A/N: Just one thing to say! Well I know this idea has been used many times by many authors, but I'd really like to take a shot at it too. I have many weird and wonderful (I hope) plans for this story, so please give it a chance! Thanks! ^_^ Oh! Actually two things... this is set a while after volume 38, just to let ya know.

Time and Again

Prologue

He really hadn't suspected that things would go so horribly wrong. In his mind, it was like every other time that this had happened. And it had become a regular occurrence lately, so he had no reason to believe that this time things wouldn't be so easy. The ever-confident boy that he was, he'd taken his responsibility lightly, with a pinch of salt like he always did. If he had known that it'd cost his fiancé's life, he wouldn't have been quite so carefree.

That morning he woke up slowly and of his own accord, which was very peculiar, since he was usually awoke rudely by a shouting, uncute tomboy who was sometimes armed with a bucket full of cold water. It was nice, but fairly strange to wake up by himself. If it wasn't Akane then it'd be his father, who coincidentally made his presence known right then with a loud, panda-like snore. As he got up sleepily from his futon and headed for the stairs, he idly wondered what time it was and if he was late for school. He really couldn't be bothered to stand in the hall with buckets again.

When he arrived at the table he was shocked to find that only Soun and Kasumi sat there, the latter eating her breakfast and flipping through some magazine while her father read the morning newspaper, sipping at his orange juice. Seeing that they weren't going to notice him any time soon, Ranma cleared his throat.

Kasumi's gaze snapped up at the sudden noise, and her eyes widened as she spotted the cursed martial artist standing in the doorway. "Ranma-kun!" She exclaimed, "What on earth are you doing here? Aren't you supposed to be at school?"

"Yeah well, I would be if someone had woken me up..." He muttered, slumping down at the table and resting his elbows on it. He wondered if he'd done something lately to anger Akane; nothing immediately sprung to mind... but then again, the tomboy was usually always angry about something, so it was hard to pinpoint a certain reason.

"Oh," Kasumi frowned, an expression that somehow managed to look sweet on her, "That's strange. I assumed you two hadn't come down for breakfast because you had gone into school early for some reason."

"Nah," He sighed, "I dunno about Kane though."

"Akane could still be up there too. Could you go and check on her please, Ranma?" Kasumi asked sweetly in a tone that no one would be able to refuse. So naturally, Ranma had no choice but to accept, even at the risk of facing Akane's wrath for not being woke up earlier. He had to admit that it would be strange if she'd slept in, since she was usually the first up after Kasumi. She was one of those people with a built in alarm clock.

He paused at her door and knocked loudly. Not receiving any response, he knocked again and called out her name. No noise came from his fiancé's room. Ranma sighed and slowly pushed the door open. "All right I'm coming in but it's your fault if you're getting dressed or something..."

He stepped in. The yellow bed cover was left in a mess, looking as if Akane had fought with it to get out of bed this morning. Which she probably had, Ranma mused, recalling Akane's sleeping manners. A gentle breeze blew through her open window, gently ruffling the light curtains and the papers stacked up on her desk. Nothing seemed that out of the ordinary, so she probably had got up early for something at school.

Ranma turned around, pulling the door open fully and preparing to step out. Before he could a sudden gust of wind blew through the window, throwing his pigtail around his face to slap him on the cheek. He spun around, shocked, only to be hit in the face by a small piece of paper. His hands shot up and grabbed it, and then he pulled the little piece of paper out in front of his eyes. A cold chill that was definitely not from the wind ran down his back as he read the words.

I have your fiancé. If you ever want to see her again then you will come to the address provided. You have 24 hours.

It was a simple note; precise and to the point. Ranma examined the address, his fingers shaking with anger. He wasn't just angry, he was furious. Akane had been kidnapped again and there was no doubt that whoever this freak was, they'd done it just to get to him. Well, they had kidnapped the wrong guy's fiancé. I'm gonna rip em to shreds,' Ranma thought viciously as he roughly folded the small note and shoved it into his trouser pocket. He didn't need 24 hours; he'd pulverise this creep and be straight out of there with Akane within 1.

He made his way back downstairs, pausing to explain the situation to Kasumi and Soun. Kasumi showed her surprise in her usual way; hand over her mouth and a small exclamation of "Oh my!" Soun leapt up from the table and grabbed Ranma in a crushing bear hug, tears streaming from his eyes. "Oh Ranma you must love my daughter so much! What a good fiancé you are!"

