Hello everyone! Finally got to write this chapter.

Words to look out for:

Hanami: Going to parks to view cherry blossoms (sakura).

Sensei: Can mean "teacher" or "instructor".

Kihon: Kihon means "basics" in Japanese. In kendo, kihon is a set of movements.

Fumikomi: A noun for the Japanese verb "fumikomu". It means "to lunge" or "step in". Fumikomi is a staple step where the attacker lunges forward to attack the opponent. It's not an easy step for beginners since it's an unnatural gait.

Kirikaeshi: Kirikaeshi means "cutting repeatedly". This exercise is a combination of attacking and receiving strikes. Kininata must do both roles for his exam.

Tenjin: The Shinto kami of academics, scholarship and learning. He looks like a middle-aged man wearing black robes. Many students pray to him to pass their exams.

Kendoka: Means "someone who practices kendo" in Japanese.

A season with surprises.

A buzz of voices mingled with the smell of coffee in the cafeteria. The female sat down to take a sip of her diet Coke. Her final class of today was over. It was time to eat lunch before checking her notes. After that was a moment she dreaded the most. Today was the day the results of her re-sit exam came. Marii knew she did better this time. However, it was not the first time she was wrong. 'I know I have a tendency to over-estimate myself. So much for being a proud person' thought the girl. She let out a sigh when she picked up her bento box. The freshman sat in a corner at a single table. The opposite chair had been taken. The female did not mind however. Especially since someone left a copy of today's paper on her table.

'Let's see what today's news are. Some of them look quite interesting' observed the brunette as she turned the pages. Reading while eating was something she enjoyed. It took her mind away from any problems that were on her mind. She started on her turkey sandwich while reading an article about the spring karate tournament. Four of her senseis from Kumono were participating. 'Let's see how the results are. Huh. My old instructor won gold in sparring! Awesome' observed the girl. A big smile formed at her face.

She took a bite of her sandwich while reading the article. It featured a number of photos from the tournament. The photographer had taken some fantastic photos from the tournament. Some of the kicks or movements looked incredible. 'I hope they use that photographer next time. Or someone who's just as skilled. Especially since people who don't train karate read this paper' recalled Marii. She smiled while she read the rest of the article. Unsurprisingly, Kashiwa and Soseki were in the lead. Both of them were cities with large karate clubs. Their instructors were top notch as well.

However, the female could not complain about her current instructor. He was just as skilled as the sensei back home. What she liked even more was the individual attention each student got. The teenager felt like her teacher really watched her and the others. Then again, their group was smaller compared to Kumono. Another aspect was the age. Everyone in her group were at least 19 years old. 'Teaching adults only is probably easier than a mixed group. The age range of my Kumono group was huge. The oldest members were 20 years older than the younger members. Some were even older' realized the girl.

She took a new bite of her sandwich. Her ice blue eyes glanced at her wrist watch. It was 2 PM sharp. The office would be open for one more hour. The brunette turned to the gossip column. It was a guilty pleasure of hers. Reading so much heavy literature required a lot of mental energy. Gossip or celebrity mags was more lightweight. The main article was an interview with a celebrity assistant. Said assistant just released a sex tape. It made the female a bit suspicious. 'Didn't a client of hers release a sex tape three years ago? Or am I completely wrong?' recalled the female.

Her thoughts were confirmed when she read the article. One of her clients had release a sex tape four years ago. The article suspected the assistant to be a copycat. Others said that 'all PR is good PR'. Marii finished her lunch while she read the article. She felt intrigued that people did something like that for attention. Especially for something like a sex tape. 'Looks like it's crunch time. Guess there is no going back now. I'll just do it quick. Like ripping off a band-aid' decided the girl.

She cleaned up the table before she went towards the office. The language student felt heart beat faster. This exam was the first time the female failed something. Sure, there had been a couple close calls. Failing was much harsher however. She took a deep breath when she entered the office. This room was a stark contrast to the busy cafeteria. Firstly, it was painted wheat brown. A pair of windows at the opposite side let in a lot of natural light. A faint smell of soap mingled with pine made her feel awake. The office was very quiet as well. Even the young guy in front of the counter spoke in a hushed voice.

