poket: Thank you for your review. I want to assure you that my intention was not to shorten Sasuke and Sakura's appearance in the story in favor of Itachi and Rika. The purpose of the last chapter was to get some plot twists set into motion and the scene between Itachi and Rika was there because their separation will bring about certain consequences later in the story. I just need to get some necessary things going before I can focus more on the main couple.

Chaos and then silence.

At first the castle was so loud that there seemed to be a rioting mob running about and then just as suddenly as the commotion started; it stopped. All that was left was a frightening sort of muteness. It was as if the very palace itself was holding it's breath in anticipation of some horrible event that would ignite all the tension in the air – with disastrous results.

Sakura had been awoken not two hours before by Sasuke on his way out of their room. An important meeting had been called and he was required to attend. She had not been conscious when the servant came to tell Sasuke his presence was needed in the council room, so she had no idea what this sudden meeting was about. She couldn't imagine what was so important that it had to be discussed in the middle of the night. However, the look on Sasuke's face when he left told her that something was very wrong.

Her mate was a reserved person by nature. His expression was always that of a mask of perfect indifference to the world around him. Even she, who knew him better than anyone else, had problems reading him sometimes. So, to see his emotions so openly upon his face was a shocking and serious thing. It was this more than anything else that inspired her anxiety.

Instead of doing what her mate told her to do and going back to sleep, she couldn't even if she tried, she decided to see what she could find out on her own. Though apparently she wasn't the only one with that idea. As soon as she turned the first corner in the hallway outside of her room she ran into Hinata. The former Hyuuga informed her that she had heard some rumors but she suggested going somewhere private to discuss them, which was how they ended up in the Royal Library. To both of their surprise Rika was already there when they arrived. The way she was curled up into one of the chairs implied that she had been using it for a rather uncomfortable bed.

"What's going on?" Rika, now awake, looked back and forth between the female vampires. Her expression was one of surprise and mild embarrassment.

"That's what I would like to know." Sakura muttered, collapsing into the plush chair beside her soon-to-be-sister.

Hinata threw a nervous look over her shoulder at the library doors, assuring herself that they were locked. "I believe something terrible has happened." Her hand came down to protectively caress her rounded stomach, as was her habit whenever she became upset.

Sakura shared a worried look with Rika and then turned again to face her friend, her voice gentle, "Hinata, what has happened?"

"We . . . the Forbidden . . . it's been invaded."

Sakura slumped back in her seat, her shock made her unable to ask for further explanation. Invaded? By who? When? Why?

"I heard Itachi when he came to our room to fetch Naruto. I knew it had to be something horrible because he looked . . . well he looked half dead," Hinata continued, oblivious to the look of pain on Rika's face at the mention of her lover's name. Sakura however noticed and added that to the long list of things about the night that needed explaining. "He said that we had been invaded by a human army and that they had already launched multiple attacks upon our outer cites."

"What? Why would they do that?" Sakura regained her voice, "What do they hope to accomplish by this?"

"There have always been humans who wanted to invade the Forbidden. Mostly slayers and the people who live closest to the boarder." Rika replied, avoiding the gaze of her friends. She knew it hadn't been too long ago since she was aboard a slayer ship herself. "They're scared. People are always frightened by what they don't understand. Whenever something goes wrong, they blame the horrible creatures from the Forbidden. They believe that vampires and creatures like you are inherently evil. They think that if they wipe you guys out, they'll be safe."

"Safe? Safe from what?"

Rika shrugged. "Everything. If a baby goes missing, there's no investigation – the fairies took the child. If a man is dead near a body of water – a naiad drowned him. If a husband becomes violent with his wife – he's been possessed by a demon. If a woman can't conceive – a jealous witch has put a hex on her."

"That's ridiculous!" Hinata exclaimed in a rare moment of fury.

"It is." Rika agreed. "But it's easier to blame things that you've been taught were evil than to suspect your neighbors or your own family."

"What does this mean?" Sakura looked to Hinata, "For us? For the entire Forbidden?"

"It means war."

The sentence was said softly, as if the very action of saying the words themselves would bring instant chaos. The room remained completely silent while it's occupants absorbed it's meaning.

"What are we going to do?" Rika asked. The declaration had come with an overwhelming sense that she had to do something.

"I don't know." Hinata whispered. "Naruto . . . Naruto will fight. He, Sasuke, Itachi, Sai, Kakashi . . . they'll all fight." Both of her arms were wrapped around her stomach now. "I can't. I . . . the baby . . ."

