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


"Is that better?" he asked frankly.Misao shot him a sideways glance and shy, blushing smile. "Yeah. It’s easier not to think about it now."They walked together, silently, for what seemed like a long time. Misao tried over and over again to quell the irrepressable urge to grin like a lunatic. Aoshi's hand over hers was warm and the pressure of his fingers comforted the fluttery feeling she had held in her heart since the yakuza attack.'I wish I never had to go back home,' she thought dreamily. The tall buildings around her reflected the fašade of their neighbor's windows, creating a dream-like tunnel. 'I want this moment to never stop. I could keep walking with him forever.'Slowly, Misao began to drift unconsciously closer to Aoshi's side. Her shoulder brushed his arm and she felt his fingers tighten on hers.'I definitely don't want this moment to stop!' she thought, allowing herself a small smile.

Behind them, Aoshi and Misao heard the scrape of a shoe on the pavement. They both turned their heads a little to look back over their shoulders. A few boys had appeared from stores and alleys. They were moving down the street with sure purpose. Though they moved alone, each one had their eyes on the only other two people on the street; Aoshi and Misao.he groaned softly, closing her eyes. Aoshi shushed her and whispered, "Don't worry about it. We'll just keep walking. We should get to a busier street in a moment." In front of them a group of three or four boys stepped out of the mouth of an alley. Aoshi's steps didn't falter.

"Okay," he ammened, "if they get rough, you run across the street and don't stop. Keep going until you get back to the school.""No way," Misao said immediately. "I'm not letting you play the hero. If I run, you come with me.""Misao," Aoshi said warningly. His words were cut off when a group of boys from the right side of the street dashed towards them. The boys from the alley spread their arms to herd them into the alley. Aoshi drew Misao closer to him.A sudden charge from the boys across the street drove Misao and Aoshi unwillingly into the alley. They stood back-to-back, ready for what they knew was coming."Alright, girl!" the boy in front of Misao called jeeringly, "we want answers! You laid out four of our guys before that kid" he jerked his chin at Aoshi, "took down another six. We want to know how you did it!"Misao gritted her teeth. "That's not all you want, is it?"The boy withdrew a knife and ran his toungue along the flat of the blade with a dirty look. "No, it isn't. I want you to bleed for what you did to my brother!"He jumped towards Misao with a angry cry as the other boys leapt at Aoshi. Torn between saving himself or saving Misao, Aoshi glanced over his shoulder before turning back to deal with the other boys.

Time stopped. Both Misao and Aoshi stood in the same possition that they had been in moments before, but everything was different. Misao felt like a new person. A person that was completely confident. A person that could handle each and every boy in the alley without breaking a sweat. A person that knew exactly what to do.Behind her, Aoshi felt the same way. An incredable surge of instincts overrode all of his kendo training. A single glance told him all he needed to know.Time resumed its march. Misao leapt high into the air and out of the way of her attacker. Aoshi rolled gracefully to one side and stood up. Next to him on a pile of grabage lay a broom handle without a head. He picked it up, flipped it expertly around in his and and broke it deftly over his knee.Misao landed lightly on her former assailent's back and kicked him with her heel in the back of the head. He collapsed in the way of Aoshi's attacker and the two of them fell in a jumbled, cursing heap. Misao dashed to the opposite end of the alley where a broken window lay in pieces. She picked up several shards of glass between three and five inches long and took a ready stance, glowering at the other boys that were staring at her in something similer to fear.

Aoshi, meanwhile, was almost enjoying himself. He had taken the two halfs of the broom handle and was using them expertly. He used one to pary attacks while the other unleashed a rain of blows on the head, shoulders and face of his opponent.Misao stood staring at the three boys arrayed in front of her with dark glee. With a sudden fierce cry she threw all the glass at the boys at once. The shards flew through the air, whistling, and lanced across the exposed cheeks and necks of the gangsters in front of her.Cursing her poor aim she fumbled at the ground for more amunition, carefully keeping her eyes on the temporarily distracted boys. When her seeking fingers didn't turn up anything, she glanced down in horror.Instead of more long pieces of glass, there was only a powder. Her hard-soled school shoes had crushed all her possible weapons. Misao looked up just in time to see the boys shake their blood off of their faces and charge her with angery cries.Misao screamed and threw up her fists. They knocked her to one side with a vicious punch. She flew into the air and crashed into the back wall of the alley, knocking her head. Dazed, she slumped to the ground.

