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DISCLAIMER: For the final time, these character ain't mine!!! I've told
you again and again that they belong to someone else. How many more
times do I have to repeat that I'm just usin' them for some non-profit


Many cultures harbor varied legends concerning different mystical
creatures. Among almost all of these legends, however, are two magical
beasts that tend to stand out more than the others: A dragon and a

The names of these creatures may vary, but the symbolism and intent
behind them is clear. A dragon is frequently seen as a powerful and
destructive lizard-type creature, while a phoenix is viewed as a magical
bird that brings life and rebirth. These are representive of the the two
primal forces that exist in our world: Destruction and Creation.

Neither is greater than the other, as the destruction of one thing leads
to the creation of something else. On the other hand, the creation of a
thing forces the destruction of what was there before. Thus, the balance
is maintained, and it reflects the basic principle of change: one thing
becoming something something else.

This idea is most readily apparent in the form of the transformations
carried by those that have been touched by the mystic waters of
Jusenkyo. With water as the trigger, one form is destroyed and another
created in it's place. These `cursed springs' are fed by twin statues in
the heart of Jusendo; statues of a Phoenix and a Dragon.

The period of change, the cycle of destruction and creation, that Ranma,
Akane, and all their friends are currently experiencing will soon come
to a close, but not before they discover the full role that the Phoenix
and the Dragon play in their lives...


Ranma 1/2: New Challenges
The Phoenix and the Dragon
Chapter 1

Prince Herb let his hand drift over the surface of the large
ornate desk, then sat back in the grand armchair that was its matching
piece. Both had been constructed a long time ago, long before he was
born, using the finest oak hardwood available. It had served as a kind
sanctum for the official ruler of the Musk Dynasty. It was the place
where many a document had been studied and signed, and where secret
counsels had taken place bewteen the most trusted advisors of the King.
As the last in his line, it now belonged to Herb.

But the prince's thoughts did not linger long on this, however,
as he was distracted by a strange impression he had possessed since two
months ago. Two months ago, an unusual feeling had come over him, as if
some great event had occured and he was now sensing the ripples that it
had produced. As the descendent of a dragon, he had a large amount of ki
life-force that made him sensitve to powerful disturbances.

He closed his eyes and sighed, realizing that some major event
was close at hand, but was at a loss as to know what. At times like
these, he wished that he had access to the circle of advisors that his
predecessors had. The once-mighty Musk Dynasty had dwindled to all but a
few. Only himself, Lime, Mint, and a few retainers, were all that was
left of the hybrids. There was the doddering old fool who kept the
Dynasty's records as well, but Herb considered the ancient owl-like man
mostly senile. They had a few more regular human servants that had come
from the nearby village, but that was it.

The large castle that had stood for ages as the home of the
Musk, now seemed completely barren. In a way, Herb was glad they were
letting in those survivors from the Mage Clans, as it filled the halls
with people once more. True, it had only been a few stragglers so far,
but more and more trickled in as the year passed, as word spread.

Herb just wished he knew who was behind the attacks that drove
the Mage Clans from their traditional Tibetan mountain home. The Musk
rarely had dealings with the wizards that lived up there, but they
weren't really enemies. Still, on the times when the Musk had tangled
with them, they had proven to be formidable opponents. He wondered what
force could have been powerful enough to rout all of the clans.

Herb grinned, finding himself wanting to know who had that kind
of power, wanting to challenge it himself. Little did he know, that he
would soon have that chance.

"Yes, what is it?" he called out to the sudden knock on the

"Prince Herb!" came the voice of Mint. "There is something you
should see at the front gates!"

The dragon-blooded prince rose to his feet, taking another
moment to glance around and study the small room, noting each of the
scattered bookshelves and paintings in turn. One day, all this would
belong to his descendents. No matter how few of them there were now, he
would not let the Musk Dynasty end with him.

Herb opened the door and beheld his wolfish retainer. "Very
well. Show me what this is all about."

"How is she?"

The boy who had just exited the room, turned to his companion
after he let the door close, then shook his head. "She just put our
prince to rest. She is still having problems, but she won't admit it."