If this had happened a year ago, no doubt Soun would have been crying a river of grief and distress that one of his daughters had been kidnapped. But now he knew that Ranma would always look out for his daughter, and knowing that possibly one of the greatest martial artists in the world would protect her took a great deal of the worry from his back. After Ranma was finally able to get out of Soun's death grip (one that put even Shampoo's to shame) he headed out to rescue Akane.

It didn't take him long to reach his destination which happened to be an old, abandoned warehouse; the usual place for these sort of going-ons to take place in. He quickly entered and examined his surroundings. It looked exactly as an abandoned warehouse should. Hazy sunlight filtered through tiny windows, hardly illuminating the extremely large room at all and leaving shadows where anyone or thing could be lurking, ready to pounce. Worn crates were scattered around here and there, and rusty chains hung down low from the very high ceiling.

Ranma continued in deeper, pushing crates and chains from his path whenever they blocked it. He was closer to the other end of the room now and he still had not seen any trace of Akane or her captor. That was until he heard a whimper to his right. He turned quickly and gasped as he saw his fiancé bound and gagged, leant up against a few boxes that had been stacked up on top of each other. "Akane!"

He didn't hesitate in getting to her, ignoring her urgent whimpers as she tried to tell him something with her wide, scared eyes. Leaning over her, he pulled the cloth from her mouth and quickly began working on her binds.

"Ranma- no!" She cried; the panic in her voice could not be mistaken. "You have to get out of here, please. This guy isn't normal, he..."

"Shut up!" Ranma snapped, his words having the desired effect immediately. He paused in what he was doing and looked to Akane with seriousness in his eyes. "You idiot. If I didn't come and get you then he'd kill you. You think I'm gonna let that happen?"

"Ranma you don't understand! He's not like anyone else you've ever faced! He's... inhuman," She pleaded. Ranma was shocked to see that tears had formed in her eyes and were threatening to fall any moment now. He had rarely seen her look so stressed not even when he insulted her cooking!

"So you think, say, Pantyhose wasn't inhuman?" He asked, hoping to maybe lift her mood a little. As much as was possible when you've been kidnapped and tied up in some dark warehouse, that is.

"I'm being serious!" She cried, the tears breaking free of her eyes and falling down her cheeks, leaving a moist trail in their path.

If there was one thing that Ranma hated to see, even more than c-cats... it was seeing a girl cry, especially this girl. He paused, lifting one hand to her cheek and gently caressing it with his thumb. His gaze locked with hers, and he willed all of his determination and confidence into that one look; the intensity of which caused Akane to gasp. "Don't worry," He said softly, "I'm gonna beat this guy and get you out of here safely, all right?" She nodded slowly and Ranma rewarded her with a gentle smile, which suddenly faded as a thought crossed his mind. "Er- where is this guy anyway?"

"Right behind you."

Ranma jumped, startled at the sudden intrusion of the deep, rough voice. His hand dropping from Akane's face, he spun around and faced its owner. A gasp escaped his throat as he examined this man', and he used the term very lightly.

He stood at around 6ft tall, a long and skinny figure clad in a trench coat that was tied so tight that it almost looked like a second skin to him. His hair was jet black, long and straggly and falling in front of his extremely pale face, in which sat two beady black eyes. A smirk touched his small lips, stretching his skin against his thin face, giving it the appearance more of a grinning skull than a man.

Ranma had to blink to make sure he wasn't seeing things. He suddenly understood what Akane had meant by inhuman' because this man certainly looked the part. Nevertheless, he jumped up and placed himself firmly in front of Akane, staring levelly at his opponent.

"Ranma Saotome, the man of many legends..." The man began, the smirk still intact on his bony face. "I am going to be the one to destroy you."

"Enough with the chit-chat," Ranma said, "Let's just get down to business, right?"

"As you wish, Ranma Saotome," He replied quietly, bowing down towards him and wrapping his arms around his midsection. Ranma stared at this curiously, wondering just what the heck this guy was up to. He didn't have to wonder for very long.

In one swift movement he tore the tightly fastened belts from his coat and threw his arms up into the air. The fabric ripped and out shot an extra two arms, only these arms were abnormally long and progressed into large, menacing blades where the lower arms should have been. He fell forward slightly, digging the long blades into the floor and leaning on them. This was no man... it was some kind of monster.

"Ranma..." Akane whispered softly, worry clear in her voice.

Ranma turned to her, flashing his patented cocky grin. "It's all right. Those blades are no different from when Mousse uses blades like that, right?"

