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

Chapter 3: Buried in the flow of time...

The flat was dark and quiet. The pale wood gleamed in the light of moon.
Shreds of clouds drifted across the sky, silver haunts from heavan. Only
one or two stars were visible over the bright lights of downtown Tokyo. A
plane flew by above the skyscrapers.

Misao lay asleep on the couch. The black blanket was wrapped around her
once again, but the giant pillows had been replaced by a pathetic-looking
down sepcimin from a cheast of spare blankets. Her dark, silky hair was
spread elgantly against her face. The white couch, her pale skin, ebony
hair against the backdrop of the Tokyo skyline was quietly poetic.

Aoshi sat at the kitchen table, staring at Misao. Something about her was
making him stare, but he couldn't yet place it. He kept looking, hoping
that the answer would dawn on him The young man felt slightly guilty, but
he reasoned it away with the fact that Misao had fallen asleep in his car on
the ride back from the school.

'You've been in such a lousy mood ever since that vision thing back in the
alley,' he told himself sourly. 'What's the matter with you?'

Misao stirred in her sleep and rolled onto her back. Aoshi saw her profile.
A smile tugged at one end of her mouth. With her hair all mussed up and
the blanket in dissarray a picture of another girl came to mind.

A small child. Her face was similer to Misao's, but more like the Misao in
the alley-vision. She had a small braided ponytail. The healthy blush of a
child painted her round cheeks. He watched her sleep with fondness, but it
wasn't the kind of 'fondness' the alley-vision Misao and Aoshi had
desplayed. He watched a black gloved hand reach down and brush the bangs
away from the young Misao's cheek.

Then he stood and walked through a silent, old fasioned house to an empty,
cold street. The hosues weren't the ones he knew. Two-story wood builings
with rice-paper windows met his eyes as far as he could see. The street he
stood on wasn't paved, but rather a dirt road that had been packed down by
years of wind, rain and hundreds and hundreds of feet. Facing him were...

'Demons!' he wanted to shout. But something else in him welcomed these

"Misao's alseep," he heard himself say.

"Are you sure about this?" one of the men said. He wore a demon mask and
had strange markings on his arms. Aoshi felt a name pop into his mind.


He stood up, knocking his chair over.

"I understand!" he shouted breathlessly.


He jumped at the sudden noise. Misao sat on the floor in front of the
couch, gasping and staring straight ahead. Her eyes traveled to him and she

"Don't do that! You scared me out of a prefectly lovely dream!"

"I figured it out, though," Aoshi said quickly, jumping over the railing,
stepping on the piano, the bench, then the floor on the opposite side of the
coffe table from Misao.


"The things I see, the reason we remember each other even though we're sure
we've never met! I've figured it out."

"Tell me!" Misao sat up and splayed her hands on the coffe table.

Aoshi hesitated. "Don't be a tease, Aoshi-kun!" Misao demanded

"Misao, were you named after anybody?"

She paused and cocked her head to one side, finger held against her cheek in
silent contemplation. Aoshi felt even more acutely the strange pull he felt
towards her. Wanting to be closer, he sat down on the piano bench and
leaned forward over his knees.

"I- I think... maybe..." Misao said slowly, he brow creased. "Yes! Now I
remember! My great-great grandmother or something like that took another
woman's name after she died. I was named after her." She nodded as though
the motion would cement the memory in the foremost of her mind.

"I was named after my great-great," he paused, "maybe another great
grandfather's master. I don't remember everything about him, but I do
remember where we can find out."

"Where!?" Misao stood up on her knees eagerly.

Aoshi silently led her to the rice-paper walled part of the house. He slid
back the shoji smoothly and led the way through the first room and into the
hall. Misao followed with a touch of apprehension.

He led her through hall with doors on either side to the end of the hall,
where the mellow overhead lights weren't on. The hall was dark and smelled
slightly musty like it hadn't been visited in a long time. She glanced back
over her shoulder uneasily. The cheerful light from the hall was muted by
the cream-colored paper and seemed so very far away.

She jumped and turned back around quickly when she heard the rasp of the
door being opened. Aoshi looked up at her expectantly. She let out a rush
of breath and gave him a reproachful look before stepping into the room. He
followed and shut the door behind him.

They were in a library. Bookshelves that covered every inch of wall space
went from floor to ceiling. There was a single picture on the opposite
wall. It showed an old-fashioned building. It was a beautiful building
with neat roof tiles, clean walls and a well made sign. A group of people
were gathered in front of it.

