Heyo! This is a five-chapter collaboration between Major Mike Powell III and yours truly. He came up with the idea and sent me his notes, so I took a break from my other stories for long enough to exercise my imagination and write this somewhat unusual tale.

Read on!

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LOVE HINA: FLIGHT OF THE HORNET
CHAPTER ONE

By Doctor-T and Major Mike Powell III

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It was a hot summer afternoon in Kanagawa Prefecture. Situated just across the lazily flowing Hinata River from Hinata City, the sleepy town of Hinata Hot Springs basked languidly in the bright light cast benevolently down by the radiant golden sun. Cicadas chirped amongst the greenery surrounding the old wood, stone and tile-built town, and a warm, gentle breeze wafted unenergetically through the rustic landscape as if it were loath to disturb the peaceful scene of suburban tranquility with unseemly haste.

Because of the late August heat, few people seemed to be out and about at that particular time of the day. Except for the occasional slowly moving car, and a strolling pedestrian or two in the shopping area, the cobblestoned streets of the ancient municipality seemed to be almost completely deserted.

However, if the townsfolk were conspicuous by their absence, one other creature currently visiting their town was very conspicuous, in both its size and the distinctive dull, low-pitched sound of its flight. Just above the footpath that ran along the eastern base of the grassy plateau that backed the old township of Hinata Hot Springs, a rather large and dangerous insect was on the move. This particularly imposing specimen of the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, was at that very moment droning its winding way parallel to the asphalt-sealed two-lane road, towards where a certain Tea Shop was located right next to a currently deserted trolley bus stop.

As our story revolves around this particular insect, it is worth our while to take a closer look at our protagonist. A very careful closer look.

The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, is a native of Eastern Asia. Over its entire range, it is most common in the mountainous areas of Japan. Here, it is known as the Japanese hornet or suzumebachi, which translates into 'sparrow bee', due to its size and coloration.

The world's largest hornet, Vespa mandarinia has a body length of approximately 50 mm, and a wingspan of about 76 mm. The stinger of this particularly nasty wasp is about 6mm in length, and, being barbless, allows the hornet to sting its victims repeatedly. Even worse, the venom ejected by this formidable weapon contains at least eight distinct chemicals, including Acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the pain nerve fibers of its stung victims, magnifying the agony. Also present is a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin, which, with a sufficient dose, can be lethal even to humans.

This particular individual hornet possessed a name of his own, too. As did all hornets. However, his name in Hornetese, Zzzthpthipth, is totally unpronounceable by humans. Spoken correctly by another hornet, the name 'Zzzthpthipth' sounded like a cross between a loud snore and a raspberry, but compressed down into a half-second ultrasonic buzz. Purely to satisfy the curiosity of all you multitudes of readers whom are fluent in Turtlese, 'Zzzthpthipth' translates into that common and widely used language as 'Myuh'. In Japanese, the nearest two translations for this name were either, 'Bold Investigator of Strange Smells', or 'Kyle', depending on which syllable you stressed.

Unfortunately, 'myuh' also has multiple other meanings in Turtlese (depending on which syllable you stressed) – of which, 'yay, an onsen', 'Waiter, there's a fly in my soup – can I have another?' and 'watch out, Keitaro, Naru's about to hand you your head!' - are but a mere smattering of them. And, as, 'Bold Investigator of Strange Smells' is too cumbersome (not to mention perverted), we will call our protagonist, Kyle, Kyle the Hornet.

Now, Zzzthpthipth – whoops, I mean, 'Kyle', had been given the day off from his hidden nest. Yep, that's right. Hornets have days off. A rare occurrence, but it happens.

As to how this unusual state of affairs came about, he and a handful of other scout hornets had found a dead pigeon lying not too far from their nest. Their Queen had praised them for their discovery and given them the day off after they had eaten their share of the dead bird – which wasn't much, considering that the pigeon was at least twenty times their size.

Right now, Kyle was just buzzing lazily along, having nothing better to do that afternoon. As hornets don't usually get time off from work, he was unsure exactly what to do with this totally unprecedented free time. So, to help him make up his mind, he was doing the hornet equivalent of taking a walk to clear his head.

Looking up from his reverie as a wood and glass wall loomed up in his flight path, the preoccupied wasp noticed to his horror that he was precariously close to the terrifying 'den of doom', a location to be avoided at all costs. Doing a ninety-degree turn in mid-air, the now agitated hornet hurriedly headed up the nearby flight of stone steps, bypassing the Danger Zone, where many of Kyle's brothers had met their demise by a rather swift moving and unerringly accurate paper fan.

Kyle the hornet had lost many friends at the hands of the Apron-Wearing Destroyer, whom, unfortunately, had returned to that locality after an absence of some years. And he had no wish to join his squashed comrades in 'the land of milk and honey and decomposing meat'.

Well, actually he did, but not by that particular means of arrival. Arriving in the afterlife in the shape of a green starfish-shaped splatter-effect was definitely not on his top-ten list of things to do.

Once safely out of harms reach, Kyle flew up the seemingly never-ending series of stone steps before finally landing, all senses alert, on the cobblestoned plaza at its summit.

This territory wasn't totally unknown to the hive, either, but – like the 'den of doom' - it was considered by all within the chewed-bark paper walls of their home to be still pretty damn dangerous to approach.

Situated at the far side of the plaza, facing out over Sagami Bay, was a sprawling old building – a building with a sinister reputation amongst the hornet community. Some of Kyle's co-workers had entered this particular towering wood-and-stone structure seeking food for the hive and had never returned. As to whether they were dead or alive, it was a mystery to all.

Personally, Kyle suspected 'dead'. Hence the hesitant hornet's quite understandable reluctance to move any closer to the ominous edifice.

Suddenly, the wary Kyle's antennas twitched, as they perceived a particular scent wafting out of the massive, multi-storied apartment block. A faint, tangy scent that Kyle the hornet had never picked up before.

The insect immediately perceived that the tantalizing odor was definitely coming from somewhere high up in the building in front of him.

