Akane and Ranma stand before Genma, who is lying on the floor in Akane's room. He is just regaining consciousness after Ranma's killer punch. Akane is fuming; half because of his intrusion into her room, half because of what they found out about him today.
Akane: [kicks him in the ribs] Kidnapper! Enemy of all women!
Ranma reaches out and holds her back by the shoulder.
Ranma: Excuse me, but he's also my father.
Akane: Oh. [looks to the ground] Sorry Ranma.
She takes a step back, and Ranma stands between her and Genma.
Ranma: It should be me, doing this. [kicks Genma in the ribs] Kidnapper! Enemy of all women!
Genma groans and raises his arm. He is able to block Ranma's next kick, and Ranma stops.
Genma: Stop it, son. We're in this together.
Ranma: Oh no! You're on your own, old man.
Genma: [points at him] It is your fault that she found us - now you hide me.
Akane: He can't hide you. He is hiding himself, already.
Ranma: Wait a moment - my fault?!
Genma: Of course. All these years we could evade her because she never thought to ask for a man and a boy. But since we've come here you've been spending more and more time in girl form - you even wear dresses!
Ranma: Only when all my own stuff is in the laundry!
Akane: Ranko... You don't have to explain yourself for acting like a girl.
Ranma: [embarrassed] Um...
Genma: [pushes himself up on his elbows] Listen to me, Ranma. You may think about me and my actions what you want, but believe me: You have every reason to fear your mother.
Ranma and Akane look down at him with folded arms, sceptically.
Genma: It's true! She was... is obsessed with her views of what a girl should be like. She wouldn't let you do anything that she thought of as "boyish" - and that's pretty much everything besides cooking and looking pretty. Your whole life would have been pre-planned by her, and I tried to save you in the only way I could think of.
Ranma: [sarcastically] In other words: She wouldn't let you plan my life, and didn't like you teaching me martial arts, so you kidnapped me and lied to me for fifteen years. Thanks ever so much. [grins] I think we'll have a little family reunion, right now.
He grabs Genma by the lapels and begins to drag him to the door, but amazingly the old man manages to take his arm and flip him on his back. Taken by surprise, Ranma is pinned by his father. Genma has a panicked look in his eyes. Obviously his sudden feat is fueled by mortal fear.
Genma: Don't! She has a very radical sense of honor, and she will likely kill both of us, when she finds out about the life you lead and... your curse. Oh, she'll call it Seppuku - to restore our honor, but it will be her hand on the blade. Please don't do anything hasty.
Angrily Ranma throws his father off.
Ranma: [sarcastically] Oh sure, I'll believe you. I mean, I just found out that you've been lying to me all my life - why shouldn't I trust you?
He prepares to grab Genma again, when suddenly Akane's hand clasps his shoulder and holds him back. Ranma wants to turn to her, but she holds him, facing his father. Softly she speaks.
Akane: Look at his eyes, Ranma. He is certainly very, very afraid. I think he's telling the truth now... at least some of it.
Battling with his anger, Ranma stares down at his father with fists clenched, while the latter looks up at Akane thankfully.
Akane: We wanted to do this slowly anyway. This is a delicate matter, so we'd best not rush it.
Slowly Ranma lets out his breath and agrees, to Genma's relief.
Ranma: O-o-okay, Akane, maybe you're right. You're off the hook, Pop. For now.
Genma: [eagerly] So you'll let me hide here?
Souun Tendou wakes in his room to the sound of wood splintering. Suddenly there is something heavy lying on him, but its shape is hidden by the dark. Then he hears a familiar voice.
Genma: [moans] Well, it was worth a try. [slumps unconscious]
Souun: Saotome-kun, is that you?
Pinned by the other man's weight, he turns his head left and right. There is moonlight filtering in through a large ragged hole in the wall.
Souun: There's a hole in my bedroom wall. [tries to sit up] Ooof. Say, Genma, my old friend, could you move a bit? You are kind of heavy, ha ha ha!
Genma does not react.
