"Yes, but it's Stalin's version of democracy."
"Which is communism."
"Which isn't democracy at all."
"Stalin's version of democracy: you can vote for Stalin, or… you can vote for Stalin. Or you can get a bullet in the neck."

- After I asked about Poland and the Yalta conference: the usual guy, my teacher, someone else, the usual guy again.

o.o.o.o.o

The Konoha Teams:

Naruto, Ino, Neji, Yamato (diplomatic team).

Sakura, Shino, TenTen, Hinata (Sanbi team).

Yamato and Sakura were/are prepared to switch teams if so necessary.

o.o.o.o.o

"What are you doing here, un?" Deidara demanded, folding her arms under her chest. Tobi stood next to her, quiet after a hissed reprimand. Even Tobi could look suitably intimidating if he just stayed quiet and folded his arms.

"We're here to secure the Sanbi… and hopefully talk to you." Naruto's words were cautious, and the tension grew…

"Deidara-sempai, look! It's a butterfly!" Tobi shoved a mangled mess of an insect towards Deidara.

Silence reigned.

"That's… nice, un. Get it out of my face."

"But it's so pretty!"

"It's crushed and disgusting and oozing guts, un."

"B-but…!"

"You're being a bad boy, Tobi." Deidara said, as though it was the end of the discussion.

"No! Tobi can't be a bad boy! Tobi's a good boy! Tobi just—Tobi can't—aagh!" He ran off into the forest, arms flailing.

Deidara sighed and shook her head, turning her attention back to the Konoha teams. She sweatdropped when she noticed that they were all staring after Tobi.

"Uh… you may not want to take him too seriously, un." Deidara chuckled awkwardly. "He's a lot better than he pretends to be, un. I think so, at least. He's a bit strange, sometimes, un…"

She trailed off, tapping her chin and staring off into the distance with a thoughtful look on her face. The whole pose was calculated, of course. By acting the way she was, Deidara was implying a certain level of intelligence, caring, and reserve. She was being thoughtful, and she was implying fondness for Tobi, in a manner that was almost maternal, or just sisterly. Deidara knew how she was supposed to act to gain someone trust or sympathy, particularly someone from a village like Konohagakure.

"Right…" The one that spoke that time was the eldest. Deidara turned her head to stare at him inquisitively. All she needed to do was keep them occupied, lull them into a false sense of security… and then snap up and remind them of just why she was considered an S-rank criminal.

"So… you know, you could, like, actually tell me why you wanted to talk to me, un." Deidara folded her arms under her chest, visible eyebrow raised as she fixed a stare on the team in front of her. She didn't miss the small hand movement that the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki sent to the others, causing one of the teams to scurry off under the supposed cover of a genjutsu. Too bad, really. She was having fun with them. Deidara probably wouldn't have noticed the genjutsu, but even if she only trained one eye against genjutsu, the other had gotten fairly adept at the practice as well.

The Jinchuuriki, part of the team that was still there, stood slightly taller. "Why are you part of Akatsuki?"

Deidara blinked, and then tilted her head to the side, mulling the question over. "Well… because I feel like it? I mean, I didn't join because I wanted to, but I don't really want to leave now, so…" she shrugged. "I got dragged in because I lost a bet against Itachi, and now I'm staying because I care about some of the people that are in the organization. Do you ask everyone this?"

"…You lost a bet? You joined a criminal organization because you lost a bet?" The girl, who looked rather similar to Deidara as far as hair and a few other things went (wait a second… this was the Yamanaka girl that she'd met a while ago! Back in chapter… 9? Wow, that was a while ago…) seemed almost outraged. Well, it wasn't Deidara's fault. Hmph.

You do realize you just broke the fourth wall again, right?

Deidara ignored the author's voice.

Let me guess, don't want to look crazy in front of the enemy?

Deidara didn't answer.

Pity. Can you at least confirm that you can still hear me? Just, like, blink a few times?