He tilted his head this way and that, deciding on what to do next.

For one, Kyle was tempted to try to find out what that intriguing smell was. It did remind him of fresh squid. Tasty. But...to do that would mean having to actually enter the foreboding wood and stone mountain towering above him and face whatever horrors it contained.

Ah, what to do...what to do...decisions, decisions.

...

Damn it! He finally exclaimed. Or the insect equivalent, thereof.

In the end, curiosity had won out over precaution.

At times like this, Kyle wished that his hornet name didn't begin with the prefix, 'Bold'.

Letting his nose (well, sense of smell) guide him, Kyle launched his segmented body back into the hot air, and spiraled upwards, heading for the second floor of the Hinata Apartments, where he could see a dozen open windows. (Actually there was only one open window, but being a hornet, he has compound eyes).

Instead of flying straight through the gap and into the building, Kyle first alighted on the wooden windowsill, from whence he subjected the silent hallway beyond to a long and searching scrutiny. Only once he was sure that there was no immediate danger lurking in his vicinity did he then venture into the hazardous territory inside.

Backtracking the scent trail, the giant hornet droned his way carefully along the wooden hallway, all senses on high alert, until he reached a tightly closed, wood and rice paper door.

Kyle knew that hidden behind this door was the source of the odor he was seeking. Right here in Room 204. Unfortunately, he could also clearly hear two voices coming from within. Human voices, no less. The same species as the Apron-Wearing Destroyer - his only natural enemies.

Resisting his instinctive urge to flee back to the safety of the great outdoors with an effort, Kyle instead landed on the polished hardwood floor. Then he began his fact-finding mission by listening in on the strange and usually dangerous creatures hidden within the chamber behind the door. They were making strange noises and speaking in their very slow and guttural language. Even though Kyle couldn't understand a single word being spoken, one voice sounded like it belonged to a human female, the other a human male.

After listening for several minutes to the deep-pitched babble, Kyle made his move. Having heard nothing apart from the voices to indicate any threat to his well-being, the hornet decided that fortune favored the brave. Besides, with his quarter-inch stinger, he was pretty well armed, all things considering. So he squeezed his segmented orange and black body through the crack between the rice-paper door and the floor and easily crawled into the room – to immediately espy two dozen, no, two near-nude human figures, clad only in their underwear, sitting on an unrolled futon in the center of the wooden floor, making out.

One of the near nude figures was obviously a human male, although not a very imposing specimen of one. The other was a longhaired, well-endowed girl, her twin hair antennae bobbing up and down as she laughed at something the other creature had just said.

And she wasn't the girl that this particular human male had married only three short months ago, either.

Naru Narusegawa – now Naru Urashima – was nowhere in sight.

This was Mutsumi Otohime.

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As to how this eye-opening state of affairs had come about, we must now backtrack several months, to just after the wedding of one Keitaro Urashima and one Naru Narusegawa.

Ever since the comical conclusion of their western-style marriage - when the hapless Keitaro had accidentally stood on the hem of Naru's wedding dress just as she was stepping up into Seta's decked out van, stripping the blushing bride to her underwear right there in front of their family and friends – things hadn't quite been right between Keitaro and Naru.

And, in what would months later prove to be the final straw that broke the camel's back, in their hurry to get away from the gales of laughter from their kith and kin after Keitaro's embarrassing gaffe, both angry Bride and just now well-beaten-up Groom had completely forgotten to lodge their Registration of Marriage Form at the Hinata City government office before departing post-haste on their now-not-to-be very enjoyable honeymoon.

Even though neither realized it at the time, because of this oversight, Keitaro and Naru were now no more legally married than they had been before the ceremony had even happened. For the only way to marry legally in Japan is to register the marriage at a municipal government office. This is Japanese Law. The civil procedure is not, and cannot, be part of a religious wedding ceremony, because since the end of World War II, religion and state have been separated.

So, the upshot of the newlyweds' failure to register their nuptials was that their wedding had been invalid from the date it had happened. And by the time that Keitaro realized this – several months later - their Registration of Marriage Form had somehow become lost, meaning that if they really still wished to legally become man and wife, they would have to go though the whole lengthy process of getting another licence and then remarrying once again.

Upon being told of their more than merely shocking situation by her sweating no-longer-husband, the suddenly unmarried Naru hadn't just seen red - she had seen the full spectrum of that color, from infrared to orange. All poor Keitaro had then seen was her fist expanding into his face, followed by not just stars, but a miniature scale exploding galaxy. The hapless young bachelor went at a forty-five degree angle though the wall behind him like it didn't even exist, and then the one behind that, as well. Without any sign of his velocity slowing down whatsoever, Keitaro spiraled off into the sky in a parabolic arc that finally deposited him, in a splashdown crater of meteoric proportions, a full two kilometers away from his place of residence.

From the dire physical punishment he had received over the years - not only from Naru and Motoko, but also from accidents that would have been fatal to anyone else - Keitaro already harbored the sneaking suspicion that he was somehow an immortal. But even if he truly couldn't die, he had also discovered that he wasn't totally invulnerable to harm. And now, as the battered and bruised young man crawled woozily out of the crater with his jaw broken in two places by Naru's punch, he sure wished that he were dead – but, judging by the pain he was now suffering, the peace of the grave was once again denied him.

And his current mental state certainly wasn't helped by the fact that the last words he had heard from the outraged Naru was her screaming out after him, "You asshole! We're through!"

He didn't know for absolute sure if the enraged Naru had really meant those cruel words to him or not. But this time, Keitaro took them to heart.

For it was right then and there, as he collapsed face downwards on the dirt-splattered grass, Keitaro realized that he and Naru really were through.

After what had just happened, it was blatantly obvious that Naru really didn't love him any more. Her frightfully violent and unforgiving reaction to their newfound unwedded situation in automatically blaming him for forgetting to file their Registration of Marriage Form, when she was actually the one who had promised to do it for him after their wedding, was ample proof of that.

