The fair kingdom on Konoha was renowned for its strong "Will of Fire" and its wondrous forces of mage knights; those stalwart protectors of the land that combined the use of magic and the deadly dance of combat into a flawless act of lethality. The strongest of these mage knights, Minato Namikaze had been granted rulership by the former king, Hiruzen Sarutobi, despite his son Asuma being more than able to take the throne. Asuma was more than happy to continue serving in the knights, where he felt that he would do the most good.

The prosperous and peaceful reign of Minato was sadly short lived, for two years after his crowning, on the very eve of his son's birth, the greatest threat to Konoha loomed on the horizon darkening even this joyous occasion. The legions of knights rode out with Minato at its head, leaving his lady wife in her birthing bed.

Sadly, victory was not to be had that day, and many knights perished as they strove to keep the demonic beast of a fox at bay, the nine tails tearing up vast stretches of the countryside. Until at last, it came upon Minato to perform the ultimate sacrifice for the kingdom. Retreating back, he went to the castle to prepare for his final act as King. He asked for the old king, Sarutobi to retake the throne in his absence, and to watch over his wife and child.

Heading to his chambers to gather the necessary supplies, he paused a moment to visit his wife in her bed. He knew that he was going to sacrifice not only his life, but also the future happiness of his child, but his wife and Sarutobi would be there to ensure he grew up to be a wise and brave mage knight, and one day he may just surpass his father.

Leaning down he kissed his wife's forehead gently, and looked into her shimmering green eyes tenderly. Before he could open his mouth to explain, the former princess of the Whirlpool kingdom smiled that sad, sweet smile of hers and nodded. She knew, as she always did, she knew his heart and that he loved her. He stole but one final kiss before walking over to the bassinet that held his son. His sunshine yellow hair seemed to signal the new dawn to come after this night of terror was over, and the calmness by which he curled into his father made Minato want to turn away, to steal the two of them into the night and leave everything to the destruction the beast would wrought.

It was then that his son slapped a hand on the symbol of Konoha that was emblazoned on his chest, reminding him that he had a duty that his honor demanded he fill. Looking at his wife one last time he blew a kiss and strode out the door, never to return. As he walked towards the fox, his son cradled in one hand, he watched the knights falling back from the demonic beast assailing them. With barely a thought, he summoned up his most powerful ally, a mighty red and orange toad-like being known as a Slaad named Gamabunta, dressed as a knight. The Slaad accepted his rider without a comment and carried him onward towards their destiny.

The battle was of a scale to never be seen again, Gamabunta with his flashing sword, slashing into the demon while Minato hurled his mightiest spells at the beast. Finally, an opening was created, while the beast plucked up a massive tree to hurl at the Slaad. Minato completed the sealing with a blinding flash of light, just as the tree passed over him by inches. Even as the demon fox disappeared into his son, Minato felt the darkness coming to claim him. No word was needed to communicate to Gamabunta, who carefully lowered the two towards the ground.

The Slaad let out a mournful croaking noise, signaling the loss of his summoner even as he disappeared from view. Shortly after the coldness claimed Minato's mortal form, a powerful cry of a babe filled the night's air, summoning a single knight to investigate. The knight, a loyal man of ignoble birth named Ibiki, picked up the babe from Minato's cold fingers and saluted him.

He carried the sniffling baby back to the castle, not slowing a step, even as he saw a giant tree sticking out of the window that had once housed the king's lady wife. Finally, he stopped in front of Sarutobi, holding out the baby carefully, his normally gruff and emotionless face mournful.

Sarutobi held the baby carefully close, watching as it pulled into him for warmth. So much would be asked of this baby thought dead. With so much death, the entire kingdom was in shambles trying to rebuild. If he was known as Minato's child, those hunting the survivors of Whirlpool and those angry at Minato for his role in wars past would never leave this child at rest. He would be killed before his first birthday if his lineage was known without the protection his parents could have given.

