On Hyotei:

Mukahi Gakuto

1. He went to tennis because he was sick of being a gymnast.

He was an excellent gymnast. In fact, he still is.

He won award after award for both Floor events and Apparatus events when he was younger. His parents praised him, but it didn't really matter that much to them, because they were used to it, since Gakuto's older sister is an extraordinary gymnast too.

They would say, "Good job!"

Gakuto would smle.

And then they would continue, "You're becoming just like your older sister!"

Gakuto's smile usually switches off at that part.

He hates that his achievements are always likened to his older sister's, who though he loves and thinks of as a role model, makes him resentful too.

Why can't they see his achievements for what they are? That is, his. Nothing to do with his sister at all. Just because she did them first doesn't mean that it is easier for him to do them.

So angry and frustrated, he shocked his parents one night by declaring that he is going to quit gymnastics.

Flabbergasted, his parents demanded an explanation.

Calmly, -and that alone was enough to tell his parents that he meant business, because their son is only ever calm when he really means it- Gakuto told his parents that since his sister has the gymnastics field covered, he's going to try something new.

His younger brother is watching him with wide eyes as he coolly shovels some food into his mouth.

(Gakuto gets the feeling that for once, he's being a good role model to his younger brother. He's right, because soon after that, his younger brother admits to his parents that he has no interest in gymnastics really, and all he really wants to do is draw.)

His parents splutter, and finally just ask what does Gakuto intend to do for sports if not gymnastics.

Pausing, because he had not thought about that, Gakuto considers his options.

He would be going to Hyotei soon, and they had just about any sport you could think of. So which should he choose?

Not table tennis, because it wouldn't make enough use of his greatest strength, his flexibility. Gakuto might want to give up gymnastics, but that didn't mean he had to give up the attributes he gained from it after all.

Not track and field, because he always found the events kind of boring to tell the truth.

Not basketball, because from what he heard, the basketball team in Hyotei is kind of lame, and Gakuto wants a place that he can shine among stars.

Then, he remembers what one of his classmates told him about the Hyotei Tennis Team. That the team was vicious and ruthless, that they show no mercy, that they're awesome.

And at that moment, Gakuto makes a choice.

He tells his parents, "I'm going to play tennis."

His parents try to change his mind for a while more, before deciding, what the hell, if this was what their son really wanted, they couldn't stop him.

Gakuto is relieved, because he had been scared that his parents wouldn't understand. And though they don't really understand, and they're still kind of disappointed, they love their son and they think he can make his own choices. So they give in, and Gakuto remembers exactly why he wanted to make them proud in the first place.

So, armed with some of the best tennis gear available, Gakuto enters the tennis world, and found that his flexibility was extremely useful, if employed right.

Smiling happily, because Gakuto thinks that he has found his true sport, he dives into the game.

The rest, as they say, is history.

2. He is blunt.

It almost makes him unique in Hyotei really, his bluntness.

Admittedly, Shishido and Hiyoshi are fairly blunt too (tactless, Oshitari sometimes calls them), but Gakuto's bluntness is different from theirs.

Shishido's comments are meant to hurt, but after that, to inspire. It's an odd quirk of his that is one of the reasons why Ohtori likes him so much. Whereas Hiyoshi simply doesn't have a filter in his brain that tells him not to talk to that girl like that, you moronic voice box!

And Gakuto?

Well, Gakuto does have a filter in his brain that tells him not to say this and that, and Gakuto generally does listen to it.

However, he sees no harm in telling people that they are worse than him, because Gakuto knows this is true, and by telling it to other people, it makes him work harder to ensure that this stays true.

Simply put, Gakuto's bluntness is used as a double-edged sword (or maybe a double-edged riding crop, because he doesn't use it to harm, but to drive). It motivates people to bring down the smug acrobat, while at the same time, it drives Gakuto to make sure that they don't.

It's a win-win situation.

