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These characters ain't my characters,
these characters ain't your characters,
from Akane and Ranma, to Mousse and Shampoo.
from Ukyo and Ryoga, to Tatewaki Kuno,
These characters don't belong to you or me!


We humans tend to do a lot to ourselves in the name of self-improvement.
We go to school to learn, we exercise to stay fit and healthy, and we
even attend seminars in the hopes they will improve our lifestyle.

Some of these contain many hardships that we willingly endure. Why?
Because hope they will make us better in some way. There is a saying
that embodies this philosophy, "That which does not kill me, will make
me stronger."

Not all of these "trials" are self-afflicted. Difficult events tend to
enter our life without our consent, and because of the harshness we feel
we didn't deserve, we tend to ask the heavens "Why me?"

We think they may change our life for the worse, but we hope that we do
become a better person afterward. Hence, the reason for the above

The trials to come for the martial artists of Nerima will not be easy.
How they deal with them will hopefully make some of them stronger.

Some of them will pass... and some will fail.


Ranma 1/2: New Challenges
Chapter 1

Akane sat in her bedroom, gazing out her window. It had just
begun to get dark outside, but what she was really admiring was the
snow. Even now, the frozen water flakes were continuing to drop in
larger numbers, and the ground outside had gathered a healthy amount of
the white stuff. She found herself wanting to go out and play like a 6-
year-old, throwing snowballs and building snowmen.

She smiled to herself as she realized there would be plenty of
time for that later. She absently fingered the carefully-wrapped package
in her hands and tried to imagine the look on her fiance's face when she
gave it to him. She hoped he would like it. No, she KNEW he would like

He had better like it, anyway. She spent enough time on it.

She could hear the idle chatter drift up from down below where
the rest of the family was putting the finishing touches on the
decorations. In just an hour or so, the guests would begin arriving for
the Christmas party. Mainly it was going to be the gang at Ucchan's,
though Ms. Hinako was coming too after being invited by Soun. She had
weepingly told him how she had no family to spend Christmas with, so he
had told her she could spend the holidays with them.

Akane still didn't know how she felt about that. While she
didn't really relish the idea of the chi-draining teacher as a mother,
the fact remained that her father seemed to enjoy her company, and
indeed, her presence tended to make him less apt to break into tears.

She heard a soft knocking at the door and bid the person to
enter. The door opened, then closed, and she could hear a soft padding
of footsteps approach her her in the darkened room.

"Hey Ranma," she greeted without turning around.

Ranma came up behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Howdja know it was me?" he asked quietly.

"Don't really know," she replied. "I just know when you're
around. Does that sound strange?" She reached up and placed a hand on
top of his from where is was laying on her shoulder.

He shook his head. "Naw. Truth be told, I've been feelin' the
same way. It's kinda how I knew you were in here even though the lights
were off. Speaking of which, what are ya doin' in here with the lights

"Felt I could use a break from the action downstairs," she
answered. "So I came up here to watch the snow fall." She could just see
his reflection in the window. "Beautiful..."

Ranma looked down at Akane and whispered. "Yeah..."

She looked up at him for the first time and smiled. "So you
couldn't let me out of your sight for long, hmm?"

"Just wanted to make sure you didn't kidnapped or somethin',
that's all."

"Don't worry, I don't think anybody could kidnap me now," she
replied, amused. "I hope those days are far behind us." She leaned back
into him and pulled his arms around her waist.

"Me, too."

Her gaze turned serious. "Has there been any word about Shampoo
or Mousse?"

Ranma sighed. "Nope. Ever since they took off a coupla months
ago. LinLin and RanRan gave up waitin' for them to return and left for
China to get help."

