Time Keeps On Ticking into the Future

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Ranma ½ characters. Nor do I want to. Believe me. I'm just messin' with 'em. No harm done. But, I did invent everybody else and therefore own them.

A/N: this starts a little after our friends graduate from high school. In my book, the Ranma1/2 series starts in 1988 (that was when it was first published, so we'll just pretend that is the year of the story for reference in this fic.) Trivia note: In 1993, I was 4 years old. You do the math. The beginning is weird, but I will explain it all later on down the line!

Prelude

Tendo Dojo, Nerima, Tokyo, Japan 1990

As she was going to bed, Akane passed by Ranma's room. The door was partially open.

"Akane. Come in here a minute."

Sitting on the roof of the old Tendo house, his last words came floating back at her:

When we're old enough, come to visit me. Goodbye, Akane.

Red Rose out of the east

Tell the love I love least

"Who knows?"

Red rose out of the west

Tell the love I love best

"Love is a rose"

Only a rose… I give you

Only a song… Dying away

Only a smile… To keep in memory

Until we meet

Another day

Only a rose to whisper

Blushing as roses do

I'll bring along a smile or a song for anyone

Only a rose for you

Part 1:

1-We Meet Again

Saotome School of Anything Goes Martial Arts, San Francisco, California, USA 1993

The last of the classes for the day had just ended and Ranma was fixing it up for the next day. His friend/student/partner/roommate was also there, helping. He and Riley had little sparring matches after classes every once and a while, just for fun.

Today was one of those days. As they were about to start, they heard the bell on the door chime and then the door of the actual class room swish open. Naturally, they both looked up to see a character in the doorway, wearing an old brown cloak, with a hood that cast a shadow on his face, hiding it. As soon as he caught sight of the owner of the dojo, he proclaimed in a loudish and a little bit high pitched, accented voice "Ranma Saotome, prepare yourself!" Our friend turned to the stranger and looked at him for a moment with a puzzled look.

"Don't I know you?" he shrugged as he responded with a bit of a grin. "Sure, whatever."

Riley just stood back as the strange person in the cloak attacked. Ranma dodged and tapped him on the shoulder. They're match continued with Ranma dodging and tapping, put not really hitting the other. This irritated the other boy, who was trying his hardest. Riley could see that the stranger was not doing this. If the hits ever connected, they would hurt. Badly. There was a lag as both parties slowed their attacks and started circling each other. Riley thought that this might not be a bad time to comment. "So, Ranma, figured out what style he uses yet?" It was a joke, but the other man responded seriously, but still making light of it.

"Oh, yeah. I know it. I've fought against it so much; I would be stupid if I didn't. It's Tendo Style of Anything Goes. And there is only one master and one heir."

"Hmmm. Anything Goes? The same style as you!"

The voice that had only spoken once before interrupted. "Ha! Tendo form is a much purer form of Anything Goes! This baka's school is just a collection of other people's work! It's a jumbled mess! The only original things are for thievery!" the stranger sneered in the heavily accented and slightly high pitched English.

"Where'd you get that idea?!" They went back to fighting intensely. Finally, the cloaked one tripped, fell to the ground and was very slow in getting up. Ranma walked over to his friend with his back to his opponent. He didn't have to worry about him because he knew that it was over.

"Do you know who that guy is?" Riley peered behind his friend, glancing at the figure as it rose.

"Yeah. That's Akane Tendo, the heir to the Tendo School of Anything Goes…" a smile played on his face.

Riley looked between the rising figure and his roommate, more than a little worried that Ranma wasn't paying attention to his previous opponent. The challenger was rising to his feet "…And 'he' is a 'she'." Ranma informed his friend.

As he spoke, the girl in the cloak had stood up and was advancing on the two others. "I'm so glad that you recognized me, Ranma." Riley was surprised at the sarcastic voice very near him. He turned to see the girl, Akane Tendo, standing next to him. Her hood had fallen off of her head and onto her shoulders, giving him a chance to glance at her face. She was an Asian girl about Ranma's age, with longish black-blue hair, tied back, brown eyes and clear skin. She had a good figure, an athletic one, and she had her hands on her hips and a scowl on her pretty face.

"You are acquainted, I presume?"

"You might say that." He then turned to the girl. "Why the cloak, Akane?"

"Thought it would be fun. You know, the whole 'mysterious opponent' thing. 'Oh! She's really a girl! What is the world coming to?'"

"You didn't fool me." Ranma smirked. Akane winked at Riley.

"Not you, but your friend." Riley simply remained stunned.

"Ok, Akane, formalities over with, what do you want here?" Ranma sighed, looking at the floor.

"-You can probably guess that.-" She answered in Japanese as she too sighed and dropped her expression and her hands. Riley stood watching the interaction between these two. He was sure that it would prove interesting. Ranma was still looking at the floor. Both of their attitudes and language had changed almost instantaneously.

