"To his mother, Akaya was the unbearably cute, incorrigible son she always had to worry about." Manga canon and this will make more sense if you have read my other 20facts ('Of Friendships and Mild...
To his mother, Akaya was the unbearably cute, incorrigible son she always had to worry about. She had, of course, heard about his exploits in school and in the tennis club from his nice senpais, but it was not the same as watching him play.
Once, she stopped worrying and went to a match. It was the Finals of the Kanagawa Prefecture. She might not know very much about tennis, but she knew that a match wasn't supposed to be finished that fast. She heard that Akaya had broken a record for that match he had played, and she couldn't but feel proud.
But she still worried, for Akaya played a dangerous game. She knew her son well, and knew that he would be hurt sooner or later. She prayed that his wounds would be on his body, for physical wounds heal quickly, and she could always be on hand with antiseptic and band-aids. Emotional wounds, especially injured prides, would take far longer to heal, and are definitely more painful. She didn't want that for her son.
And so she prayed.
To his sister, Akaya was the brat of a brother she never wanted to have. But she couldn't help but indulge him anyway, for she loved him as much as a sister could, even though she longed to take a comb to the tangled mess he called his hair.
Also, she would appreciate it if he stopped pouting at her whenever she refused him something. He was getting rather spoiled at his age, and would get even more spoiled if this continued.
To his father, Akaya was a son he could be proud of. He was the son his father could brag of to his friends and colleagues: "My son, who is in Junior High, has just won the Nationals in tennis. His coach tells him that he has the potential to go pro."
Akaya was also a son a father couldn't help but worry about, for his grades were rather average, and tennis wasn't forever, was it? He worried for his son's future, but kept his fears inside. He knew that Akaya had the stubbornness and ambition to be the best, and that would aid him in his future more than a meddling father would.
Echizen Ryoma thought that Kirihara Akaya was quite an enigma. He was quite like the rest of his Rikkai team-mates, in that way. Ryoma could never figure out Rikkai, and he didn't even want to try, but Kirihara was probably the one he understood best.
Still, it was quite a shock when Kirihara's arm started to glow in the middle of their match during the Finals of the Nationals. He knew, instantly, that it was Tezuka-buchou's Pinnacle of Hard Work, and Kirihara had grasped it less than a month after he had achieved the State of Self-Actualization. Ryoma couldn't help but to be slightly impressed.
He suddenly understood why Sanada chose to play Singles Three instead of Singles Two.
Ryoma won the match, of course, but Kirihara didn't look the least bit worried. Ryoma saw his Captain, the Yukimura who stopped him from shaving Atobe's head and silenced a whole stadium with just a glare, give him a proud smile. It was a smile that made Ryoma thought that, in ways that truly matter, it was Kirihara who had won.
(Ryoma was also quite relieved when Kirihara showed no signs of his infamous red-eye mode during that match, but he would die before admitting that he was scared to anyone.)
Fuji Syuusuke had quite a lot to thank Kirihara Akaya for, but he figured that Kirihara probably had quite a lot to thank him for, too.
Fuji thought Kirihara was truly a prodigy, an ace like he had always bragged, to be able to master the Pinnacle of Hard Work in so short a time. But Kirihara's genius wasn't like his own. Fuji was a genius because he was born one, but Kirihara made himself a genius through sheer determination and hard work. In that way, the Pinnacle of Hard Work suited him very well.
Fuji knew that he really ought to thank Kirihara, for it was only during their match that he discovered that tennis wasn't just a game, nor was it a sport or a tool that he could use to punish people with. Tennis wasn't something to be used to stave off boredom either.
It was the first time he truly understood Tezuka's passion for the sport.
But he figured that Kirihara understood without him saying anything anyway. After all, it was during their match that Kirihara first reached his State of Self-Actualization and broke free of his red-eye mode.
Besides, Fuji certainly wasn't going to thank a person who had injured Echizen and himself deliberately.
Akaya, in Marui Bunta's eyes, was a /brat/.
It wasn't very fair that the youngest of the team was taller than he was, but that was the truth. Akaya was still a brat, the one who stole his food his food and sweets, and borrowed money from him that was never really returned.
He was also the little brother Marui figured he already had too many of.
Marui didn't know Akaya very well. At least, not as well as Yanagi or Sanada or Yukimura did (he was their protÃ©gÃ©, after all), but they were on the same team. And in Rikkai's tennis club, that meant a /lot/.
Akaya had talent, and he had the ambition and drive to push that talent further. Marui could fully admit that, to him, tennis was just a game, a hobby that he could show off in. Marui knew perfectly well that tennis was more than that, far more than that to Akaya.
To Akaya, tennis was a /passion/.