"And Nabiki's running the Nekohanten, again," Akane finished.
"Why is it we get to be happy when so many other's aren't? Not
mentioning the whole Shampoo and Mousse thing, but Kuno's sister is an
asylum, he and Nabiki have broken up, we haven't heard anything from
poor Akari and Ryoga, and Selah has no clue on what happened to her

"True, but she seems kinda happy livin' at Ucchan's," Ranma
countered. "In fact, the whole gang there seems ta share that attitude.
As for everybody else," he shrugged, "there ain't nothin' we can do for

She sighed. "I suppose you're right." She twisted in his grip
so that she was facing him, then stepped up on her tiptoes to kiss him.
"Come on, we should go back down and help out."

She grabbed his hand and proceeded to lead him out. Ranma
followed without resistance, a happy grin on his face.

"Pray tell what glorious thoughts grace thy wonderful wit this

Nabiki sighed, not happily, but didn't turn around. "Kuno-baby.
I thought you'd be enjoying the party?"

The kendoist strode from his position at the door and walked up
beside the middle Tendo sister, who was leaning on the railing and
watching the night sky. "Nabiki-kun, can we not talk about this?"

"What's to talk about?" She turned and smiled at him.

Her reaction caught him off-guard. "About us..."

She waggled her finger at him. "Let's just get one thing
straight, there is no more `us'. I do some work for you and you pay me,
and that's it." She turned back to watching the night sky. "It was fun
for awhile, let's just leave it at that."

"But, Nabiki-kun..." Kuno was flabbergasted. What could he say?
The few months that he dated with her, were some of the best of his
He looked down.

Tatewaki Kuno straightened. "Very well, Tendo Nabiki. I will
respect our business arrangement. I shall see thee at the party." Then
he turned around and left.

Nabiki heard his footsteps retreat and sighed again. She smirked. A strange feeling
passed through her.

She turned around and observed the kendoist nursing a glass of
eggnog from the corner of the room. Another feeling threatened to pass
through through her, but she forced it down while turning away.

She was determined to not let him get to her.

"He really did that!?" Ukyo asked, disbelievingly.

Yuri fended off her brother's attempts to cover her mouth and
flipped him into the wall. "Yep, I was there." She spared a glance at
her upside-down, against-the-wall, on-his-head, brother. "Poor `niichan
was just trying to protect his little sister from the big, bad bullies."

Those gathered around her to hear the story, continued to

"It's not funny!" Kenji protested, not bothering to move from
where he sat on his head. "I was just trying to help. I was only 5 and I
was outnumbered 8 to 1!"

Selah kneeled down next to him and patted his cheek. "Poor

"And not only did he end up getting beat up," Ukyo managed
through the giggles. "They stole his clothes, too!?"

"And then he streaked home?" Akane asked, trying to contain her
laughter and failing.

Yuri nodded, still giggling. "It was a poor village."

"I hope the experience wasn't too unsettling, Kenji-sama,"
Konatsu sympathized.

Kenji closed his eyes and half-smiled. "Heh, you may think
that's funny, but you haven't heard about the time Yuri tried to belly
dance at..."

"No you don't!" Yuri screamed as she launched herself at her

She collided with him and the siblings grappled as they rolled
along on the floor. Occaisonal shrieks indicated a successful tickle
attack. Ranma and Akane glanced at each other.

Ukyo sighed and stood up. "Allow me."


"What'd you do that for!?" the Soyokaze's protested in unison,
nursing twin bumps.

"You were making jackasses of yourselves," Ukyo explained as she
reholstered her battle spatula.

Kenji and Yuri shot a double rasberry the chef's way.

"I, for one, am truly thankful for your hospitality," Natsume
said after a quiet moment.

"Yeah," Kurumi added. "I really like Christmas. I've never had
one before."

"Really?" Akane asked.

The two newest Tendos nodded, while the older one spoke up.
"Kurumi speaks the truth. We've been traveling and training most of our

"That's too bad, but I guess I can kinda understand," Ranma
said. "It was the same way with me and pops."

Kasumi chose that moment to enter with more glasses of eggnog.
Soun, Hinako, Genma, and Nodoka joined the teenagers near the Christmas
tree. Nabiki came back in and Kuno moved over as well as everyone picked
up a glass of eggnog.

