"Grandma wants to see me? WowI didn't even know I had a grandmother." Ranma looked up from his latest testing failure and saw his mother standing in his doorway, leaning easily against the frame and smiling sweetly as he studied.

"Yes, you never got a chance to meet my side of the family, Ranma." She scowled and turned her head down the hall. "Genma! Are you through with those dishes yet!?" A muted negative drifted through the floor as the now suffering Genma Saotome scrubbed the grime from the plates and glasses downstairs in the kitchen. "You never had the chance to meet any of your family because of yourtraining trip."

"What's she want to see me about?" The twenty-year old martial artist swept aside the useless books and crossed his arms over his chest.

"Oh I don't know." She pointed at the study guides. "Are you still trying to get into Keio? I really don't understand why, you could surely get into a nice small university."

"No, I'll get in, I swear I will! I just need to study some more is all." Ranma stood and stretched, yawning. "Could ya get out, Mom, I need ta change for school."

Nodoka frowned at her son's stubborness but reasoned it was part of the male makeup of the Saotome family. She didn't approve of Ranma's blind quest for acceptance, it seemed to eclipse the carefree exuberance he used to exemplify when they stayed at the Tendo Dojo. "Very well, just make sure you go and visit Grandma Hina up at the Hinata Hot Springs. You take the trolley to the last stop and walk over the Yukimura Bridge, first go to the Hinata Tea House and visit your aunt Haruka. She'll be able to tell you how to get there." The Matriarch cast one final glance into the sparse room and shut the door.

Alone in his room once more, Ranma looked at the Keio practice test and the red pen scrawled over the cover page proudly disclaiming his rank. Twenty-second from the bottom was his grade, no doubt he would be trying for a third year. Was it worth it, all the study and shame?

"Akane"

---Greater Tokyo Preparetory School---

Hiroshi and Daisuke were waiting for him outside the school wearing their new 'image-enhancers' or in layman's terms, glasses. Determined that the eyewear would attract the desperate girls in the prep school by making them look uber-intelligent, Ranma's friends wore the found glasses proudly, even though they also blurred their vision and gave them headaches.

"Well, well, ready to fail for the third year in a row?"

"Ha, ha, ha!" Ranma passed by the two jokers and sat down heavily in his chair, sighing as the instructor slammed a wad of papers on his desk. It was a detailed analysis of exactly what his score was compaired to those around the country and why his answers were correct or more often than not, incorrect. In total it was the most glaring evidence of his stupidity ever. Slamming his head onto the table he groaned as the last two years worth of feined studies caught up to him.

Akane, he was doing this all for Akane, for the vain hope that someday he would be able to see her again. She tormented him in his dreams and thoughts.

"What's wrong, Ranma? Depressed over your latest failure?" Hiroshi appeared over his left shoulder, holding out his own '0%' success rate. "Take a look at thismaybe it'll make you feel better."

"Really, Ranma, what's the big deal anyway? It's only Akanebesides, she dumped you. Get over it!" Daisuke clapped his friend hard on the back, smiling as a frumpy-looking girl sat down next to the pig-tailed loser, her hair in thick braids with massive glasses. She was obviously angry at something. "Hey there, cutie, what's upsetting you?"

"What was that?" The girl looked up at Daisuke and growled before cocking back her fist and smashing his cheek, sending him backwards where he hit Hiroshi so that the two idiots were sent carreening into the hallway. "Perverts!" She sighed and looked at the slim file on her desk, she had only answered six questions incorrectly on the national prep exam as opposed to Ranma's seven hundred.

"Ughso Ranma, how does it feel to know that you're twenty-second from the bottom nationally ranked?" Hiroshi pulled himself off the floor and held up a tattered printout.

"What!?" The girl exclaimed, turning white as she ran backwards away from Ranma. "G-get away from me!! Your stupidity may be contagious!" The martial artist simply froze and turned pale, cracking at the edges as her venomous barbs dug deep. Daisuke was just pulling himself up off the floor to join Hiroshi when two other young men caught both of them.

"What the hell do you think you're doing with my glasses!" The heavy-set boy yelled as his thin companion yanked Hiro out the door by the collar. A scuffle soon followed which ended with all four beaten into the polished tile floor as Ranma stood triumphantly over their bruised and unconscious bodies with a stack of cash in his hand.

"Thanks guys, I needed the cash get out to my grandma's place. I promise I'll pay you back some time when you get a brain." Ranma chuckled at his own joke and walked off muttering to himself about the Hinata Hot Springs, passing an out-of-breath scrawny boy with thick square glasses picking up what remained in Shirai and Haitani's pockets.

---Later---

A rattling trolley ride up the hill and a jarring stop at the Yukimura bridge later, he found himself standing halfway between Hinata and the city. Across a wide canal the old rickety bridge extended, solid as it was Ranma was still unnerved by the hollow clank his slippers made with each step. Yes, one dip in the water and voila! Instant female.

After Happosai drank the cask he had been understandably depressed. His only cance had been destroyed, that was until Kasumi had come into his room with a small pot filled with only a cup of Jusenkyo water left. It was the little she had been able to mop up from the perverted Master's clumsy binge. It probably required full immersion for the full effect but any good news had been welcome to his ears after Akane rejected him for the last time. Dumping the water over his head Ranma was now 40% cured, it now took almost full immersion or a direct splash in the face to trigger the curse. Sure it wasn't 100% but it sure went a long way towards having a normal life, now all he did was carry an umbrella and a thermos.

As he walked across the river a strange mist arose around him, a dense fog that set his hair on edge. Looking around he could barely see the end of the bridge let alone the Hinata Apartments which were understood to be at the very top of the only hill. Sensing a persence appearing directly in front of him Ranma watched as a wizened old man stumbled out of the mist. Dressed in an off-pink yukata with 'elder' stitched into the trim he was soon joined by two companions.

"Who are you?" He took a stance, prepared for the docile-looking old geezer to turn into some strange sort of beast.

"Beware your dreams."

"What?" It hardly seemed as though the man's lips had moved. "What about dreams?"

"Dreams are a reality." The second intoned.

"Make your own dreams, make your own reality." The third wore thick glasses and was as bald as a billiard ball.

"Beware" And all of a sudden all three were gone, the mist rapidly burning off in the sunlight of the chilly November afternoon. Ranma looked all around and stretched out his senses but found no trace of the phantom cadre, though not for lack of trying.

"Weird" He shook his head and began following the signs towards the Hinata Tea House. Feeling a bit peckish (in other words stumbling blindly around for food), he dug out a handful of yen and walked inside and sat himself down at a low table, waiting patiently for the waitress. "Yo! Can I get some service?!"

"What would you like?" A tall woman of medium build, average bust and short cropped dark hair emerged for behind the kitchen curtain. At once Ranma was taken by her voice, surely the woman had to be his Aunt Haruka - his girl-form's voice sounded exactly the same! Of course this wasnatural,