Deidara fluttered her eyes as though a piece of dust had entered it somehow, and raised a hand to rub at the uncovered one to fool the Konoha nin.

Oh, okay. I was actually getting a little worried for a second.

"Are you okay?"

Deidara stared down at the Kyuubi Jinchuuriki, eyes clouded with apparent confusion. "Uh… yes? Stop being so nice, un. It's creepy. I tried to kill you, and you did the same back, un, so stop being nice. It's just weird, okay, un?"

The Jinchuuriki's face turned… conflicted, maybe? There was a tiny bit of anger (but not directed at Deidara), and… was that pity?

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wipe that look off your face, okay, un? I don't know why you feel like you need to pity me, so stop, un. It's annoying."

The Jinchuuriki's eyes narrowed, as though in thought, and then he brought his gaze back to Deidara. "Are you sick?"

"…What?"

"You said something was wrong with your head. Are you sick? Mentally?"

"Oh…" Deidara shrugged. "Well, yeah. It's not too bad, though. I've got medication for most of it, un."

"Most of it?" It was the Yamanaka girl again, and she was slowly edging closer. Well, she was probably interested in the subject if she was a Yamanaka, right? They were mind-based shinobi, the worst and best kind of infiltrators.

Deidara shrugged again, making no move to acknowledge the small niggling feeling in the back of her mind that Tobi was about to bring his fight with the Sanbi out into the open. "Meh. Pyromania's actually useful in my line of work, or at least it isn't too bad, so we don't really bother with controlling that part, un. Point is, I've got it under control. You mind your business, and I'll mind mine until we have to interact because of the bad tempered fuzzball in your gut, un." Deidara pointed at Naruto's stomach as she said that, smirking as her lone eye locked with his.

He narrowed his own eyes, but there was an unsure look in them as well. Then his resolve seemed to harden, and Deidara blinked at the change.

"Come to Konoha with us."

Silence reigned for several seconds, as Deidara just stared at them, almost uncomprehending, though she understood the request all too well. Then she laughed.

"Are you insane, un? No. No, no, a thousand times no. Maybe I would have agreed a few years ago, but now, un? H*** no." She shook her head, still giggling a little. "Unless you're willing to take in all of Akatsuki, which isn't going to happen since Leader kind of hates your village, that's totally not happening, un."

"You said you were forced into the organization." The oldest one pointed out.

"Uh, yeah, which is why you might've succeeded a few years ago, un. Not now, though, 'cause I actually care about people in Akatsuki now, un. Too little, too late, so… too bad!" She pulled down an eyelid and stuck her tongue out at them, grinning.

"And how do you know that you weren't brainwashed into thinking that? How do you know that they aren't taking advantage of your mental instability?" The Yamanaka girl again. At least she seemed to understand part of what she was talking about, which was more than could be said for many people.

Thought the silence and unending stare coming from the Hyuuga kid were a little creepy. You know, just a little.

"It could be Stockholm Syndrome, you know." The girl edged closer, eyes slightly narrowed. Oh, so she did know what she was saying.

"Maybe," Deidara shrugged. "But I honestly can't bring myself to care by this point, un. Besides, the authoress is getting a little antsy. We should really move this along a little, un."

How nice of you to care.

"Besides, hello, un. My job is to catch bijuu, like the one in you, kid, un." Deidara stabbed a finger in Naruto's direction. "You're honestly trying to get to me like that, un? Yeah, I get what you're saying, but there is literally no chance of you managing to get me to Konoha unless you drag me, kicking and screaming all the way, un. And considering I'm an S-rank? Not happening, un."

And then she chuckled again, having a little too much fun because they didn't seem to know what to say in response to her. She knew she was confusing them, and was quite happy with it. Deidara tilted her head again, smiling in a way that just promised mischief as a hand discreetly dipped into her clay pouch. "But for now, I've got a different creature to take, un. Buh-bye!"

She spun around and whipped her hand out in front of her, bringing it back in towards her chest for a hand sign to make the bird grow. It was a good idea, really, to keep at least one bird primed for travel in situations like these.