"I propose a toast," Soun said, lifting his glass. "May we all
find happiness in this holiday season, and in the new year."

The sentiment was echoed around the room, then fifteen glasses
of eggnog were consumed.

Feral Shampoo woke up, alert, but she could sense nothing
hostile around her. She yawned and slowly stretched her furry limbs. A
look of sadness passed her face, as she beheld her furred and clawed

she thought sadly. It was still
hard to think in this form, but she was getting better at it. In fact,
it was this increased intelligence that helped her when she snuck aboard
a freighter headed for China, her instincts telling her to head west.

She stood up and sniffed the air, searching for breakfast. That
was one thing that had changed slightly when the bake-neko had left her,
she had developed a taste for raw meat. Being an Amazon, she had always
been a keen hunter and she had frequently eaten the animals she had
killed in a hunt. But never usually raw.

Detecting some sort of bird nearby, she dropped to all fours
and began to stalk. Her senses told her it was sleeping in a nearby
ticket of bushes, but she was confident she would be able to take it
before it could get away. Batting aside the bushes, she pounced on her

The white duck in the bushes woke up just in time to see
Shampoo attack.

"The world is a dark and lonely place..."

Ryoga trudged down the dirt road, not caring where he was
going. As far as he was concerned, life was just not worth living.

He had been traveling for a month now, looking for her, but
with no luck. By pure chance, he had managed to find Akari's farmhouse a
week after her fight, but her grandfather said he hadn't seen her. And
so, he departed from there, more depressed then ever.

"My life must be some cosmic joke," he muttered to himself as he
trudged along. "Everytime it looks like happiness is within my grasp,
the cruel hande of fate snatches it away. Akane hates me. Akari's gone.
Can't beat Ranma..."

Just then, his dragging feet caught on a tree root sticking
partially out of the dirt road, tripping him up and sending face first
into the ground.

"What else can go wrong?" he mumbled

The storm clouds chose that moment to gather as a light rain
began to fall.

Bob shrugged. "Well, you asked..."

P-chan didn't even bother to get up as the rain fell all around
him, turning the dirt road into mud. Ten minutes later, the rain stopped and the sun came back out.
Ryoga sighed, long past caring what happened to him

That's why he didn't move when the nose sniffed him.


"What'd you find, boy?" came an old voice. Ryoga's ears detected
a shuffling of feet, then a hand grasped his bandanna and lifted him up,
while another hand felt him over. "Why, it feels like a little piggy!
And he was just lying in the road, how about that?"


"What's that? There's some clothing and a backpack on the road,


"Well, this is our lucky day, boy! Just let me gather all this
stuff up and then we can get back to the cabin!"


"Has the new user been located?"

A voice from the other side of the table spoke up. "Yes." The
darkened room obscured the faces from view, but all seven members seated
around the table knew who was speaking. "The ki trail radiates from
Nerima, Japan. Following this, I have determined who our target is."

He reached under the table and brought out several manilla
folders which he passed around. For the next minute, the six other
members studied the profile.
"Wait a minute, `Level 10 threat'?" another voice spoke up. "Are
you sure about this, Daimonji?"

The man known as Daimonji nodded. "Read it for yourself. Ki
projection is five times stronger than normal, and she isn't even at
full power yet. We still have a chance to contain it if we act now."

"She hardly looks dangerous to me," yet another voice commented.
"And she's so young and cute, too."

"Need I remind you, Takao, of the oath we all took?" Daimonji
countered. "You know why we do what we do. You know the price, should we

A bigger man put his folder down. "I know all I need to. I can
take her myself."

"So you think girls are easy prey, Kujo?" another member asked
with a female voice. "Don't get cocky."

From the head of the table, a new voice spoke, though his
seemed older than the others. "It is agreed then. We shall set course
for Nerima."

The last member continued to study the profile, her thoughts
deeply troubled.

