A/N: Hi guys! I'm back, new and improved! I believe this story is going to be better than KMS, much better I promise. I regret to say though, that I am deleting KMS. It's just not going the way I've planned and I'm thinking I have to let it go because it's hindering me from writing a better story. I'm really sorry if I left you guys hanging. If this is going to help, Akane is pregnant and Ukyo and Ryoga will eventually get together because I'm a sucker for happy endings.

Since I am an Akane fan and I feel that she is somewhat always oppressed, this is kind of my revenge fic on dear Ranma-kun. Akane will suffer a lot but that's just because I think she's so cool that she deserves to be faultless. So shoot me- oh wait, don't.

Oh, and I actually have an organized, well-thought out plot! Oh, isn't that wonderful?

If you guys have any more questions, I'll gladly answer- just please, don't hunt me down and run me over with an eighteen-wheeler.

Standard disclaimers apply.


Were there butterflies then?

When I stood in front of you

And the wind carried our lullabies away--

Like the sands on the beach

That never tasted rain.


PROLOGUE

She watched the sun slowly paint the horizon in first a somewhat shy shade of red and then to a faded glowing orange. There were roosters crowing and birds chirping and dogs barking. The tree leaves were a sunshiny golden-green over her head as she passed, misty streaks of sunlight peeking through the softly swaying branches. Somewhere in the distance, someone was playing exercise music. The breeze was still cool and she put down her suitcase to pull the sleeves of her navy blue sweater past her wrists to cover her numbing hands. She paused as a butterfly passed right in front of her, its yellow wings fluttering cheerily. She followed it with her eyes as it landed on a pink flower on a bush just across the street. She inhaled long and deep and looked up to the morning sky, leaving her suitcase to lie on the cold ground.

'Kami-sama has found his toy today,' she thought bitterly. Today had to be one of the saddest days of her life and everything else seemed a deep contrast to her mood. There was no gray anywhere. The streets seemed a white marble color, the trees were green as ever, the flowers were blushing pink, and the damned butterfly just had to be a bright happy yellow.

Resentfully, she picked up her suitcase and resumed walking. Here she was, breaking off a little piece of her heart to feed to the enthusiastic little birds every step she took and the happy little bastards wouldn't even stop singing their happy little song. She was convinced they composed the perky melody just to annoy her.

For the second time since she left the dojo, she paused to look back and sigh. A part of her wanted to run back home and stay there for the rest of her life even if she knew she'd have to live each day feeling sorry for herself- but the other, more sensible part of her told her this was the right thing to do- run away and never look back.

So she turned away and forced herself to look straight ahead even though she couldn't see anything through her tears but indistinguishable blotches of colors.

For the first time in her life, Tendo Akane welcomed defeat.


"Morning, Kasumi," Ranma sat at the table, stretching his limbs and picking up the chopsticks laid out beside his bowl of rice.

"Good morning, Ranma," Kasumi replied, her voice a strange alto to her usual carefree demeanor.

The slight blotchiness of her face did not escape Ranma even as Kasumi kept a small smile on her lips. "Kasumi?" he asked apprehensively. "What's wrong?" He never was able to stand the sight of a girl crying; it was part of his slightly chauvinistic principles.

"Why nothing! Why would you think that?" she answered, perhaps a bit too quickly, a tad too cheerfully. At that moment, Soun entered from the kitchen, rivers of tears pouring down his pointed face. He was clutching a rather large towel in his hand and was occasionally blowing his nose into it.

"What the hell is happening?" Ranma demanded, his chopsticks dropping back to the table with a hollow thud.

"So she didn't tell you," Nabiki sauntered into the room, her arms crossed over her chest. Of the three Tendos, Nabiki seemed the only one in relatively normal condition. She was stoic as ever, the only sign of amiss the deep frown she was wearing.

A sinking feeling settled in the pit of Ranma's stomach and he faced the brown-haired girl, a firm and suspicious glare pasting itself onto his face. "Where's Akane?" He was surprised at how quiet his voice sounded. She could just be upstairs in bed and sleeping late. She'd seemed a bit upset the day before and maybe she was tired from the graduation ceremony…

"Where's Akane?" he asked again, firmer this time and more impatient.

Nabiki sat beside him, grabbed a carrot stick from a small bowl on the table and bit off a little piece. She turned to Ranma, face still impassive and calm. "Probably already at the train station." She nibbled again on the vegetable.

Ranma cocked his head to the side, frowning at the older girl. He'd never really liked how Nabiki always had a hidden agenda behind everything she said.

And since when did Akane ever go anywhere without him?

"Why? And what time is she coming back?"

"Akane's not coming back, Ranma," Kasumi's voice cut in. He turned to her in surprise. "At least not soon… She's been accepted at a college in Morioka."

Ranma stood up angrily, hitting his fists on the table for leverage. A glass of water tipped over and spilled onto Nabiki.

"What!" he yelled. "College? That wasn't part of the plan!"

"What plan, genius?" Nabiki muttered saucily, already drying her lap off with a hand towel.

