24

Disclaimer: Prince of Tennis belongs to Konomi Takeshi, not me.

A/N: In the past I've procrastinated and put off updated for one or two months.. but this time.. I TOTALLY overdid it! I am soooooooooooooo very sorry!! How long's it been.. like half a year? Wow, I really sincerely apologize! Truthfully, though, I miss 24 so I'm glad I'm back. I really want to thank VampireGirl22 for telling me to get my lazy butt off the couch xD.. haha, thanks, that really knocked some senses into me and got me back into writing. Also thanks to Tuli-Susi, who basically told me the same thing. I will really really really try hard to update faster now. Sorry to all you readers!! Enjoy this new chapter!


"Echizen-kun."

"Hn." Echizen sat sprawled across the limousine seat with Karupin on his chest.

"We have to fit four more people in the back."

"So?"

"You're taking up three seats."

"Your point?"

Tachibana's eye twitched. He looked towards the other four for help. The other four included Eiji, Inui, Youhei and Kouhei.

Eiji nudged the first year. "Nya, Ochibi! If you don't move, I won't be able to come with you on this case!"

"Thank goodness..." Ryoma muttered.

"What was that, Ochibi? I didn't hear you, nya!" Eiji said.

Ryoma sighed. "Nevermind."

Youhei and Kouhei looked at each other and then shrugged.

Inui tried. "Echizen."

"..."

"If you don't move, we'll sit on you."

"..." Ryoma still didn't budge.

"That means that one of us will sit on Karupin too. You know how strong a cat's bones are? They are very easily broken, any one of us could just sit and then squish goes your Hima—"

Ryoma sat straight up in the seat and cradled his Karupin close to his body, keeping his distance from Inui, whose glasses glinted as he climbed into the limousine. Eiji clambered in too. Youhei and Kouhei snickered at Inui's coaxing tactics before following everyone else into the limousine. The chauffeur shut the door behind them.

Tachibana sat shotgun. The driver asked Tachibana where to go.

"Joseph Case Memorial Library," Tachibana stated. (1)

The driver nodded his head and pushed his shades back before starting up the limousine. Ryoma, sitting in the very corner, looked out the window and yawned while unconsciously petting Karupin with one hand.

He was interrupted from his nap when Tachibana spoke up. "Everyone, I'll explain to you the circumstances of this mission. First off, the item we're after today is called the Golden Book of Intuition. It is extremely rare, the only copy ever made. It is somewhere in Joseph Case but it is said to be heavily guarded and its exact location right now is unclear.

"The Corporation has already sent their team for it so we'll have to work quickly to reach the Book first. From what I saw a minute ago, their team consists of seven people. That's one more than us. We should be fine though, I picked you all to match your opponents well."

Tachibana looked at Inui, who pushed his glasses back.

"Alright," Inui began, "I've mapped out the entire Joseph Case building. I'll be in the getaway car, as always, to assist you guys. Youhei?"

Youhei nodded. He fumbled in his bag, took out six mini earphones and speaker clips. He distributed one of each to everyone. Ryoma watched and mimicked everyone else, who had already put their earphone in one ear and clipped their tiny speaker onto their shirt.

Inui continued. "I have your gadgets here in these pouches. Each of you should find what you need in it. Work together, remember, none of you can get the Book alone. Do it just like we always do it."

He handed out the black pouches. Everyone strung their pouches to their utility belts. Ryoma resisted his urge to look inside his, since no one else even showed the slightest sign of curiosity about what was in their pouches.

Tachibana turned around and tapped Inui's shoulder.

"We're here, minna," Inui announced. "Alright. Eiji, you start in the front entrance then to the reference desk. Tachibana-san, front entrance, too. While Eiji causes a disturbance for you, make sure you search every nook and cranny of the Library for the Book. Youhei and Kouhei, you two will be look-outs for Tachibana. Anything you hear or see, tell me right away. I've placed trackers into everyone's earphones, as always, so I can monitor everyone's movements with my laptop."

Everyone nodded. They all piled their hands in the center (Ryoma mimicked) and Inui counted to three.

"One - two - three - TWENTY FOUR!" everyone shouted in unison. Then they all jumped out of the limousine and dispersed.

Ryoma stood there confused. Inui turned and looked at him. "Ah. Echizen. Do as you see fit."