It wasn't just her temper that was short – her memory was, also.

In the seconds before he passed out into merciful unconsciousness on the edge of the impact crater, Keitaro Urashima finally and wearily admitted to himself the real truth of his situation - he just didn't love Naru any more, now, either.

Truth to tell, their marriage had been a sham, as had their supposed true and everlasting love for each other. All that this latest in a long line of painful incidents had done was confirm beyond all doubt that unpleasant fact to him. At long last Keitaro gave up on his dream. He accepted that any previous feelings of warmth and affection that he and Naru once may have had for each other were dead, and had been for some time now.

And so, as of right now, his rocky, long time relationship with the wildly beautiful, but cruel and ill-tempered girl who had once held his heart was now well and truly over – by mutual consent.

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"No, Keitaro, I have a headache."

"Get away from me, you idiot! Can't you see that I have to study?"

"So that's the only reason you married me? Just to hit 4th base with me? Go take a cold shower, you sex-starved pervert!"

"Sorry, I've got to wash my hair. Maybe tomorrow, if you don't do anything to break the mood. Okay?"

"What? Is that all you ever think about? I just aren't ready for that type of carry on, okay? So stop bugging me about it!"

Over and over again, Naru's evasions and excuses for avoiding even the slightest bit of intimacy with him kept rolling like a never-ending newsreel through the injured Keitaro's unconsciously dreaming mind as he lay there senseless in the dirt.

It was now almost exactly three months since their supposed wedding. And in all of that elapsed time, Keitaro and Naru's relationship had gone nowhere positive. In fact, if anything, it had been going downhill at an exponential rate of knots.

Intimate, the pair was not. The only time they'd even so much as kissed in anything vaguely resembling a passionate manner was immediately after Noriyasu Seta had pronounced them man and wife, just before Keitaro's unfortunate wedding dress faux pas. Ever since then, Naru had been hedging and stalling, either unwilling or afraid to deepen their relationship into something more meaningful.

And there had been a LOT of punches. Even more than before. The increasingly moody and irascible Naru now seemed to deliberately set out to find fault with everything he said or did. Despite his mounting bruise count and all of the other evidence to the contrary; Keitaro had been grimly hanging on to his love for his ill-tempered wife, hoping against hope that Naru would eventually change. Not even all of the warnings that his younger sister Kanako and Aunt Haruka had been giving the increasingly sore and frustrated new husband had swayed him from this single-minded belief in Naru's innate goodness – until right now, that was.

He now knew that his relatives had been right about Naru all along.

Keitaro Urashima the fool had paid a terrible price for his misplaced loyalty and stubborn refusal to accept the truth of his loveless situation with the beautiful psychopath he thought he would spend the rest of his life with in wedded bliss.

But no more. The realization that he and Naru weren't in fact legally married meant he didn't even need to go through the hassle of getting a divorce. And, because of his newfound bachelor status, not only could he leave her as of right now and move on with his life, he could do so with an absolutely clear conscience.

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When Keitaro finally came to, night had fallen. Raising his dirt-streaked, bruised face up from the dewy grass, the still partially dazed ex-husband saw, without much surprise, that no-one had come to his aid, least of all, Naru. He was alone in a dark, tree-fringed field, far from the lights marking the outskirts of Hinata Hot Springs.

Then the realization of his newfound liberation burst back into Keitaro's befuddled mind, sweeping away all other considerations.

I'm free. Oh, god, at long last – I'm free of her. And…I actually feel happy about it…!

The injured student then sat up, his shaken mind now awhirl with conflicting thoughts of hope for a better future, a touch of sadness at the discovery that his marriage had been a sham, relief at his newfound freedom, and undeniable regret at what could have been, had Naru only loved him as much as he had loved her.

Had loved her…

I did love you, Naru. I really, really did. And I fulfilled my promise to you; we finally got into Toudai together. Mutsumi, too. We really, really made it!

But anything more than that between us…it was only a dream. I see now that you and I were never meant to be. And finding out now that we were never legally married just proves it to me.

We did have some good times together – well, a few, anyway – and I dared to hope. But now we've both woken up, and my dream is over.

Goodbye Naru. Hello, the rest of my life.

Then Keitaro gingerly touched his throbbing jaw, and winced at the sensation. Despite the dull pain, he could feel that the double break had already started to knit back together. In a day or so, his shattered jaw would be back to its normal, undamaged self. This extraordinarily fast healing factor he possessed was something else to be grateful about, at least.

Letting out a resigned sigh, Keitaro made it back to his somewhat unsteady feet. Dusting himself off as best he was able, the newly unmarried Toudai graduate started off on his long walk back towards the distant lights of the town and home.

Keitaro Urashima had a new and better future to plan. One that didn't include his bad tempered, uncaring ex.

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Back at the light-spangled Hinata Apartments, one Naru Urashima – now, after that morning's life altering bombshell, Naru Narusegawa once again – was getting worried. Keitaro still hadn't arrived back at their sprawling home on the hill, and despite her previous anger at him, she couldn't help feeling genuine concern at his prolonged absence.

I hit Keitaro so hard. But he deserved it…didn't he? Naru queried herself as she apprehensively paced back and forth in their strangely empty feeling room on the second story of the apartments. I mean, telling me that he hadn't filed our marriage papers and now that he had lost them – what an idiot! Hmph! Some husband he turned out to be!

No, that's right – because of his forgetfulness, we were never really officially married, were we? So he never really was my husband in the first place.

Well - well, good! I'm better off without him…aren't I…?

Aren't I…?

Coming to a halt, the restless young woman stared for what felt like the hundredth time out the window into the darkness of the night, down towards the cobblestoned plaza below her. Naru's hopeful eyes strained to catch a glimpse of her returning ex-partner, but once again she was to be disappointed. Nothing stirred in the twin pools of yellow light cast by the lamps at the top of the stone staircase, except for the glowing dots of a few spiraling moths.