-0-0-0-

Oshitari once said that he wished Gakuto would think before moving, before taking it back, because he realized that it was what made Gakuto, Gakuto.

Gakuto, personally, feels happy that Oshitari understands him so well, because Gakuto's play style doesn't work if he thinks about it.

To play for real, Gakuto needs to sink into the game and just follow his instincts, while leaving Oshitari to think about strategy in the background.

It's what makes them such a deadly pair.

Gakuto's blunt play style is exactly the right thing to complement Oshitari's manipulative one.

There is, however, one common thing between both their styles. That is, both of them are flamboyant attention-seekers. It's just that Gakuto says it outright while Oshitari implies it with that genius aura of his that somehow always manages to get a wind to ruffle his hair at the right moment.

Gakuto finds it hilarious.

3. He is not as stupid as people think.

They all call him hyper, and bratty, and stupid.

They think that just because Gakuto lets Oshitari pull the strings, it means that Gakuto can't think for himself.

They think that because Gakuto doesn't shy away from telling the honest truth, it means that he doesn't know that what he says hurts.

They think that because he acts happy and jaunty and cheerful all the time, he doesn't notice the insults and taunts thrown his way.

They are wrong.

Gakuto is pretty smart, and not just in his studies either. He's perfectly capable of being cunning and manipulative and at getting what he wants in real life. He knows how to play his cards right.

He just has his reasons for doing all those things that make people think otherwise.

He lets Oshitari pull the strings, because Oshitari's better at it, and he'd be stupid for trying to stop their resident genius from utilizing his full potential. It's not that he can't be a game maker, it's just that he's smart enough to know that his partner was born to be one.

He knows perfectly well how the truth can hurt. And that's exactly why he says them. Hurt and rage were the best inspirations for change and drive, and Gakuto employs them to his benefit.

He hears all the teasing and insults clearly enough, but he doesn't let it get to him. He just grins and says an off-hand insult whenever someone dares to insult him to his face, but what he really hates are the cowards who only dare to whisper behind his back. He doesn't react, because he knows that it irritates them even more if they think they can't get a rise out of him.

Instead, he pretends not to hear, and promptly shoves their own words down their throats by either proving them completely false, or showing them, that Yes, he was an arrogant flamboyant acrobat, but hey look, this good-for-nothing show off can still wipe the floor with you.

Oh, Gakuto isn't stupid at all.

He just likes you to think that he is.

4. He is proud.

It's a common trait found in all the Hyotei members, and Gakuto is no exception.

Gakuto takes pride in his acrobatic abilities, even though he has given up gymnastics years ago. After all, getting his level of flexibility and jump prowess is no easy feat.

But even more than that, he is proud of how he managed to adapt his hard-earned acrobatic talents to tennis.

He mocks other people when they mock him for being so showy, because he knows that, secretly, they're kind of intimidated by the short red-head who can pretty much jump higher than their heads.

Acrobatic tennis is his pride, and he will do anything to defend his title as the champion.

But to tell the truth, he was kind of bored for awhile, because no one was as good as he was in acrobatic tennis. Hell, pretty much no one used acrobatic tennis!

Then, he met Kikumaru Eiji, and suddenly he had a rival, and even better, something to stake his pride on.

It was perfect.

5. He hates it when Oshitari plays at being the uncaring genius.

Gakuto is naturally cheerful and even though he likes to taunt people, Gakuto's also pretty nice at heart.

He teases people, but he knows well enough that all he does is exasperate, not actually hurt.

Whereas Oshitari likes to crush dreams. He likes to sow despair and broken awe in the souls of his opponents; because Oshitari needs to know he's the best.

Gakuto hates it when Yuushi gets like that, because he knows that Yuushi's a good guy underneath all his smirks, and whenever Yuushi crushes a dream to make himself feel better, he's also crushing a small part of the true guy he is inside.

So Gakuto tries to take the job of annoying and destroying their opponents onto himself, to save Yuushi from having to do so.