With that, Inui kicked Ryoma out of the limo and left Ryoma standing in front of Joseph Case Memorial Library.

- - -

"Eiji. Go to the front desk now."

Eiji obeyed Inui's voice in his earphone and headed towards the front reference desk.

"Now, in your pouch, you should find a pencil. Yes?"

Eiji stuck his hand in and found the pencil. "Hai. Affirmative."

"Now push the eraser end. Be careful; don't let the lead end be facing you."

Eiji did as he was told. He pushed the eraser of the #2 pencil in.

And fire exploded from the other end.

"Sick, nya," Eiji whispered into his speaker, grinning.

- - -

"Eiji, stay in position," the rest of the team heard Inui say. "Alright, you guys. Tachibana, wait until you see all the guards, personnel, employees, people, head towards the reference desk. Then you can start your search. Kouhei, Youhei, stay close to him and also make sure everyone in the building is watching Eiji so Tachibana can have privacy."

Ryoma heard the other lines click out. Inui left only Ryoma's line on.

"Echizen. I told you before to do as you see fit. That's still your order. But if I were you, I'd focus on the Corporization rather than what we're doing. The others can handle getting the Book. You just make sure no one gets in their way."

"Where are they?" Ryoma asked.

"You're the seer, you tell me." All lines clicked back on.

- - -

"Alright, Eiji," Inui's voice commanded.

"Hoi hoi!" Eiji said enthusiastically with a grin on his face. He bounced up to the front desk with his pencil in one hand and a book in the other.

"Hi hi! I was just wondering if you could help me borrow this booook?" He asked, wide-eyed and innocent.

The librarian smiled and nodded. "Of course. If you'll give it to me, I'll check it out for you. Do you have a library card?"

Eiji cocked his head to the side. "Library card?"

"Hai," the librarian lady responded. "You need one to borrow anything from this library."

Eiji shook his head. "No, I don't have one. Is that a problem?"

"Yes, I'm afraid you can't check anything out without a card."

"EHH?!" Eiji exclaimed, acting utterly bewildered. "Nooo! I NEED this book!"

People around the front desk turned their heads to see what was going on.

"Please, sir, speak quieter," the librarian said, trying to hush Eiji, who was whimpering now, muttering to himself about what he'd do if he couldn't borrow the book.

"Sir, you can buy a library card right now if you really need to. It's only five dollars," the lady said, frantically trying to calm Eiji down.

"No, no, that won't work, nya! My grandma is in the hospital... she needs the money! I can't waste a cent on such trivial matters!" Eiji wailed, even louder now. People started to gather around the scene, staring in fascination at the crazy teenager.

"Sir, maybe if you came back another day with someone that actually has a library card..."

"No! I need this book NOW!" Eiji started whining. Security guards started to show up.

"Um, sir, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to ask you to leave...," one guard said, reaching out to grab Eiji's flailing arms.

Eiji whipped out his pencil and pointed the lead end at the guard's face. The red-haired teenager's expression grew serious.

"Don't touch me," he warned the guard in a sinister tone. Then he pushed the pencil's eraser in slightly and fire came out the other end, licking the guard's cheek for a slight second before retreating.

At that moment, Eiji was surrounded by seven security guards, all with tasers in their hands. They softly coaxed Eiji to put the pencil down, as if he were a rabid dog on the loose.

"Yadda! Touch me and I'll burn this book, nya!" he threatened viciously, holding up the pencil to the book. All the librarians gasped. The guards hesitantly withdrew their hands. "Yeah, that's RIGHT. Every book in this library is precious isn't it? HAHAHAH!"

Eiji laughed maniacally as he backed up towards a bookshelf. "Come any closer and I'll burn them all!"

By now, nearly everyone in the library had come down to see the madman with the pencil-shaped flamethrower. The guards were calling in backup from all over the building. Eiji grinned.

- - -

Kouhei looked down at the front desk from the third floor. He shook his head and sighed. "Eiji-sempai..."

Youhei looked around them and listened for anyone still roaming around in the building. "We're clear," he said into his speaker.

"Hai," Tachibana said. And so he began his search for the Golden Book of Intuition.

- - -

"MUAHAHAHAHA!" Eiji cackled insanely as a guard ran off screaming, trying to perform Stop-Drop-and-Roll. "Do you believe me now? Touch me and next time I won't just burn you arm!"

