Hound was scrubbing the blood off of his armor, again. This time most of the blood was not his, a successful mission. Next time, he would request a solo mission. That way if something goes wrong, it will only be him that would get hurt, or if he was lucky he would get killed. Picking up the toothbrush that he was using to clean the seams of his armor, Hound plunged it into the soapy water and attacked the next blood stain, slowly the armor would be restored to its light gray appearance. A knock on the door interrupted his cleaning. Picking up the porcelain mask he set aside when he walked into his room, Hound put it back on. "Come in," he called, again focusing on the armor.

"The Hokage requests your presence right away," came a voice from beyond the door.

Frowning, Hound set aside the armor and walked over to the door, opening it, he saw one of the Cats at his door. "Now?"

"Right away Hound."

Nodding Hound turned and with quick and efficient movements, Hound put his still blood stained (although not as badly as it was twenty minutes ago) armor and walked out the door to his room in ANBU headquarters. Once he slipped outside one of the many doors hidden throughout the village, Hound shinshuned into the Hokage's office. He always thought of it as a perk to being ANBU.

"Ah, Hound, right on time," Hokage said, taking a deep breath through his pipe. Slowly letting the smoke out, Sarutobi looked at the man in front of him. Hound has grown in the past few years since he entered ANBU. He had come a long way from the child he was when the Fourth Hokage took Hound into ANBU. Sarutobi would like to think that ANBU had done Hound some good. That he had grown and worked though his depression. Sarutobi knew better than anyone that being able to focus on the mission was a time and true way to distance yourself from overwhelming feelings. So that you could deal with those feelings were not so raw. Hokage took a deep breath and said the phrase he had been dreading since a little boy was brought into the hospital last night. "Hound, it is time to take off your mask."

Hound froze as he processed what the Hokage had just said. The Hokage was telling Hound he was being fired… no retired, that is the word they would use. "Hokage-sama?"

"Take off the mask, I would like to talk to Kakashi."

Following orders without thought, Hound took off his mask and set it on the desk in front of him. "I can't leave ANBU, I need the missions, sir.." Kakashi tried to keep his voice from shaking as the implications of giving up the mask started to become crystal clear. "I need…"

"Kakashi, I have a mission for you," Sarutobi interrupted.

"Sir?" Kakashi was still confused. He wasn't in ANBU anymore, but he was needed for a mission?

"Before I tell you what the mission is, let me tell you what happened last night. Last night I was summoned to the hospital because a group on patrol found a little boy just outside the village, but not completely hidden in the trees. This boy was beaten so badly, the best medics are still unsure that he will live. This is also not the first time an individual or a group of people have tried to beat this child to death, however I have decided that this will be the last time. Since the boy is an orphan, it is up to me to ensure that he is safe and cared for."

"I am sorry about the boy, but what does this have to do with me?" Kakashi's thoughts were quickly spiraling out of control. Hokage could not be asking what Kakashi was thinking. It just would not work! "I can't take care of a child! There must be a better choice."

"I have already made up my mind, Kakashi."

Kakashi opened his mouth but nothing came out.

"Therefore, Kakashi, I am giving you the mission to protect this child and to investigate who the person or persons were that beat the child last night. Before you tell me no, I want you to come with me and see the boy. I will warn you, this is not a mission that you can turn down." Sarutobi stood up and walked over to the door, released the privacy seal on the room and walked to the stairs. Kakashi followed as Lord Hokage walked to the hospital. To one of the most secure rooms in the building. To the rooms ANBU like to receive treatment because it was hidden from view.

Opening a door, Sarutobi walked in and stopped. Kakashi entered, looked through the observation window and saw a small boy in the middle of a large seal pulsing with chakra. The boy was covered in cuts, open puncture wounds, in bruises, all in various stages of healing. The boy was so thin, Kakashi could see his ribs poking out through the skin on his chest. The fact that the child must have been starved did not shock the man, it was the bright blue eyes that were struggling to focus on something and the bright yellow hair.

Kakashi knew who this was! Turning to glare at the Hokage, "Tell me that is not Minato-sensei's son!"