At her lack of success in spotting her errant ex, Naru clenched her fists, and a few involuntary tears appeared in the corners of her eyes.

Oh, that tardy idiot. I wonder where he could be? Keitaro…

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Keitaro had honestly intended to make his way directly back to his lofty old home on the hill. But, for some yet unfathomable reason, his turbulent subconscious caused him to make a slight detour from his planned route. Before Keitaro could fully realize what he was doing, he found his feet carrying him in a slow limp along the shadowy, gas lamp lit street on which Mutsumi Otohime's apartment block was situated.

Once he had reached his unplanned destination, Keitaro hesitated at the foot of the outside staircase, a dark look in his eyes. He knew now why he had gone there, but could he really go through with what he wanted to say to the unsuspecting turtle girl. But then a fresh surge of resentment at his previous treatment made up his mind for him in no uncertain fashion. Keitaro steeled himself, set his mouth in a grim, resolute line, adjusted his cracked glasses, and then limped up the flight of steps and along the dark corridor to Mutsumi's doorway.

Taking a deep breath, Keitaro closed his eyes and counted to ten, then rapped loudly on the wooden door with his knuckles.

"Mutsumi! Open up!" he called out in a bleak tone, an undercurrent of anger in his voice. "We need to talk!"

Ten seconds passed, and Keitaro was beginning to think that maybe Mutsumi had already gone to bed and so hadn't heard his knocking. As his watch had been broken by the impact of his fall, the injured young man hadn't a clue as to just what time of night it might now be. It could be already after midnight, for all he knew. But then the faint glow of a light switching on shone out through the hairline crack beneath the solid wooden door, casting a faint pool of half-light across the hallway at his still weak and unsteady feet.

"Hello?" Mutsumi's uncertain voice came faintly to Keitaro's straining ears. "Who's there?"

"It's me, Keitaro," he reassured her through gritted teeth. "Open the door, I've got something to say to you!"

"Kei-kun? Oh my goodness! Hold on a moment…"

A second or two later, the front door swung inwards, and the kimono-clad silhouette of Mutsumi Otohime appeared, backlit in the doorway by the bright light streaming out of her room.

"Kei-kun!" Mutsumi exclaimed in delighted surprise, a warm smile of greeting on her beaming face. "Welcome! But what are you doing here at this time of the night?"

"I'll give you three guesses," the shadowy shape of Keitaro growled bitterly, staring at the young woman with a most disconcerting look of betrayal in his normally cheery eyes. "Can I come in?"

"Please, yes," Mutsumi answered, her kind heart sinking as she took note of his grim expression, stepping back a couple of paces to let her childhood friend enter her abode. It was only then, as Keitaro stumbled into her well-lit room, that the now worried young woman noticed the disheveled, dirt streaked appearance of her surprise visitor.

"Oh, Kei-kun, you're all bruised and dirty! What happened to you?"

Keitaro's expression changed and he gave a short, mirthless laugh. "What happened? Naru happened, of course!"

"Naru-san hit you again?" Mutsumi wailed, hands flying to her mouth as her worst fears were confirmed. "But why?"

"Because I just found out today that my marriage to her isn't legal. As to the reason why, we both forgot to file our Registration of Marriage Form after our wedding," Keitaro explained in a pained, gritty tone because of his healing jaw, unconsciously clenching his fists, simmering anger in his eyes at the memory of this morning's events. "Naru was not impressed when I told her. She lost it completely, and booked me on an instant, one-way flight to the upper atmosphere with her right fist. I splashed down about a kilometer and a bit from your apartment, in a field. Just look for the brand new crater on the outskirts of town for the exact location, if you want to measure how far it is back to the Hinata Apartments, and confirm her new punching-me-for-distance record."

"Oh, my! I wouldn't do that, Kei-kun! But…you're telling me that, despite your big wedding and honeymoon, you and Naru-san aren't really married after all?" Mutsumi whispered in huge-eyed disbelief, her heart thumping not only with anxiety for him and Naru, but with one other, far more important personal emotion, as well.

Newfound hope.

Keitaro gave another bitter laugh. "Afraid so. No filed form at the municipal office, no legal marriage. So I'm still single, and so is she!"

"But can't you just take your marriage form in to the registry office tomorrow morning?" Mutsumi pointed out to Keitaro, still thinking that he was upset and acting strangely because he was afraid of losing Naru all over again, this time for good. "Once it's safely on record, Naru will forgive you, and you'll both go back to being one happy couple again-"

"I can't file it because we've lost it! And even if the form did show up again, the deadline for filing it was last week," Keitaro burst out, his face black with sudden anger. "It's expired now, so it's totally useless! But even if I knew where that damn marriage form was and it was still valid, I wouldn't hand it in now! Not now – not ever!"

"Wh-what? Why?"

"Because it turned out that Naru's so-called 'love' for me was nothing but a lie," the shaking young man declared, his eyes blazing with anguish and rage. "And because I was deluded enough to believe that she did love me, and that she and I were fated to be together, I suffered her physical and mental abuse for years, and for what? Absolutely nothing!"

"Kei-kun, no! Naru-san does love you, I'm sure of it," the now pale-faced Mutsumi protested, instinctively trying to save the obviously crumbling short-term marriage of her two best friends. "I know that you and Naru-san can work this out, and-!"

"No, we can't! Naru told me that we're through! And you know what – she's absolutely right! I don't want her back again, now, either!"

"Oh, my goodness! So you two really have split up for good?" the Okinawan beauty gasped, still unable to believe what she was hearing just yet. "And – you don't want to marry each other again, Kei-kun? Are you sure-?"

"Yes! And as for you, Mutsumi, I have just one question. Why in the hell did you keep pushing Naru and I together when you knew perfectly well what she was like towards me?" Keitaro shouted, the expression on his face terrible to behold as he abruptly turned his wrath onto her. "And you're still trying to do it, even now! I thought you were in love with me, too – you told me that you were on numerous occasions. And yet...you let Naru continue to hit me even when it was blatantly obvious that she was in the wrong! Even worse, after the beatings, you would just walk away and leave me laying there in my own blood! What kind of love for me do you call that?"