Ranma didn't hear her. He was already jumping onto a roof and hurrying his way to the train station with a strange feeling of desperation pounding at his chest.


"Excuse me, excuse me!" he kept saying, making his way through a bustling crowd, intent only on finding her. He didn't see the annoyed faces of the strangers he'd bumped into, didn't hear the train's wheels screeching to a halt, didn't feel the scratching of the soles of his shoes on the cemented pavement as he struggled desperately to catch a glimpse of her short, dark hair.

He looked around in frantic haste, searching amongst the crowd of bobbing black and brown heads for the one he'd risked his life for so many times before. His mind was reeling fuzzily. Was she really leaving? Why would she? He was here and she belonged with him. Here. In Nerima. With him.

A part of him was angry at her, feeling somewhat betrayed and forsaken. He thought they had established an unspoken vow never to leave each other and here he was, looking for her in a train station like a lunatic ready to pass out if the train blew another whistle.

Another part of him felt regretful of his own thoughtless conclusions. What right had he to assume she'd be right beside him when he needed her (which was every second of every hour)? Hadn't he himself pushed her away countless times?

He fingered the tiny object in his pocket through the rough cloth of his pants. He paused, his chest heaving not with fatigue but with a feeling of hopelessness. He looked around again, his trained eyes swiftly darting from one corner to another.

And there she was, the last of the passengers to board the train, pulling her baggage up the platform. He almost smiled at the sight of her, knowing that her slight form was no match for the weight she was lugging behind her. Instinct told him to go and help her but he suddenly remembered why he was there.

"Akane! Wait!" he called and she turned to him in surprise.

Recognition dawned in her eyes and she frowned. "Ranma? What are you doing here?"

He jogged towards her and grabbed her shoulder for support. "I think the question is what are you doing here?" he said accusingly, eyebrows narrowed in restrained anger.

She bowed her head, refusing to meet his gaze, and said, "I'm leaving for college."

"Why? That wasn't part of the plan, Akane! No one said anything about college!"

"What plan, Ranma?" Her question was an echo of Nabiki's earlier remark. "Do you mean the engagement? That wasn't in your plans, you keep complaining. Let me tell you something, it wasn't in mine either!" She raised her angry eyes to meet his and she was shaking from fury and frustration. I didn't plan to fall in love with you.

Her words hurt but he was adamant in his objective of making her stay. "I thought we had an understanding."

She didn't comprehend what he was saying but her anger prevailed. "I don't know what you're talking about," she hissed and turned back into the interior of the train, pushing her luggage inside. The train whistle blew.

The sound was like a wake up call to Ranma, telling him to hurry, hurry before she could make up her mind.

"Why are you leaving, Akane?" he asked again, calmer this time.

She turned to face him and sighed. He could have sworn a look of longing passed her face for a second. She stared down at him, her brown eyes mirroring something strange and unreadable.

There was nothing to lose now. She had given him up. It wouldn't matter if she told him the truth.

"Because I love you," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.

His eyes widened in shock and confusion. That didn't make any sense. "What?" he said stupidly.

She waited for him to say something else. She anticipated his answer, hoped it would be what she wanted to hear.

But he merely stared at her, eyes wide with question. Things were going on in his mind, voices screaming 'Tell her! Tell her!'

But the world seemed to be listening, waiting for him to show some sort of vulnerability. He felt nothing but the tightening in his chest, heard nothing but the deafening sound of his thrumming heart and those voices in his head, saw nothing but the earthy mist that were her eyes… her eyes… Could he see something there? Hope? Desperation?

The train's whistle blew again, knocking them both out of their trance. The world hustled and bustled again and Akane turned away.

"Akane, wait!" The words flew right out of his mouth before he could stop himself. A large lump formed in his throat.

"Yes?" she looked at him, eyes wide with hope, pleading him to say it. Say it!

"I… I…" He stared intently at her face and his mind drifted a bit. She was so beautiful… "I…"

"Yes?" she prompted him.

"I… d-don't understand why you're leaving. It's a stupid decision," he said finally, hating himself for doing it.

She looked down dejectedly. Slow tears made their way down her chin. The train whistle blew for the last time.

Suddenly, she looked up at him, a determination he didn't understand evident in her blotchy face.

No regrets.

Slowly, she bent down to kiss him. He held his breath, his heart thumping wildly in his chest, and he was suddenly aware of her warm breath on his lips. And then… and then…

And then he turned away- like he suddenly remembered something- perhaps his anger… or perhaps something else.

She sighed in despondence and smiled sadly. "I understand."

And she made her way into the train. Ranma's eyes were glued to the ground beside him, thoughts swimming in his head. And he stood, angry with her for not needing him, angry with himself for being alone. He was a tale of pathetic mush and he knew it. He couldn't stop her from leaving. If he had kissed her, he knew the consequences; he'd be missing her even more because he'd have known what he had let slip away. In the corner of his eye, he could see the wheels of the train accelerating in speed. He was rooted to the spot and he didn't move away when he felt the rushing wind threaten to burn his face.

For some reason, he felt that he'd lost in the biggest battle of his life.


A/N: So, ya dig?