Future Perfect
			Book One: Past Tense
			Part Three


	The two travellers spent most of the long train ride in
silence.  Madoka Ayukawa gazed out the window toward the distant
mountains, while Kyousuke Kasuga gazed at Madoka.  She'd spent the
last three hours of the trip in that position, not moving, not even
blinking as far as he could see.  Once, in an attempt to make
conversation, he had asked her how far her cousin's home was.

	"We'll arrive in about three hours," she'd replied, without so
much as glancing at him.

	Kyousuke hadn't yet worked up the courage to make another
attempt.  He frowned; he had been sure that Ayukawa was finally
beginning to open up to him, as she had done so long ago, at the top
of the stairs.  As she had so seldom done since then.

	As if she had read his mind, Ayukawa suddenly turned from the
window, settling back in her seat.  She smiled at him briefly before
noticing that he'd reflexively cringed, pressing himself against the
back of his seat.  "Is something wrong, Kasuga-kun?" she asked,

	"A-a-ah, n-no."  Kyousuke chuckled nervously and forced
himself to sit up straight.

	This earned him a puzzled glance from Ayukawa, but she chose
not to pursue that line of inquiry.  "We should be arriving soon.  I
can see the mountain from here."  She pointed out the window, and he
obediently turned to look.

	"Mountains, huh?  This looks like a pretty nice area."  It
reminded him of his grandparents' home, actually.

	"Just like the last time."  She smiled again -- and he did,
too.  "Let's hope there are no sudden storms this time."


	"A storm is coming."

	Yuu blinked at the black-clad stranger.  "Pardon me?"

	In lieu of an answer, the tall, dark man lifted one hand to
the brim of his fedora.  With one finger, he pushed it back far enough
that Yuu could actually see his eyes.  He had to fight an impulse to
shiver -- the man's gaze was that of a predator, and for that instant,
it was directed at -him-.

	The man blinked once, slowly, and dropped his hand back to his
side, where it habitually slipped into the pocket of his coat.  "My
apologies.  It seems that I mistook you for someone else."

	Slightly puzzled, Yuu merely nodded in acknowledgement.

	"Well, then..."  The man gently pinched the brim of his fedora
in salute and turned to walk away at an unhurried pace.

	After watching his back for a moment, Yuu shrugged and
continued on his own way.  He was becoming used to strange encounters
since moving to this city.

	Unseen by Yuu, the man in black looked over his shoulder with
a slight frown.  "But I was quite certain that he was a Matsuura..."


	Madoka walked slowly up the stairs, carrying her saxophone
case and a medium-sized suitcase.  Passing beneath a gate, she
stopped, turning to face her companion.  "Are you really sure you
don't want to me carry one of those, Kasuga-kun?"

	"It's... all right...  I'm... fine," Kyousuke gasped from
ten steps below.  A stack of three large suitcases was wedged between
his hands, at waist level, and his chin.  "It's... not that... far,

	Madoka looked up the hill.  "We're about halfway to the top,
then it's a few hundred meters..."

	"Few... hundred...?"  Kyousuke groaned softly.  There was no
way he could make it that far -- when he'd volunteered to carry all of
the bags, he hadn't thought they would have quite so far to walk --
but he'd been hoping to impress Ayukawa.  Changing his mind at this
point would ruin any hope of that.  There was no help for it...

	Closing his eyes momentarily, he transferred most of the load
from his arms to his Power, leaving just enough weight for the sake of
appearances.  It wasn't -really- cheating, he rationalized.  Nobody
would notice that he was using telekinesis.  "Is that all?" he asked,
as nonchalantly as he could.  That earned him an odd look from Madoka,
so he invented an explanation while climbing to her stair.  "Just
needed to catch my breath.  Thanks for waiting."

	She smiled softly, the mysterious smile that haunted his
dreams.  The normal ones, that was.  "If you say so.  Ready?"

	He nodded, and they set off together.  He found it easy enough
to keep the pace, now that he wasn't trying to physically carry over a
hundred pounds of luggage.  "What's this relative of yours like?"

	"My cousin.  I haven't seen him for a long time," she answered
with a distant smile.  "He was a pretty quiet boy, too curious for his
own good, but he was always kind."  She sighed and continued, "I hope
he hasn't changed too much."

	"S-sure... sounds like a nice guy."  Her cousin... but she had
said they were distant relatives, so they could probably...  He shook
his head.  "Are you sure it's okay for me to come?"