Three women, three men and an old man stood around a sign that was set out
on the street. The youngest woman there had her hands proudly sitting on
the handle of the sign. A man standing behind her wore a western suit and
tie and had a gloved hand resting tenderly on the her shoulder. The
lettering on the sign read 'the Aoiya'.

Misao went over and looked at the picture with mild interest. Though the
faces were blurred with time, she could pick out the features of each
person. Her gaze slowly traveled over the tall man, a short, round-faced
girl, a woman with elgant hair, the old man…

"Misao," Aoshi said from behind her, "I found it. Come look at this."

She knelt next to him so she could read over his shoulder. He held on old
paper book, bound on the side with browned cords, and pointed out a passage.
Misao frowned. "Oh man, I'm horrible at kanji. This may take a while,"
she informed Aoshi.

She looked away from him when he gave her an accusatory glare. "You're
should know these."

"Easy for you to say, you're an eleventh-year!"

"Fine, listen and follow along," Aoshi told her. He placed his finger above
the words and traced the faded ink without touching it. "'Shinomori Aoshi;
born 1855, training began 1857, became blank in 1870…'"

"What do you mean, 'became blank'?" Misao demanded.

"I don't know that kanji," Aoshi explained. He ignored Misao's smug look
and muttered, "So there," and moved his finger down to another passage.

"Okay, here's you. 'Makimachi Misao; born 1863, direct desendent… and it
all smudged on the rest of this line."

Misao glared at the book. The ink had indeed been blurred by somebody's
hand. A fingerprint stood out on the corner of the next page. "Well, maybe
the next line…?"


"When she was trained," Misao added.

Aoshi was silent for a while. Misao stared at the book, waiting for him to
continue reading. She looked over at him and saw his brows draw in

"What is it?"

"'Died, 1890. See number 24.'" He flipped a few pages, but found only
names. "I never noticed that before," he mused, setting the book down on
the floor.

"Maybe the 'number 24' thing is in another book," Misao suggested. She
walked on her knees to the book shelves and began to look at titles of the
oldest books. Aoshi stretched out on the floor next to her and began to
check the bottom shelf.

"Oh, here it is!" Misao pulled down a book and opened it up. A few pages in
was the kanji for 24. She handed the book to Aoshi.

"'Sent; Misao, Aoshi. Succsessful. Casualties; one--Misao, related
casualties; one--Aoshi.'"

"Wuzzat mean, related casualties?"

Aoshi continued, "'Notes; Misao was injured during mission and died two days
later. Aoshi was killed a week later of his own volition.'"

"What!?" Misao gasped, staring at Aoshi. He had paled, but his expression
was still the solemn one he always wore. "Suicide?"

"No," Aoshi corrected, "killed of his own volition."

"That's suicide," Misao pointed out dryly.

"He let himself get killed."

Both Aoshi and Misao were silent. Aoshi closed the book and replaced it on
the shelf. Though his movements were just as graceful as ever, there was a
certain relectance in the way he did everything. Misao brushed her hand
along his shoulders as she walked past him to stare at the picture again.

'The old man,' she thought, peering at his face, 'something about him is

He was stooped and his face heavily lined. His white hair was a little
curly and turned up on the ends. His long beard had a little bow in the
end. The flash from the camera had reflected off the lenses of his small
glasses, hiding his eyes.

'Even though this picture was taken decades ago,' Misao mused, 'that man
looks aweful familier.'

Her eyes roved to the left…

Behind Aoshi, Misao's startled gasp shook him out his depressing thoughts.
He twisted his head around and saw her, hands at her lips, staring at the

'What's so interesting about that old thing?' he thought, standing up. He
had never seen it until they had moved to this apartment, then it just
appeared one day. He remembered asking his sister who the people were.

"They're the people who ran the Aoiya restaurant a long time ago," she had
replied in the serene way she had about her. Her hand brushed over the
short hair that had only recently began to grow back. It was already past
her ears.

"But I thought we started the Aoiya," the young Aoshi had said in confusion.

His sister laughed at him gently. "Mother and Father named the restaurant
'the Aoiya' after that one." She had pointed to the picture and ruffled her
little brother's silky hair tenderly.

For the first few days of living in the house, Aoshi would stand and stare
at the picture, but after a while he tired of it and explored the other
things his parents had put in the paper-walled rooms.

"What is it?" he asked Misao, rising and standing behind her.

Misao felt his presence behind her and turned quickly.

"It's us in the picture!" she gasped, wide-eyed.

"What? Where?" Aoshi leaned over her shoulder and peered at the picture.
Misao placed a finger on the couple in the center of the frame.

