Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Zero no Tsukaima. If I did, I wouldn't be here…

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Intertwined

A Naruto-ZnS FanFiction by
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

Chapter 1

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Konohagakure, Grand Council Chamber

Four years after the Calamity of the Fox

He wondered for the umpteenth why exactly he had kept his job. He should have known things would have turned up like this – this certainly wasn't the first time, after all – and he could only sigh as the entire council room roared in arguments. I should be enjoying my nice retirement… but Oh no, Kami forbid. He was tempted to pull ranks on them all, but he very well knew that that was only a temporary solution. They would start to bicker again as soon as he stopped… such was the nature of men.

He was Sandaime Hokage, the chosen undisputed leader of Konohagakure. He shouldn't have to sit here and listen to these utterly simple civilians argue about what he should do and not do. Curse you, Minato. Curse you and your heroics. Curse you for leaving us so early.

If only the Calamity hadn't happened…

The current debate was, of course, about their little blond problem. These simpletons just could not see reason in leaving the poor child be – it wasn't good enough for them that the child was already treated like a leper amongst the villagers, despite his best efforts to curb the hatred towards the child. The few supports he had (mostly made of the head of the ninja clans) were vastly outnumbered in the Council room, where everyone was treated as 'equal', despite their background. I wish the Shodaime hadn't created such a rule… Hence the current situation: the Hokage's authority notwithstanding, the majority of the council was demanding for the Hokage to remove the threat.

This wouldn't have been a problem if the child was a ninja – the fate of all ninja fell under the absolute jurisdiction of the Hokage – but the reality was that the child was of mere civilian status, and there wasn't anything Sandaime could do for him other than try to shield the child from being exposed to the secret everyone else knew but him.

And then there was Danzou…

-Four days ago-

It wasn't everyday Danzou of all people visited him. The 'old-warhawk' as everyone referred to behind closed doors, Danzou wasn't known for having many friends or asking for favors; which was why the Sandaime was caught flatfooted when Danzou asked a favor of all things from him.

"Allow me to train the young Uzumaki, Sarutobi-sama." Danzou's face was as if carved out of stone – his bandaged face, though the wounds have healed long ago, was a reminder of his loyalty to the village. Sarutobi disliked his somewhat radical approach to matters, but he did indeed respect the man's experience and loyalty.

Danzou, if nothing, was loyal.

"Whatever for, old friend?" Sandaime leisurely lit his pipe, and took a relaxing breath as he leaned back in his chair. His solid obsidian eyes regarded the crippled man in front of him with certain amount of authority. Though age seemed to be catching up to him in the form of crow's feet near his eyes, the Sandaime Hokage was not one to be underestimated. "I am afraid I do not understand your intentions; the Uzumaki child has been left in the best care possible for an orphaned child of Calamity of the Fox."

The unspoken question hung in the air – why do you need Uzumaki? Danzou held his wizened leader with impassive eyes, his dark eyes betraying nothing. "I merely wish to capitalize on the potential the boy possesses. It would be such a waste to let -"

"I do hope you are talking about Naruto's uncanny talent in consuming his noodles… because it would pain me so to behead the head of my ANBU corps over such a trivial matter." Sandaime breathed in his home-grown tobacco with unnatural calm. Sandaime's message was clear – even you are not exempt from my law. Danzou's eyes narrowed slightly at the casual display of power, but he had an objective to accomplish. He was already in dangerous waters, but this had to be done.

"With all due respect Hokage-sama, I have my reasons for bringing up such a sensitive topic. We have reasons to believe that other Great Villages are moving to oppose us once more."

Sandaime's brows furrowed at this, his visage one of grim determination, vestige of Wars of the past. This is interesting. "Under what grounds are you insinuating this?" The topic of war with other Villages was a sensitive topic, as many clans and families suffered throughout the various Ninja Wars of the past. No one wanted the repeat of a war, nor did they want to be reminded of them. To accuse the other villages of ill-intentions was serious matter, with certain amount of risk, politically especially – at best, you were correct and things were in deep waters, and at worst you'd lose all credibility and be labeled as a warmonger. Danzou of all people knew this personally, but he wasn't one to care for himself – as all good ninjas are taught, the Village came first. He spoke with great conviction, and was determined to prove his case.

