Chapter 3

When the environment around Ranma resolved itself, after the effects of her transportation method had subsided, she found herself standing on the rooftop of a fairly tall building, with the high-altitude winds blowing her hair into her face. From her new vantage point, she had a very good view of Tokyo's Minato ward, with a few notable landmarks — namely Tokyo Tower and the fairly new Rainbow Bridge — being well within viewing range.

She wasn't all that familiar with this part of Tokyo, but she had studied a couple of old — for the thirty-fourth century — maps of the area prior to her arrival, one a road map and the other a photograph taken by a satellite. As a traveling martial artist who was not restricted to roadways and such, she had learned to take direction more from visual cues than from a map, which was why she had suggested being sent to such a high place, which also happened to have the added benefit of being an out-of-the-way location that would be favorable for her method of travel.

After she worked out where Azabu-Jūban was, she ran toward the side of the building that faced it and leapt over its edge without a second thought. After all, even had the building been tall enough for her to reach terminal velocity by the time she landed somewhere, she would have been okay even if she happened to land on her head. It would have hurt like nobody's business, of course, but she would have still been able to walk it off.

She made her way toward her destination via rooftop, until she reached the street where the Tsukino's house was located. At that point she reaquainted herself with the ground, and began to walk up the street like a normal person would. Being that it was a Saturday, where the local school's classes were only in session during the morning hours, she didn't look out of place since the school had dismissed its students only a half of an hour or so earlier.

She eventually found herself standing on the Tsukino's porch, before the front door, where she thought, "Well, this is it..."

She reached out to ring the doorbell, but her finger hesitated a scant few centimeters away from the button. If she did this, she knew that she would reach the point of no return. She would have to follow through with the plan and live with the Tsukino family for a few years, then move out and live on her own, if not with a friend. Once things were set in motion for Usagi to become the queen of Crystal Tokyo, which was about six years away from the present time, that would be the sign for her to return to the future.

After steeling herself for such a long commitment, she forged ahead and rang the doorbell. As she waited for someone to answer, she idly wondered where her eleven-year-old self was at that very moment. She couldn't remember where she and her father had been specifically, though she was pretty sure that it hadn't been near the heart of Tokyo; she only recalled going to Tokyo Tower way back during the beginning of primary school, with her class. She wasn't sure, but her father might have taken them to Hokkaido after the debacle that had been the neko-ken, which had happened when she was ten.

Her attention was brought back to the present when she heard the doorknob turn. The door opened a second later, revealing an older woman who bore a fair resemblance to Usako, except her hair was a bit darker and her eyes a bit lighter. This — she realized — was Ikuko, Usagi's mother; her second, if one counted her past life as well. It seemed that she may have been washing dishes before answering the door, because she was holding a hand towel in her free hand.

Upon seeing her, Ikuko peered at her as if she looked familiar, yet couldn't place how. She imagined that it was probably because of the fact that she — for all intents and purposes — appeared to take after her yet-to-be-born grandchild, considering how her face had been changed to look more like it had come directly from Usako and Helios. Before, her visage had made her look more like Usagi's sister. Either way, it would be enough to convince people that she was a cousin unless they were too closely associated with the Tsukino family, which would help her to avoid having to brainwash every single person that she had to sell her story to.

She didn't want Ikuko to think about her appearance too much, so she bowed formally and said, "Hello, Tsukino-san. My name is Tendo Ranko."

That really wasn't her name, or going to be, but she figured that it would be inconspicuous enough to get her foot in the door. She'd attend to the brainwashing thing later, once she and Usagi were on the same page: because the last thing that she wanted was for Usagi to walk in on her while she was brainwashing her family, without knowing why it was being done — and by whom — beforehand.

"Oh?" Ikuko responded, as Ranma's outfit finally caught her attention. "Do you happen to know my daughter?"

Ranma smiled and nodded her head. "Yes. I was just transferred to Jūban High, and Usagi was nice enough to help me get settled in."

Ikuko felt a swelling of pride upon hearing that. "I'm glad to hear that. Did you come here to see Usagi, then?"

Ranma nodded her head once again. "She said that she would show me around the area with her friends this afternoon."

Having established the nature of her visit, Ikuko smiled and moved aside, inviting her in with a gesture. "Why don't you come in?" Because of her attire and the time of day, she added, "Have you eaten anything, yet?"