"We've got you now, monster!" the boys yelled triumphantly, advancing in a manner that belied their bold words.On the other side of the alley, Aoshi looked up at their words. He saw Misao, moaning and trying to regain her senses, the boys, an open dumpster.He delt a harsh blow to the boys he was dueling with and dashed to the end of the alley. Knocking the boys out of the way, he barreled through them and crouched at Misao's was a moment of tense expectancy, then Aoshi began to batter the three boys backwards. With a final blow he knocked them off their feet and into the dumpster. Returning to the now-conscience Misao, he helped her to her feet, incongruously slipping a hand around her waist and helping her back to the street.

"Aoshi-kun," Misao whispered hoarsely, "what happened back there?"

"I- I don't know," he replied, staring at the unconscience bodies that littered the alley. 'Holy shit,' he realized with a chill, 'if I had had a real sword back there, they'd be on their way to a morgue!'

Misao seemed to have come to the same realization. "Aoshi-kun, we'd better get back to school. How much time do we have left?" She pulled herself up straighter in preperation for the walk back to the school. Her hands clutched at Aoshi's sweater and slowly she managed to work herself back up to Aoshi's shoulder rather than his waist.

Aoshi glanced at his watch and sucked in a quick breath."What? What is it!?"He wordlessly showed the watch to her. Misao gasped. It had been about five minutes since they had left the deli.'Five minutes alone shouldn't have been enough time to walk from the deli to here! It's like we're in a time warp or something!'Her eyes traveled to the alley once again and she shuddered. The gangsters had been so close to her she could feel imaginary hands on her neck, squeezing the breath out of her.While she watched, two hazy figures materialized before her eyes. One was a tall man, dressed all in black with a long sash streaming out behind him. She got a glimpse of a smooth cheek and strong jaw as he looked at the bodies scattered at his feet.he other was a girl, near Misao's fifteen years of age. She had sharp-looking bangs pushed out of her face. They fell along her jaw. Behind her Misao could see a long braid. The girl picked up the end of her large bow that was tied around her waist like an informal obi and wiped at the small scrape on her knee.sao took all this in at a glance, but her mind began to whirl at the enornity of it. 'It's me!' she wanted to scream. For the girl looked like Misao in every way but the braid.her mind Misao could hear an echoy voice say, "Ne, Aoshi-sama? What was it Okina wants us to retrieve?"

The man turned to look at her. Misao got another shock. The man was undeniably Shinomori Aoshi. The girl had even called him 'Aoshi-sama'. "A large package of papers with Saitoh Hajime's seal on them. You were suppost to remember that, Misao," he chided."But I-!"In modern day Tokyo, Makimachi Misao, tugged urgently on Aoshi's sleeve. "I know," he whispered. Neither of them took their eyes off the people in front of them.Grumbling, the long-haired Misao turned away from the older Aoshi and knelt on the ground and picked up a cloth-wrapped bundle. "Here it is," she said a little sulkily, handing Aoshi the blood-stained fabric."Good." When he reached his hand up to take the package he glanced up at Misao's face. "How did you get a bloody nose?" he asked, a hint of worry slipping into his voice.

"I wan't hit on the nose!" Misao said, reaching up to feel her face. "It doesn't hurt..."And your hands," Aoshi added, picking up one of Misao's gloved hands. "Look at your fingers. All bloody. Did you grab your kunai the wrong way on accident?""I'd never do that!"You used to when Hanya and I were teaching you.""That was more than ten years ago!" Misao blushed and pulled her hand back to look at it more closely."Come on," Aoshi said imperiously, turning away. "I'll buy you an imagawayaki. You've earned it.""I don't want imagawayaki," Misao said coyly, grabbing Aoshi's sash and pulling him back towards her with a childish tug. He turned back around, surprised.

"Do I need to tell you?" she giggled, reaching one hand up to his cheek."I suppose not," Aoshi murmured distractedly, looking at Misao idly. As Misao stood up on tiptoe to reach Aoshi the image began to blur. Before it vanished, both of the modern-day people turned away, slightly embarassed."Misao, he said," Aoshi whispered, staring at the young woman that was looking open-mouthed at him.Aoshi-sama?" she replied in an awed voice.Misao watched as Aoshi brought his hand up to her face. He touched her upper lip lightly and showed her his finger. The tip was covered in blood. Misao gingerly brought her hand up and felt her nose; it was sore and throbbing.'But I wasn't hit on the nose!'Aoshi took on of her hands and showed her the tiny cuts between her fingers. "Did I, or he, call them kunai?""Kunai..." Misao murmured. "I remember kunai, a little..."Aoshi gasped and clutched at his head suddenly."Aoshi-kun! What's wrong!?" Misao cried, looking up at him."I- I don't remember anymore," he said, sounding very sad. "C'mon, we've got to get those cuts looked at."

