Akane is walking down a shopping street in the town, window shopping. She is standing before a clothier's shop and admiring a beautiful, but expensive dress, when a reflection in the glass catches her eye. It looks like Ranko's face, seen among the many other pedestrians, that hurry down the street.
Akane: [thinks] Oh, what's Ranko doing here? [turns, out loud] Hey, Ra...
She stops in mid-word, when she realizes that the face she saw is not Ranko's. It belongs to a beautiful middle-aged woman, who is standing on the other side of the street, in conversation with a street vendor. She seems to be asking for directions or something like that. Akane looks more closely at her.
Akane: [thinks] Well... She certainly looks a lot like Ranko, But she's older than her. Tsk. Good that I didn't call out.
She looks at the stranger for a while, then turns back to the window and resumes her shopping.
Some time later, Akane arrives back at the Tendou home, with her shopping basket filled.
Kasumi: [from the living room] Welcome home, Akane.
Ranko: [coming downstairs] Hi, Akane!
Akane: Hi, Ranko! [laughs] Ha, that reminds me. You'll never guess what happened to me today.
Ranko: Somebody annoyed you and you didn't beat them halfway to death?
Akane: [slaps her over the head] Baka, I'm serious.
They walk into the living room together, where Genma is sitting in the corner, playing Shogi against himself - he appears to be losing, but it's hard to determine with both sides cheating so much.
Akane: I was looking at a display in a shop window and suddenly I thought I saw your face reflected in the glass.
Ranko: Nah, can't be. I was here all the time.
Akane: I know, but I thought it was you and turned. I almost called out your name. [giggles] I was so embarrassed, when I saw in the last moment, that it wasn't you at all. It was a woman of... Father's age, perhaps. She just looked completely like you, only that her hair wasn't braided in a pigtail but at the back of her head. She was carrying a long bundle and asking someone for directions.
Ranko: [pats her shoulder] Perhaps you should consider buying glasses, if you start to confuse me with older women.
Akane: [punches Ranko playfully] Perhaps you should consider buying beauty cream, if you start to resemble older women.
They continue their friendly bickering. Neither of them notice that Genma jumped up when he heard Akane's description of the woman. He is pressing himself against the wall, as if he fears someone storming in at any second. Quickly he runs back through the door, and to the guest room.
Kasumi comes in with a tray of tea.
Kasumi: Mr. Saotome, I've made you some tea... Oh, where is he?
Akane: Hmm? Oh, I thought he was sitting there. I didn't see him leave.
Ranko leans over to her, so that only Akane can hear her.
Ranko: [whispering] Glasses!
Akane punches her a little harder this time.
Ranko: Ouch! [rubs her arm] Did I hit a nerve?
Akane raises her fist threateningly.
Akane: Funny that you should mention "hitting"...
Ranko: [cowers in played fear] No, Akane! Help!
Kasumi lightly embraces her little sister from behind in a motherly way. She knows this game by heart.
Kasumi: Why can't you two be less rough on each other? Fiancées should be gentle.
Ranko & Akane: We're not fiancées!
Nabiki is coming in on her way into the kitchen and has heard their last sentence. She grins mischievously.
Nabiki: [teasingly] Oooh, I wonder how much Kunou-chan will pay for that piece of information? He'll love to hear that you are both free.
Ranko: [snorts] Not that our "engagement" ever hindered him from proposing to us. If the choice is either Kunou or Akane, I think I'll go with our fathers' plan. Akane may be a tomboy, but at least she doesn't think that affection is best shown by violence.
Akane: [whacks her] Who's a tomboy?!
Ranko: [rubs her head] Urrh... I think I'll take back that last sentence.
Kasumi prepares to break up a brawl between the two, but it never happens. Before Ranma and Akane can begin exchanging blows, Genma comes barging in and splashes Ranko with a bucket of water. After she changes, Ranma turns towards him.
Ranma: Oi, what're you up to?
Genma: Take your bundle, son. We have to go on a trip.
He is carrying two traveling sacks, one of which he is handing to Ranma. Ranma crosses his arms.
Ranma: What's with the sudden hurry? Have you done something again?
Genma: [presses the bundle to Ranma] We have to go! Nodoka is in town!
Ranma: Oh. [reluctantly takes the sack] She found us again, eh?
Akane is astonished.
Akane: You're going with him?! Who is this "Nodoka" person that he is so afraid of?
Genma: Nobody! Let's go.
Genma tries to pull Ranma after him, but the boy just punches him in the head. His father flies out of the room into the garden, and Ranma turns to Akane. He scratches his head.
Ranma: Um, well. On our travels and training trips, we've always been followed by this woman: Nodoka. She's after us for some reason. [leans nearer] I've never gotten much info out of Pop, but as far as I know it's a matter of family honor. [snorts] I guess that Pop is really the guilty party in that conflict, but he says that I am in as much danger as he is. And he's always been honest about that at least. Anyway, I wouldn't want to see him hurt, either.
Akane: [looks at him curiously] And so you always ran with him. How long has this been going on?
Ranma: [scratches his head again] I dunno. Hmm, the earliest time I can remember was ten years back. I remember it because I was just becoming friends with a local boy and suddenly Pop came and said we had to leave. I was just six and pretty upset, so he told me a little and we went off. I imagine that it has been going on for longer, though.
Akane: And who is this woman? What does she look like?
Ranma: I have no idea. Pop always hid me, when she found us out, and disguised himself.
Flashback to Ranko's childhood.
A scared-looking Genma is pushing a small two-wheeled cart with a large wicker basket on it. He is wearing a large, round straw hat and a cloak. He pulls the hat deep down over his face and keeps his eyes to the ground, as he passes a figure coming the other way.
Inside the basket sits little Ranko, no more than seven or eight years old. She is peering out and can vaguely see a shadowy female figure that strides down the street, carrying something in her hand. Slowly the figure vanishes from Ranko's field of vision.
Ranma: He's pretty scared, I can tell, so she must be very dangerous.
Genma comes in, dripping wet and in panda form. He holds up a sign.
Genma: [signs] You bet she is! Now take your bundle and scram!
Ranma shoulders his bundle and gets ready.
Ranma: Bye, Akane - I'll come back as soon as possible. Give Kunou a kick from me. [smiles]
Akane: Wait! Where are you going?
Just in that moment Souun enters the living room. He overhears Akane's question and sees Ranma and Genma in traveling gear.
Souun: Going? You are leaving us, Saotome-kun?
Akane: [pointing to Genma] He says they must run because some woman called Nodoka is looking for them!
Souun: Ah, Nodoka. I remember...
Genma: [energetically waving a sign] Shhhhhh!!
Souun: [ignoring Genma's sign] Say, Genma my old friend...
<BOSHI, BOSHI, BOSHI>
Genma is repeatedly whacking Souun on the head with a sign, desperately trying to stop him.
Genma: [signs] Shut up! Shutupshutupshutup!!
Souun: [continues unabashed] ... is your wife still as beautiful as she was, sixteen years ago?
Genma freezes and anxiously looks over to Ranma, who is also frozen. Slowly - very slowly - Ranma turns to look at his father.
Ranma: [emotionless] Your wife? [pause] For all these years we have been running... from my own mother?
Genma: [sweating, thinks] Uh-oh!
-- End of Part 27
Part 28: "A very special young man"
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