Sequel to Puppet in Pink

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

Bathing in Blood

1. What is Not

The heat of the sun comes from me,

And I send and withhold the rain.

I am life immortal and death;

I am what is and I am what is not.

-The Bhagavad Gita

"Good news, my lord." The voice was nondescript, anonymous, the tone of the blatantly inferior, echoing in the dark cavern that could have been a secluded cave. Could have been a basement in a rundown apartment, for that matter. Or a figment of the imagination.

"What is it?" An obviously important voice, this one. Almost a whisper, but sinister in its quietness. Like the rustle of dry bones, it was apparently more than it seemed. It had the potential, you might say.

"We believe that someone...or something...has greatly weakened the boy's mental barriers. Not that he ever had any real 'barriers' to speak of, sir." The one of lesser rank made a pitiful attempt to wring the beginnings of anxiety out of his words.

Best to act with trepidation, for he was literally dealing with Death itself here. One wrong word and it would be too late. Then again, it wouldn't make a difference what he said or didn't say; his master had a way of finding out regardless. He couldn't win. Why consider fighting in the first place?

"And this improvement is not of our doing?" A gloating tone, but the master had reason to gloat. His voice could sound almost amused, if one listened closely--like a father playing trivial games with his children.

Best to remain cautious.

"No, my lord, it is not. We are unsure who or what is responsible, but I assure you-"

"Good. That is all I needed to hear. Any decimation of his mental state is helpful, no matter the cause."

The master seemed pleased. Dare he sigh with relief?

"I assume we can proceed with the plan?"

"Of course."

A long, nerve-wracking silence fell like a heavy burden upon the inferior's shoulders. Though virtually invisible in the chasm of darkness, you could almost feel the man with the anxious voice fidgeting and twisting his hands. You could almost feel the other smiling in sadistic amusement, with the knowing-but-not-caring sneerish expression of little children who pull the legs off insects.

A painful minute passed. The man squirmed impulsively. Then, at last, his master decided that he'd had enough fun for the time being.

"You may take your leave," he hissed with palpably stinging sarcasm.

The other gave a shaky sigh of relief.

"Thank you, Orochimaru-sama."