<Piyo, piyo, PIYO?!>
The birds in the sky above Nerima are disturbed in their tranquil gliding by a strange flying object. It is Saotome Genma in his human form. The bruises all over his body and the expression on his equally bruised face indicate that his flight is not voluntary. He is battered and near unconscious.
Voice: Hey, Old man! I'm not done with you, yet!
Another person flies after the battered martial artist. It is Ranma, who has jumped to follow his arc.
Ranma: Lyin' to me all these years! I'll show you!
In the garden behind the Tendou Dojo, Akane watches the two tiny specks arc back and forth across the Nerima skyline. She shakes her head and turns. She is on her way back into the house, when she sees a woman politely peering in through the gate, waiting to be noticed. Akane walks up to her.
Akane: [thinks] Oh. It's the woman I saw in town today. [out loud] Yes? How can I help you?
Woman: This is the Tendou Dojo?
Akane: So it is.
Woman: Well... I was told that I could find Saotome Genma and his child living here. I am Saotome Nodoka.
Akane: [thinks] She is Nodoka?! [out loud] Uh, uh, err... Why... Why don't you come in?
The Tendou sisters, their father and Nodoka are sitting around the living room table, enjoying Kasumi's tea. Nodoka is still carrying the long bundle with her.
Nodoka: So they are living here?
Souun: They are. Unfortunately, though, they have just left on a training trip.
Nodoka: A training trip?
Akane: [looks at Souun, thinks] What is he talking about? Why is he protecting uncle Saotome?
Souun: Yes, they do that sometimes. Often, even. Martial arts is a very demanding profession. Ha ha ha...
Nodoka: I was a little confused, when I heard that my husband was living here. Some people were telling me he had a daughter, some were telling of a son. I wondered whether it was really my Genma.
Souun is sweating. Nabiki, seeing his distress, jumps to his help.
Nabiki: Oh, perhaps these people were thinking of our guest Ranma. The name is not so different from "Ranko", perhaps they confused that.
Nodoka: Oh, there is another member of the household?
Akane: Yes, but he is... [looks out of the window] Um, out.
Nabiki: He might be back at any time, though. [grins] He is Akane's fiancé.
Akane: [jumps up] He's not!
Nodoka: [smiles at her] My, so young and already you are engaged. I'm sure he is a very special young man.
Akane: [sits down again] "Special" doesn't even begin to describe it. And we're not engaged.
Nodoka just smiles again at that, not at all unlike Kasumi does so often. She readjusts the long bundle that is lying across her legs. Akane sees her motherly charm and wonders.
Akane: [thinks] What is uncle Saotome so afraid of? She is a very nice person - I wonder how she ever got stuck with a husband like him. [out loud] You haven't seen Ranko and your husband in a long time, Mrs. Saotome. What do you plan to do when you finally meet them.
Nodoka: [sighs] I am a bit angry with my husband. He did not consult me, when he took Ranko on his "travels".
Silence falls as the implications of this information sink in. Only the soft <chirrinng> of the wind-chime can be heard.
Akane: [thinks] He kidnapped Ranko from her own mother and kept running from her for 16 years?!
Nodoka: [continues] So, when I meet them, I want to make sure first, that he has not been a bad influence on my little girl. Alas, I fear that he has.
Nodoka looks down sadly. Akane, thinking of Ranko's normal behavior, sweats.
Akane: A... and if it turns out that he has been a bad influence?
Nodoka: Oh, for that eventuality I always carry this with me. [pats the bundle]
Nabiki: So... What is it?
Instead of telling, Nodoka loosens the cord around the bundle, unwraps it and reveals...
Kasumi: Oh my!
Akane: [gasps] A katana?!
Nodoka unsheathes the sword and holds it up to gleam in the light. Then, in one fluid motion, she puts it back in it's sheath and rewraps it.
Nodoka: [as if nothing happened] So, when do you think the two will be back?
Nabiki, Akane and Souun go into shock position.
Later that day, Ranma returns, dragging an unconscious Genma in Panda form behind him. Before he can enter the house, he is stopped by Akane, who gestures at him to come into the practice hall instead. Ranma frowns, wondering, but approaches her.
Akane: [whispering] Come on! Come in here.
Ranma: What's up, Akane.
Akane looks at him for a moment, considering how best to tell him, but then she just bursts out.
Akane: Your mother is here.
Ranma: [astonished, happy] She is? That's wonderful!
Akane: Wait till you hear the whole story. Your father was not completely wrong to fear his wife. Apparently he just took you away from her and ran, when you were a baby, and she has been hunting him ever since. She says that her main concern is whether he had a bad influence on you - and she's carrying a katana with her, in case he did!
Ranma gapes at her in shock, his mind reeling. Apparently this is all too much for him to comprehend at once. He steadies himself with one hand against the wall and shakes his head a few times. Knowing that he isn't able to make a rational decision at the moment, he desperately looks at Akane for advice.
Ranma: [wretchedly] What should I do?
Akane: [takes a deep breath] Stay in your cursed form. Father said that you and your father were away on a training trip, and Nabiki said we had another houseguest named Ranma. That way we can talk to your mother and find out whether you can safely meet her.
Ranma thankfully grasps her hand and squeezes it.
Ranma: Thanks, Akane. I don't know what I'd do without you.
Akane: Be engaged to Nabiki, for one thing.
Ranma and Akane walk into the house through the back entrance. Kasumi is tidying the living room; the others have left. Akane looks left and right, then asks Kasumi.
Akane: Where is everybody? We're looking for Ran... Ranko's mother. Did she go already?
Kasumi: No, she's still here. I think she is in the guest room, where Ranma and uncle Saotome sleep.
Akane and Ranma look at each other.
