The Circle Game; A Rurouni Kenshin Fanfic
by Kitty Woolfson
First draft of The Circle Game, 5/2000.

think my family is uncomfortable around me, so they pretty much give me what I ask for and leave me alone."

Chiho sighed enviously. "My mother is always trying to get me to be like my older brother and sister. I can't do anything without her butting in and messing around." She made a face. Though her words were true, Enishi could tell she really loved her mother.

As the topic of conversation turned towards more mundane things, Enishi tuned out and listened with only half an ear. He continued to think about the girl Misao. 'She's really cute,' he concluded, watching her idly. Her cropped hair, though not as widely accepted as traditionally longer hair, suited her well. Her blue eyes crinkled at the edges when she smiled.

'She reminds me of somebody...'

Just as the name and face rose to the front of his mind Chiho asked him a question. His brows drew down in a flash of wild annoyance.

For a moment Aoshi saw a more familier face. Dirtied with dust, grit, blood and sweat, a pale eyed man stood on a stretch of scortched sand. The anger in his eyes was startling. Pure hatered and animosity radiated from him in waves like his battle aura, stirring the sand. Aoshi felt first a rush of adrenaline, then a fear for the slight girl standing by his side.

The moment passed and Enishi smiled faintly. "Sorry, I just remembered something I was suppost to do."

"Oh?" Misao said, disappointment tinging her voice as she approached from behind, "do you have to leave?"

Enishi smiled again a little more wholeheartedly. "Not at all. It's just something I have to pick up. I don't think I have enough money, but it'll be fine," he added quickly as Misao frowned and reached for her wallet. Chiho and Aoshi did too while Gisuke picked up the change that sat on the table from his meal and offered it to the new addition to their posse.

Enishi laughed, though it wasn't very whole-hearted, and pushed away Gisuke's hand. The other boy shrugged and stuff the coins into his pocket.

After a few quiet, though not silent, minutes, Misao cleared her throat and looked Enishi in the eye. He noticed her gaze and turned towards her, eyebrows raised in queary.

"I'm sure everybody wants to know the answer to this question," she began straight-faced, "and though it may seem a bit rude, I'll ask anyway."

"Misao-chan!" Chiho hissed warningly.

"Is it natural?"

The look on Enishi's face was comical. His eyes widened and he cocked his head and blinked. Chiho hid her face in her hands while Gisuke waited for Enishi's answer.

"You mean the hair?" he asked blankly, pointing to his head.

Misao nodded and added, "And the eyes, too."

The young man smiled again. "Both yes."

"But how?" Chiho wondered outloud.

"My parents took me on one of their trips after we had been in China for a few years. I was just a kid but they took me anyway. We were staying in an old village in the hills. There was a village legend about a magical cave that granted whoever survived eyes to see the dead, or blindness." He shrugged lazily. "My parents didn't believe the myth, of course, and thought it would be an interesting hike and a good experience for me.

"While we were in the cave, I was walking between my mother and father, tied to her waist, I tripped. The rope was pulled off my belt and my father was too far behind to hear me fall. I tried to find him, but I wandered away from their lights and the path. They told me I stayed in the cave for almost three days. I somehow found my way out and walked into the village one evening at noon, nearly blinded by the sun. When we got back the doctors said the sun had bleached the color out of my eyes when I went from the cave to bright sunlight so quickly."

There was a moment of silence. "Cool..." Gisuke said in an awed voice. "That's better than being albino. There's, like, an adventure and everything!"

Enishi chuckled. "The hair," he continued, running a hand through the blond locks, "happened on the same trip. We were riding back from the village in a small cart. We were going really fast 'cause we were going down hill and when we came around a corner we ran right into a bus. There had been an accident, and there were lots of people lying around, lots of blood. My eyes were bandaged from the cave trip. I remember hearing screams and asking what was going on. Then there was a huge bump and I was flying through the air. I landed really hard.

"I pulled the bandage off and the first thing I saw was a young woman, I remember she looked like she was no more than my age now. She was lying there on her back, but I could see her breathing. She had this huge cut that went from one side of her body to the other. I turned her over and started telling her she couldn't die. The doctor would come... I don't remember. Whatever came to mind. She smiled at me and she didn't have a tear in her eye. Then she died and I remember the shock of it."

Enishi's face closed up like a box. His expression became completely blank and there was a kind of deadness in his words like he was only in the cafeteria with only half his mind. The other half was on that road in China with the dead girl in his arms.

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