The Ucchan gang dragged their tired but happy selves through
the restaurant doors. It was nearing 10pm, and their only concern was
getting to bed.

Passing the answering machine, Ukyo noted the light was on,
signaling that someone had left a message. She hit the replay button
while everyone else trudged upstairs.

As it played, Ukyo's eyes grew wider in disbelief.

The tape the message was on clicked as it finished it's
recording, but Ukyo hadn't bothered to move. It was a short message, but
it's intent was clear and she knew what she had to do. But how exactly
was she supposed to respond to it?

"Ukyo-chan?" Yuri's voice brought the melancholy chef back to
the present. The female ninja trainee was standing at the bottom of the
stairs, looking at her friend. "What's wrong?"

The okonomiyaki chef looked up and smiled wanely. "Who said
something was wrong?"

Yuri spanned the distance between the two and crossed her arms
over her chest, shrugging her blond ponytail off her shoulder. "In the
short time I've come to know you, I've learned to tell when something is
bothering you."

Ukyo sighed as her gaze dropped. "I... just received a message
from my uncle Yoshiro. I have to leave tomorrow."

"Where?" Yuri asked, taking a seat next to her. "Why?"

"Kansai," Ukyo replied.

"Isn't that...?"

"Where I'm from?" Ukyo finished, nodding. "I have to go home. My
father is... not well. As the Kuonji clan head, he's requested my

Yuri gasped and put her hand on Ukyo's shoulder to comfort her.
"Oh, Ukyo-chan, I'm so sorry! Is there anything I can do?"

The troubled chef shook her head. "No."

"We could go with you," came Kenji's voice from the doorway,
startling the two women. Konatsu was with him. Kenji then blushed mildly
and scratched the back of his head. "That is, uh, if you want..."

"I'm afraid that's not possible."

"Sensei!" Yuri exclaimed, as Satsu materialized out of a nearby
shadow. "Why not?"

Satsu gave his students a nod, then continued. "You two have
been summoned; the clan requires your presence. In two nights, you shall
accompany me as we travel north to the clan grounds."

"What's this all about?" Kenji asked.

The old ninja merely shook his head. "I cannot tell you, though
you will find out once we get there." His gaze turned to Konatsu. "The
elder has also requested your presence, young man."

Konatsu looked surprised and pointed to himself. "Me?"

"Yes. It is our understanding you do not belong to any clan, and
Garou recognizes your abilities. Will you come with us?"

The kunoichi blinked as the realization of what the old man was
saying sunk in. He was actually offering Konatsu a chance to be included
in a clan. When he had left his three step-sisters, he had effectively
left that clan to be with Ukyo. It hadn't been an easy decision, but he
was glad he made it. After all, his three step-sisters had been his
family and had taken care of him.

He glanced towards the chef he had originally become infatuated

"It's your decision, sugar," she told him, putting a hand on his
shoulder. "You have to do what you decide is right for you."

He then directed his gaze over at the new woman in his life,
Yuri, who gave him a warm smile, causing him to blush in a feminine
manner. What was he to do? I wanted to stay with Ukyo, hoping she would
come to love me, but now I don't know anymore. She was so nice to me,
but Yuri seems to really like me. He looked down at his hands.

His face came up and he directed it at Satsu, before bending at
the waist to bow low before him. "I would be honored if you would accept
this lowly student, honorable sensei."

Satsu chuckled. "Well, first of all, stand up. While my ego
appreciates the gesture, there's no need to bow." He turned slightly to
address all of them. "Then I shall leave you now and return in two days.
Be ready." There was a bright flash and a puff of smoke, then he was

Kenji collapsed into a chair. "Well that was interesting."

"I guess we won't be able to go with you after all, Ukyo-chan,"
Yuri said apologetically. "Will you be alright?"

Ukyo nodded, then smiled wanely. "I-yes. I need to go home. In
fact, it's something I should have done a long time ago."

She looked away at something only she could see. "There's a lot
I need to discuss with my father."