The second boy sighed. "Well, what should we do about it,

"Why are you asking me?" Masara asked, surprised.

"'Cause I don't have any ideas!" the other boy nearly shouted.

"Karuma! Masara! What are you two boys doing there!?"

The two youths leapt away from the door and responded in
unison. "Nothing, old man!"

The old man shambled into the light, stroking his white beard
in curiosity as he studied the two boys. "Hmph. `Old man' indeed. I may
be old, but I have more wisdom and knowledge then both of you put
together!" He had a name, but everyone merely called him `old man'.
There were other members of the Phoenix Tribe who were near his age, but
he was the eldest of all, next to the eternally-living Saffron, of

"And more hot air," Masara quipped, which earned a snicker from

"What's gotten into young hatchlings these days," the old one
grumbled, then switched topics. "By the way, how is your mistress?"

The two young boys glanced at each other, apprehensively.

Karuma looked up. "Um, to tell the truth-"

"What are you doing!?" Masara hissed.

"We have to tell someone!" the other boy argued back.

The old birdman ruffled the feathers on his back and frowned,
his eyes narrowing. "You'd best tell me what's going on."

"It's Captain Kiima," Karuma continued, sparing a glance at
Masara to see if he'd interrupt. He didn't. "There's something wrong
with her, but we don't know what to do about it! She won't tell us
what's wrong."

The elderly birdman frowned. Kiima, as Captain of the royal
Phoenix guard, was tasked with raising young Saffron until he could
undergo the transformation from prince to king once more. If something
was wrong with Kiima, that could have a negative influence on their
young prince.

"Karuma, you will come with me," the old one told the youth.
"Mayhap we can find something in the library. Masara, you will stay and
continue to service your mistress. Now come!"

Koruma spared a helpless glance and shrug at his friend, who
returned it, then trailed off after the old man.

Ranma ducked and weaved around his opponent's attacks, but his
mind wasn't really on the fight. Ever since that old monk had dropped by
several days ago, his mind had been troubled. He never really paid much
attention in school before, but now he couldn't think on that at all. It
had got so bad that Akane had derided his slipping study habits.

He sighed and blocked a kick from his father on his forearm,
then backed up a space to give himself more room maneuver.

There was something unsettling about all this, Ranma decided,
that events from a long time ago could have such a bearing on his life.
It made him wonder if he had any control on his life at all. He had
begun to think that his decisions were his alone, but what if he was
wrong? If so, what was the point of all this?


Ranma ended up face down in the dirt. [Where did that come

"I'm disappointed, boy," Genma said, crossing his arms over his
chest. "You should have seen that coming. You're distracted, when your
focus should be on the fight."

"It's just sparring, Pops," Ranma retorted, standing back up.
Inwardly, he wondered what was going on with his father. Ever since that
night nearly a week ago, Genma had been pushing him harder than usual
during their morning spars.

"Foolish boy!" Genma berated. "It doesn't matter what the
conditions are. If you don't bring your full attention to what you're
doing, you'll never win. I could have made that kick a killing move if I
wanted, and you'd be dead right now!" He shook his head. "But if you
think you can't handle that, maybe you aren't worthy of the Saotome
Musabetsu Kakuto-ryu."

Ranma laughed. "I'm better than you any day of the week, Old
Man. If I ain't worthy, than neither are you, since I can beat you easy.
I beat Happosai easy enough."

Genma frowned. "You mean he let you win. Never underestimate
your opponent, especially when your opponent is him. But, if you think
you're better than me, perhaps we should test that."

Akane had been watching the exchange from the dining room with
Natsume and Kurumi, and couldn't miss Ranma's sharp intake of breath. It
was barely perceptible, but she had come to know him quite well. She
couldn't shake the feeling that something major was about to happen.

Ranma smiled and slid into a ready stance. "Anytime you're
ready, Pops."

Instead of matching it or attacking, Genma merely chuckled.
"Not now, boy, and definitely not here." He gestured to the Tendo yard.
"It's much too small, wouldn't you agree?"

