Prologue:

Till the End of Time, Part 1

"That cake looks so delicious!" A young boy, no more then seven years of age remarked as he looked at the spread on the table before him.

"Really? My mom helped me make it." A slightly older girl remarked. Her hair was long, fair of color, and her smile shown brightly of kindness. She blushed slightly and looked away from the boy, she was admittedly shy, especially when it came to compliments.

"Oh come on Kasumi, you were in the kitchen all day." Another girl responded. Her hair was darker, and much shorter. Her eyes seemed sharper, more intelligent, and the smirk on her face was cunning.

"Stop teasing her Nabiki." The youngest of the girls spoke up as she poked her dark haired sister in the side. "We all worked very hard for this, in fact, weren't you up all night making him a gift?"

"Well, uh, you see." Her voice trailed off as she looked at the ground and twiddled her fingers a bit.

"You know better then that Akane, Nabiki has no skill with such things. However, fear not, for I have come to her rescue." A young boy chuckled as he took a seat next to Nabiki and then handed her a small wrapped box, and set a second one on the table in front of him. "Fear not Nabiki Tendo, for I have bought the present you requested."

"I thought we'd all agreed to make him gifts, afterall, we may never see our dear friend again." The young boy replied to his friends as he straightened his bandana. "But then, that's just like Kuno, using money to solve his problems."

"I'm surprised you didn't lose your way coming here Ryouga." Kuno coughed slightly and looked away.

"Guys, guys, please. You didn't have to get me anything." The star of the day, he sat at the head of the table and looked at all the wrapped gift boxes, the feast, his friends, and simply smiled. His eyes then fell on Akane, and he quickly looked away as she did the same, both blushing slightly.

"Well, aren't you gonna open your presents Ranma?" A young girl with long, dark hair said as she poked her head into the room and set a small box in front of the boy.

"Y-yeah, ok Ukyo." He lifted the box, and slowly tore into it. He smiled slightly when he saw some homemade chocolate inside.

"You should open mine next." Ryouga pushed his gift towards Ranma with a smirk, and watched as Ranma pulled out a bandana that perfectly matched Ryouga's in every way except color, favoring red and blue instead of yellow and black. Ranma had no words to say and smiled towards Ryouga.

And so it went, Ranma opened each gift from each of his friends. From Nabiki, a scarf that had been bought at a retail chain, but still personalized with an "RS". From Kuno, a book of poetry, each one written as if done by one of the great samurai warriors of ancient Japan. Then there was Kasumi, though her gift had been on display from the moment they all arrived for the party. She had made the feast.

Then it came Akane's turn. She couldn't even look at Ranma as he opened the tiny box. In fact, she was teary eyed and on the edge of full out bawling as he did. Ranma looked into the box, and while he was about to say something, he found the words couldn't come. He pulled a small ring from the box, then looked at Akane blushing slightly. Again, he opened his mouth to speak, and again said nothing. He set the box down, and pulled a note from it, read it quietly, then stood and placed a hand on Akane's shoulder. "Ok, I promise."

Akane's tears stopped as she turned her head and looked up at Ranma, and for that moment time seemed to have completely stopped for both of them. She shot up to her feet and wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. "Don't promise me Ranma, just, don't leave instead."

The entire room had hushed as Ranma pushed Akane away and smiled at her. "Don't worry. I have to go, but one day, I will come back, and I'll keep my promise."

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"Come boy, it's time to leave." An older, mostly bald man stood just inside the doors of the train and sighed. He'd promised his wife he'd make something of thier son, and return him home one day as a true man. He felt bad, taking the boy from his home, his friends, from everything he'd known for all seven years of his life, but this was something he felt had to be done for the sake of his child. "Say your last goodbyes Ranma. The train's about to leave."

Ranma nodded to his father, then turned to his friends, all of whom had come to see him off, except for Akane. He bowed softly to them all, and through teary eyes said his farewells. He turned as he straightened from his bow and slowly walked towards his father and the train.

As he boarded it, and the door started to close, he heard a familiar voice shouting from the stairway of the terminal. "Don't forget me Ranma! I promise I'll be the perfect bride when you come back."

Ranma paused, and turned around as the door shut, and started to cry as he saw Akane fall to her knees doing the same. Slowly the train began moving, and within moments, he could see all his friends move out of view. His father placed a hand on his shoulder, and spoke softly. "Go ahead my boy, let it all out for now. It's ok to cry in a situation like this. We may never return here my boy, and even if we do, everything could be different. Understand that my boy, it's the first step on your path to manhood."