Kick, punch, kick. Round house. Kick, punch, punch.

"Keep your head directly in line with your spine. Twist your fist like a drill as you strike."

The early words of Akito's Sensei repeated over and over in his mind as he worked his evening practice routine in the silence of his backyard. With only a distant street light to illuminate his 'training ground', he practiced the moves that he would soon be evaluated on.

The black belt testing was tomorrow, and, though his expressions refused to show it, he was nervous. He hated it too, because his nervousness kept him repeating beginner's tactics he'd learned when he first joined the dojo.

"Relax your muscles." His mental Sensei commanded.

Obedient, Akito took in a deep, relaxing breath, releasing it as he calmed himself. His fist gracefully struck the air, and he pulled it back with satisfaction, continuing the procedure with the opposite fist and back again. Kick. Punch, punch, kick, punch, punch.

After an hour of relentless self-discipline, Akito sat down in a plastic lawn chair set against the wall of his house, wiping sweat from his forehead with a nearby hand towel. He knew he did well, but thought anxiously about how he would do for the real thing tomorrow.


'Something about tomorrow...'

"I have something to tell you after you get your black belt tomorrow, okay?"

That's right, he'd almost forgotten. Lost in his training, he had forgotten that Sana had something to tell him after the test. Akito leaned back against the chair and let out a sigh. What was it this time? Was her mother writing another book? Was she going overseas to act again? Maybe, just maybe, she was finally going to admit her feelings for him?

His eyebrows creased skeptically at the thought.

No. She was far too oblivious for that. Whatever the case, he closed his eyes and allowed his thoughts to flow freely through his mind. Memories from hours earlier at school flooded back to where he tried to kiss her...again, and was kicked (more like stomped) away. Again. But he didn't care. The rejection hurt, but...

Akito propped his foot on the edge of the chair and rested his head on his knee, thoughts still dancing in the sanctuary of his mind. Karate nervousness gone, all he could think about now was Sana. The girl who always saved him, from everything that hurt.

And here he was, attempting to be with her. Fuka broke up with him because of his lingering love for her, and Naozumi broke up with Sana, because even he could see it in her. It was like everyone was in on it, and the stars had aligned in the sky for them.

But that stupid, oblivious, crazy, idiotic, beautiful, redheaded firecracker still had no clue about his feelings. He even had the chance on Christmas Eve to tell her, but blew it for the second time. Akito knew he had to tell her, and soon, or nothing was ever going to change.

A loud cracking noise, followed by quieter thumps, broke the silence of night. The once occupied plastic lawn chair bounced roughly across the yard, then lay still. Akito lowered his leg, which was throbbing in pain from colliding with the chair. His face was beet red. "Hmph. Embarrassing." He muttered as he headed towards the Hayama's back door. He couldn't think about Sana now, anyway. Not with Karate testing tomorrow.

But now he had two unnerving things clutching at his stomach. One: the test tomorrow. And two: Sana would be there watching him perform his martial arts.

He could really go for some sushi right now.