"-Yeah. I guess I do.-" Both looked uncomfortable. Silence prevailed and Riley was confused. Again. Or was it still? Who was this girl? Why did Ranma know her? Why was she here? He opened his mouth to ask about it, but Ranma beat him to it. He had suddenly gotten angry and turned to the girl with a look that Riley had never seen, but Akane had.

"-Well, you can just go and tell them that I won't! … You know that I'm not going back anytime soon. So, are you visiting me, or are you on a mission? Why did they send you?-"

The girl had resumed her previous stance and scowl.

"-Both! You know perfectly why! Did you really think that I wanted to leave the school to come on a wild goose chase after you, baka? -"

Though the conversation was in Japanese, he still got the general idea. They were having an argument. That wasn't hard to figure out. But about what? Riley was pondering the enigma. The two obviously knew each other. Though they weren't friends. Ranma had said that they had sparred before. Or "fight" as he put it. It was apparent that the girl Akane was here for something, though she didn't look very pleased at being there. But why had she attacked him? Was she just mad at someone and he was the first person she could justify her actions to? They were still arguing, and it was impossible to tell what was going on or who had the upper hand.

"-Omiai, or not, I'm not going back!-" His arms were crossed and looked defiant.

"-Like I care about that! That's over, anyway. They want you back. Besides, " she said softly, 'remember the promise?-" The girl tossed back at him.

"-Sure I do, but if they sent you and you didn't come because ya wanted to, it doesn't fulfill it anyways.-"

"-Fine then. But it was you who up and left. If you won't go back, then I have to stay here until you change your mind. I was told to not return with out you. Unless you utterly refuse, of course.-"

"-Ok. I utterly refuse. Now, can you go back to the dojo and leave my life alone-?"

"-Your mother wants you back-"

'Ahh, yes. The mothers. Always expect the girls to pull them up.' Ranma grimaced.

At Akane's most recent statement, Ranma looked as if he would give in for a minute to whatever the conversation was about. Maybe she had brought up his mom or something. Then his resolve returned.

"-Don't bring her into this Akane. It's like saying your mother wants me back.-" He had hit a nerve with that last statement, whatever it was. Riley could see that. Akane's face got distorted and sorrow passed over her face a moment. Tears were quickly wiped away before she returned to her anger.

"-How dare you insult my mother?!-"

She lunged, and a huge wooden mallet materialized in her hands. Riley blinked. Ranma was lying on the ground, with a huge lump on his head. He sat up and glared at Akane. "-Don't say anything, baka. You know better than to insult Mother.-"

'Geez. What was wrong with this girl? Why's she out for Ranma's blood or something? What's up?' Riley was once again thinking. Ranma was still alive and was getting up, ready, no doubt, to fling some antagonistic comment at the enraged girl.

"-Geez, Akane, you would think that you would grow up a little! You're 21 for Pete's sake!-" A pause resumed. That was when the boy who had been silent for the duration of the fight finally spoke up. Hoping to make the peace. The girl seemed to have started to glow.

"Umm, Akane, right?" The enraged girl turned towards him.

"Yes?" She went from glowing to being calm in a matter of seconds.

"I was just wondering…well, I don't have any clue what you're talking about, and I'm sure that it is none of my business, but I do know that there is no way for you to leave now, I'm sure that we could find you a hotel or something to stay at tonight…" he trailed off. He had become increasingly nervous as the girl watched him talk and her expression was confused. Ranma turned towards Akane.

"-He wants to say that you can't go home tonight, but we'll find you a good hotel or something.-" Akane just blinked and looked at the boys.

"I'll just stay here. That was what I've been planning to do. I'll just sleep in your guest room or even in your dojo, Ranma." Her audience sweat dropped.

"Uh, Akane…"

"And who is this?" She cut him off and turned to Riley.

"My name's Riley Thomas." He stuck out his hand. She looked at it and bowed.

"Akane Tendo. Pleased to meet you." Feeling more than a little embarrassed, Riley quickly stuffed the offensive hand into his pocket. Or tried. He was wearing a gi so it just slipped around and finally ended up behind his back.

"I'm…uh… Ranma's roommate." For some reason this girl was unnerving him. She smiled sweetly and nodded.

"I see. Do you stay at his dojo too?"

"Well, not really, see we split the rent of an apartment." She turned on Ranma reproachfully.

"You don't even own your own dojo?"

"Sure I own it! We just rent an apartment! What do you take me for?" Akane looked puzzled

"Is it attached to the dojo?"

"No, it's in the apartment building up the street."

"Humm. I'll just stay there then." Riley's eyes looked like they were about to fall out.

"You're going to stay at the apartment with us?!"

"Why not?"

"I-I don't know, it just seems kinda strange, that's all."

"Well, I'm not going to waste Nabiki's money at a hotel." Ranma looked like he was going to choke and die.

"N-Nab-b-iki is with you?!"

"No, she just gave me a budget, that's all. And a hotel doesn't quite figure in."

Ranma was visibly relieved.