Even in the darkness, Leonardo could see its piercing eyes staring into his. His heart was racing, but he wouldn't back down now. He gripped his swords tightly and prepared himself.

The beast stepped out of the shadows, snarling at him and puffing smoke out of its nostrils. When it opened its mouth, a deep, terrifying voice echoed in the room.

"You will fail, warrior. I will burn and destroy everything you hold dear."

Leo felt anger arise within him and he pointed a sword at the dragon. "I will not fail my family and friends," he growled. "I will not lose to you."

The dragon laughed and bared its teeth. "We shall see…"

Fire spewed out of its mouth and nearly consumed the Turtle, who fortunately jumped out of the way in time. Leo tried to leap at the beast's neck, but its tail knocked him away. He used his swords as anchors to stop himself from sliding across the floor, creating sparks and a loud scraping sound as he came to a halt.

The dragon sneered and flicked his long tongue at him. "You are weak. You do not have what it takes to defeat me. You never did."

The Turtle became even more angered. "Oh, really?" he said venomously. "I'll show you 'weak'."

Leo sprinted around the dragon, which continued to breathe fire as he passed by. He noticed the tail being lifted again and avoided another crushing blow. As soon as the tail landed on the ground, he swiftly sliced off a large piece of it. The beast screamed and writhed in pain.

Seeing that the dragon was now distracted, Leo aimed his swords at its throat and swung with all the strength he had.

The head flew across the room and landed with a thud.

The body twitched a few times before it went limp and fell to the ground. Dark red blood squirted out of its neck, while a pool formed around the head. Leo breathed out a sigh of relief and sheathed his bloody swords.

He walked to the where the head lay and stared into its cold, lifeless eyes.

"I told you I wouldn't lose," he whispered.

"Yes, warrior. You won the battle."

Leo's heart jumped and he nearly fell backwards. How could this be? He frantically looked around him in the dark room, but he saw nothing. Then he heard the voice once again.

"But at what cost?"

He looked back down at the dragon's head, and what he saw made him scream in terror.

His father's head lay there in the pool of blood, his black beady eyes staring into his.

He snapped out of his meditation with a loud gasp, breathing heavily and drenched in his own sweat. He placed his hand on his chest in an attempt to calm his racing heart.

The candles were the only light in his dark bedroom. In front of him lay family photos, including those of his father. He stared down at them sadly.

Ever since he and his brothers left the Foot Clan after the Street Phantom incident, his spirit was restless and troubled. Mediation usually calmed his mind, but now every time he entered the realm, he'd be met with this horrifying vision of him facing a dragon. And the outcome of the battle would be the same as before: him cutting off its head, which would transform into his father's.

Leo would call out to his mother for answers, but she never responded. He wondered how she felt about her husband killing Oroku Saki, taking his place as Jonin of the Foot, and then murdering Dun in cold blood. Was she weeping for her broken family right now?

He wouldn't doubt it.

The sounds of his brothers' video game could be heard outside his door. Mikey laughed and cheered while Raph grumbled, indicating that he had just lost a match to his little brother.

Sometimes Leo wished that he wasn't the eldest or the leader of his group. He didn't want to carry the burdens that had been placed upon his shoulders, but it wasn't like he had a choice. His father trusted him enough to lead his brothers without the guidance of their father and master.

And he knew why his father told him his secret.

"You and your brothers are not safe with me. Perhaps you never have been."

"If I cannot protect you while you are in my care, perhaps I can do so by driving you away."

"I can no longer lead them, Leonardo…that duty now falls to you."

From the moment Splinter decapitated Saki, he knew that he would have to go down a very dark and destructive path, and there would be no turning back. The spirit of the Shredder, the Dragon, would continue to live on through someone else. And Splinter knew that as long as he lived, he was a danger to everyone around him, especially his children. He could feel the Dragon's hold on him getting stronger every day. So he decided to send his sons away before things took a turn for the worse.

One of these days, the Dragon will indeed break loose and spread the fires of war and destruction, burning everything it its path. And a warrior will have to stand up and slay the beast before it destroys the world.

Which means that Leo will have to kill his own his father when the time comes.

He buried his head in his knees and wept bitterly. The candles flickered for a bit before going out, leaving him in complete darkness.

His brothers continued to laugh and play their game in the living room, oblivious to their eldest brother's grief and loneliness.

So who else thought that issue #64 was incredibly sad and shocking? I just knew that Splinter would become the next Shredder the moment he took over the Foot in issue #50. No one believed me, but I knew that it was going to happen, and so did Mikey. And when Donnie said that Mikey was right all along, I was like, "Well, DUH!" LOL