"Name your time and place, then," Ranma stated, relaxing his
position. "It don't make any difference to me."

"Two weeks," Genma replied, holding up two fingers to emphasize
the point. "You have that much time to prepare, and then we'll settle
this somewhere more open."

With those words, Genma Saotome walked right by his son,
sparing a glance at Soun who was standing behind Akane. Then he walked
out the gate and was gone.

"So, it's finally come to this," Soun said solemnly.

"What's going on?" Kurumi asked, looking quite confused. Natsume
merely leaned back with a thoughtful and nearly unreadable expression on
her face.

Akane looked up at her father, her brow furrowing. "Daddy, does
that mean what I think it means?" As he nodded, Akane returned her gaze
back to Ranma, who had his back to them while he crouched on a rock
beside the koi pond. He had his head down, as if he was studying the
waters, or maybe his own reflection in them.

"In two weeks, the student will challenge his teacher," Soun
replied in an even voice. "While Happosai still is technically the
Grandmaster of our school, Genma and I are Masters of our particular
parts. Before he left, Happosai gave Ranma permission to begin teaching,
but Ranma has not really earned that right. Apparently, Ranma thinks
he's ready."

Akane pursed her lips, then rose and crossed the yard to sit
down next to her husband. When he didn't acknowledge her presence, she
rubbed his back. "Hey, you okay?"

He managed to turn and her his confident grin. "You know me,
I'll be fine. Pops won't know what hit him!"

She scowled at him. "Be serious, you!" She searched his face
for any sign of what he was really feeling. "You're worried." It wasn't
a question, but a statement.

Ranma turned uneasily away from her, still not comfortable
showing this side of himself to others. "I'll win, it's just that he's
trained and been with me for as long as I can remember. And in two weeks
I'm gonna try and kill him."

Akane's eyes widened in shock. "It won't go that far, will it?"

His own eyes closed. "Most likely not. But we're both gonna go
all out; it's the only way to prove who's better. We've fought each
other so much, that we both know how the other fights. I'm going to have
to come with some stuff to surprise him, and I gather he's doin' the

Akane nodded, not knowing what to say to that. No matter how
much the idea scared her, she always had faith in Ranma's abilities
before, and she wasn't about to lose that faith now. She told herself
that no one would be killed, that this fight would be no different, but
she still a few lingering doubts in the back of her mind.

This only added to the worry she was already feeling about her
condition. Tofu had given her a thorough examination a few days ago
after listening to her complaints. After it was over, he had informed
her that her aura was relatively normal, but that something was
affecting her ki. It almost looked like something was draining it
slightly, he informed her, but since Akane had so much ki already, it
only affected her when she exerted herself too much. Quite simply, she
didn't have the energy for that.

She hadn't told Ranma about this yet, perferring to keep the
problem to herself for the moment, and hoping she could solve it
herself. Or that Doctor Tofu could find something to help her. As a
temporary solution, he had manipulated a number of shiatsu points that
fully opened up the ki pathways in her body. It would allow her to exert
herself more, but the problem of a ki drain still remained.

"Then where does that leave us?" they heard Natsume say. "Master
Happosai trained us in Musabetsu Kakuto-ryu as well. At least, that's
what he told us."

That got Ranma's attention, and he turned back toward the
house. "I've always wondered about that. Musabetsu Kakuto is mostly
unarmed, yet you two use weapons. You've got the same basic styles as
us, though."

Natsume pulled her rugbeater from her back and held it in her
lap, studying it. "He made these weapons for us, then taught us to
synchronize our ki with our natural element. It was more difficult when
we were young, but the weapons enabled us to better project our
elemental attacks." She replaced the weapon on her back.

Ranma and Akane came back into the house and sat down as Kasumi
began to place breakfast on the table.

"Natural element, hmmm..." Ranma said, more to himself than
anyone else. He absent picked up his chopsticks and began to eat.

Akane looked thoughtful as well. "That sounds a lot like the
Soul of Ice, doesn't it, Ranma? That's what you're thinking about,

Ranma nodded. "I've taken the technique a little farther since
then, but if I'm right, then this would be a whole application of it."