"Kei-kun! I – uhum-?" the shocked turtle girl stammered in reply, her jumbled thoughts frozen by Keitaro's sudden and most uncharacteristic outburst towards her. "J-just what are you trying to say-?"

"I'll tell you what kind," the cold-eyed Keitaro went on ruthlessly, before Mutsumi could even try to give him a coherent answer. "The same sort that Naru had for me – false. And just like hers was, your claimed love for me is nothing but a lie, too!"

Mutsumi's already pale face went even whiter at Keitaro's angry and soul-wrenchingly truthful words to her. She had never seen him this angry before – ever. But Keitaro was one hundred percent correct with what he had just said. Instead of attempting to defend Keitaro from Naru's usually totally unjustified wrath, she had usually done exactly as he had just spelled it out to her…absolutely nothing to help him, at all.

Mutsumi had dreamed of the day when Keitaro would fall out of love with Naru, and she would have her chance to get him to finally notice her as more than just a friend. And now, against all odds, it appeared that day had unbelievably come. But instead of being able to give Keitaro the love and comfort that she longed to give him, and that he deserved after his years of suffering and heartbreak at the hands of his violent ex-crush, to find out that she, too, was on the outer with him was almost too much for the taken-aback turtle girl to bear.

Despite the burning guilt she was now feeling at having been unable to ease the cross that Keitaro had borne for so many years, the shocked Mutsumi knew all-too-well that unless she took drastic action to remedy the situation right now, the man she loved would never ever look upon her again as anyone other than a false friend who had betrayed him. So she took a step forward and reached out to the bitter young man in desperate appeal.

"But Kei-kun…?" Mutsumi implored, tears of regret pouring down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry I couldn't do more to help you! But you know that my doctor warned me about getting into any physical confrontations like that, because of my-!"

"But Kei-kun, nothing," the steamed up young landlord snapped back, for once unwilling to listen to the pleas of his former best friend, slapping her trembling hand away and turning back towards the door as he spoke. "I just came by to say goodbye. I'm outta here, and out of your life for good! Just like Naru's out of mine! So goodbye, and good riddance!"

What? No. No! I can't give up – I won't give up on Kei-kun, the stunned girl's mind screamed. Despite what he just told me, he needs my love and understanding, now more than ever! I have to prove to him that my love for him is true!

"Don't go, Kei-kun!" the distraught Mutsumi cried out, dropping onto her knees in despair. "Please? I do love you! Please, please give me a chance to make it up to you?"

"It's – it's too late for that, Mutsumi," Keitaro bluntly declared, turning his face back to her, his right hand already on the door handle. "You won't be seeing me agai-Waugh?"

The desperate turtle girl had flung herself headlong at her departing love, wrapping her arms tightly against his chest, bringing them both crashing down hard onto the solid wooden floor with a bone jarring thump. As the powerful jolt of the double impact reverberated through her frail body, Mutsumi shuddered, and then her eyes rolled back and glazed over as she abruptly lost consciousness. She slumped limply forward on top of the gasping Keitaro's winded chest, to then roll off his prone body onto her back. And there Mutsumi lay where she had fallen, deathly pale and quiet; only the barely perceptible rise and fall of her imposing breasts showing that she was in fact still alive.

Hard as though Mutsumi had hit, the force of Keitaro's involuntary contact with the hard, unyielding floorboards was far worse, considering that he had the full weight of the turtle girl on top of him as he hit. For a couple of seconds, stars danced around the blurry shape of her ceiling, and such was his nausea, he thought that he would throw up. But the unpleasant sensation subsided just in time to allow him to hold back from having that particular messy mishap. Thank goodness.

With a loud groan, the already battered Tokyo U graduate managed to sit painfully up again, one hand instinctively reaching back to caress the brand new bump on the back of his throbbing skull.

"Ow-wouch! 'Cough!' Mutsumi! What in the heck did you do that for…?"

It was only then that the grimacing, still half-winded Keitaro finally noticed the motionless body of his female best friend. Instantly, his facial expression changed from that of pain, to one of rapidly increasing alarm at what he was seeing.

"Mutsumi…?"

"Mutsumi!"

-:-:-:-:-:-

It wasn't until a little over an hour later that the catatonic turtle girl finally began to stir once again. As consciousness returned, Mutsumi's eyes flickered open, then shut again, before snapping open for a second time as her memories of what had transpired came rushing back into her confused mind.

Kei? I remember now! Oh my god, no! He was so angry with me for being unable to help him, and now he's left me for good! Kei-kuuun!

Raising up her head from the soft pillow it had been resting on, the twin-antennaed brunette stared off in anguished misery towards her doorway, to espy-

"Ke-Kei-kun? You're…you're still here…?"

"Yep," the battered and bruised young university graduate answered, smiling down with relief on his face at the dazed looking turtle girl, whom was now laying comfortably where he had placed her on her previously laid out futon. "I couldn't just run off and leave you unconscious on the hard wooden floor, could I? Anyway, I'm just glad that you're going to be all right! You had me really worried there for a few minutes."

"Oh, Kei-kun! Thank you!" the wildly happy Mutsumi responded, overwhelming gratitude at his continued presence in her room shining from her loving eyes. "I was so worried that I'd never see you again, I just-!"

"Yeah…I felt it too," Keitaro stated, transferring his right hand from his still sore jaw to begin rubbing ruefully at the fresh lump on the back of his head. "Owwie. First Naru flattens me, and then you do. Heh, heh! Not the greatest day of my life today, I must admit."

"Kei-kun! Please forgive me for-?"

"No, no, relax Mutsumi, it's fine," the repentant ex-ronin hastened to assure the turtle girl, punctuating that declaration with a chuckle. "What happened was my fault, not yours. I was acting like a jerk towards you, and I'm glad that you knocked some sense back into me before I did something that I know I'd regret for the rest of my life."