Deidara jumped up onto the bird's back and flew up, whipping around sharply to face the Konoha ninja again. She shouted down at them, the same mad grin as always in place. "It's time to playa game!"

And then Tobi showed up, with the Sanbi hot on his heels.

"Sempai, Tobi found the ball!"

o.o.o.o.o

Hinata and Shino were "former" members of Team Eight, now Team Kurenai, which meant that they were known for being good trackers. Thankfully, this was one mission where Kiba was not a necessity (as he normally was, given that his ability to track scent was very useful in concerns to people, though not spontaneously created demons), and Hinata and Shino's ability to see and track chakra respectively were extremely useful in finding the Sanbi. Unfortunately, by the time they had tracked down the area of the extremely large lake from which the Sanbi had emerged, it had already disappeared elsewhere.

So they went further with the tracking, one way, then the other, as they followed the chakra trails (which only ever really appeared behind people and creatures with disturbingly large chakra reserves like bijuu, boss summons, and S-ranks) that the beast had left behind.

They finally caught up to it, TenTen unraveling the scroll that Jiraiya had given them, and trying not to squeal over the complexity of it as she did so, when they found out the problem.

Yes, they had found the Sanbi.

But they had also found a man who was, despite his apparent stupidity, managing to keep the Sanbi occupied without any injury to himself or the beast.

Oh, and he was wearing an Akatsuki cloak, too.

TenTen had tried to sneak up on it, to seal it into the scroll (and later the more secure pot that Jiraiya had created back in Konoha), but the man, who was named Tobi if his speech was anything to go by, had caught sight of her.

Thus had begun a slightly slapstick chase, full of many events that would not have been out of place in an old Charlie Chaplain film, which eventually lead them to the clearing that they had started out in, where conversation apparently hadn't moved much because everyone was still on guard, and wait a second, what was she shouting?

"It's time to play a game!"

"Sempai, Tobi found the ball!"

Oh, Kami.

o.o.o.o.o

Deidara grinned down at the people below, even Tobi, as she flew around above them. This was far more fun than she had expected. Yes, getting a bijuu was difficult, but to have a decent fight with a human being, or beings, while she was at it?

She almost lazily dropped a few bombs down on the Konoha nin, grinning as they scattered. Then the old guy made a few hand signs, and slabs of wood came out of the ground and started looping around the Sanbi. Little by little, its power seemed to drain.

Deidara frowned at that; they were stealing her kill. And who knew how Pein would react if she failed to bring the thing in?

"Tobi, get up here, un!"

Three seconds was a little long, but Tobi got there anyway.

"Sempai?"

"Get ready to teleport back to base with the Sanbi as soon as it's under control, un. Got it?"

"Okay, sempai!" Tobi jumped off the bird, arms flailing on the way.

Deidara looked down at the milling battle on the ground, which seemed to be Konoha against… everyone else present. She sent out a few more bombs, and then noticed that part of the Sanbi seemed to be… getting sucked away?

Her eyes narrowed on the girl with the scroll, who was slowly sealing the Sanbi away with the Mokuton nin's help. Oh, no. This just wouldn't do, would it, now?

Deidara sent out several C1 in their direction, and several more to separate the others from the Sanbi. She dived down on the bird, homing in on the still-thrashing form of the giant turtle, and trusting that Tobi was ready for transport and had kept himself from being destroyed by the bombs.

He was, but there was a tearing feeling as they were transported back to base, the large teleport using up almost all of Tobi's chakra.

Deidara glanced at the Sanbi, which was no longer thrashing, but now groaning.

"Did you hypnotize it, un?"

Tobi shook his head weakly.

Deidara frowned and sensed for the Sanbi's chakra.

Her eyes widened.

S***.

They'd only gotten the Yang half.

o.o.o.o.o

A/N: So both sides half-failed the mission, but accomplished part of the objectives.

Did anyone see that coming?

Ja ne,

Phoenix