	She chuckled.  "Is that what's bothering you?"  He jumped; he
hadn't thought she'd noticed.  Kyousuke started to reply, but she
continued, ignoring his stammering.  "He'll be glad for the company.
He never said anything about it, but he was on his own a lot, back
then, and I think he was lonely."

	"Oh..."  She'd spent a lot of time alone with him?  "Okay."

	She smiled mischievously at him as they reached the top step.
"How many?"

	"A hundred," he answered without thinking.  Then:  "Hey!"

	Ayukawa laughed again, the clear, strong laughter that he
wished he could hear more often.  "Ninety-nine and a half."

	He smiled back, and nodded.


	Ranma followed Mousse into the Nekohanten, carefully glancing
about as though expecting to be ambushed.  When no purple-haired
hyperactive Amazons materialized to joyfully tackle him, he greeted
Cologne in his usual inimitable style.  "So, what's this about, old

	A large wooden spoon bounced from Ranma's forehead.  "I am not
a ghoul."

	"Ack," acknowledged Ranma.

	The Joketsuzoku elder gestured to the room, where a large,
circular table had been laid out.  "Have a seat, son-in-law.  I'll
explain once everyone gets here."

	Ranma mumbled something under his breath, but he sat down next
to Mousse, who had already taken his seat.  With a quick glance to
confirm his count of the number of chairs, he frowned.  "Who do you
expect to show up?  Akane's not coming, Ryouga couldn't make an
appointment if he slept on the roof of the building... aw, man, you
didn't ask the Kunous, did you...?"

	"I don't believe you know any of them, other than Shampoo and
Mousse, of course."

	"They're not from your tribe, are they?" Ranma asked
suspiciously.  If they were, and Shampoo was coming...

	"No."  Cologne paused.  "Well, one woman was made an honorary
member in thanks for her help with a problem we were having thirty
years ago, but she is Japanese."  She chuckled, a dry, rasping sound.
"This isn't a trap for you, son-in-law."

	"That's not very reassuring."

	"Do you doubt my word?"  Her eyes gleamed dangerously.

	"...Nnnnnnno," Ranma reluctantly answered.  Cologne's sense of
honor might be rather twisted, but he had to admit that she stuck to
it.  As far as he could tell.  Which meant that she probably wasn't
lying.  As far as he could tell.  He sighed.  "Can I have some ramen
while we're waiting?"

	The old woman smiled knowingly.  "I think we could arrange
that.  Mousse?"

	Mousse silently stood and walked into the kitchen.  Ranma
frowned.  "What're you laughing at?"

	"She knew your mind would be on your stomach," Mousse
answered, walking out of the kitchen with a large, steaming bowl.  "As
usual."  Without ceremony, he set the bowl in front of Ranma, who
picked up his chopsticks.

	"And what's that supposed to mean?" he asked, before attacking
the bowl of noodles with a will.

	Cologne smirked.  "I know how much you like to... keep up your

	"Oh.  'Kay," Ranma mumbled around a mouthful of food.

	Thankfully, the arrival of a certain young Amazon and her
guests derailed that train of conversation.


	"Pretty big, isn't it?" Kyousuke asked.  The house was
impressive; larger than Madoka's, and certainly much larger than his
own family's apartment at Green Castle.

	She nodded.  "I'm surprised he hasn't already come out to
greet us," she mused.  "I hope I didn't catch him in the middle of
cleaning, or..."

	The door slid open, and she turned, smiling, to face her

	Except that he wasn't there.  Instead, she found herself
facing a tall, buxom woman with wild cyan hair, wearing what Madoka
could only think of as a carnival costume of some sort.  The woman
blinked in confusion, and Madoka realized she had golden eyes.
"Who're you?" she asked bluntly.

	Realizing she was staring, Madoka shook herself out of her
daze.  "Ah... I'm sorry, we must have the wrong house.  Could you tell
me where Tenchi Masaki lives?"

	"He lives here."  The woman's disconcerting golden eyes
flicked sideways, glancing at Kyousuke briefly, before returning to
Madoka.  "Did you want to talk to him, or something?"

	"Well... I'm his cousin, and I--"

	"Oh!  Well, why didn't you say so?"  She smiled at Madoka and
stepped through the door, gesturing for her to enter.  "He's at the
shrine, but he should be back any minute.  Here, let me take those for
you."  This last, she addressed to Kyousuke, as she approached.

	"But I don't think... I mean, they're a little heavy, and..."
Kyousuke tried to explain.

	He gaped as she practically tore the three suitcases out of
his hands, balancing them easily above her head, with one hand.  Then
he realized that, in his surprise, he'd forgotten to maintain his
telekinetic grip, and his jaw dropped a few more inches.