The first librarian lady panicked. "Please, sir, you can borrow the book! For as long as you want! Read it to your sickly grandmother! Please, just stop this nonsense!" she begged to him.

"Nonsense?! I am NOT CRAZY!" Eiji screamed with his face contorted. Then, to prove his point, he started lighting books on fire. The entire audience gasped in unison. Some librarians started weeping. Guards rushed at him but he dodged every one of them and then burned them slightly, enough for them to stop lunging at him. His acrobatic skills were no match for them anyways.

Ryoma looked at the crazy scene from the Young Adults section. "Mada mada da ne, Eiji-sempai..." he sighed.

"Isn't this a little harsh on the library?" Tachibana asked Inui through the speakers while continuing his search.

Inui chuckled. "I already ordered a new set of books to be donated to the library. They should arrive tomorrow. Eiji's being careful; he's only burning the books I'd told him to burn."

Ryoma rolled his eyes and then found a quiet study room that he could have all to himself.

- - -

"Driverrrr," Kirihara whined. "Are we there yet??"

"Aa," Sanada murmured. The seven of them felt the limo come to a halt. They all bustled out and gazed at the large library towering over them.

"Can we go in now?" muttered Bane. He looked at Sanada, the leader, for approval.

Sanada gathered them all together. "Everyone, you know your jobs. The Organization is here already, I'm sure. We can beat them though. Gakuto, to the front desk. Kirihara and Yana, to the left wing. David and Bane, to the right wing. Don't screw this up."

With that, they turned around, preparing to head in their separate directions. But instead, they halted in their stops, staring incredulously at who was in front of them.

- - -

"Finally," Tachibana muttered. He reached out and turned a painting, which was hung up on the wall, sideways. He heard some clicking and the ground vibrated slightly. He, Youhei, and Kouhei turned to see the 24th bookshelf from the left start to slide.

And it revealed a large metal door.

"Inui. It's a vault."

- - -

"Echizen Ryoma?"

The seven Corporation members gazed at the first year in confusion.

"Sanada. He's not with the Organization, is he? He's a first year, da ne!" Yana whispered nervously.

"He shouldn't be... No first years ever know about 24..." Sanada mumbled under his breath.

"Unless this kid's the first first year," Gakuto said.

David eyed Ryoma. "The first year here's short." He snorted. "The first ear hears short." (2)

Everyone, including Ryoma, stared at David with disgusted expressions. Bane kicked the orange-haired idiot in the head.

"Mada mada da ne," Ryoma said to the seven Corporation members, sneering.

"Why are you here?" Sanada asked Ryoma.

"Same reason as you are."

Sanada looked Ryoma square in the eye, adamantly unwavering. "Hm. Are you alone?"

"Does it matter? I don't need anyone's help to defeat you all."

Kirihara snorted. "Cocky brat. We have more experience than you and we SO outnumber you. You won't last five seconds!"

"Wanna test that theory?" Echizen smirked at them.

Although he was arrogant and overconfident on the outside, Ryoma began to wonder exactly how he was going to defeat seven upperclassmen all on his own.

"Inui-sempai," he whispered into his speaker. "How am I supposed to beat them?"

"You'll figure something out."

Ryoma cursed under his breath. Thanks a bunch, sempai... he thought to himself.

"Try your pouch," Inui advised.

Looking down, Ryoma remembered the pouch Inui had given him. He reached in and took out an object.

The Corporation members were talking quietly to each other about what to do with Ryoma. Sanada finally allowed them to "cream the cocky little brat".

"Prepare to be obliviated," Kirihara sneered behind running towards Ryoma with his tennis racket weapon (identical to the ones used before by the Organization). The rest of the Corporation's team followed Kirihara's lead, advancing towards the first year half their height.

Ryoma tilted his hat down and smiled. "Mada mada da ne..."


A/N: Enjoyed it? I really hope so.. I tried to make it slightly longer to make up for my long unexcused absence. I'm so excited to post the next chapter, some very intriguing new stuff will be revealed. Hopefully. I'd actually planned on it being revealed in this chapter and I also planned on the Golden Book episode to just take up this one chapter but I guess not, it's taking up two ... and with the 24 chapter limit I have... Well, I'll have to start planning better ;)

Ja ne!