And that was why Akaya would go pro and achieve Grand Slam when Marui himself would quit tennis after he had gotten bored.
Akaya wasn't actually the child that many took him to be, Jackal Kuwahara knew that very well.
Akaya was mature, even though he didn't act like it most of the time. He had understood, even when Jackal himself didn't, that Sanada's slaps and backhands were partly for motivation and partly because Sanada was under far too much stress.
"Sanada-fukubuchou isn't a leader," Akaya told Jackal quietly, once, when they were both recovering from Sanada's slaps. It was after Akaya lost the first match with Echizen, before the Kantou Finals.
"Sanada-fukubuchou isn't a leader," Akaya said, "Sanada is a pillar that supports the keystone. Yukimura-buchou is our team's keystone, and Sanada-fukubuchou and Yanagi-senpai are the pillars."
"Now that the keystone is gone," Akaya continued, "the weight of the team is too much on the pillars and they are starting to crack. Sanada-fukubuchou is losing his temper far more often, and Yanagi-senpai hardly opens his eyes fully any more."
Akaya didn't forgive Sanada for punishing him so harshly because he didn't blame him in the first place.
Yagyuu Hiroshi didn't like Kirihara Akaya at first. Akaya was chaos personified, and Yagyuu had always preferred neat and orderly things.
He suspected that this only proved how much Niou had changed him.
Akaya, Yagyuu thought, was a contradiction in himself. He managed to be childish and mature, innocent and malicious, cute and destructive, all at the same time. His red-eye mode and his usual antics, completely with pouting lips, was only part of that. But Yagyuu supposed that it was the contradiction that allowed Akaya to fit into a contradictory team like Rikkai.
Of all of them, Yagyuu knew this best. He was the most contradictory and confusing one, after all. Strangely enough, he felt almost proud of the fact, instead of the remorse he knew he, as the Gentleman, should feel.
He couldn't bring himself to care.
Niou Masaharu didn't need someone like Kirihara Akaya.
He already had one, younger brother, and he didn't need another.
But he couldn't deny that he liked Akaya, nonetheless. He had a way of worming himself into a person's heart. In a way, he was quite like Yagyuu, actually.
Akaya was the only second-year in the team, the 'baby' of the ground. He certainly acted like it, sometimes, though Niou knew that Akaya was mature even if he didn't show it very often. But knowledge didn't allow one to be immune to big, pleading eyes and pouting lips.
Niou indulged him sometimes, but he always made Akaya return him the favour. Most of the times, though, Akaya thought that he had gotten away scot-free, never knowing that his senpai was plotting revenge against him. If Niou was anything, he was subtle and /patient/.
To Yanagi Renji, Kirihara Akaya was a hurricane.
Yanagi would never forget the day he first saw Akaya, green eyes challenging, a short first year with a bird's nest for hair. He remembered being challenged, of green eyes widening in shock when Yanagi won a game, then another, and another, before ending the whole match when he sent him the Kamaitachi.
Yanagi remembered red eyes (/'blood dilating the blood vessels in the eyes due to anger,'/ he had noted clinically then) and a fierce scowl when Akaya, completely defeated, swore, /swore/, that he would defeat the Three Demons, one day.
He remembered the slight, unexplainable thrill he had felt at those words, and what he had said then.
"I will be waiting."
It was true then, and it was true now. Yanagi was still waiting, three steps from the top, for Akaya to catch up. But he didn't dare look down, for he was afraid that Akaya had already caught up, and had completely passed him without even saying "hello".
In Sanada Genichirou's world, there were three forces of nature that he could not, and would not, go against.
They were: Atobe Keigo, Yukimura Seiichi and Kirihara Akaya.
Akaya was a thunderstorm, fierce and chaotic. His play style reflected that too, Sanada thought. Akaya was an attacker, not content until he had completely beaten his opponent to the ground. He had no concept of 'defence'.
Sanada supposed that was the reason why he taught Akaya how to control his State of Self-Actualization, and how to use the Pinnacle of Hard Work.
However, he had never expected Akaya to be able to master it in time for the Nationals, but the fact remained that he /had/.
To Sanada, Akaya was almost like a younger brother, or even a son. That was why Sanada had given Akaya his Singles Two spot without any regrets and no small amount of pride.
/He will make a good Captain next year. A better one than I was, this year/.
When Yukimura Seiichi first saw Kirihara Akaya, his first thought was: 'what an arrogant brat'.
It was only after he and Genichirou and Renji had completely defeated Kirihara that Yukimura had gained any respect for the younger boy.
Instead of crying or apologizing profusely like Yukimura had half-expected him to, Akaya had sworn, truly /sworn/, to defeat the three of them, the unbeatable Troika of Rikkaidai. It was only then that Yukimura saw the fire, the drive to win, to be the best, in Akaya's eyes.