"So…so you're not mad at me any more for not helping you…?"

"No, and I shouldn't have been in the first place. Anyway, I'm so sorry for biting your head off before," Keitaro contritely apologized to the more than relieved young woman. "God, when I saw you hit the floor; all of my anger went just like that, and all that I felt then was concern for your well being." Reaching down, he clasped Mutsumi's right hand in both of his own and gave it a reassuring squeeze. "And once I had calmed down, it all clicked, and I realized that I was totally out of line with what I said about you just before. And I now also know why you couldn't get involved and help me when Naru and I had one of our fights."

"Y-you do, Kei-kun?"

"Yeah, I figured it out," he told the surprised girl, his voice quiet and subdued. "Your fainting spells are the reason why, huh? I was such an idiot not to have realized that before. It would be foolish for you to place yourself in a stressful situation that could trigger one of them, wouldn't it? Especially since you never know whether you will wake up afterwards again from your coma, or not."

At his forgiving words, tears began to stream again from the corners of Mutsumi's eyes, this time of happiness.

"I really, really wish that I could have helped you out more, Kei-kun," she told him with genuine feeling. "I did try asking Naru-san to take it easy on you on a few occasions, but she wouldn't listen to me. And once when I tried talking to her, she got really jealous of my concern for you, thinking that I had gone back on my word to support her and you getting together. Despite my pleas to her that I wasn't trying to steal you away from her, she went storming out of her room to go and confront you about it."

Keitaro winced at that particular unpleasant memory. "Yeah, I'm not going to forget that little incident in a hurry. Naru kicked my door in, and got right up in my face about it. I tried to tell her that you and I weren't having an affair behind her back, but she didn't believe a word of it. Then, POW! On that occasion, I woke up several hours later, upside-down in a tree, if I remember correctly."

"Oh, I'm so sorry! I tried to help, but all that I succeeded in doing was making things worse for you."

"No, it's all right, Mutsumi. At least you cared enough to make the effort. It's certainly not your fault that Naru had her usual overreaction and took it the wrong way. She was the one at fault, not you."

"Thank you so much," Mutsumi whispered. "But I still can't help feeling bad about it. I never intended Naru-san to twist what I said, and then take her jealousy out on you."

"I never blamed you for that incident, anyway, so let's just forget about it, shall we?" Keitaro suggested. Then his face inexplicably took on an uncertain look as he spoke up again.

"'Ahem!' Any-anyway, I need to ask you about something you told me just before you fainted…"

"Yes, Kei-kun?" Mutsumi prompted him, puzzlement now showing on her own very attractive face. "What is it?"

The unsure looking Keitaro opened his mouth to ask his awkward question, he closed it again, and then finally told the patiently waiting young woman what was on his mind.

"So…is it true what I heard? That bit about – um – you still loving me, I mean? Even now, after we both thought that I'd married Naru?"

"Of course it is, Kei-kun," Mutsumi exclaimed, her heart fluttering like a huge, nervous butterfly at the unexpected topic of Keitaro's question. Her chest and throat felt suddenly short of breath and constricted as she hurriedly added, "I always have, and I always will. Please believe me, because it's true."

"I was hoping that you'd say that, Mutsumi," Keitaro hesitantly continued, nervousness in his own tone. "You see, I've been doing some hard thinking while you were unconscious just now, and, well, I've come to a decision." He gulped, and then took a deep, anxious breath. "I know this is really sudden and all, but I'd like to ask you, now that Naru and I are through for good, something really important. So, would you – urm – would you…like to go out with me?"

"G-go out with you? You mean…as your new girlfriend, Kei-kun?" the wide-eyed and ecstatic Mutsumi breathed, clasping her now trembling hands tightly together under her chin, at last daring to hope that her fondest wish was now miraculously about to be granted by fickle and totally unpredictable fate.

"Er, yeah… If that's all right with you, that is?" came Keitaro's tentative confirmation.

Yess!

In reply, Mutsumi flung her arms joyfully around her startled suitor's shoulders, nearly knocking him off his feet again. "Oh, yes, Kei-kun," she whispered into his right ear, tears from her streaming eyes cascading down both of their touching cheeks. "And unlike Naru-san, I will love you for forever and a day. I swear it!"

At Mutsumi's enthusiastic display of overwhelming affection for him, a huge smile of relief transformed Keitaro's previously anxious countenance. At that second, he knew for sure that his spur-of-the-moment decision to give Mutsumi a chance to prove her love for him had been the correct move for him to make, after all.

"Phew! That's what I was hoping you'd say, Mutsumi," Keitaro thankfully sighed, feeling as if the weight of the world had suddenly fallen from his shoulders at her positive response. "So, as of now, we're a couple, then?"

"That's fine with me, Kei-kun," the wildly happy turtle girl agreed. But then her hands flew to her suddenly open mouth, an anxious look appearing on her face as she remembered the fiery temper of their mutual friend. "Oh my goodness? I don't know what Naru-san's going to say on the matter when she finds out, though? You two only broke up this morning, and now you're with me!"

Keitaro's face fell at the mention of his ex, and he stared moodily downwards at the polished wooden floor of Mutsumi's apartment.

"Yeah. And on the subject of Naru, I must confess that I'm not looking forward to facing her again when I get back to the apartments tonight," the troubled young man then admitted, truthfully speaking his mind to his brand new girlfriend. "Even though it's turned out that she and I were never really married, and she was the one that said we're no longer together, I'm still more than a little worried about what she might do when I tell her about you and I. I mean, Naru always has had a huge, jealous streak with regards to other girls liking me. As you well know, even before Naru and I started dating, she used to put me through the wall if I even dared to look like I fancied one of the other girls at the apartments – whether it was true or not."

"Well then, why don't you stay here with me in the meantime, Kei-kun?" Mutsumi begged him, clutching at his hand as if afraid that he would leave before she could explain her idea to him. "Stay here with me in my apartment where you know that you're wanted and loved. I don't mind in the slightest, and I've got plenty of room. In fact, you can live here in my apartment for as long as you like, at least until you feel up to speaking with Naru-san again."