'Hold on a minute. That voice sounds very familiar' realized the brunette. She looked at the male who stood in front of the counter. He was at least six inches taller than her. His short hair was in a bitter chocolate brown shade. "Arkai-san? Is that you?" inquired the girl. The taller guy turned around. It was indeed the former Kosame citizen. "Marii-san? What are you doing here?" replied the accountancy student. She cleared her throat while her heart rate increased. 'Calm down. Arkai-san is not the judgmental type. I think I can trust him' decided the teenager. "I-I'm here to get some results" replied the female.

"Really? But aren't those usually posted online?" asked the male. "Not this one. May I ask why you're here?" inquired Marii. He was about to reply when the clerk handed him a paper. "Thank you so much. Have a nice day" told the teenager with a polite smile. He turned back to the petite student. "I am here to get the product key for a software. It's student only" informed the male brunette. She nodded while she found her student ID. The girl stepped forwards with a determined look at her face.

"Hello. I am here to get the result on my re-sit exam. Here's my ID" told the language student. The taller guy stepped away to give her some privacy. "Certainly" replied the man behind the counter. He picked up the card before typing something into the computer. "All right, I got your result. Here it is" told the clerk. He turned the screen towards her so she could see. 'NO WAY!' thought the female as she saw the result. It felt like her heart stopped for a moment.

'THERE! All the information has been filled in!' thought the freshman with a grin. They had an experiment today where each group had to co-write a report. Each member did the same amount of work, but in different areas. This was a different take compared to high school. Back then, it was often one or two people who wrote most of the report. Enrai did not approve of this work ethic though. The professor told that everyone needed to complete their part. If they did not complete without a good reason, they would fail.

'Glad I got this off my 'to-do' list. Next to do is completing my chapter. I only got the last third left' recalled the guy. He saved the document after doing a spell check. Kininata left his computer, and went towards the window section. Spring was finally here. The days were longer while the frost was gone. This made him feel more alive. 'There is a nice spot. Looks very peaceful' observed the male. The 'nice spot' was a couple of chairs in front of a large window. He went over to the chair, and pulled two books out of his backpacker.

'Here we are. Chapter six' thought the teenager as he flipped the pages. Studying in the library was quite enjoyable for him. It was more quiet compared to many other rooms. Furthermore, it was easy to find extra books or information. The view from the library was excellent as well. Jade green eyes read the text with some difficulty. Some of the words were rather complex. He opened the dictionary, and turned up the unknown words. This was a strategy that his older brother used when he prepared for a difficult exam. This was an effective method for the younger Yukimura too. 'I can't afford any slack. Especially since I got my kendo exam today!' thought the guy.

He took a deep breath as he turned to the next page. The redhead could feel his brain processing the information in the book. 'Just a couple more, and I'm off to my exam. I can do this' decided the male. The freshman exhaled as he started on the next page. Studying was mentally demanding. Especially when the text was complex. The guy was better with formulas or experiments than long texts. However, biology required theory to understand the process. 'There! Time to go to my kendo exam' decided the biology student.

The books were laid back into the backpacker. He left the library a few moments later. The male felt he was in a mental fog as he walked towards the sports center. Thankfully, the brisk air woke him up a little. A smile formed at his lips after entering the sports center. Kininata went towards the billboard. A couple of paper slips with different information were taped to it. 'Kendo exam: 5 PM - 7 PM. Martial arts hall B' read the paper with the kendo club logo.

He was about to turn around when someone patted him on the shoulder. The guy turned around and smiled. Standing behind him was Himiko. She wore black sweatpants plus a maroon T-shirt. Her black hair was tied up in a high ponytail. "Hello Kininata-san. How are you?" greeted the female. "Nervous" replied the teenager. "It would be weird if you wasn't. Today is a big day" replied the nurse student. "Mhm. Having someone watch you like this is a killer for the nerves. Then again, they are not here to see me fail. Are you here to train or...?". "I just finished my workout. Today was core day. Meaning that my behind, abs plus my back got a beating. It's worth it though. Having a strong core will give me less back issues" informed the girl.