At that time, Yukimura reached out a hand and pulled Akaya to his feet. At that very moment, he made his own personal vow that he would develop the potential that he saw to his best ability.
Even to this day, even when Akaya lost during the Nationals and the Kantou Finals, Yukimura had never regretted that vow. Not even once.
He will be able to carry Rikkai's legacy after we left.
Akaya regretted his pledge only a few times in his life: when Yukimura-buchou patted him on the head and praised him after when he had won a match, when Sanada-fukubuchou pretended to glare at him for a prank while his lips fought not to twitch, or when Yanagi-senpai looked at him under those heavy-lidded eyes when he had done something he didn't expect.
It was during those times that Akaya thought that defeating the Troika meant that he wouldn't see those things again, if it meant that he wouldn't be with them any more, he'd rather not defeat them at all.
During those times, he would smack himself mentally and told himself that his senpais wouldn't appreciate it if he disappeared after defeating them, and if they wanted to leave, he wouldn't allow them to either.
Akaya felt immensely guilty when he had lost against Echizen for the second time. Sanada-fukubuchou had given him his Singles Two spot, but he had disappointed them and had /lost/.
But then he saw Yukimura-buchou's proud smile and the approving glint in fukubuchou's eyes, and realized that even though he had lost, it didn't really matter. He was only thirteen, had all the time he wanted to defeat Echizen if he wanted to, after all.
Akaya wished that Yanagi-senpai would open his eyes fully and look at him, one of these days. Then perhaps he would realize that Akaya wasn't below him, rushing to catch up, or had run ahead and surpassed him. Akaya was standing together with Yanagi-senpai, three steps from the top, waiting patiently for his senpai to take his hand so they could fight towards the top together.
Akaya really wished that Niou-senpai would stop blaming his pranks on him. It wasn't fun being swatted or glared at by Sanada-fukubuchou or chased everywhere by Marui-senpai, even though Yukimura-buchou was laughing at the pranks...
Yagyuu-senpai was the scariest person Akaya had ever met, including Sanada-fukubuchou and Niou-senpai. Yagyuu-senpai's Laser Beam was vicious, and he played mind games far better than Akaya ever would. But Akaya had defeated him before, and he never wanted to play him again.
Yagyuu-senpai wanted to win/. He played to win, instead of playing because he loved tennis. Akaya loved tennis, and he wanted to be the very best /because he loved tennis. That was why he won.
Jackal-senpai was probably the best senpai he had. Jackal-senpai didn't really care about formalities, and didn't think that just because he was born a year earlier he was smarter than Akaya was (even though it was true). Jackal-senpai shared his lunch with him whenever he forgot his lunch money or had spent it on something else.
Most of all, Jackal-senpai was the best cook /ever/, and made the best Western food this side of America. Akaya thought that Marui-senpai's idea of Jackal-senpai being a celebratory chef wasn't very bad, actually.
He didn't steal Marui-senpai's food. It was Niou-senpai. Akaya had much better taste than /that/. And much better self-preservation instincts.
He thought that it was rather ridiculous that Fuji had won against him while /blind/, but he didn't like to think about that. It just hammered him his defeat all so clearer.
He despised himself for hitting that tennis ball to Fuji's head, though. For one, it was plain dirty, and he didn't like the red-eye mode in the first place. For another, it was probably because Fuji was blinded that he won. It would make as much sense as Echizen winning against Sanada-fukubuchou (Akaya knew, though, that Echizen won because Sanada-san made a grave mistake and underestimated Echizen. Akaya now knew never to underestimate any opponent).
He was going to defeat Echizen one day, and throw 'mada mada dane' back into his face. That kid really annoyed him, especially how utterly arrogant he was.
Marui-senpai said he was just sore that he had lost twice, but it wasn't that.
It was just that, in his darkest moments, Akaya thought that he would never win against Echizen, who seemed to have limitless potential and talent.
Akaya was blissfully unaware of how worried his parents were for him, but he knew that his sister thought that he was getting spoiled. Well, he probably /was/, but that didn't mean that he would stop. If being 'spoiled' meant getting new rackets and shoes every few months, and getting extra allowance if he begged, then being spoiled was perfectly fine with him.
Akaya worried that he wasn't going to be a good Captain next year, that, without his senpais, he would flail helplessly and Rikkai wouldn't win the Nationals like he had promised. But then he'd recognize the trust in Yukimura-buchou's eyes and the expectance in Sanada-fukubuchou's smile, and the reassuring swats on the head from his senpais, and everything would be alright again.
He still had over five years with them, and the high school campus wasn't that far. He could always visit them at home if he wanted, they had said.
It wasn't all over just because they had graduated, after all.