Her spur-of-the-moment suggestion gave the worried young man pause. It was a temporary solution to his dilemma after all – and not a bad one at that.

"Okay, Mutsumi, you've convinced me," he declared, breaking out into a smile, causing Mutsumi to jump and clap her hands together with joy. "It's a deal – if you're absolutely sure about me moving in here with you, that is?"

"Yes, Kei-kun, I am," Mutsumi confirmed, her eyes watering with tears of happiness and relief. "I love you, I always have, and I always will. Never, ever forget that."

At her heartfelt words, Keitaro's own grin grew even wider, his heart blossoming with real and genuine love for his oldest and dearest friend.

"I know that, Mutsumi," he reassured the radiant turtle girl, taking her into his arms once again. "I guess that I've always known it. And I also know now that you are the girl I always should have been with, right from the very start. I'm just so very sorry that it's taken me this long to work that out for myself."

"I'm just glad that you have worked that out, Kei-kun," Mutsumi sniffed, resting her antennaed crown of dark brown hair on his most comforting shoulder, hugging him back as if she never wanted to let him go – which she didn't. "At last we're together – at long last…"

"So, um, what now?" Keitaro asked as they finally released each other, to gaze longingly into the other's eyes.

Mutsumi laughed, having already taken note of his somewhat less than spick and span appearance. "Well, Kei-kun, the very first thing is to get you out of those dirty, torn clothes of yours, and into my nice, hot bath," she merrily informed him. "I'll get them washed while you're bathing, and then see if I can patch them up a bit for you. Fu, fu. Don't worry, I have a nice, thick kimono for you to wear in the meantime, okay?"

Keitaro heartily agreed with that plan, the steaming hot water would do wonders for his still bruised and aching body.

"And afterwards," Mutsumi coyly added, a slight blush on her cheeks and a twinkle in her eyes, "I'll see what I can do about your built up stress and tension, Kei-kun. After the way that Naru-san has been treating you, you must be nearly ready to explode?"

"Um – yeah," the sore ex-student answered, his heart beating a little faster and his mind working as he noticed the seductive look that Mutsumi was now giving him. I wonder what Mutsumi means by that…? Oh, man! I wonder if she's going to give me a massage, or even…something more?

A couple of hours later on that very night, Keitaro would soon find out the answer to his unspoken question, in a most pleasant and very long-time-coming way.

-:-:-:-:-:-

Alone in Mutsumi's apartment, behind a securely locked door and with no chance of any unwanted interruptions; the half-naked Keitaro and the even more scantily-clad Mutsumi were just about to get busy on her already spread out futon.

Being alone with a girl who actually wanted him to kiss and fondle her was quite a novel experience for the thrilled young man. Laying back on her soft and comfortable futon with nothing but his boxer shorts on, a heady brew of elation, anticipation and nervousness warred for mastery in Keitaro's trembling body as the very curvy turtle girl came down on top of him, a knee on either side of his waist. Then she leaned forward, pressing the soft mounds of her ample breasts against his goose bump covered, bare chest.

"Oh, Kei-kun..." Mutsumi breathed into his right ear, sensually grinding her hips into her long desired boyfriend as she spoke, easily feeling his hardness against her thigh through his thin boxer shorts.

"I've wanted you...loved you...for so long..." she then whispered, nibbling on his earlobe, thrilling to the sensation of Keitaro's obviously fully erect manhood – erect not because of Naru for once, but because of her.

Keitaro, for his part, was indeed in a heightened state of arousal, for obvious reasons. He clutched the year-older girl tightly against his chest as his lips traced a pattern of butterfly kisses on Mutsumi's neck, ending at her pulse point, making the young woman gasp. Then his slightly trembling hands slid upwards to make soothing motions on her taut back.

"Even now, Mutsumi-chan, I...I'm so sorry for...for hurting you for so long. And...I still can't believe I said those things to you just before," Keitaro apologized. He cupped the long-haired brunette's chin and made her look at him, gazing back directly into her loving eyes. "I'm so sorry," he said, and saw Mutsumi's eyes glisten with unshed tears at his sincere words.

"It's okay...Kei!" she whispered, and reclaimed his lips with her own, easily slipping her tongue into his mouth and caressing his own one. After they finally parted, there was a distinct glint in the turtle girl's eyes and a broad smile on her face. "I did promise Naru that I'd hold back my own feelings and support her relationship with you, remember? But now…now that you've decided that you both don't love each other any more, I'm not prepared to hold back my own love for you for a second longer!"

"And mine for you, either," Keitaro reassured his ready and willing new lover, tears in his own eyes. "I still can't believe that I chose Naru over you before, even knowing perfectly well what she was like as a person. The only explanation for why I did that is because, well, love is blind, I guess…? I couldn't see what Naru was really like because I didn't want to. But now my eyes are fully open, and…and all I can see now is you, my wonderful, kind and gentle Mutsumi."

Mutsumi stared with overwhelming love into Keitaro's watering, emotion-filled eyes, and her hands moved to grasp his. She firmly, yet gently, moved his right hand upwards and onto her left, green-bra-clad breast, making herself gasp at the longed-for and thrilling contact. Keitaro gulped audibly and moved his left hand downwards to her heart-shaped behind, which was almost NOT covered by a skimpy green thong.

"And I, you, Kei-kun," she whispered back, her voice all choked up with emotion. "So let's not waste a moment more of this precious time that we've got with each other. We both know what we want, and the answer is yes."

Mutsumi moved her hand along with his as he began to gently squeeze and fondle her breasts and buttocks. She gasped and kissed him again passionately, and moaned unabashed into his mouth as he grew confident and began to caress her by himself.

Mutsumi didn't fall behind, though, as while one of her hands was braced against his chest, her other hand traveled further down his abs and found its way under the waistline of his boxer shorts. Unhesitantly, her hand continued going south, reached its prize, and gave Keitaro's throbbing manhood a good feel, making him gasp in the kiss.