A growl escaped its throat as it leapt towards Ranma, blades at the ready.

Ranma realised he'd been wrong, very wrong indeed. While Mousse's blades were held, these were an extension of this beast's body. The blows weren't as predictable as they were supposed to be when fighting an opponent using weapons, and the creature's reaction time was much faster. Ranma already had quite a few cuts over his body, including a very nasty gash on his right shoulder. He had realised it was too risky to try and punch or kick his opponent in case he might lose a limb, so he was going to have to use ki attacks. The only drawback with ki attacks was that they used up a great deal of energy, so Ranma was going to have to be as precise as possible when using them.

The blades swung down at him again, he was barely able to jump out of the way before they decapitated him. He leapt up onto a crate, using it to aid a large jump that put him behind the strange creature. Before it could spin around and face him, he kicked it in the head, hard, sending it sprawling into a corner full of boxes.

The blow hadn't even fazed it. As soon as it had made impact it was up again, leaping towards Ranma with a deafening hiss. He once again barely got out of the way, flipping backwards to avoid the blade that would have easily cleaved him in half.

It was then that he realised he was fighting for his life. It was him or that thing, which had shown not the slightest hint of hesitation in taking Ranma's life. He'd been in to-the-death' battles before, but they had never ended that way and the atmosphere was a lot different. He had never actually felt like he'd been fighting for his life before, he'd never felt truly threatened. But now, that had changed. This thing was as fast, if not faster than Ranma was. It hadn't seemed to tire at all, even though it had been the one who was mostly on the offensive.

Ranma realised that it was now or never. He'd been playing with this beast from the start, but now it was time to get serious. As it turned around quickly, noticing his new position, Ranma began to focus his energy. Preferably, he could take it out with one hit.

He stood still in preparation as it plodded towards him slowly, blades help up at the ready. Black eyes were fixed intently on Ranma, it was probably preparing to strike the deathblow as well.

While the fight had been taking place Akane had been slowly working at the knots. She'd had a lot of experience with escaping from being tied up, thanks to the numerous times she'd been kidnapped. The ropes were now much looser and she knew that it would only be moments until she was free again, so she could help Ranma and get them out of this mess.

As the blades shot down, Ranma again leapt up and backwards out of the way. He wrapped his arms around two chains and brought them out in front of his chest, holding himself there securely. While the creature turned to see where its opponent had jumped to, Ranma finished preparing for his final shot. He was going to pour all of his energy into this. It had to work.

Cupping his hands, he threw them forwards, extending out towards the beast on the floor. Ki formed in the palm of his hands, a bright light that blinded the creature, forcing it to raise a normal hand to shield its eyes. It barely had enough time to hear Ranma's yell of "Mouko Takabisha!" before the gathered energy shot out towards it at an incomprehensible speed, throwing the startled creature backwards into a another large pile of crates with a loud crash.

At that exact moment Akane broke free of her binds. Quickly shaking the ropes from around her wrists and ankles, she stood up and took in the battle scene. Ranma had definitely scored a KO. She looked at the fallen body, lying face-up in between herself and Ranma, and wondered if it was even breathing. Although it was a little hard to tell from this distance, it didn't look like it.

She looked up over to her fiancé who was just jumping down to the ground, his eyes fixed on the creature's body, probably trying to see the same as she had. Not even the smallest of movements' came from the creature, which wasn't really surprising considering the strength of the attack Ranma had just used against it. What was surprising was that it hadn't been disintegrated by it entirely.

"Ranma!" Akane cried, successfully gaining his attention. Their eyes met and she couldn't help but break out into a smile. She quickly made her way towards him, walking around the dead body that lay in her path.

Ranma felt numb. He had just killed... again. He opened his hands and stared down at his palms, at the invisible blood that seemed to cover them. It had been life or death, hadn't it? He really hadn't had a choice of what to do, since the beast had made it more than clear its intentions. And anyway, if he'd only knocked the thing unconscious then it just would've risen again, try to kill him and spill who knows how much blood on its way. He took his gaze from his hands and raised it to Akane, who was stepping towards him with a beaming smile that managed to completely distract him from his previous thoughts and turn them warm and fuzzy. As he stared at her, their eyes locked and he felt his heart skip a beat. It was then that he noticed the movement behind her. Akane walked on obliviously, not realising the impending danger from the seemingly dead creature.

Ranma didn't even have time to yell out a warning as it suddenly lurched upwards, leaning up on one of its normal elbows as a bladed arm shot out towards Akane's back. She had no idea what hit her until pain exploded in her chest as the steel protruded through it.

