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

"You don't need to be so damn familier with her, y'know," somebody drawled from behind the pair. Misao saw Aoshi's back stiffen in suppressed anger. She gave him a glare, but he was too far gone to see it.

"Well, if it made you feel better I could call you '-chan' too, Yukishiro," Aoshi said sourly as he turned around. Enishi stood lounging against a wall, his glasses pushed up on his nose, a smirk spread across his features.

"No, that's quite alright," Enishi replied. He and Aoshi exchanged a dark look. The tension between them mounted higher and higher. Kids that passed them in the halls shot nervous glances their way and steered clear.

Misao marched between them and tried to catch the eye of either boy. 'I hate being short...' she thought angrily, realizing they didn't see her because of her small stature. She punched both boys in the gut, saying primly, "Now don't be stupid. Get to class and you can talk later, right? Of course I'm right," she added to the boys with false cheeriness, who were now doubled up in pain.

As Misao skipped off, a decidedly sadisdic spring in her step, Enishi looked up at Aoshi and said darkly, "She has to chose one of us, you know."

"Not nescesarily," he corrected, straightening his jacket. "There is another boy."

"Oh?" Enishi sneered.

"The man with red hair. He's coming to her in dreams. If we're not careful we could both loose her."

Enishi took a step forward, pushing his face close to Aoshi's. He was slightly perturbed to see that Aoshi was a good three inches taller than him. "Listen, just because you had her back then, it doesn't give you any claim to her now."

"You think she's some sort of THING that you can just pick up?" Aoshi hissed, furious.

"No way," Enishi said scornfully. "I mean that your old love is dead, and a new one is about to be born."

Aoshi's face twisted in disgust. "You're sick... I didn't wait to find her after all this time to loose her to somebody like you."

Enishi gave a short laugh. "Get used to the idea."

Misao stared blankly at the teacher as he paced back and forth in front of the classroom. His words melted into one big blur. Slowly, her mind drifted away.

Misao found herself on a bridge. It was a straight wooden bridge no more than six or seven feet wide. On one side of bridge was a small town or village and on the other a road slowly dissappeared into a wood. The sky above her was filled with stars. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. In the air was the balmy feeling of early summer, laced with a hint of growing heat and humidity. Rising behind the houses and buildings of the village was a large range of forrested mountains. The shape was unfamilier to Misao.

'Can't be Kyoto,' she realized, ''cause I'd know those mountains anywhere. It must be somewhere in the Meiji. But where?'

From the village a pair of figures approached the bridge. Misao stared hard at them. One was slimmer than the other and dressed in blue. They strode ahead of the other figure with an energetic bouncy step. Their high, light voice drifted across the long bridge to the center where Misao stood.

'But, but, but...' Misao thought swiftly, then blurted out, "that's me!" She hastily covered her mouth with her hands, but niether of the figures appeared to have heard. Misao screwed up her face in confusion.

"I'm here, but I'm also there," she muttered to herself. "If I'm in the Meiji here, in the middle of the bridge, how can I be there, in the Meiji, just stepping onto the bridge?"

She paused and looked up at herself and the other person. They stood only a few feet from her, and their faces were now very clear. Especially that of the man. He faced towards both Misaos and the moonlight shone directly across his face.

It was the red-haired swordsman. His clear eyes gazed through her as he listened to the Meiji-Misao's tirade, then, with a shock, Modern-Misao realized that he had seen her. His eyes didn't look through her, but AT her. His gaze traveled across her body in confusion, up to her face, then at the girl in front of him.

"...but I struck out everywhere!"

The man's gaze was suddenly yanked away from Modern-Misao's as Meiji-Misao grabbed him and shook him in frustration. Modern-Misao watched as the conversation continued, but her mind drifted elsewhere.

'He saw me. I'm sure of it.'

Then there was a shout. Men began to crowd the bridge. Meiji-Misao turned to face the men on the opposite side of the bridge, facing her other self. Modern-Misao's mind was in a whirl. They were going to fight. She couldn't fight well enough yet! She had to get out of the way!

She rushed to the side of the bridge and prepared to leap over the waist-high railing into the low river water, but there was a loud noise. She felt the bridge timbers begin to shiver under her hands. In the moment before the bridge collapsed she looked over her shoulder and saw, illuminated in the moonlight, a large, vicious-looking scar


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