"I tried out one of the local restaurants before I came here," Ranma replied, while she removed her shoes in the genkan. When she was done and standing upright once more, she smiled and added, "Thanks for offering, though."

After Ikuko told her where she could find Usagi, they exchanged some parting words before they went their separate ways. On her way to the second floor, via the stairs, not for the first time did she wonder what kind of person Usagi had been at the tender age of sixteen, and how different she would be from the fifteen-hundred-year-old Usagi that she knew in the future.

Hopefully she wouldn't be like many of the teenage girls that she had gotten to know before, who tended to be violent, possessive, self-centered and — at times — psychopathic. Beyond that, she didn't really know what kind of girls she would like to interact with, since she'd never tried to connect with them like she had done with the guys. Well, there had been Ukyo, but that had been under special circumstances, and it wasn't like she had taken that connection very far when given the opportunity to do so anyway.

She soon stood before Usagi's bedroom door, which she stared at for a moment before she rapped the back of her index finger against it. By now she was becoming a bit nervous, because there was a possibility that Luna was in the same room as Usagi. If she was, things could get awkward and/or messy.

"Yeah?" Came Usagi's response, muffled somewhat by the door.

Ranma drew in a calming breath and opened the door. She hadn't been sure of what to expect, as far as what the room would look like, but she was relieved to see that Luna wasn't a part of that picture. She'd half-expected the room to be girly enough to be offensive to her eyes, like she imagined Shiratori Azusa's might be, but the colors and contents of the room were fairly tame. It was either that, or her tolerance for such things was higher than she had first thought.

On the bed, lying on her stomach, was Usagi, who was wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt and a pair of capri pants. She was idly kicking her feet back and forth in the air behind her, as she read some manga.

When she failed to do more than open the door, Usagi turned a page before she was ready to divert her attention away from her manga. When she saw her, a girl who looked familiar and probably felt even more so, the look of confusion on her face was rather understandable, as was the need to put the manga aside and sit up.

"Who are you?" Usagi pointedly asked.

After pulling out a letter from within her blouse, Ranma approached Usagi and held it out to her. "Read this, please."

Usagi absently accepted the letter, her attention remaining fixed on the stranger as the exchange was made. When her eyes finally fell upon the letter that she now held in her hands, she had a sneaking suspicion about its contents in relation to the person who had given it to her, feeling as if she should know what to expect.

After she opened the letter and began to read it, the reason for her suspicion soon became evident: except the request was being made by her daughter, rather than by her future self. The significance of that concept made her pause, and she found herself glancing up at the familiar-looking girl before her, her eyes going wide as she realized just who it was she was looking at.

"Omigawd!" She exclaimed in the privacy of her own mind. "She's my granddaughter! I'm a grandmother!"

It took her a bit of effort, but she returned her attention to the letter and began to read further. To sum it up, there were certain circumstances that couldn't be mentioned, regarding her granddaughter's situation, seeing as how the foreknowledge could prove dangerous. All that she needed to know was that her granddaughter required time to recover and adjust, time that was lacking in the present of the future. Her daughter had also seen it fit to pass the Ginzuishou down to her granddaughter, which she might find easier to use in the not-so-peaceful twentieth century. Apparently, between the two, it would require her to look after her granddaughter until such a time that Crystal Tokyo was nearly realized.

After absorbing all that information and what it meant, she lowered the letter and managed to give her granddaughter a natural smile despite what had just been dropped into her lap. "So, Pandeia, is it?"

Ranma nodded her head. "Pandeia" was going to be her alias while she was in the past, which was the name that her guide had suggested. She didn't know much about it, aside from it being Greek in origin, but it somehow felt... right. Granted, it sounded a bit odd for a Japanese name, but that was nothing that a little tale about a Greek-speaking mother couldn't handle.

"Have you brainwashed my family, yet?" Usagi asked, her smile no longer reaching her eyes, but her tone one of resignation.

"Not yet," Ranma replied, with a shake of her head. "Is it really okay, though?"

"I guess," Usagi replied, with a shrug of her shoulders, while the newcomer's politeness began to warm her up to the idea of having her around.

Every other time her family had been brainwashed, it had been done without being asked, and the first time her own daughter had almost managed to brainwash her with the rest of her family. It was nice to know that someone — especially a member of her own family — had some reservation about brainwashing people.

"It's among the most convenient and safest options to choose, for a person from the future trying to live in the past," she added, by way of explanation. "Or so I've been told. The only problem — that I've noticed — is that mom sometimes worries that she's forgetting something important, but she can't remember what it is."