"What's the `Soul of Ice'?" Kurumi asked, curious. Miraculously,
she had let her mouth stay empty long enough to ask the question. It
didn't last long, however.

Since Ranma was still thinking, Akane explained it to the new
youngest Tendo between bites. After she was done telling them about
Ranma's Hiryu Shoten Ha training, both Natsume and Kurumi looked
suitably impressed.

"Then, it was that technique which you two used to best our
final attack," Natsume deduced. "It does indeed sound quite similar to
what we were taught about aligning our ki with the elements. Most people
are naturally suited towards one element. In my case, it is air, while
my younger sister is attuned towards fire, as you've seen."

"Why don't we work this out in the dojo later?" Ranma suggested.

"It would be our pleasure," Natsume replied. "You have done so
much for us, already. The least we can do is show you what we know."

The rest of the meal proceeded in silence. Akane was no
exception, as her own thoughts were processing this information. Ranma
had tried to teach her the Soul of Ice back when they were working on
aura control. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't grasp it. Of
course, the fact that Ranma was using his worst insults to teach her
didn't help much.

[Ranma is air, similar to Natsume,] Akane reasoned. [Maybe I
should go with my element. Does that mean...] She glanced at Kurumi, who
had just finished inhaling her food, and was now washing it down with

A slow smiled spread across Akane's face.

Shampoo sat concealed in the vegetation surrounding the small
clearing where Fen Wu's cabin was located. It had taken a couple of days
to get here, as her enhanced senses told her that someone was following
her, and she had to take some extra time to ditch her pursuer. At first,
she tried to find out who was trailing her, but whoever it was, they
were good. Shampoo was unable to determine who it was. The best she
could do, was use her new physical abilites to dash through a rugged and
dangerous section of mountain pathways. After that, there was no further
sign that she was being followed.

The Amazon catgirl had actually arrived the day before, but had
spent the rest of yesterday and most of today just studying Mousse and
his teacher, who were now sparring in the yard with bo staves. Adjusting
her position in the trees, Shampoo had felt quite reluctant to actually
announce her presence. She was unable to figure out exactly why this
was, however. Surely she wasn't afraid of facing Mousse again?

She shook her head, feeling rather stupid for even considering
that thought. Besides, he even seemed to have given up on her, for which
she was glad. In their carefree childhood days before he had become
obsessed with her, they had actually been friends. She had helped him
out when he was being picked on by some other girls because of his bad
eyesight. Ever since then, he had started to follow her around like a
lost puppy.

Shampoo forced her thoughts away from this area, and instead
tried to think about what Ranma was doing at this moment. She still held
strong feelings for the only man to defeat her in combat; feelings she
felt were stonger than anything Akane could ever have. Shampoo at least
showed how she felt towards Ranma, while Akane merely displayed
jealously and possessiveness, while denying she felt anything for him.
Even though Shampoo had lost to Akane, the Amazon felt maybe there was
still a chance.

The catgirl brightened at the thought. Maybe after she was
cured, she could return to Nerima and pursue Ranma once more. The law
was no longer behind her, but that couldn't stop a normal pursuit. She
smiled at the thought, her first smile on a long time. Ranma could still
yet be hers!

Her hopeful musings were cut short as she noticed the sparring
match ending. Mousse had pulled off an impressive flip that dropped him
behind his opponent, and a quick crouch and sweep of the staff was all
it took to put Fen Wu down. The older man slapped the ground once,
signaling the end of the match. Mousse pulled the tip of the staff from
his teacher's throat, then helped the bigger man up.

Even though she was quite a distance away, Shampoo's enhanced
hearing allowed her to easily eavesdrop on the conversation.

"Very good, Mu Tsu," Fen Wu told him in Chinese. "That will be
all for today. Go clean up for dinner."

"Yes, Master," Mousse replied, then looked unsure. "Um, you
haven't really taught me anything for the past couple of weeks. Is my
training now complete?"

