Echizen Ryoma was not an early riser. He did not believe that the early bird got the warm. Rather, the early bird was most likely the first to be captured and torn apart by hungry predators. It was weak. Nevertheless, life and its unfortunate circumstances have forced upon him responsibilities from which he had no way out. Such was his fate this beautiful Saturday morning. While Mother Nature was practically bursting at the seams with sunshine and fresh energy, the interior of the super rookie's room was as dark as a cave and its occupants slept on undisturbed. Sadly, the fragile peace was broken by the call of the house's landline. Turning over in his sleep as the shrieking phone grew progressively louder, Ryoma reached beneath his head and flipped the pillow over his head.

"Go…away." He mumbled in drowsy irritation, and was relieved when the adamant ringing finally ceased altogether. As he fell into a watery unconsciousness, Ryoma thought that he vaguely heard the sound of footsteps and the opening of a bedroom door across the hall. Then, all had succumbed to darkness just as a straying ray of light intruded the vicinity with stunning agility.

Nabiki blinked owlishly, her glowing amber eyes like large lanterns. She was still wearing her pajamas, despite it being dangerously close to noon. The small Echizen paused for a few minutes, like a bird of prey craftily planning its next move, and retreated into the hallway. She closed the door behind her, just barely reaching the doorknob with her small stature. Her brother was still sleeping, and it did not surprise her. His ability to hibernate during weekends must be a mutated version of a superpower. As she tried hard not to slip on the stairs, Nabiki could not help but giggle at the thought of Samurai Junior as the next member of the Justice League. At least it would bring Aquaman out of his social stigma.

Luck escaped her on the last step, and she fell mercilessly on her face. Nabiki felt like cursing as her nose made a painfully conspicuous impact with the cool wooden floor.

"Shit that hurt."

The child sighed as she picked herself back up again. She lifted a hand to her face, searching for any sign of injury, and found a few minor scratches. Her mother would be scandalized to hear that inelegant word escape from the eight year old's mouth. Rinko was still a big supporter of childhood being a time of innocence and transparency, where no evil dwelt.

"Sorry to burst your bubble, obaa-san." Nabiki narrated to herself, dragging the pants of her oversized pajamas across the carpet of the living room. It wasn't like she had an avid obsession with swearing, although some terms from the third year boys' more than colour vocabulary were incredibly efficient at demonstrating frustration. However, she used them sparingly. Foul language would never be 'cool'.

-080-

Against the blue sky and exceedingly white clouds, Kikumaru Eiji breathed in the fresh scent of a sunny day. He exhaled heartily, almost as if he could taste the sweet oxygen he had just taken into his lungs. Sunlight made his hair sparkle with punishing radiance as he made his way down the block to the prescribed meeting location. As the large tree came into view, the acrobatic high school sophomore was not the least bit puzzled at the sight of four other males resting in its shade. Eiji grinned to himself. Everyone else was already there.

"Good morning, nya!" He burst into the shade as if running on a nuclear motor, feeling rather ecstatic at the thought of a worry free Saturday in the company of good friends.

"What up, senpai." Momoshiro's beam was wide. His dark hair was spiker than ever and he appeared to be in a jovial mood. Said high school freshman then reached behind him, and jabbed his senior with the sharp bend of his elbow.

Inui grunted a little at the contact, but dutifully put down his notebook. He had heard the redhead's bouncing steps from miles away, and had decided to keep the numbered pages in front of his face as shield to prevent the notorious glomp that Eiji dished out at will. The data man did not dislike signs of affection, but a choking grip around his neck was a little too much to bear on every occasion. Nonetheless, he smiled. "Yo."

"Morning." Kamio, the only other redhead in the group, responded. Despite his short fuse, the youth was polite on the appropriate occasions. His only bone to pick with this group would be Momoshiro, whom Kamio had also deemed to be his rival in winning Tachibana Ann's affections.

Sanada nodded in acknowledgement at Eiji's entrance and finally stopped looking at his watch. The Emperor was a little unhappy that the new arrival was precisely three minutes and 24 seconds late, but he tried to not let that show on his face. This was only a casual hangout after all, not an afterschool practice for the regulars of any tennis team.

"Nya, Momo, where's Ochibi?" Eiji peered around them, but could not catch sight of the cocky prince with golden eyes. "Did he oversleep again?"

It was at this question that the other male startled forwards as if he had been struck by lightning. Momoshiro's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water before he slapped his forehead loudly and moaned. "Crap! I forgot!"

"Idiot." Kamio snorted.

-080-

"Moshimoshi?"

"Oi, Echizen!"

Nabiki blinked hard, feeling the air inside her ear canal vibrate pugnaciously as it collided mercilessly with the eardrum. "Ouch."

The voice did a double-take. "Naki? Sorry about that. I thought you were your brother." She heard laughter in the background, and was slightly amused. Somebody had also managed to slip an insult in towards the end, directed at the caller no doubt.

"Nevermind about that, Momo-chan-senpai." Nabiki allowed herself to smile. It was difficult to reject her brother's warm-hearted best friend after all. "Aniki is still sleeping."

"Che. That lazy bastard." There was no surprise in the older male's voice, only mock contempt disguised with a thin veil of disappointment. "I'm heading out for lunch with Kamio and the senpais. Tell Echizen to drag his ass out of that house and meet up with us at the hamburger store. We're gonna hit the street courts too."

There was brief pause, and Nabiki suspected the phone of changing hands.

"Momo! You can't say bad stuff in front of Naki like that nya~! It's not good for her!'

Correction. It was swiped.

"I'm fine, Eiji-senpai." the child responded, almost humorously. "I've heard the boys in my class shoot insults much worse than that up each other's noses."

"I guess so, nya~" the redhead replied with a little moan. Nabiki pictured him with a frown, an expression that would upset his handsome features.

"I think you should come along too, Naki!" Eiji's joyous mood bounced back just as quickly. "I think it'll keep everybody manage control somehow, especially Momo— he needs it!"

It was extremely difficult to raise her voice above Momo-chan-senpai's angry protests and the other males' condescending laughter. Somehow, she managed. Without bothering to consult with her older brother, Nabiki took the matter into her own hands. The decision had been presented to her, and it was her judgement that was being sought. Her say mattered, and so she willed it into being with immense concentration.

"We'll be there."