Ranma simply nodded her head in understanding, not knowing what to say in response to that. Brainwashing certainly could have its uses, if used wisely and sparingly, but she didn't like the idea of forgetting something that she cared about. She found it a regretful experience when she thought back on the time when Akane had been brainwashed by Shampoo, because she had recovered her memory through anger instead of love.

Due to the awkward silence that followed, since neither knew where to go after the last subject, Usagi's attention was drawn back to the letter as she recalled a detail that she wanted to address. "Anyway, your mother says here that you have ailurophobia." She looked back up at Ranma with an expression of concern, and noticed that she appeared to have been made uncomfortable. "When she says 'extreme,' what does she mean?"

Ranma looked away and began to fidget with her hands. "Um... When my fear gets bad enough, a cat personality takes over and I have no recollection of what happens?" She glanced over at Usagi for a second, saw the gobsmacked expression on her face, and felt the need to add, "I'm usually not dangerous unless provoked..."

Usagi's brow furrowed in puzzlement. "How did something like that happen?"

Ranma appeared to grumble something under her breath before she muttered, "It was caused by a... training accident."

With a drawn out, "Oh," Usagi recalled another part of the letter. "Your mother mentioned something about martial arts training." Her expression turned sympathetic. "You really tried to compensate for being unable to use the Ginzuishou, huh?"

Seeing as that was a part of her fabricated story, Ranma simply nodded her head. She didn't really care for all of the lying being done, but time travel wasn't something to be taken lightly, and certain changes to the future — both near and far — needed to be avoided in order to prevent a disaster.

Taking her silent reply to mean something else, Usagi got up from her bed and took the other girl's hands into her own, giving them a reassuring squeeze. "I'm sure you'll be able to use it someday."

"For now," she continued, with a lighthearted air, "let's get the brainwashing stuff out of the way. After we get you set up in the guest room, maybe you'd feel like showing me some of your martial arts moves?"

Ranma didn't really think that Usagi was all that interested in martial arts, but she had to smile because the blonde was just trying to make said martial arts sound like they hadn't been a waste of time, as far as the reality known to her was concerned. "Sure."

The brainwashing went well, as far as such a thing went without one's scruples having something to say about it. Usagi's mother, father and younger brother now believed that "Pandeia" was a cousin among their extended family, and that they had agreed to take care of her while her single mother went overseas on some long-term project as a part of her job.

Afterward, Ranma was shown to the guest room by Ikuko, who insisted she be called "Ikuko-mama" instead of "oba-san" when the latter had been used while expressing her gratitude. Once she was alone and had the door to her new room closed, she set her backpack on the bed, opened it up, and began to unpack.

It wasn't long after she had started that Usagi made a reappearance, who had gone to make a call in order to inform certain people of the new and unexpected development. She had offered her assistance upon her return, but Ranma had politely declined it, citing the fact that anyone but her would find the backpack empty unless they knew how to get around that particular feature.

With that being the case, Usagi seated herself at the desk across from the bed and began to watch "Pandeia" at work, trying to think of something to talk about, in order to learn more about her granddaughter. After a short time doing so, she noticed something that she thought worthy of comment.

"Do people in the future wear the same fashion as we do now?" She asked.

"Not exactly," Ranma answered, as she pulled out from her backpack another outfit that was already on a hanger, before pausing to give Usagi her undivided attention. "There are a lot of new styles and materials, and a lot of the old ones are matched together differently or combined into a single piece." She paused and looked up thoughtfully. "From what I've seen, I'd say that at least half of my wardrobe isn't worn often enough for me to see them worn by others, and the rest don't seem to be any of the current trends."

Usagi nodded her head in understanding, for the most part, as she watched her granddaughter move her latest outfit toward the closet. "So, what you have here isn't what you would normally wear?"

Ranma chuckled in response, as that was pretty much the case. Sure, much of her new wardrobe had been of a type used as a part of a disguise at one point or another, but her disguises weren't what she normally wore. More to the point: what she tended to wear had been masculine if not androgynous in nature, rather than tailored for the fairer sex in particular.

Of course, at present her wardrobe consisted of quite the opposite, and she had been mildly surprised that every single article of clothing had turned out to be her own idea. Even though she had been given carte blanche regarding what she could take with her, so long as they were faithful to the time period... Without so much as being given a suggestion on what she should or shouldn't wear, she'd opted for something mildly feminine — overall — instead of tomboyish.