Fun Wu inhaled, then exhaled slowly. "Yes and no. I have
nothing more to teach you. But, your final test is yet to come, though I
will only tell you what it is when it is time." He shook his head and
handed his staff to his student. "Speak no more of this."

Mousse nodded. "Yes, Master." He turned and headed back into
the cabin.

Shampoo watched him go, somewhat curious at this side of him
she had never seen before.

"You can come out now," Fen Wu stated without looking in
Shampoo's direction, catching her by surprise.

[Does he know I'm here?] Shampoo wondered. As if to answer her
question, Fen Wu turned his gaze to look straight at her.

"Give him a couple more years and Mu Tsu could probably sense
that you were there as well," the weapons master said. "Though I'm
curious to know why you've returned, Shan Pu."

Sighing, Shampoo swung out of the trees to land gracefully on
her feet. "I have returned her because I wanted to," she told him,
tersely. "One of the elders is working on my cure, and she told me to
wait here until she had it."

If Fen Wu showed any displeasure at Shampoo's attitude, he
didn't show it. "Very well. You can stay, but do not cause any trouble
for my student."

"Hmph," Shampoo snorted at that. "Stupid Mu Tsu is more likely
to cause trouble."

He turned his back to her without another word, and headed back
to the cabin. He stopped before reaching the door, however. "There is a
waterfall half a mile to the west of here. I advise you to clean up
before dinner." He then entered the cabin and disappeared inside.

With a start, Shampoo realized how she looked. Her fur was dark
with the coating of dirt and mud, and her once proud mane of purple hair
was matted and scraggly. While helping with the stealth factor that was
required for sneaking into Nyuchiehzu, her filthy state was no longer
needed. Her clothes had been torn with her transformation and subsequent
battles as well.

Shampoo decided a good bath was just what she needed, and began
the trek down the western path.

"How long have they been there?" Herb demanded in a quiet, but
threatening voice that conyeved his displeasure. His position on the
upper ramparts of the castle gave him an excellent view of the terrain
that stretched out below.

"I believe they arrived last night, Prince Herb," Lime replied
in a slightly fearful tone.

Herb frowned. The Musk Dynasty castle had been literally carved
out of a cliff. The pathway to reach the main gates was only a hundred
feet across at it's widest point, and it twisted as it wound its way up.
But at the bottom of the path, there was a small clearing and then a
thick forest beyond.

What disturbed the Musk Prince, was the fact that there was a
medium-sized army encampment occupying that small clearing, and it
seemed to have sprung up overnight. Normally this wouldn't have
concerned him, as the Musk Castle had withstood the attacks of greater
armies for extended periods of time, and triumphed every single time.
The only route was up the path, as the sides and rear of the castle
consisted of near-vertical mountainside.

But who were they? Joketsuzoku? That didn't make sense to Herb,
as the last time they had fought with the warrior women, it had been
over three centuries ago. There were too few of both groups to risk
making war now, and what would it gain them?

The Phoenix Tribe would have just flown in, and the Mage Clans
were too scattered and weak to create an army. Of course, that raised
the possibility that the ones below, were the ones that attacked the
Mage Clans in the first place.

"Send for Tojiko," Herb commanded, calling for the temporarily-
appointed leader of the mages that had sought refuge in his castle.

"I'm here, m'lord," came gruff voice from the stairwell. A
middle-aged man in the standard dark brown robe of the Mage Clans
emerged from the darkness with Mint at his side. Tojiko was heavy-set,
but his girth was more muscle than fat, and he also sported a black
beard to match his thinning hairline. While Herb was not in any way
Tojiko's Lord, the address was only proper considering the Dragon Prince
was sheltering them.

"I took the liberty of fetching him, Prince Herb," Mint informed
his prince.

Herb nodded, then turned back to look out over the valley
below, the Mage Clan leader coming up beside him. Out of the corner of
his eye, the Dragon Prince gauged Tojiko's reaction. The tightening of
the mage's jaw and the slight pallor that came to his cheeks, as well as
the slightly trembling hands that gripped the stone battlements, told
Herb all he needed to know.