"My… intelligence network tells me of unofficial alliance between the Iwa and Kumo, 'official' as of yesterday noon. Both countries seem to be stocking up for either a very long winter, or provisions worthy of feeding tens of thousands of soldiers." Sandaime nodded without missing a beat, despite Danzou's reference to his 'personal' ANBU battalion, the Ne. He knew of them, and despite what many (it's a relative term, as those who knew of Ne were few and far in between in the first place) might believe it was actually the Sandaime himself who sanctioned the creation of the secret ANBU team in the first place. There were jobs too dirty even for the vaunted ANBU corps to handle, and that's where the Ne came in. As they didn't exist officially, they were the best to deal with many problems that were too… sensitive to deal with even in secrecy. They hardly ever failed a mission given to them, and when they did fail they left no trace of evidence that could be traced back to Konoha. All in all, he felt it was one of the better decisions he made over the last decade. It seems that placing Danzou in charge was the right decision after all…

"But the most concrete evidence would be this," Danzou continued as he pulled out a manila folder from the hem of his dark robe. Sandaime opened the folder with no preamble, but what he found within the document was something that would destroy whatever chance of peace left in the fragile relationship between the bitter rivaling villages. Sandaime gently set his pipe down next to the picture of his darling family, as he caught Danzou's eye in a meaningful gaze. "Is this true?"

"Without a doubt, Hokage-sama. This information was given to us directly from one of the Iwa council members, whose daughter we hold in leverage. He assured us with his life that this information is correct, and that there are plans being set into motions that would jeopardize our position as a Great Ninja Village." Danzou hoped Sandaime would see things his way – Konohagakure has been peaceful far too long, and had grown stagnant in their defenses despite his best efforts at keeping the village alert to external threats. And the rumors of a child of death in Kumo did not help things…

It was time to cultivate a secret weapon of their own.

"Hence my request, Hokage-sama. With all due respect, leaving a child of such potential untrained would be making mockery of his heritage, as well as Yondaime's sacrifice. I believe that it is especially in times like these that we must be prepared for everything." Danzou knew he was treading in dangerous waters.

Sandaime said nothing as he mulled over Danzou's words. Tense silence settled between the old rivals, the clashing of decades-old invisible ideals filling the room with oppressive aura.

"I will consider it."

Long after Danzou had left his office, Sandaime silently observed the five little words: The snake lies in Lightning.

-Present time-

Sandaime sighed once more as he tried to sooth his growing headache. He had to admit, his old rival had brought up a very logical point. If Orochimaru had indeed allied himself with the Kumogakure, and the movement of troops across the continents are accurate as reported…

War was inevitable.

If Konohagakure was to survive the oncoming tides of war, it was vital that the village stand together as one. That had been the key to the past victories over the years, and this time wouldn't be different.

Sacrifices are necessary sometimes… and I will kill my heart once more for the sake of my village.

I am so sorry, Naruto.

It was right there and then, the most important decision of the decade was made in Sandaime's name.

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Konohagakure, October 10th

Four years after the Calamity of the Fox

October 10th was the faithful day of Calamity. With each passing year, people mourned for the loss of their brave warriors against the attack of the mighty Kyuubi no Yoko, Biju of legends. This was the day when the Nine-tailed fox was sealed into an infant's belly at the cost of their venerable leader, Yondaime Hokage. After weeks of fighting with mounting casualties against the indomitable malevolence, their hatred for the spiritual being was almost inhuman in nature. It was only natural that they had demanded the death of the sacrificed child; for the good of village, they shouted, for everyone who has died against that monster!

Well, after four long years of having to withstand the blond monstrosity, their wishes were being granted.

October 10th, the day the Kyuubi no Yoko was defeated, would also be the day its spawn would meet its miserable end.

It was made public for all to see – for everyone who've grieved for the loss of their loved ones from the Calamity of the Fox to see their tormentor burn to ashes. There, in the middle of a town square was a square construct of wood specifically designed to hold and present the captive inside to the spectators, so that they may watch the one inside burn from start to finish. Within the construct lay a child of mere 4 years of age, his bright blue eyes panicked and frightened. He looked around confusedly, as if he didn't understand what was happening to him. He seemed to have a vague sense of what was going to happen to him, as he saw the gathered villagers' satisfactions on their faces and their loud, crazed hollering for the fire to be lit.

Then, a man with eyes that blazed with hatred for the child stepped forward, and lit a torch on fire. His face contorted to a monstrous grin as he slowly approached the pyre where the child was kept, his eyes never leaving the child's terrified face.