"I see. I suppose you need a strong back for being a nurse. I need to go now. Have to get changed" told the redhead. "Uhm - could I watch your test Kininata-san? Or can't people watch?" inquired the teenager. "I'm sorry, but we can't have an audience. The room is too small" replied the male with an apologetic smile. A part of him was somewhat happy that they could not have an audience. If he failed, it would be even more embarrassing with his friends there. "Well...good luck I suppose. Text me when you get the result. I am sure you'll do great" assured female. She gave him a bright smile that made him smile as well.

"Thanks a lot Himiko-san. That helps a lot" said the biology student. He went to the locker room straight away since there was not much time left. Inside the locker room stood Goro. He was putting on his gi, but his legs were bare. "Hey Kininata-san. Ready to go?" inquired the lanky guy. "As ready as I can be. I just pray we pass this test" muttered the guy. "I am positive we will. Sensei would not let us apply if we weren't ready" told the computer student. What he said made his team mate blink a little. 'Goro-san has a point. I mean, nobody in our group failed at the Christmas exam' recalled Kininata. He started to put on his uniform in a near mechanical manner. The guy could hear his heart pound when he put on the hakama. 'Stay calm. Remember the workouts you have done. Not to mention that the training sessions you had recently. They were better than usual. All I need to do is to give it all!' decided the redhead.

He picked up his bokken plus the water bottle. A small 'clack' was heard when he opened the door to the martial arts hall. At the opposite side of the hall was a table. His sensei Minoru and two men in a suit sat behind it. Next to the table stood the stand-in instructor. Seeing the familiar faces made him feel calmer. The male laid the bag in a corner and unzipped it. 'I'll go through the kihons first. Next, I'll practice on my fumikomi. Kirikaeshi is the last on my list. I got 45 minutes until my test start. Here it goes!' thought the male as he lifted the bokken.

"I can't believe it. I really can't" muttered the female as she left the office. Her ice blue eyes were wide with shock. "Did you pray to Tenjin before your re-sat exam?" inquired the guy. "I visited his temple at New Years Day with my family. Maybe that's why I got that exam result" replied Marii. They were about to leave the building when she got a text message. The girl flipped up her phone. It was from Himiko. 'Hi Marii. Did you get your result back? By the way, I met Kininata-san at the gym just now. He's having his kendo exams today. Are you or Arkai meeting him afterwards? If so, let's meet at the gym in an hour or so' read the message.

"Hey Arkai-san...do you have anything to do later tonight?" inquired the language student. "I need to finish my chapter about accountancy and society. Anything on your mind?" answered Arkai. "Kininata is taking his kendo exam today. Pretty sure a kendo exam at his level takes an hour or so. I thought we could surprise him when his exam was over. I'm positive he wants some support. You probably know how taxing those exams are" told the female. The guy nodded in reply. He and Kininata usually gave each other a pep talk prior to competitions or belt exams. Having that kind of support was very helpful for both of them.

"I second that. It's 5:40 PM now. I'll say we can go down at 7 PM" suggested the accountancy student. "Brilliant! I'll write a reply to Himiko" said the brunette. He smiled while the other teenager texted a reply. The guy remembered the impression she made on him. She appeared to be a very serious with a slightly arrogant attitude. However, the arrogance was more of a defense mechanism. The language student apparently relied on her intelligence to survive high school. Arkai recalled Himiko telling him that her friend received lewd comments by male classmates. Sadly, she was not the only one. Being a serious student was not considered popular either.

The male had noticed the change in both girls since starting at university. The older girl was coming out of her shell. She was taking fitness lessons and meeting friends regularly. Her younger friend seemed less frigid. 'Maybe it's because they're feeling comfortable. Neither I or Kininata treat them like the guys in Kumono. I feel a bit disgusted though. Talking about girls like that is revolting' thought the accountancy student.

"I have texted Himiko. She agreed to meet us at 7 PM sharp at the gym. I'll meet you two there. See you later!" told the female brunette. Her smile brightened up her face. The male felt a smile form at his own face. "See you there Marii-san" replied the male brunette. He smiled back before they went their separate ways. 'I hope you pass Kininata. You've worked so hard for this' thought the guy.