Generally, against most opponents, it works, because Gakuto's sheer magnificence is enough to distract them from the silent killer behind him.

But when it doesn't, and Oshitari feels the need to prove to himself that he was the best, because Gakuto's antics haven't been able to convince him that he is, Gakuto feels sad.

He is disappointed with himself that he let that happen, because Gakuto feels nothing from the anger being thrown his way, while the resentment burning in Yuushi's heart slowly turns it to stone.

So, he promises himself, he will do anything to ensure that his best friend stays true to himself, and not bury and lose himself underneath his intricate web of lies and half-truths.

It's the least he could do for Yuushi after all.

6. He actually does kind of like Kikumaru.

It's a weird, twisted, full-of-insults kind of liking, but it's liking all the same.

For you see, before Kikumaru came barreling in with his acrobatic skills and doubles expertise, Gakuto had been getting rather disappointed that he was the only one of his kind.

There were loads of all-rounders, and base-liners and serve-and-volleyers… There were people with killer serves, crazy speed and insane analytical skills.

But there was no one like him. There wasn't anyone who Gakuto could compete against, and it was getting kind of lonely.

Then, Kikumaru appeared, and suddenly Gakuto has a rival to measure himself against.

It's exactly the therapy he needed.

In other words, what Gakuto really likes isn't Kikumaru, but simply Kikumaru's existence.

It was what he had been looking for ever since he started tennis.

Not that Kikumaru needs to know that.

(Gakuto gets the sneaking suspicion, however, that Kikumaru already does, because the two of them were really too alike for comfort.)

7. He is a hard worker.

People don't think he is.

They think that just because he acts flippant and uncaring, it means he really is.

They couldn't be further from the truth.

They like to mock him for having poor stamina, and Gakuto hates it, because he really does work hard to improve it.

It's just that he has weak lungs, and no matter how hard he tries, his stamina's never going to be as good as the others.

But that sounds like an excuse, and if there's one thing Gakuto has never been, it's a whiny brat who blames everything on others.

So despite the fact that his lungs burn and he can barely breathe, Gakuto runs and flips and swings until his legs finally give up on trying to transmit its meaning to his stubborn brain, and just crumple underneath him.

Even then, Gakuto tries to get up.

No one sees this though, because Gakuto doesn't let them.

After all, Gakuto has his pride.

8. He finds Hyotei fascinating.

He doesn't know what he expected when he decided to take up tennis and not only that, but to join the infamously ruthless Hyotei tennis team.

He sure as hell did not expect the wild web of lies that is Hyotei.

It fascinates him to no end.

There is Atobe, who is cruelly straightforward when he cuts people from the team, but frustratingly enigmatic when it comes to everything else. Even his pomposity is mysterious, the bastard. Gakuto finds it extraordinary, and he enjoys how people think he doesn't get the subtle jokes Atobe likes to make.

Then there's Oshitari, who Gakuto thinks is the most fascinating of them all. He likes how Oshitari is all smirks and holier-than-thou on the outside, but is an utter romantic sap and flashy attention-hog on the inside. Even though he's spent three years more or less by Oshitari's side, Gakuto still hasn't worked out the puzzling genius, and that's why Gakuto sticks with Oshitari when he ran through other partners and friends so quickly other times.

Jirou is another intriguing one. The boy seems like he's a sleepy feather-brain, but in reality, Jirou is an intelligent, sly boy who doesn't let people's judgment from getting in the way of him enjoying himself. In that way, Jirou is like Gakuto, but he somehow manages to be it in a way that makes him adorably likable rather than annoyingly blunt, and Gakuto admires him for that.

Shishido too, is interesting. For no one expected much of Shishido after his fall from grace, least of all Gakuto, who had been extremely irked by the boy's overly inflated pride anyway. (For you see, Gakuto was proud, Oshitari was proud, and Gakuto was fine with that, because they had something tangible to be proud of, whereas Shishido didn't, not at the time.) But then, through sheer force of will and determination, Shishido defies all the odds, and suddenly Gakuto realizes that Shishido is not just a pile of arrogance and nothing else.