	"Nah, they're okay.  Go on in."

	So much for any hope of impressing Ayukawa, Kyousuke thought
despondently.  It made him feel a little better to see his
astonishment mirrored in her expression, at least.  Finally, she shook
her head, shrugged, and stepped into the house.  He followed her,
still numb.

	The golden-eyed woman thought aloud as she followed them.
"Now, let's see.  Where can we put the two of you...?"  She moved past
them, making her way up the stairs.

	"He's probably lonely, huh?"  Kyousuke glanced at Ayukawa, who

	"I guess... people change."  She didn't sound convinced.  "I
guess I should have expected him to find a girlfriend, by now..."

	She followed the woman up the stairs.  Kyousuke tagged along
behind her, trying to decide whether he'd really detected
disappointment in her tone or he was just imagining it.  He reached
the top and followed the two girls halfway down the hall, and still
hadn't decided.

	Their erstwhile guide stopped in front of a door and reached
out to open it.  Before she could touch it, it slid open to reveal
another woman, dressed in a formal kimono.  Her hair, Kyousuke
noticed, nearly reached to the floor.  He glanced at Ayukawa once
again, but she wasn't looking in his direction.

	"Well?" asked the woman with the golden eyes after a moment.
"You want to get out of the doorway?"

	"Do pardon me.  I wasn't aware that you had decided to begin
using them."  She stepped backwards into the room, allowing the three
to enter, and turned toward Madoka and Kyousuke.  "You must be
Tenchi-sama's guests.  My name is Aeka.  Please, make yourselves at
home... and allow me to apologize for Ryouko-san's rudeness."

	"Hey!" Ryouko protested.  "I was not rude!  And just when did
this become -your- home, anyway?"

	"Really, Ryouko-san, do you honestly believe that you can fool
Tenchi-sama into thinking more highly of you simply by doing one favor
for his guests?"  Delicately raising her hand to her mouth, Aeka
laughed -- a forced-sounding cackle that grated on Kyousuke's ears.

	"I did not!" Ryouko shouted back, perhaps a little too
quickly.  She hurriedly set her load down and clenched her fist.
"Besides, where were you when they needed help?  Hmm?"

	Kyousuke glanced at Ayukawa, then at the door, meaningfully.
Understanding, she nodded, and the two of them slipped back out of the
room as the argument began to escalate.  Kyousuke carefully slid the
dor closed behind him before asking, "What was that all about?"
Receiving no response, he tried again.  "Who was that?"

	Madoka shook her head.  "Aeka-san?  I don't know."  She
frowned slightly.  "I've never seen either of those girls before."
She began walking back toward the stairs, explaining, "Ryouko-san said
he'd be back soon."

	"And I thought Kurumi and Manami were scary..."  He shook his
head and followed Ayukawa.

	She laughed, and Kyousuke realized he'd spoken his thought out
loud.  "Some big brother."

	"Hey, you try living with two sisters..."

	She lightly bopped him on the shoulder.  "I have, Kasuga-kun.

	"Ah..."  Embarrassed, he chuckled.  "But they were older.
It's not the same."

	"Remind me to compare notes with you, some time."  Reaching
the foot of the stairs, Madoka paused.  "I just realized, we never did
introduce ourselves."

	Kyousuke shrugged helplessly.  That was something he'd gotten
rather good at, over the last few years.  "I guess we might as well
wait until your cousin gets here, then.  He's the 'Tenchi-sama'
they're talking about, right?"

	Another nod.  "Tenchi Masaki."

	Kyousuke chuckled.  "Popular guy, isn't he?"

	A pointed look from Ayukawa silenced him.  With a wry smile,
she said, "You're not exactly one to talk, Kasuga-kun."

	"Eh?  But I meant... ah..."  He lost his train of thought as a
young girl of eight or so walked out of the kitchen.  A young girl
with -blue- hair.  What was with these girls?  Maybe it was a local
fashion, or something?

	The girl took advantage of the silence, exclaiming, "Hi!"
Madoka turned around to face her, and she smiled cheerfully.  "My
name's Sasami!  What're yours?"

	"Who...?" Kyousuke began to murmur to Ayukawa.

	She shrugged slightly and smiled back at Sasami.  "I'm Madoka,
and this is Kyousuke.  I'm Tenchi's cousin."

	The girl nodded.  "That's what I thought.  Tenchi-niichan told
us you'd be coming.  He should be here--"

	Behind Kyousuke, the door to the house opened.  A soft tenor
voice proclaimed, "I'm home."

	"--Right now," Sasami finished.  "Welcome home,