The blue, innocent eyes darted around wildly for help, for the old man, for the big ANBU guys, for anyone to step in and save him. He could only whimper as he regarded the fire that started to burn all around him. The heat was unbearable, and the loud chanting and cheers of the surrounding villagers only added to his confusion. Last thing he saw before he blacked out was the unbearable heat and the sad eyes of the old man Hokage.

It was so hot…

Uzumaki Naruto was being executed.

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Forests of Albion

Unknown Location

Tiffania had always wondered about her long, elegant ears. Why did she have to hide them? Oh, that's right.

She was a half-elf.

That seemed to be the source of majority of her life's problems, Tifa duly noted. She mused that had she not been born with these long ears she so longed to proudly display, she would be living a very different life. That is not to say that she was living a bad life – she supposed it could have been much worse – but sometimes she just couldn't help but to think of 'what if's. Sometimes she couldn't help but to think she should have died with her mother; her beautiful, brave, and kind-hearted elf-mother who had endured much injustice. Oh, how she missed her so.

Her mother had done nothing wrong, but she was murdered anyway. Her mother's existence would have been a terrible nuisance to the Royal Family of Albion, who'd rather have her mother killed than to have a scandal for having an elf as a mistress to the Duke of Treasury of all people. So her mother's existence was kept a quiet secret. Her beautiful mother, who had done nothing wrong but loving someone outside her race was locked away like a dirty little secret in the Duke's summer villa hidden away in the mountains. Hiding from the public, never stepping a foot outside, and always looking towards the door with a look of longing… It was painfully apparent that her mother longed for the forests, of the trees – the freedom. But she had endured it all, all for her husband who loved her.

'It's painful, but necessary my dear,' her father had once told Tiffania in secret. 'No one can know of her existence, no one can be trusted. We do not have many friends here… I hope you understand what I do is for your own benefit, you and your mother.' And Tiffania accepted this, and life wasn't too bad. Her mother taught her how to play instruments, and told her of grand stories of heroes of the past. Her father also came by sometimes with trinkets from faraway lands, and brought with it his smile and love for her. For a time, there was peace; her mother and herself, and sometimes the duke – the three of them led secluded but peaceful lives… for a while.

But one day, the Duke had stopped visiting them. Days, weeks passed by but there was only Tiffania and her mother in the household. Even the provisions suddenly stopped coming, and had to live off of nature's gifts using her mother's Nature magic to survive.

And then they came.

The Albion Royal Family's personal army had come knocking on their door, demanding the death of the Duke's mistress. Knights and soldiers armed with various weapons broke down the door and killed the measly guards the Duke had placed for protection in his villa. Her mother had hidden her away in the closet, and locked the door. Tiffania could still remember it so vividly… in her hands was the wand her father gave her long time ago, her lithe young fingers clasping around the handle of the magical artifact.

She heard the knights enter the room, and her mother spoke in a gentle manner. "'I will not resist. We elves do not want to fight."

Yet, they fired upon her. The merciless fools had opened fire upon her unarmed mother with brutal disregard for her kindness. She heard the sickening sound of impact of fire upon flesh, and had curled up into herself in fear. Then for a moment, there was silence, and she knew her mother was no more.

Then they tried to open the closet – and Tiffania could still remember the cold emotions she felt then, the horrid realization that she would meet the same fate as her mother…

Something inside her awoke just then.

When she came to herself Tiffania was all alone in a deep crater. It was already night outside, and she could distinctly see the stars displayed before her in all of their glory.

Everything was gone. The villa, the knights, her mother… strangely, the only thing left was the old melody box she used to play with. She had wondered what had happened there that night, but she didn't realize until much later.

Tiffania pulled herself out of the dark memories. Things are different now, she told herself. Though she was alone, she was never desperate for money or food – money, mainly because she lived deep inside the woods of Albion, where nothing but beasts and monsters lived. Food was always plentiful, as she had learned to harvest food from nature from her mother. She even had a nice little house she built all on her own, with furniture made out of wood and bed made from harvested cotton.

She led a peaceful life here in the woods, idyllic days passing by her as she delve into the power that had awoken inside of her that faithful day. But sometimes she had to wonder… if this was all that life could offer her.

It wasn't until a few weeks later life gave her an answer in the form of a near-dead swordsman.

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Author's Note: Dun. Dun. Dun.

Well, here's the prologue of my newest (and only) fanfic project. Things will be branching out in various different ways from much of the original Naruto timeline as well as Zero no Tsukaima, and they will be molded as I see fit.

And oh, did I just kill off Naruto? Hmm.

All feedbacks welcome.