'Kami-sama. It feels like my lungs are burning! It feels like they've been doused with gasoline and put ablaze! THANK KAMI we're nearly done!' thought the male. He inhaled through his nose while his heart pounded in his chest. "Well done gentlemen! It's time for the final part. We will call you up in alphabetical order. First up is Fuyutsuki Hitoshi" told Minoru. Hitoshi took a sharp breath while he straightened his back. "You can do it Hitoshi-san" muttered Kininata. He gave his neighbor a pat on the shoulder. "Thanks" replied the male in a grateful voice.

The teenager stepped forwards. 'What the - is that what I think it is? Really now?' mused the guy. Their sensei was holding a hakama plus a keikogi. The man said something to his student. Hitoshi started to fold the clothes in a precise manner. 'Good thing sensei gave us a proper lesson two weeks ago. I have not done this since my last exam' recalled the redhead. Next, one of the visiting examiners asked the male some questions. It sounded like he got most of it right. The male prayed they would not ask too much about commands. It was one of the things he struggled with.

"That's all. Thank you Fuyutsuki-kun. You're dismissed" told the examiner. The student gave him a bow before walking back. Hitoshi looked relieved as he joined the others. "It went well. Got one minor mistake on the clothes. I got one mistake on the theory too. Nothing major thankfully" muttered the guy. "That's good. I'm sure you'll pass. Your kihons were stellar" assured Goro.

"Next person on our list is Mizutani Goro" announced the man. The tall guy cleared his throat as he went forwards. His fellow kendokas patted him on the back as he went forwards. 'This should be interesting. Goro-san is less skilled in kihons. However, he got really into it at the fumikomi. Quite sure he terrified all of us' recalled the biology student. He watched his fellow kendoka when he folded the clothes. Their sensei plus the examiners nodded in approval. Next up were the theory questions. Again, they gave him nods of approval.

"Thank you very much Mizutani-kun. You're dismissed" told the sensei. Said male gave them a proper bow before he turned around. The smile on his face said it all. "Got everything right on the theory plus the clothes. I just hope that makes up for my kihons" replied the teenager. "Congratulations! I'm really happy for you" whispered Hitoshi. His light brown eyes shone with joy. "Thanks Hitoshi-san" told the taller guy.

"Last but not least...Yukimura Kininata" called the examiner. The guy felt a chill run down his spine. This was it. "Go get them Kininata-san! You killed it at the kirikaeshi! You'll nail this one too!" assured Goro. "He's right. This is child's play for you!" whispered the other guy. Kininata felt a thin hand plus a stronger one pat his back. Those two pats put the confidence back into his body. "Thanks" replied the male as he stepped forwards. He kept their words in mind as he approached the table.

"Good evening Yukimura-kun. We want you to fold this hakama and keikogi first. The examiners will ask you some questions afterwards. Nothing you haven't before" informed Minoru. "Yes sensei" answered the teenager. His voice sounded more confident than he thought. "Here is the hakama and keikogi. Please show us how you fold them" told the man. Next, he gave him the unfolded clothing articles. Jade green eyes studied the hakama in front of him.

'Here we go' thought the guy. He started with laying the hakama on its front side. After securing the hemline, the redhead smoothed down the back creases on each side. Both of his hands smoothed the inner edges plus the outer creases. 'Next are the five pleats. They need to be straight' recalled the male. He took a deep breath as he did so. All of the examiners watched closely when the teenager folded both sides to the middle. Pallid hands folded the hakama three times lengthwise.

'Now for the sashes. The longer front sashes are be folded to a half first. Step two is to fold them to another half. They should be a quarter of their original length. Lastly, they need to be crossed over. Pretty sure the shorter sashes only needs to be tied up. Calm down Kininata. You can do this!' thought the biology student. He went through the steps mentally as he folded the sashes. The examiners nodded in approval as he did this procedure on both sides. So far, everything looked good.

The guy made the gi into a 'T' shape before he spread the right side border. It was currently flushed with the front border. After Kininata smoothed the gi, he folded the right arm at the elbow. Said arm was laid in the opposite direction. The male kept his eyes down when he did the same at the opposite side. Next, he laid the left arm over the right one. Both arms were folded inwards afterwards. The redhead folded the lower third towards the middle. He did the same with the upper third. The guy folded the gi into a rectangular step after smoothing out the creases.