Ranma stared at the scene in horror, everything seemingly going in slow motion. He watched as Akane's smile faded, her eyes growing wide with shock. Slowly she lowered her gaze down to the steel extending from her chest, the ripped fabric of her shirt and her blood that was now quickly flowing from the wound. That moment, when the realisation of what had just happened hit them both, seemed to go on forever. Akane stood impaled, staring into Ranma's deep blue eyes that mirrored the same expression as hers. Horror.

Suddenly, time seemed to speed up again. The creature croaked out its last, dying breath and collapsed to the ground; the blade slipping from Akane's back and dropping noisily on the ground, staining it with red. In that same moment Akane began to fall forwards, her eyes never leaving Ranma's.

"AKANE!" He screamed, charging forward to catch her in his arms before she hit the ground. He fell down to his knees cradling his fiancé safely against his chest, holding on to her closer than he'd ever dared to before. Her grip was loose around his neck and he could feel her whole body shaking as she pressed against him. Ranma slowly pulled her away from him to rest on his lap, supporting her back with his arm. Full of dread, he looked down at her chest to survey the damage. You didn't need to be a doctor to tell that the wound was fatal; blood spewed from it as if from a tap. And from the warm wetness he felt on his arm it was clear that the entrance wound was doing the same.

Ranma tore his eyes away from the blood to look up to her eyes; they were filled with shock and fear. The very sight of them broke Ranma's heart, he felt hot tears of pain and frustration build up in the back of his eyes. This couldn't be happening. It had to be a nightmare. He'd had nightmares similar to this since the phoenix mountain scare, any moment now he'd wake up in his futon, go and check on Akane in her bed as he always did when he had such nightmares and everything would be all right. But you weren't supposed to feel pain in nightmares and the pain that Ranma was feeling right now in his heart was too great to be brushed aside. This was real. Akane was dying in his arms.

"Ranma..." She said quietly, her voice strained with the pain. Her fingers tightened suddenly around his arm, clenching the material of his sleeve tightly. His eyes were locked with hers, showing as much fear as she was sure hers did. "I'm-I'm scared..."

"Shh. It's all right, you're going to be okay," He assured her, trying to keep his voice from breaking. It was hard to assure someone of something that you're not even certain of for yourself, but Ranma was trying to be strong both for himself and for Akane. She coughed violently and a trickle of blood ran from her mouth along her cheek. Ranma stared down at her in that same mute horror, feeling his dread grow and grow as the warmth seeped out of her body along with her blood.

She closed her eyes and shivered, letting go of her tight grip on his sleeve, and Ranma wondered in panic if this was the end. "Akane... Akane!" He cried, shaking her gently. She slowly opened her eyes, that small movement was now a hard task for her.

"Ranma..." She whispered hoarsely, grabbing his sleeve again and looking up into his eyes with a great intensity. There was something that she'd put off telling Ranma for so long now, and she wasn't about to die until she had done it. It hurt to move her lips, it hurt to breathe, but just a few more moments and she knew that it'd be too late. Gathering her last remaining strength, she spoke the words that she'd been wanting to for so long but had never had the courage to do so. It was unfair that she had to be dying to do it. "I love you..." She whispered with her final breath, before her eyes closed and her body grew still, her arms falling limp at her sides.

"No... no, Akane! Akane wake up! Don't go Akane! I love you too... Akane! Please! No..."

Ranma's fiancé had just died in his arms, and his whole world along with her. He shook her continuously, refusing to accept it. Her pale face, the puddle of blood that surrounded them both. He didn't believe it. She couldn't be dead, she just couldn't. Memories of Jusendo flooded his mind, how he had held her still form in his arms and thought that it had been the end for them, that he would never see her move again. But she had came back to him, had calmed his nerves and steadied his rapid heartbeat with the simple touch of her hand. Oh god, why wasn't she doing that again? He broke down into sobs, the tears that he had been holding back finally breaking free.

He fell forward, head resting on her stomach, his arms still cradling her body against him. She was dead; she'd died without finding out how much he loved her, how beautiful he thought she was and how much he really had wanted to marry her on that day. They'd never even had a chance together. Fate had always got in the way. He wished that things could've been different...

Ranma's world turned black as the despair consumed him and he felt that he could keep his eyes open no longer.

A/N: Um wow that turned out much longer than I planned it to... Anywho! Please tell me what you think. I'm very new to this so any comments/criticism at all would be great! ^_^