In the guest room, They find Nodoka kneeling on Ranma's futon. A few of Ranma's clothes are spread before her, and she seems to be contemplating them. The children cautiously come in.
Akane: Um. Mrs. Saotome?
Nodoka looks up at them an motions them in with a smile.
Nodoka: Ah, come in Akane-chan. This must be your fiancé Ranma. My, you really are a fine young man - What is your family name?
But Ranma's mouth just opens and closes silently, as he gapes at Nodoka. Akane, realizing that he is out for the count, jumps in.
Akane: Um... Kunou! Kunou Ranma.
That snaps Ranma out of it. He turns to stare at Akane, who ignores him.
Nodoka: That's nice; a nice old name. How are you getting along?
Akane: [changes topics] Err, Mrs. Saotome, what are you doing here? [points at the clothes]
Nodoka: Oh, I am just looking at the belongings of my husband and daughter. Does she really wear these things?
She waves at the Chinese-style outfits that Ranko so loves to wear. She doesn't give the impression that she likes them very much.
Ranma: Hey, what's wrong with them?
Nodoka looks at Ranma, noticing that he wears a similar outfit. She smiles.
Nodoka: Oh, there's nothing wrong with them for you, Ranma-kun. But you are a boy; don't you think that they would be a little... tomboyish on a girl?
Akane: Now, Mrs. Saotome, that's a little too harsh. These look well on boys and girls. [thinks] That's why she wears them, after all. [out loud] I wouldn't call them tomboyish.
Nodoka smiles bemused; Ranma looks at Akane, sweating.
Ranma: [thinks] Coming from a tomboy like her, that's not very convincing. [out loud] I guess... err, I guess that Ranko took her prettier clothes with her on the training trip.
Nodoka: Ah, yes. That makes sense.
She seems relieved by the thought, and both Ranma and Akane are a bit nervous.
Akane: So, Mrs. Saotome, where are you staying? Is it far from here? [thinks] It's getting late already. She will probably leave soon.
Nodoka: When I heard that my husband had returned to Tokyo, I moved back into our old home. It has become a little dusty over the years, but it will soon be as good as new. Thank you for your concern, Akane-chan. But I won't return there before tomorrow - your father graciously allowed me to stay here for the night and use the guest room, where they sleep. Isn't that nice of him?
Ranma pales and Akane sweats, but she manages to answer.
Akane: Yes, that's nice. To have you in the house and all... Um, bye, Mrs. Saotome.
Hastily, the two leave Ranma's mother behind. As soon as they're out of sight, Ranma grabs Akane's arm and pulls her into a corner. He glares at her.
Ranma: "Kunou Ranma"?!
Akane stifles a giggle.
Akane: I'm sorry, Ranma, but the name just popped up. I mean, she was thinking we are a couple so it was kind of natural to think of Kunou, the way he is always after me.
Ranma: But we're not a couple!
Akane: I think you'd better not let your mother hear that - She might decide to make us one. She strikes me as someone who "helps" others like that.
Souun: Yes, ha ha ha, I told her to stay for the night.
Ranma and Akane have cornered her father in the hall. They do not look amused. Nabiki, sensing impending entertainment, has joined the group and watches gleefully.
Ranma: And would you be so kind to tell me where I am going to sleep now?
Souun: [surprised] Why, in Akane's room, of course. I told Nodoka that it would be no problem for you - you are fiancées, after all. Ha ha ha.
Ranma and Akane go into shock position. Nabiki chortles - this is going to be good.
Ranma & Akane: Nani?!
Ranma: In Akane's... But I.. I couldn't possibly...
Akane: Father! What were you thinking of?
Nabiki: [slightly derisive] What's your problem, sis? We all know "Ranma's"... [looks around conspiratively] true nature. So what are you so afraid of? It's not as if he's going to jump at you in the night.
Ranma looks at Souun with death in his eyes.
Ranma: I'm certainly thinking of jumping at somebody.
But Nabiki has judged her sister correctly - Akane looks up at Nabiki defiantly.
Akane: Afraid? Who says I'm afraid? I'm not! [grabs Ranma] Come on!
She stomps off to her room, with Ranma in tow. Nabiki looks after them with a wide grin; Souun slumps against the wall, relieved.
Souun: Nabiki, my daughter. You have just saved your father from certain doom. How can I ever repay you?
Nabiki turns to him. Her eyes take on a calculating look.
In Akane's room, Ranma and Akane get ready for the night in uncomfortable silence. Ranma is unrolling a spare futon mattress on the floor. Finally, he turns towards Akane.
Ranma: Akane... You don't have to do this. I know that it's bothering for you, with me in my male form and all. I could just as well sleep in the Dojo, if you prefer.
Akane: Well, it is bothering...
Ranma turns to gather up his mattress again, but Akane stops him. She continues.
Akane: ...but it's okay. For tonight.
She smiles back, as Ranma breaks out in a relieved, happy smile.
Akane: [silently to herself] Until tomorrow it's okay.
The room is dark, and the two teenagers are lying on their respective beds, still awake, but on their way to sleep. Suddenly a noise pulls them out of their rest. Silently they look at each other, trying to figure out what it was and where it came from. Another noise occurs, and both realize that it's coming from the wardrobe.
Without a sound, Ranma stands up and sneaks over to the mirrored doors of the wardrobe. He puts one hand on the sliding door, while pulling the other hand back. Suddenly, within a split second he has shifted the door open and delivered a mighty punch to whoever lurks in the darkness behind it. His fist connects, and Ranma steps aside, as a body slowly falls forward out of the wardrobe.
Akane turns on the light, and both she and Ranma go wide-eyed, when they recognize who it is that lies on the ground before them.
Ranma: Pop?! What are you doing in Akane's wardrobe?
-- End of Part 28
Part 29: "One day..."
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