All of the examiners inspected the gi. "Very well Yukimura-kun. We only have the theory left. You can start" told Minoru. "All right. Can you please tell me the name of all the shinai parts?" inquired the examiner. The guy cleared his throat while his mind worked at high speed. "Yes, I can. The names are chigiri, take, tsukagawa, tsuba, tsubadome, tsuru, nakayui, sakigawa and sakigomu" replied the biology student. "That's correct Yukimura-san. Please tell me three purposes of practicing kendo" inquired the other examiner. The teenager closed his eyes for a moment. When they opened, the jade green irises were crystal clear.

"Huh?" muttered the guy as he felt a small buzz. He picked up his phone. The bright light illuminated the darkness around him. 'My exam is over. The examiners are about to give us the results. Kirikaeshi, folding plus theory went well. Fingers crossed!' read the text. Arkai smiled as he approached the sports center. It was 7:00 PM in the evening. A chilly breeze made the temperature feel even lower. Winter was still lingering in Enrai. Stormy blue eyes glanced upwards. The sight of inky blue skies with glittering stars made him smile. 'A clear sky. That's a rare sight in Kosame' recalled the male.

He entered the sports centre. There were numerous people inside the cardio room. Many of them were sweating. They were probably working at their New Years' resolution. A couple of girls stood in a circle near a vending machines. All of them wore leotards and black tights. Their hair were tied into buns 'Huh. So that's the ballet dance group' observed the accountancy student. He smiled when he saw Himiko and Marii stand a bit further behind. "Hello girls" greeted the guy. "Hello Arkai. Have you heard anything from Kininata-san?" inquired the older girl. She had changed from her workout gear. The nurse student now wore a burgundy sweater, a black skater skirt plus black tights. On her feet were a pair of charcoal grey boots. "I have. I just got a message from Kininata. They're getting their results now" replied the male brunette. "They should be done soon. Kininata said they were only five or six people in total" told the younger girl.

"Let's see if they're done" suggested the black-haired girl. Her friends nodded. The trio walked through the hallway that lead to the martial arts room. It was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. 'I hope Kininata did well. Especially since he's been training so hard' recalled the guy. "Here it is" whispered the female brunette. Just ten feet away was the door to the martial arts hall. Suddenly, the door opened. Three males exited the door. One of them was somewhat short with a slim frame. His short golden brown hair was plastered to his scalp. The taller guy behind was wiping his face with a towel. His deep blue hair was standing in all directions. Lastly was an average height guy with dark blonde curls. His teal eyes looked rather dead.

"I can't believe how hard this was" muttered the brunette. 'His voice is quite hoarse. Probably because he is lacking oxygen' observed the older female. "I second that. Especially since we were up against some good people" stated the bluenette. "I'm glad trainees got tomorrow off. My body feels like it's been pulled through a hedge" told the curly blonde. Their statement made the teenager trio wide-eyed. "All right...this should get interesting. Let's hope Kininata is in a better state. Good thing we got you Himiko" said the shorter female. "Th-thanks for the trust Marii. Let's hope you're wrong" replied her friend.

Suddenly, two more guys stumbled out of the door. Guy number one sported short blue hair. Guy number two was a redhead. Sweat was running down their faces. Both of them sported a blank look in their eyes. "Kininata! What happened to you?" inquired Arkai. The jade eyed male looked up. "I got completely worn out. That's what happened" answered the guy. "Let's get you a drink. Do you have a water bottle?" inquired Marii. Her friend nodded before he handed her a bottle. She went to get some water for him. "Here. My roommate gave this to me. She said it was great for muscle fatigue" told Himiko. She gave him a small fruit.

'A fig. How funny. That's what I ate after I passed my last kendo exam' recalled the biology student. "Thanks Himiko-san. I need some fuel" replied the guy. He took a bite of the fig. The sweet juice made him smile. "So...can you please tell us what happened? We weren't there to watch you after all" inquired his male friend. The kendoka nodded as he swallowed the piece of fig. The teenager took a deep breath afterwards. "We did the kihons first. Next were the fumikomis. They both went all right. Third was the kirikaeshis. I got a good partner, so that went well. We did the theory for last. Fortunately, we got the results pretty quickly" replied the male.