Shishido's doubles partner is just as enthralling as he is, if not more. For Ohtori is the ultimate nice guy, and Gakuto can't help but like someone who really does care, and is not just faking it for the attention or because he thinks he is obliged to. But what makes Gakuto like him even more is the way that Ohtori balances niceness and ambition perfectly, and can be just as cruelly cutting as Oshitari at his best in a way that doesn't imply it at all. Gakuto still doesn't understand how Ohtori does it sometimes.

Kabaji is absolutely puzzling with the way he follows Atobe around and only ever agrees with them, when Gakuto knows for a fact that Kabaji is one of the most intelligent boys in school. Gakuto's read some of the boy's essays before, and they are deep. Until now, Gakuto doesn't know why the junior acts like such a pushover.

Hiyoshi. Now Hiyoshi was the most amusingly fascinating of them all. Because until now, Gakuto hasn't been able to work out if Hiyoshi says Gekukujyou out of habit or if he really means it. For though Gakuto knows that Hiyoshi wants to defeat Atobe, Gakuto also knows that Hiyoshi doesn't want to, because the idea of Atobe not being at the top is just fundamentally wrong somehow. Watching Hiyoshi try to figure out his own motives in his awkward way of his is absolutely hilarious to Gakuto.

So yes, Gakuto is absolutely enthralled by the maze of puzzles that the Hyotei Tennis Team makes, and when the tennis team becomes a real team after their loss to Seigaku, Gakuto is even more fascinated than before.

Gakuto loves Hyotei, maybe more than any other.

Interestingly enough, Gakuto might also see and understand the most among all of them too, simply because he is so confident in his own beliefs, when everyone else is too immersed in masks and acts to notice.

9. He respects Atobe.

Sure, Atobe was an asshole and a Drama Queen, but the boy was also extremely likable in a strange way.

Atobe tries hard in everything he does, even when he is smirking and riling his fans up into a chant. He is playing a little bit of psychological warfare, and testing his opponent's resolve.

Gakuto respects that.

Atobe and Gakuto are the two most self-confident people in the whole team, and it is exactly the thing that makes Gakuto like Atobe.

Although admittedly, it took an unfortunate ice-skating incident that involved Atobe ending up in the not-really-as-frozen-as-it-looks lake, and Gakuto being dragged in after him when he tried to help the taller and heavier boy out, to realize that.

There's something about a freezing lake and combined stupidity that builds friendship faster and stronger than any amount of ice breaking activities ever can.

(Well, in this case, a literal ice breaking activity did manage the job.)

10. He is like melting ice.

That is not to say he is half of what his teammates are, but rather it just means that he is different, and it is his deadly strength.

At first glance, he is stupider than the others, and like melted ice, almost warm to the touch.

But play with him long enough, and you will realize, his core is still frozen ice, and he can still freeze your fingers off.

Hyotei is Hyotei, and its ice is part of every one of its members, even the vibrant ones like Gakuto.

He will freeze you, if you don't realize that you should stop playing with fire.

Because, Gakuto is, in the end, as determined and cunning as the rest of them.

He just hides it better.

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I'll admit that I semi-abandoned this story after the lack of response the Oshitari chapter got. I think I was a bit spoilt by the overwhelming support that Of Rikkai got and was pretty disappointed that this one didn't get as good a reception.

But then I realized, I was writing this because I enjoyed this, and I owed it to the ones who did review to continue this.

I hope you all forgive me for being such a brat!

And I like this chapter overall, but if you don't please drop a note to tell me why.

To be honest, quite a bit of Gakuto's character is based on my own. Odd, since I never really noticed him before this.

Next up: Jirou

Can anyone tell me how to spell the rest of Jirou's name? It's Akutagawa right?

Loves,

~FO