The morning light is shining through the kitchen window, and Kasumi is humming her little song while preparing breakfast when she sees a rather ragged and gaunt-looking Souun stumble into the living room. She rushes to his side.
Kasumi: Why, father, you don't look so well this morning.
Souun steadies himself, holding her arms.
Souun: Kasumi... Daughter, could you do me a favour? Please stop making extra large portions of your meals for my friend Saotome.
Kasumi: Oh. But uncle Saotome so likes to eat.
Souun: [whinces] I know.
Akane and Ranma enter the room. Ranma looks around cautiously.
Akane: Good morning, Kasumi, Father.
Kasumi: Good morning, Akane. Hello, Ranma. What are you looking for? Your mo...
Akane: [interrupting] Uh, yes, we're looking for Ranko's mother. Is she still sleeping?
Kasumi: Oh no, she has been up for quite some time. She even offered to help me in the kitchen.
Akane: [to Ranma] Hmmm, she'll be back in the guest room, then.
In the guest room, Akane and Ranma are sitting, facing Nodoka. Ranma is a little nervous, but Akane and Nodoka smile.
Nodoka: Thank you, children, for your kind offer. I really appreciate any information about Ranko you can give me.
Akane: It's all our pleasure, Mrs. Saotome. [thinks] After all, we want to find out whether Ranma's father was right about you, or if Ranko can safely see you. [out loud] Is there anything specific you want to know?
Nodoka: Well... You see, I have never really had a chance to spend any time with my daughter. My husband took her on his trip, when she was still a little toddler. I never got to talk with her about what it means to be a girl, as is a mother's duty. My husband did not quite agree with my views about how a girl should behave, you see. So, what I really want to know is what kind of person Ranko is. All these years spent with my husband alone... I have always feared what kind of influence he would have on her young mind.
The glittering in her eyes does not escape Akane.
Akane: [thinks] Tears...?
But Nodoka blinks and continues.
Nodoka: My daughter's honor is what is most important to me. When she was so little, my husband talked about how he was going to train her in martial arts - I abhorred the thought. Girls should not fight, brawling like men. How could a man ever want to marry a girl who is fighting all the time? No, I would never have allowed it.
As she shakes her head, Akane pushes Ranma's side. When he looks at her, she speaks up.
Akane: Well, Ranma, why don't you say something? How about if you tell Mrs. Saotome a bit about her daughter? [thinks] Come on, tell her something to reassure her.
Nodoka looks at him expectantly. Nervously he clears his throat.
Ranma: Uh, well. Ranko... She- She is the best martial artist I know. Um. I remember, when she arrived here, she sparred with Akane and won. Akane was pretty upset.
Akane looks ready to interrupt, but swallows her protests in face of Nodoka's eager face.
Ranma: Um, that's because Akane is a real good martial artist, too. She fought off dozens of pushy boys every morning until Ranko appeared. After that, they stopped attacking Akane, 'cause they knew they don't stand a chance against Ranko.
He pauses self-consciously. This obviously isn't easy for him - it feels so much like bragging, and he doesn't think he has much to brag about in any case.
Ranma: Still, even with all the guys afraid of her, there's hardly a day where she doesn't get into a kind of fight with all kinds of people. I mean, it's not as if it's m- her fault that she gets so many challenges. At least most of the fights are over pretty fast, when the opponent is weaker than her. [small voice] I guess she's not exactly what you wished for in a daughter.
Ranma's head has slowly dropped, while he spoke, and he is looking to the ground. Therefore he does not notice that the tears in Nodoka's eyes are very much visible by now. Akane sees them and looks at him in disbelief.
Akane: [sternly] Ranma.
Ranma: [looks up] Akane?
Completely flabbergasted, Ranma holds his cheek, where Akane's hand landed. The slap was more loud than hard, but Ranma is deeply shaken by it.
Akane: [turns to Nodoka] Mrs. Saotome, don't listen to a word of this stupid Baka. Sometimes I have no idea why I put up with him. [shoots Ranma a look] He managed to get everything about Ranko completely wrong.