"So...?" started the accountancy student. He felt anxious while looking at his friend. Suddenly, there was a spark in his green eyes. "We all passed" confirmed Kininata. A wide smile formed at his face. "CONGRATULATIONS!" exclaimed the taller guy. He pulled him into a man hug. "Congratulations. You really deserved that new kyu" stated the older female. Her brown eyes glittered with happiness. "Thanks Himiko-san. I'm happy to hear that" told the guy. "I take it you got a new kyu now. Congrats" told a familiar voice. The female brunette had returned with his water bottle. There was a sincere smile on her face. "I did. Can't wait to learn the new curriculum" replied the teenager. She handed him the water bottle.

He took some sips. The cool water extinguished the burning feel in his throat. "Speaking of which...don't you have something to tell us Marii-san?" inquired the male brunette. There was a sly smile on his face. "Er - yes. I got my exam result back today" admitted the girl. She had a somewhat flushed look at her face. "Oh? How did it go Marii?" asked the younger guy. "I-I passed. My grade was not good, but I made it" informed the female teenager.

Himiko and Kininata brightened up simultaneously. "Congratulations Marii! I told you would pass!" replied the redhead. "Congratulations Marii. I think we need to celebrate this" suggested the older female. "Thank you guys. I was thinking about a hanami when we're done with our last handins. I mean, it's only two or three weeks until sakura season" suggested the language student. "I like the idea. However, are there any good parks in Enrai we can visit?" inquired Arkai. His female friends remained quiet for a few moments. Suddenly, the nurse student grinned.

"There is a nice park close to the art museum. It's near the river. I went there with my family two years ago" recalled the girl. "I suggest we find a weekday where we don't have any lessons. Or finish our lessons early" suggested the younger female. "I like your idea Marii-san. Maybe we can eat lunch there? Fingers crossed there won't be any spring showers" told the taller guy. "Hm...those could become a problem. Maybe we could take a look at the weather forecast and suggest a few dates?" inquired the younger guy. "I like your thinking Kininata. Especially since our lessons might get cancelled" replied Marii.

Her friends nodded as they walked out. "Let's keep an eye on our lessons. I will leave location and traveling to Himiko and Marii-san. They know this city better than we do. Me and Kininata can do some weather watching" suggested the male brunette. His female friends nodded in agreement.

They remained quiet until they reached Raiu college. "Looks like we need to split up. Let's keep in touch. I can't wait for the hanami" told the biology student. "Same. I hope you eat a good meal Kininata-san. Your body needs to refuel" told the nurse student. "I will make sure he does. Take care ladies" replied his friend. They waved each other good bye before they separated.

"Congrats buddy! You really deserved that kyu! One step closer to that dan degree" stated the male as he patted his shoulder. "Thanks Arkai. I am over the moon. Especially since I had to adjust to a new club plus a new sensei" told the teenager. "I agree. Especially since there aren't many from Kosame in my group" replied the accountancy student. A small "ding" was heard when they entered the lobby. The warmth made the kendoka relax. "I have a surprise for you Kininata. Close your eyes" told the older guy. His friend gave him a wry smile as he closed his eyes.

He could feel his friend pull him forwards. The solid "clack" revealed they were entering the hallway. 'Smells like cooked food. Are we in the kitchen?' pondered the male. "Open your eyes" said the teenager. His friend opened his eyes. The male stood in front of him with a bowl of food. "Sukiyaki! That's my favourite!" exclaimed Kininata. "That's not all. I got your favourite tea as well. My neighbor left me some samples. I noticed there was a familiar one in the bunch" informed Arkai as he gestured towards the table. On the table stood two mugs plus another bowl. Clearly, they were going to eat together. "Thanks a bunch Arkai. This is...so kind of you. Don't get me wrong. You're not a mean person or anything. However, I truly miss eating with someone. Both of us are living far away from home after all" admitted the male.

"I get you. However, my aunt gave me a word of wisdom during the holidays. She told that you have to sacrifice something in order to reach your goal. Us living here is probably one of those" replied Arkai. "I agree. I don't think we would get that far if we stayed in Kosame. Should we start eating?" asked his friend. "Sure. I can't wait" told the guy with a huge smile on his face.