katsuro took a moment to rest, reloading his kote with an Earth Release scroll. He glanced at Yoru, who had fallen into sleep. His eyes caught the vague expansions of her lungs, showing that she was at least still breathing. At least one of his teammates was still alive, and the mission still accomplished. But what higher cost would there be? How many more civilians died in the blast? What of Dei and Mokuzai's family and friends? And Yoru... Without her leg, she'd never be able to fight again. How could things have gone differently? Dei was careless, but Katsuro could have stopped him. The targets had been prepared, but if Katsuro had been more cautious, they'd never have caught him unawares. The thoughts put him on edge. In fact, it only now dawned on him that none of it was caused by anyone else: In the end, it was all Katsuro's fault. **************** 12 hours later "... And so, we believe that the attack was caused by the terrorist organization, Yugure. The words of the captive and the M.O. fit, and we believe it to be only a matter of time before they claim responsibility." Yoru sat in a wheelchair beside Katsuro, her freshly-masked face cast downward. She hadn't said a word during the debriefing with the Hokage, who sat in a deep-seated leather chair behind his personal desk. He was silent as well, his face increasingly furrowed as he listened to Katsuro's report. "I recommend that another team be assembled to find what other bombs remain. Our opinion is that the bomb we encountered was the last, meant to set off the others. We interrupted the process, which caused the slower detonation. More caution should be taken when removing the others. Furthermore-" The Hokage held up a hand, stopping Katsuro mid-sentence. "Enough, Itami. I've heard enough of this," he said. Standing up, he turned to look out the massive window behind him, overlooking the rest of the ninja Academy and the village as a whole. "Chaos in the streets, a terrorist around every corner, and the only solution my best soldiers can find is to blow up a building. Not to mention burn out the only good ramen shop in the damn town..." The Hokage paused for a moment, maybe expecting a chuckle at his joke. Katsuro and Yoru were disciplined enough to know not to. The Hokage sighed, though he'd known that he'd receive no praise for it. Instead, he gazed even more intently out the window. "My own people are turning against me, Itami." He turned his head slightly. "What do you propose I do?" "I... I have no answer to your troubles, Lord Hokage." The older man nodded sadly, and sat back down in his chair. He turned his gaze to Yoru. "Jonin Yoru, I'm officially dismissing you from Anbu, and Konohagakure's general Armed Forces, due to reasons of physical impairment. Medical treatment and physical therapy will be made available to you, and readmission may become an option in the future. You are dismissed." Yoru looked up, and appeared to almost say something in protest, then merely nodded, turned her chair around, and wheeled herself out of the Kage's office. Rubbing his forehead, Naruto Uzumaki turned to his adopted nephew. "Can I drop the Anbu name, Katsuro?" "If you desire, Lord Hokage." Naruto sighed, got up from his chair, and gave his nephew a hug, which was not returned. "I'm glad to know you made it out okay, nephew. Hinata and Sakura worried for you when I told them your assignment." Katsuro tensed up at the latter's name, but said nothing. "If you say so, Lord Hokage." The light seemed to dim in Naruto's sky-blue eyes, and he stepped backward. "I understand that you may be in shock from the... Circumstances of last night's incident. Especially with the Shimura girl's injuries." He gave a reassuring smile. "Don't worry about her. Lady Tsunade and Guy will be more than enough help. For those reasons, you'll have to wait for a new team to be assembled." Katsuro said nothing. "For those same reasons, you're being suspended from your duties." This elicited a reaction from him. "Lord Hokage, there is no justification for this! My mental state is perfectly adequate!" Naruto slammed his hand on his desk, his eyes ablaze and his hair on end. "Your desires are irrelevant. This is not a suggestion." Katsuro fell back, not wishing to truly enrage his uncle. Naruto himself calmed down, and said "Don't feel as though you are meeting the fate of your comrade. You'll still be in active service." "How do you mean, Lord Seventh?" Naruto sat back down in his chair, and began looking over a pile of unfinished paperwork. "In these dark times, more and more trained shinobi are needed. You're being assigned a team of younger nin. Two chunin and one genin. You'll actually be working alongside a jonin from outside of the Land of Fire." Katsuro knew whom the Hokage spoke of, and frankly found it despicable. "Buraku? The Otokage? You'd let a foreigner train your ninja?" "She doesn't like the term, though technically she qualifies," Naruto replied, not looking up. "And yes. Yes I will. She's on loan as a contractor from the Sound Daimyo. We're using her as much as we can." Katsuro gave up trying to fight back against his uncle, and instead accepted his place. "Who am I to be training?" The Hokage tossed a folder towards Katsuro. Upon opening it, Katsuro saw his new students. "You're dismissed, Katsuro. If you need any assistance, consider speaking to Konohamaru. I hear he's developed a marvelous approach to training Boruto, Orochimaru's son, and Sarad-" "Don't say her name, uncle Naruto. Not in my presence." Naruto looked up, showing some surprise at Katsuro's insolence. "Your sister wants to meet her brother, Katsuro." Ripping his mask off and smashing it against the wall of the office, Katsuro's eyes burned with red hatred. "We share my father's eyes. But that does not make her my blood. Let me do my job, uncle. And let the bastard-child do hers." He turned on his heel and stormed out of the office, not waiting for the Hokage's reply. He wants me to train the little brats? Fine. I'll do it myself. But it won't become an excuse to push me near that creature. Readjusting the papers in his folder, Katsuro truly looked at what he was being saddled with. "A Hyuga, a... Yuki-nin? How many foreigners are there in Konoha? And an Uzumaki! Of course, you'd put one of your kin under my supervision, uncle!" Screaming on the inside, Katsuro stopped in the hall, and leapt up to the tile roof of the Academy. Gazing out over the Leaf Village, Katsuro tried to spot his students in the throngs of people walking through the streets of the city, all the while thinking I failed once. But I am Katsuro Uchiha, the one true heir of Sasuke Uchiha, and descendant of the Sage of the Six Paths. One mistake is only a lesson. I will not fail again.