Sarutobi looked at the loyal knights surrounding him with a grave face, he shook his head and gave it to a young boy whose parents had just been killed this very night, Iruka was his name. Already the boy was holding him as he might a younger brother, which to Sarutobi was a good sign, they would both go to the orphanage together until Iruka was skilled enough in his father's trade to take an apprentice, and then Sarutobi would try and help Naruto be chosen for that role. But first he had to command his loyal knights to do something that killed his hearts of hearts.

"From this day forth, the lineage of Naruto Namikaze is to be banished from you tongues, upon pain of death," Sarutobi commanded his eyes steel, "The boy will be raised as Naruto Uzumaki, his wife's surname, and be treated as another orphan of Konoha. I know this pains you, but by doing so, we are protecting him from the assassins that would see he not reach his first year. Further, the knowledge that the great demon was sealed in him is forbidden to be spoken of to the citizens. They would misunderstand, as they do much about the mage knights."

Sarutobi thought on his last words carefully, mage knights had started as a secret order of commoners who trained in magic aided combat to combat the growing threat that the nobles posed as the only ones trained in combat. The magic compensated for the lack of training the commoners could commit to, and give them an advantage over the strictly mundane combat knights or the powerful spellcasters. Long ago, the mage knights had turned into the nobles that they had been created to combat; haughty, secretive clans vying for power with the cost of commoner blood. Maybe it was time to return to the roots of mage knights, and the babe sleeping in Iruka's arms could just be the means to do so. After all, Minato's seal had been designed to grant the child access to the incredible magic in the beast as he aged.

Putting a hand on Iruka's shoulder, he nodded his head towards the door. "Iruka..." Sarutobi stated kindly, startling the lad slightly that he knew his name, "Why don't you go and see if there is a midwife in the hospital to help you get the baby fed, we will tend to your new living arrangements tomorrow, as I am certain young Naruto needs his rest... and I dare say you could use time to mourn the loss of four magnificent and brave Konoha citizens." Looking up he signaled his weapons master Hayate to take Iruka and Naruto. "Gekko, please aide these two... the rest of you are dismissed."

As everyone filed out of the room, he pulled Hayate aside and whispered to him. "In the morning, bring my son Asuma, and that young dragon rider Anko to my war room, I wish to discuss plans with the three of you."

Hayate gave him a salute and exited, carefully escorting the two young boys along. Sarutobi meanwhile, headed for his war room to prepare for the morrow, as his plans would all hinge on being more prepared than the others. Oh, how he wished that his spymaster Jiraiya was still around, but he was tracking the traitorous dragon rider Orochimaru, Anko's own master. And that matter would be the best use of his services. He even wished to the great healer Tsunade was around to help raise the child, but she had foresworn returning after the last war. The last report of her was that she was drinking somewhere in the kingdom, and losing all her money in foolish gambles.

Still, it wouldn't hurt to send them a missive, asking their return at their earliest convenience. Setting down at the desk, he penned out the requests. Letting out a pair of sharp whistles, he summoned two of the swift birds used to pass messages around the kingdom. Tying a missive to each bird's leg, he spoke softly, ordering them to find Jiraiya and Tsunade and deliver the message. The intelligent birds nodded once before flying away into the night's sky, set on their mission.

Sighing, Sarutobi set to his night's task. The long and laborious process of using the council to form a new breed of mage knights, without them being any the wiser to the task. Already three suits of armor sprang to mind, one a dashing fox designed one for Naruto to wear. The second, a weapon master's suit, designed to aid in close in combat, preferably a pupil of Hayate's. The final, a spellweaver's suit, to aid in magical combat; where the major power would be flung. Yes, this squad would be good to defend Konoha from without as well as within. He would need someone he could trust implicitly to command them, but wasn't a publically known knight them self. That was where Anko would come in, she was forbidden from the council to become a knight, but as a mage knight she could serve the kingdom that she loved, even if they did not love her in return.

He would have to tell the masters of the young ones chosen, but that would come later on in the plan. For now he had to lay the foundation of everything. As he was gathering his thoughts, and scribing notes, he decided that when the others were chosen, he would give them appropriate animals for their armor.

The next day would be dawn on the devastated Konoha, but from that ruin would ignite a burning new hope, as the 'Will of Fire' passed onto the next generation. The age of the old mage knights was coming to an end, the new one was about to begin.