Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


Bathing in Blood

28. The End

Be patient for one more day of misery;

I ask for no longer.

-Beowulf

Red.

It was all he could see, all he could sense and touch and smell in this bloodthirsty fantasy. A vicious, pulsating, perpetual red it was, ever-flickering between bright and brighter. It pounded against his eyelids; burned and seethed as if it had a life of its own.

Yes, it was all he could see, and yet all he couldn't see. Because if he imagined he was squinting, he might think for just an instant that there was a tinge of pink behind the crimson wash. It was familiar, much too familiar; a pink that whispered vaguely sinister things in a vaguely sinister way. It trailed in his vision like a lone, lost little puppy.

Like a little puppy with fangs.

But of course he wasn't seeing these things; it was just a dream and nothing more. It wasn't real. It couldn't happen if it was real, because he knows that the dog you feed won't bite you and the dog you starve won't either. He knows it's just a dream, just a pathetic, twisted, distortedly misfortunate horror of a dream, he knows—

Only five percent of people dream in color. Isn't he lucky?

Kakashi didn't seem to know anything anymore.


"Something odd's happening in there."

The man's posture echoed his drawling voice as he leaned lazily against the chain link fence. His mop of black hair, graying subtly, shaded his face from the freckles of sunlight that dotted the shadow. A normal reasonable-looking kind of guy, not the type to get worked up over nothing. Or anything, for that matter. And yet...

"'Odd'? What do you mean by 'odd'?" The female jounin standing next to him whirled around suddenly. Her words were clipped machine-gun-bullet noises, the sounds made by frayed nerves when they snap. "You know what they said! Anything that might be dangerous, even the slightest hint, should be taken seriously!"

The man sighed, rubbing his temples absentmindedly. "You take things waaay too 'seriously' for your own good. This test would be pointless without a bit of uncertainty and risk mixed in." He laughed at her still-anxious expression, the drawn brows and pursed lips that made her look like a human storm-cloud, and decided to alleviate her fears.

"Besides, all I said was that something odd is happening. I didn't say 'threatening' or 'scary', or that precious word,'dangerous'." He stared complacently into the wall of green foliage that surrounded the tower. Shaking her head, the woman mumbled something under her breath. It was hard to believe that this man was a proctor sometimes.

Then again, it was hard to believe that she herself was a proctor as well.

"But still! This exam is important! We should at least investigate it further; maybe contact Hokage-sama--" She felt her colleague's strong hand grasp her retreating shoulder. She turned.

The wall of green had become a wall of fire.

"I knew those fire-proofing jutsus would come in handy this time!" He smiled easily, unmoved from his place against the fence.

"Dear God!" She nearly sank to her knees; steadied herself before she fainted. Instructions first, instincts later. "We must tell Hokage-sama! Now!" Once again, she tried to run. Once again, she stopped. Her colleague wasn't moving. Instead, he was gazing serenely into the crimson blaze.

"Look." With her eyes she followed the tanned finger pointing into the midst of the flames. Three figures were beginning to emerge. "Who are they?"

You had to squint to see them.

"Umm..." Forgetting both instructions and instincts, she racked her brain for the information. "Kakashi's Team Seven. Uzumaki Naruto, Uchiha Sasuke, and...that pink-haired girl. What's-her-name. Haruno something, wasn't it?" The man nodded sagely, calmly, half-listening, seeming almost proud as he watched the children approach.

"Yep."

His tone as unfettered as eternity, gleaming with a hint of satisfaction.

"Always knew those two boys had potential."

FINIS.


Bathing in Blood

29. Credits

Acknowledging all my reviewers for the sequel to Puppet in Pink!

(in no particular order)

Noca-sama (aka Hina-sama)...for giving excellent tips on the non-existent fight scenes

Mad-killer-bunnies-alert-sama (aka MKRA-sama)

Kage-Rebirth-sama (aka Kage-sama)...for having a cat!

XiaXue-sama

Maya Amano-sama

Shiroi Hikari-sama

Sailor Tiamat-sama

xx-Tsumi-chan-xx-sama

lostfreakfound-sama

dobyuk princess-sama

Hyourin Kage-sama

deity of death1-sama

Adyen-sama

Ashley-sama

Fwoggie-sama

lonewolf-chica-sama

Red Crow-sama

faLLen-dreamz-sama

waterfox96-sama

Icy Lullaby-sama

BloodLasts4Ever-sama

Jingle Bells-sama

Phoe-chan-sama

tjal-sama

unmoving-sama

HikaruOfArrow-sama

ArrowOfHikaru-sama

Search and Seek and Destroy-sama

Rhythmic-sama

Miyano Shiho-sama

catc10-sama

legacyZero-sama

zero25-sama

silver dark rose-sama

PGRS-sama

Grummur-sama

Ewz-sama

kira-924-sama

Lady Light-sama

hikariko-sama

sonydjsnmix-sama

aNiMeaNgEl-sama

Shinobi Sakura-sama

insert catchy name here-sama

KKO-sama

Anime freak-sama

3-sama

LadyofDarknes-sama

WickedFantasies-sama

BBKarateGrl-sama


I hope I didn't forget anyone...even if I did, I want to say this: You guys are the best! If you didn't like the story, you told me so, without coming across as offensive. If you did like the story, you told me so, and gave me all kinds of ideas, suggestions, and comments. You also had to put up with my laziness, forgetfulness, and occasional randomness. For that, I must apologize. (bows) Can't possibly thank you enough!