Sakura slipped out of her chair to kneel in front of her friend, her hands resting over Hinata's. "It'll be okay. You and the baby, you'll be okay. Naruto would never let anything happen to you."

"I know," tears of worry were in the her eyes now, "he'll die before he lets anything hurt me. He might die. I need him – we need him!"

"Shh." Sakura embraced the frightened female, "Naruto will be just fine. You know he's much too stubborn to die." Her voice tried for mocking gaiety but fell a bit flat.

Hinata sniffled. "Yes. Of course he will." She laughed, a little weak sound. "Look at me, this pregnancy has me all emotional. Emotional, tired all the time, sick, sore and just crazy."

Sakura started to smile but stopped. Tired all the time. . . emotional . . .

"Sakura?" Rika asked, "Are you all right?"

"I don't know." Sakura frowned, "Hinata, how did you know you were pregnant?"

Sasuke clenched his fists below the table. The emergency meeting had been in session for over an hour now and nothing was getting done. His people, innocent civilians, were out there dying while the ignorant old buffoons who called themselves aristocrats were in the palace arguing. He looked over at Itachi who was sitting on the right hand side of their father. His older brother seemed to be just as frustrated as he was.

"Silence!" Fugaku stood, his hands braced on the table in front of him.

The room became quiet. The Vampire King always had a way of commanding the unquestioning obedience of everyone around him. Even the foreign dignitaries stopped talking and listened when he spoke.

"Why must we continue to repeat the obvious?" His cold eyes took in everyone in the room, "We have been invaded. The humans have declared war upon us."

"What do you mean they have declared war upon us? From what I hear they've only attacked vampire cities." King Kieryn smirked, his posture that of lazy amusement. "I fail to see how this involves us at all. Seems like a personal problem to me Your Majesty." The King's remark led to mumbled agreements by leaders of the other races.

Fugaku's stare hardened, and Sasuke swore he saw a glimpse of fear in the Fey King. "A personal problem?" His father's voice was cold as ice, "Will it still be a personal problem when they attack your people? Or are you naïve enough to believe that it is only the vampires they are after and not the entire Forbidden?"

"How are we naïve?" Asked Queen Aveen. "The humans have given us no reason to suspect that they intend to harm anyone else."

"No reason to suspect?" Itachi growled, rising from his seat as well. "What do you think they're after? Revenge? We've done nothing to them. Our land? We have no resources they don't already have themselves. No. Haven't you been listening? They're here for one simple reason: extermination of everything non-human. Once the vampires are wiped out they'll come for the fey, the werewolves, the demons, the witches and wizards. They won't stop until we're all gone."

Sasuke had never seen Itachi so angry and strung out. The crown prince looked like he was already dead. Despite his fury, his brother looked weary and anguished. It looks like everything's going to shit at once.

Suddenly Minato jumped out of his chair. "Itachi's right! This concerns all of us. We need to come together and destroy them before they destroy all of us."

"Yeah!" Naruto quickly yelled out in support of his father. He looked as angry as Sasuke felt. "Let's get these bastards! Who's with us?"

A low hum of muttering broke out as all the leaders of the Forbidden conspired with each other.

"We'll help." High Witch Edessa stood. "We won't fight but we'll serve you as healers."

Fugaku nodded, accepting her offer of assistance and thanking her. "Anyone else?"

The room fell silent.

"There is no one else then?" Sasuke growled, "No one else brave enough to fight?"

"It's not a matter of bravery, Prince Sasuke." King Taygen said, "How can I ask my people to give their lives when I'm not fully sure they are in any danger?"

"You can ask them," Itachi said, "because they will die anyway."

For a moment the Werewolf King looked astonished but then he shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry, I can't." He rose from his chair and left the room, his wife following close behind. Soon, all the other monarchs followed him, one-by-one.

When the door clicked closed after the final one left, Minato looked at his old friend. "Well Fugaku, it looks like it's just you, me, and Edessa here."

"It would seem so."

Kushina, who had remained silent the entire meeting finally spoke up. "We'll do all we can. However, it will take time to muster our troops and march here."

Mikoto nodded. "Thank you. We'll launch a defense while we wait for you to arrive."

Sasuke sighed and walked over to stand next to his brother. Tomorrow, the war would begin.

Short but with purpose I suppose.

Note: Updates might be slow for a while. My grandmother recently had open heart surgery and due to her age her recovery has been slow. She needs a lot of assistance so my time has been of short supply as of late.