Ranma, seeing his mother's tears, gulps heavily. He looks over at Akane, who has taken up the reins now.
Akane: Yes, it's true, Ranko gets into fights a lot, but she
never picks on the weak; she protects them. And she fights for
honor, too: for example, there is this boy, Ku... um, Tatewaki,
who has been harassing me for the longest time. She has taken it
as her duty to drive him off, whenever he shows himself - I rarely
ever have to deal with him anymore.
Then there was a girl, who was after Ranma as her boyfriend, and wanted to, um, get me out of the way. She attacked me more than once, and if it wasn't for Ranko, she would have succeeded, too.
Just a little time ago, I was chosen to represent our school in a martial arts match, and the other school's champion tried to disqualify me before the match, by dishonorable means. She succeeded, and I thought I had to give up, when Ranko jumped in. She had no training for that match, but she stood up to uphold the honor of our school, and avenge the other girl's dishonesty. And she managed to do it, too.
When we are at school, she is constantly helping others in dozens of little ways; whenever somebody is bullied or mistreated, you can count on Ranko to intervene.
I won't deny that her father was a bad influence in some ways, but I know that Ranko never took his strange values to heart. She is honorable, and I am honored to know her.
Resolutely, Akane ends her speech. Nodoka's eyes are still tear-filled, but her expression is one of happiness. Ranma's face just shows astonishment. Blinking, and surreptitiously wiping her tears, Nodoka speaks up.
Nodoka: Oh Akane, I am so happy to hear this. [takes Akane's hands] If Ranko has a friend like you, to argue for her in this way, she must be a good person.
A look of sadness creeps into her eyes.
Nodoka: Still... you two talk about conflicts and fighting. It is all well to fight for honor - but a girl should not be fighting at all! I fear that my husband's influence has indeed tainted my poor daughter in a way.
Unconsciously, she touches the handle of her katana - a movement, that does not escape the two teenagers. But then she perks up.
Nodoka: But that doesn't matter. After all, behavior isn't everything - it can always be corrected. At least he can't make her into a real boy.
Nodoka smiles at them. Ranma gulps.
Akane: A-heh. No, of course not. [sweats] It's been so nice, talking with you. I hope you don't mind us, if we're off?
Nodoka: Oh no, dears, it was awfully great of you to bear with me and tell me what you know of Ranko. I have kept you for long enough, now; I expect that two young fiancées have something better to do.
She smiles at them, oblivious to the reaction that the word "fiancées" evokes. Akane takes Ranma's arm, pulls him up, and they walk out of the room; slowly at first, then breaking into a run, as soon as they're out of sight.
Inside the practice hall, Ranma stops and flattens himself against the wall, waiting for Akane to do the same. When she does, they begin to talk.
Ranma: [hisses] Gad, did you see how her hand went to the sword?!
Akane: How could I miss it?
Ranma: I can't believe it! Pop was right. She would kill us - well, at least him - if she knew about the curse. How did such a woman end up with a husband like him?
Akane: Perhaps they only got worse in later years. I know that father grew more... difficult, after- [stops herself] um, in recent years.
Ranma slumps, despairing. He lets his head hang to his chest and sighs a sigh of utter defeat.
Ranma: So that's it. I'm stuck with a pop who's a kidnapper and a mom whom I can't meet because she's trigger happy.
Akane: [thinks of the unsheathed katana, gleaming in the light] Figuratively speaking.
Ranma: And for a second there I thought I could be a normal kid with a normal family. Well, I'd better tell pop that he's won. I won't get to know my mother, after all.
Despite his "What do I care" tone, Akane can feel that he's on the verge of collapsing with tears. She reaches out and turns him around to face her, even though he keeps his head down and his eyes to the ground.
Akane: What kind of nonsense are you talking, baka? Of course you'll get to know your mother.
Ranma looks up, and she can see that her guess was right. The sadness reflected on his face threatens to break her heart. With disbelief in his eyes, he begins to speak.