Ara, ara! Not a wonder of nature by any means, but not small either. Just like I imagined it would be. Fu, fu, fu! She thought naughtily.

Meanwhile, as Keitaro's other hand came up to stroke his super-sexy new lover's breasts, the excited young man thought...

Damn! So they are as big as I thought they were when I saw her dressed as one of Su's brother's brides-to-be! Naru's aren't even close to being this size – not that she ever let me see them or touch them, even after we thought that we were married.

I'm so lucky, they thought in unison.

Now, as the heat in their bodies became unbearable, both young lovers mutually decided they'd had enough foreplay. So Keitaro and Mutsumi quickly shed their remaining clothes and let their instincts take over.

Neither used any contraceptive protection, and truth to tell, in the passion of their newfound love for each other, neither cared.

-:-:-:-:-:-

Back in the here-and-now, even though he was totally ignorant of what Keitaro and Mutsumi had been doing with each other on a very regular basis over the last two or so weeks, Kyle the hornet could see from his vantage point beside the sliding door that things between the obviously love-struck pair of humans was definitely beginning to heat up. It was blatantly obvious even to someone with a brain the size of an insect that they were about to get it on, yet again. Mutsumi was currently straddling Keitaro's lap with her arms wrapped around his shoulders, while he had his hands placed on her deliciously curved hips, just where they joined to her slender waist.

Even as the wary wasp watched, the male rolled the female off him and over onto her back, then he slid down on top of her.

As their passionate coupling began, Keitaro kept his undivided attention focused solely on his wonderful lover, to the exclusion of everything else. So, even if he had seen the normally incredibly alarming sight of a two-inch-long, orange and yellow suzumebachi sitting on his floor, the potential peril he was in would still have failed to register in his now pleasure-wracked mind.

Seeing that the pair was going for it hard, and not in the least likely to bother about him now that they were in the throes of their rapidly building passion, Kyle took his chance to scuttle across the polished floor, right up to the side of the intertwined, vigorously rocking giants. The smell was much stronger now, and its origin appeared to be inside the discarded underpants of the male…?

Before anyone pisses himself or herself laughing, put yourself in Keitaro's place. Is it any wonder that at the glorious sight of the totally naked, ready-and-willing Mutsumi, our favorite got-nothing-ever-from-Naru, ex-ronin had been guilty of a little involuntary premature ejaculation? Not that he had informed his drop-dead-sexy companion of that embarrassing fact, of course.

Running up the mound of wadded underclothing, Kyle then gave the damp stain a tentative sniff.

Hmmm? It does smell like squid, and it's in a convenient liquid form, too, he thought. I'll just whistle up the boys, and-!

Flopp!

Fighting his way out from under the suffocating weight of the smelly sock that one of Keitaro's waving feet had somehow hooked and tossed on top of him, the shocked and outraged wasp launched himself into the air. His fear forgotten, the angry insect had only one thing on his mind now – dire retribution on the culprit behind the uncalled-for attack on his four-and-a-half centimeter long person.

To that end, Kyle hovered momentarily in mid-air above the energetically mating pair of humans as he chose a plump and soft looking spot on the offender for him to attack with his primary weapon. Then he dropped straight downward, tail-first, to jab the unsuspecting Keitaro directly in the center of his right butt-cheek!

"Uuuuwaaaah!" the shocked ex-ronin screamed, his bare butt jerking downwards and stiffening under the unexpected onslaught from the quarter-inch-long stinger of the angry hornet, the sensation of which resembled nothing so much as being stabbed by a red-hot needle. "Oh, god? Yaaaah!"

"Oh, Kei-kun?" Mutsumi panted out in rapture from under her contorting lover at Keitaro's sudden cry, which she mistook for his ecstatic sexual release. Her gorgeous breasts heaved upwards and she threw her antennaed head back as her over-stimulated body eagerly responded to dear Keitaro's powerful thrust into her, caused by his reflex action from the sudden and extremely painful sting. "I – I'm coming, too! D-don't stop - ahhhhaaaahh-hhh!"

By sheer luck, at that very second, one of the writhing young man's flailing feet smacked into the still annoyed Kyle as he circled back for another attack. The sudden blow to his head sent the momentarily stunned wasp spinning off at a tangent, to pass through the open window of the room and spiral away along the cliff-like side of the ancient building.

As the head-shaking Kyle finally cleared his ringing mind, he immediately began to retrace his flight path back into the room of the human who had struck him twice now, the first time totally unprovoked. But even as he circled back upwards to extract further revenge by going all 'sewing machine' on the culprit, the audible sound of cursing came to his antennae, followed by the slam of a hurriedly closing window.

With a thick pane of glass now barring the furious insect from his victim, the loudly buzzing hornet had no choice but to temporarily abandon his plans and fly off to seek another entrance into the apartments. Quite apart from his anticipated revenge, there were still a lot of other intriguing smells in there for him to investigate.

-:-:-:-:-:-

However the angry hornet was to be out of luck. By the time he had re-entered the apartment block through another open window, located the correct corridor, and then crawled back under the door of Room 204 again, Kyle discovered to his disappointment that his human intended pincushion had already departed the vicinity. Little did the frustrated wasp know that his sore and sorry target was at that moment in the changing room next to the onsen, with the first-aid kit from reception and the turtle girl, getting his throbbing butt well plastered up by the most sympathetic – and trying really hard not to giggle – Mutsumi.

As the disappointed insect hummed despondently around the manager's room, a whiff of a new and exciting smell wafted into his nose. Deciding not to waste any more time with fruitless searching, Kyle flew up towards the hole in the ceiling that he had only just noticed, intending to check out the room directly above this one.

Where he would be witness to a second interesting sight.

-:-:-:-:-:-

Author's Note: Yes, I know that all worker hornets are female, but this story works better with Kyle being a male. Call it 'artistic licence'.

Part Two up soon.