Misao suddenly realized that he was clutching her around the waist, his large hand splayed over her ribs. She could feel his hear beating where her body was pressed along his. A hot blush rushed to her cheeks. She realized Aoshi could probably see it and tired to untangle his arm from around he waist."It's okay," she muttered. "I think I can walk on my own now."Aoshi gave her a dubious look but released her none the less. Misao managed to take about four steps before one leg crumpled and she pitched to her right. She grabbed the first thing that came to hand and pulled herself up. Aoshi didn't say anything; just slid his arm back around her and supported her the rest of the way back to the school.Aoshi watched Misao sit despondantly in the straight-backed chairs in the office. Her newly bandaged hands were clutched, white-knuckled, in front of her scraped knees. Her dark hair was mussed from the rough scrubbing the school nurse had given her. She stared numbly at the floor between her feet.

"Shinomori?" Aoshi looked up at the secratary. "The principal will see you now."He thanked her and walked into the room to the left of her little window. The principal reclined in his leather chair in front of a free-standing flat computer moniter. His eyes were hidden behind large glasses that reflected the light. Aoshi stood at attention in front of the principal as he turned his swival chair to face him."Shinomori Aoshi, right?" he said slowly in a sleepy voice. Aoshi nodded shortly. "You've never been in any trouble before. The only time you've ever missed school was when your sister died. So why have you come to me with this rather odd request now, one year before you graduate?""I'm worried about Makimachi-san," he replied formally. "Her grandfather has been gone and her parents died. She's staying with me until her grandfather returns, so I thought it would be best if I took her home so she could get some rest."'You can't possibly make her stay in school!' Aoshi thought desperately.The principal tapped the computer screen, muttered about something, then turned back to Aoshi. "There are no papers that make you or your parents legally responsable for her while her grandfather is gone," he stated smugly."Ah, no," Aoshi said, trying vainly to smoother an embarrased blush, "she suffered a similer attack last night, so I thought it best she not be alone."

"How very noble of you," the older man muttered sourly. Aoshi stiffened, but held his toungue."Well," he finally said, "I can unfortunately find no good reason to keep either you or your girlfriend here in light of what happened."Aoshi's eyes widened and he felt a rush of heat to his face."Ma- Makimachi-san is not my girlfriend!" he snapped, a little too loud. The principal smirked and raised his eyebrows smugly. "She's just- I mean, we just- No! It's- it's..."The principal waved away his stammered objections and gestured for him to get out of his office. Thinking thoughts that weren't very healthy he stuffed his hands into his pockets and returned to the front office.Misao looked up gratefully and waited patiently as he spoke with the secretary. Aoshi returned to her side and picked up her bag for her."Aoshi-kun, I appreciate all that you've done for me, I really do," Misao said softly, "but you don't have to."

Aoshi gave her a gentle look without changing his expression. "My parents tell me I have a disorder. I'm a natural born leader and, they say, like a good leader I watch out for those weaker than myself. No offence intended," he added hastily.

"None taken."

They walked to the front of the school in silence. Misao felt Aoshi's eyes on her as they walked, but refused to look up at him. 'This is so strange,' she thought. 'Those people we saw with our names were obviously close. No wonder I like Aoshi-kun already.'But why do I keep on feeling those echos in the back of my mind?'The secretary sat in her office, finishing up the paper work that went with the departure of 'Shinomori Aoshi' and 'Makimachi Misao'. Her phone rang and she picked it up, cradling it against her ear."Yakihata Secondary and High school.""It's me," the principal's voice said shortly."Anything I can do for you, sir?""I want all of the records you're able to get on those two students. Health records, family background, which temple their registered at, and anything else you can dig up. Use your, hmm, intuition," he hinted.The secretary repeated his information back to him and hung up.




In the school parking lot Aoshi and Misao paused by his car and sneezed. As one, they both looked up at the principals drawn shades with apprehention.



NEXT CHAPTER: The truth comes out! Sluthing, spying and... romancing? ^_-;; I'm not so obvious as that! And besides, I promised Mei-san no hentai! ^.^

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