"It's them?" the Musk Prince asked the Mage Clan leader.

Tojiko nodded. "Yes. Inhuman freaks that proved quite
impervious to our magic. Nothing we did affected them." He shook his
head, then turned to Herb. "On behalf of the Mage Clans, I thank you for
your hospitality Prince Herb, but it is time we left. They are obviously
here for us and we cannot endanger you or your subjects." He gave short
bow, then turned to leave.

"Do not insult me," Herb tersely told the mage, causing him to

Tojiko turned around hesitantly. "M'lord?"

"I offered you sanctuary, and the Prince of the Musk does not
offer such a thing lightly," Herb explained. "And I will not be cowed at
all by anyone. If you and your kin are what these `Rogues' want, then I
shall deny them. I will not go back on my word."

What Herb had spoken was the truth. Though few people knew of
the Musk's existance at all, those that did knew they could rely on the
word of their prince. Promises were not made often, nor lightly, but
when they were, it was as good as law. If a Musk Prince ever went back
on his word, then all credibility of the Musk Dynasty would be lost.

Tojiko was unsure. "I am not sure that is a good idea, m'lord.
I thank you for the offer, but the Musk would be better off if they
didn't get involved."

"I beg your pardon for interrupting, but someone is coming,"
came a new voice.

Both men turned to see a wizened and hunched-over old man
standing several feet away, both having forgotten he was there. His
owlish features marked him as a hybrid by the name of Sage, the keeper
of the Musk knowledge. Herb also knew that Sage was one of his father's
advisors, but since his father died nearly 30 years ago, Sage was
supposed to be his advisor.

The small group turned to see that a lone figure had indeed
began the trek up the winding path. At this distance, the figure
appeared to be merely a black speck, but as it got closer, they were
able to see it was a man, and that he was not alone. Two other black
figures followed just behind him.

Reaching the halfway point, the figure stopped and called out.
"Prince Herb of the Musk, I am General Genshi. I demand you face me!"

"Presumptious, isn't he?" Herb said, somewhat amused.

"And he's chosen the middle of the path for the meeting," Sage
remarked. "As neutral ground as you can get."

"I do not presume to instruct you, but I would beg you to
reconsider," Tojiko said uneasily. "This one was part of the attack on
my clansmen. He is very strong."

Herb forwned at him. "And I told you the Prince of the Musk
will not be cowed by anyone. I shall see what he wants, and then demand
he leave Musk territory."

Without another word, and before anyone could stop him, Herb
leapt off the castle battlements and descended to the ground. His ki
flared out in a bright greenish-gold, slowing his fall and allowing him
to gently touch down after the two-hundred foot drop.

As the Dragon Prince of the Musk strode towards the one called
General Genshi, Herb felt confident in his ability to handle whatever
may come. If it was a fight, there were precious few who could match his
power. Saffron was one, though he had received word that the Phoenix
Prince had been reborn as a baby once more. The other who could match
him, was a young Japanese boy named Ranma Saotome.

While not as powerful as the Musk Prince, Ranma had shown a
cunning and ferocity that easily matched Herb's own. That they both had
shared the same Jusenkyo curse, had made their fights even more
interesting, even though Herb had cured his own shortly after returning
to China. In the end though, Herb had been defeated, but instead of
finishing him off, Ranma showed him mercy. As much as it galled him,
Herb now owed Ranma a life debt.

Nevertheless, Herb knew that if this stranger held any
malicious intentions, he would regret ever entering the realm of the


Author's Notes:
First chapter to the final volume done. Or at least the rough draft of
it is. All will be revealed as the showdown between light and darkness
approaches, and you should expect the unexpected. Provided I can have it
make any sense, that is.

For those that want to know: No, I have no idea how many chapters this
Volume will be. If past volumes are any indications, there will be at
least 12, but don't hold me to it. I've got a story to tell, and I'm
gonna tell it no matter how long it takes me (considering I've been
writing this thing for over two years).

But, we're on the final leg of the journey, the end is in sight, and
yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Buckle up, `cause things
are gonna get interesting!