It hadn't surprised her too much, though, for several reasons. First of all, she no longer had any male-oriented obligations to worry about, especially the one that would require her to commit seppuku if she failed to uphold it. There was also the fact that she was already accustomed to wearing feminine attire and underwear, which she normally wouldn't have admitted to anyone in another life. Then there was her curse, which was no longer strictly being dictated by the temperature of water. Because her female body had powers that her male body didn't, she could also remain in her current form even if she were to be fully submerged in hot water, and that meant that the clothes that had once been practical — because of her curse — were no longer necessary. In addition to that, the unlikelihood of being challenged by a martial artist meant that it was also unnecessary to dress for that sort of thing as well. Finally, there was Usagi and her guide, who had given her the confidence to explore life as a girl on her own terms.

As it turned out, when it came down to her own terms, it wasn't a tomboy that she saw in the mirror; nor — of course — was it an examplar of femininity. She wasn't sure what kind of image was being portrayed in the mirror, or what the mirror might show her in the future, but she was fairly casual in her selection of clothes, with plenty of the standard articles that were recognized as belonging to the fairer sex. Perhaps, at the moment, she appeared to be nothing more than an average girl with an average life. If so, she could live with that: there was no rush to find either herself or himself, and there may — in fact — never be a need for it.

"Not really," she answered Usagi, before she saw an opportunity to speak some truth. "Since I was very dedicated to training myself in the martial arts, a lot of these clothes weren't very practical."

Usagi nodded her head in understanding, as the beginnings of a mental portrait began to give her some insight into what kind of person her granddaughter was. She continued to sit where she was and watched while she continued to unpack, managing to engage her in some more idle conversation as the closet and dresser were being filled.

Finally, Ranma got around to the knick-knacks, stuffed animals and other odds and ends, to complete the illusion that she was a girl with a history, who had come from a lived-in bedroom rather than a guest room that she hadn't given a thought to personalize at all. Some of the things that she had chosen had been picked without putting much thought into them, while others had just seemed to call out to her at the time. The four stuffed animals, consisting of a pig, panda, duck and cat, had been particularly difficult ones to pass up, despite her better judgement.

Noticing the stuffed cat, and spurred by curiosity, Usagi asked, "So, you're only afraid of real cats?"

Having finished unpacking what needed to be unpacked, Ranma sat on her new bed and faced her supposed cousin. "Thankfully. Man, if my fear had included tigers, I don't even want to think what might have happened..."

"You've encountered tigers?" Usagi gasped, her eyes wide.

Ranma looked away and rubbed the back of her head with embarrassment, unable able to help a short but nervous chuckle. "A couple times, yeah... I kinda went overboard with my training."

"'Kinda?'" Usagi thought to herself, as she began to wonder if that kind of training had been any part of the reason for why her granddaughter had been sent back into the past. Being that she was more concerned for her well-being than she was about admonishing her for such behavior, she was inspired to ask, "Have you tried to overcome your fear with therapy, or something?"

Ranma released a long-suffering sigh, as she thought back on what she had learned after her first encounter with the cat advisors had reminded them of her fear, which had been documented right after she had been sealed away in the crystal. "I've tried a lot of things, but nothing seems to work. There's little that can't be done in the future, but the nature of my fear is one of them."

Usagi didn't need to feel the close connection that she had with Pandeia to arouse the determination that she felt toward relieving her of such a fear, even though more qualified people had probably preceded her in that very effort. It just wasn't right to be scared of cats to any degree. Besides which, if her granddaughter ever became a functioning member of their crime-busting team, it was going to be a mite awkward working with Luna and Artemis without her ever meeting them in person.

"One problem at a time," she thought.

Since there was nothing that could be done about it for now, and her granddaughter appeared to be done with the unpacking of her things, she decided that it was time to bring up something that had been suggested by one of her friends earlier, over the personal communication channel that they could all access with their watches.

"I'm sure you'll overcome your fear, someday," she said consolingly, before adding, "for now, though, would you like to meet with some of my friends? Some of them are free this afternoon, and they would like to meet you."

Ranma perked up with interest and smiled, her spirits lifted in light of who she might get to meet. "Really? Sounds good to me."

Ikuko's appearance: I figured that Chibi-Usa's hair and eyes had to come from somewhere, and in some colored illustrations Ikuko does have pink hair and eyes, so I made use of my artistic license.