Ranma: Wha- ?
Akane: [shushes him] And she will get to know you - only more slowly and indirectly at first. Don't you see? We can do what we did today again, and get acquainted with your mother, while giving her an impression of who you really are. I'm sure we can get her to accept that you didn't grow up to be her perfect girl, and once she does, you'll be able to see her. I mean, see her as you.
Ranma: [reluctantly] We'd have to lie to her...
Akane: Only at first. Would you rather give up on her completely?
His face is resolved, once more; his tears gone. He clenches his fists at his side.
Ranma: All right, it is a good plan; we'll do it that way. But I'd still not tell pop about it - he'd probably try to prevent it.
He takes Akane's hand, and they walk over to the main building
Genma, in panda form, is obviously happy to hear the news. He, Ranma and Akane, Souun, Nabiki and Kasumi are in the living room.
Genma: [signs] Finally you see sense. [flips over sign] It would be too dangerous to tell her.
Ranma: [cautiously] Um, yes, we can't know how she'd take it.
In that moment, the door opens and Nodoka enters, looking right at Genma.
Despite the fur, the Panda manages to go white, and backs against the wall, sweating in wide-eyed terror, as Nodoka looks at him curiously.
Nodoka: Oh, a panda? I didn't know you had pets in this house.
She comes closer, smiling, and touches the shivering animal on the shoulder.
Nodoka: [friendly] Well, who are you then, my furry fellow?
Souun looks at his terrified friend.
Souun: [thinks] Your secret is safe, Saotome-kun. I will not betray you.
Akane looks over at Ranma, whose face is shut tightly. He avoids looking at his mother. Seeing his resolve, she keeps silent, too, and looks over at Nabiki. Nabiki is grinning broadly, obviously thinking that silence is golden... or else!
Kasumi: [sweetly] Oh, that's Mr. Saotome.
Kasumi bustles off towards the kitchen, oblivious to the fact that everyone goes into shock position. Everyone, that is, except Genma, whose brain seems to have imploded, and Nodoka. She eyes the Panda closely and narrows one eye.
She begins to giggle, then laugh.
Nodoka: How fitting! "Mr. Saotome" - that's delightful. In fact, I think he really does resemble my husband in a way. How funny to have this animal bear his name.
She pats the panda's shoulder again, and turns away.
Nodoka: Well, then, I just wanted to say goodbye; I have got to leave now. I hope to see you all again, soon, when my husband and daughter return.
Sighing a deep sigh of relief, Ranma and Akane accompany her to the door. She waves at them, as she walks down the path to the garden door, and they wave back. She vanishes around the corner, and immediately Ranma slumps back against the door post, with shut eyes. Akane stands besides him and holds his hand encouragingly.
Ranma: [eyes still shut] That was the single hardest thing I ever did.
Akane: I think you managed it pretty well. You kept your nerves more or less throughout the whole talk. I'm not sure if I could have done that.
Ranma: That's not what I was talking about.
He opens his eyes and there's a tear running from one of them.
Ranma: I meant letting her go away again.
Involuntarily Akane squeezes his hand at this. He smiles again, and returns the squeeze.
Ranma: Thanks for your help. I know it's not forever, and I'll see her again. After the talk with her, I was pretty down, but now I've got some hope.
Akane pulls Ranma forwards, away from the post.
Akane: Come on, we'll get you a nice hot bath.
Ranma: [sighs, closes his eyes] Oooh, that's something I need right now.
As they enter the building again, they pass Souun and Nabiki, who are standing before Genma. He is still frozen in the very same position they saw him last.
Nabiki: Say, shouldn't he have moved by now?
The evening light falls through the windows of the Tendou home. In one of the windows sits Ranko, now finally female again. She stares out towards the setting sun, wistfully.
Ranko: [thinks] Mother... I cannot face you yet, but I swear that one day I'll meet you as myself and we'll be reunited. One day soon.
-- End of Part 29
Part 30: "Expect the unexpected"
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