"There. Me," her finger touched the girl, "and you," her finger traveled to
the man standing behind her.

"But, that's not…"

Misao sighed as though to say, 'do I have to explain EVERYTHING to you!?'
and said patiently, "Okay, so it's not technically us. It's the people
we're named after!"

"Misao," Aoshi pointed out, "that girl there doesn't have the ponytail. And
see, he's not wearing the black outfit."

"True… But then…" Misao mused, a finger on her chin.

"But then, nobody wears the same thing all the time," Aoshi reasoned.

"And don't they look older in the picture? See, the I grew!" She pointed
out the hight difference. Misao turned and stepped up close to Aoshi.
"Before I was this tall," she placed her hand at around the level of her

"In the alley-vision," Aoshi murmured in contemplation. Misao was so close
he could feel her hair on his bare arm.

"In the picture I'm this tall." She glanced over her shoulder to check the
picture, then turned back and touch a place in the center of Aoshi's cheast.
"You look like you stayed the same height, so why am I so much taller?"

Aoshi looked down at Misao's upturned face. Her eyes were unfocused and she
didn't look like she was completely awake. As he watched, Misao swayed a
little. Aoshi's reflexes shot his arms out, but chivalry kept him from
grabbing her. She stumbled against his cheast and stepped away groggily.

"I- I musta stood up, too fast," Misao mumbled. She blinked several times
and placed a hand on the wall behind her. She turned into the wall and
glanced up at the photograph.

"Misao, are you okay?" Aoshi asked worriedly.

'Jesus Christ, look at you, Aoshi!' he chided himself. 'She's not as
delicate as your sister. She hasn't had much to eat today, that's probably
why she's so weak.'

Misao didn't reply and stared at the picture. She blinked, tipped her head
to one side and smiled before collapsing against the wall and sliding to the


Aoshi dropped to one knee and grabbed Misao's slender body. He managed to
catch her before her head hit the floor.

"Misao, what-"

Misao smiled up at him dreamily. Aoshi felt himself blush. "Aoshi-sama,
don't worry," she whispered softly. "See, it's only Jiya." He followed her
weakly pointing finger to the picture.

"Jiya, your grandfather?" he asked.

She frowned at him and blinked her eyes. "He's not my grandfather, you know

Aoshi stared at her. Then he noticed the way her pupils were dialated and
the sleepy way about her.

'She's- she's in a trance!' he realized with a shock. 'She thinks she's the
Makimachi Misao that died over a hundred years ago!'

"Misao, think," he ordered, shaking her a little. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-seven," she mumbled. He noticed that her brows were drawn together
in confusion and annoyance.

"How old am I?"


"What year is it?"

"Meiji twenty-two."

Aoshi paused for a moment to quickly replay old history lessons and do some
quick figuring. 'It's- it's 1890! The year she died!'

"Aoshi-sa… sama," Misao whispered, "love- I lo-…"

'She's dying!'

"Wake up, dammit," Aoshi groweled, releasing one of her arms to slap her
hard across the face.

Misao let out a pained cry and opened her eyes wide. She stared at Aoshi
for a full minute, both of them breathing hard and eyes full of panic and
apprehension. Suddenly she grabbed Aoshi around the neck and burried her
face in his shoulder. For a moment he thought she was crying, but her voice
was steady when she spoke.

"Aoshi, you weren't a samurai," she said numbly. "We were ninja."

"Misao, there were no true ninja," Aoshi told her carefully.

"We didn't use magic," Misao said, pulling away from his shoulder to look
him in the eye. "We were just ninja. I can't explain. I saw through my
eyes, I felt with my hands…"

She sat back and stared at her trembling fingers. Aoshi stood up and took
one look at Misao's pale, shakey figure huddeled on the floor and bent down
to pick her up.

"Eek!" she cried when he lifted her off the floor. "I'm not a baby, you
know. I can walk on my own," informed him.

"Do you remember the last time you said that?"

"Oh, shut up, you," she hissed, wrapping her arms around his neck.

"What did you see?" he asked as he carried her through the long hall.

"A lot of blood, frankly," she said in a much better impression of her
normal voice. "There was a cut on my ribs from something like a sword. And
I saw you," she added, touching Aoshi's cheast where his t-shirt ended. He
felt a tickle just below his collarbone and felt it move towards his

"And…?" Aoshi prompted.

Misao smiled up at him impishly. "And what?" Aoshi gave her a reprimanding
look. "I'm trying to save your dignity here."

"I can take it," he told her briskly as he sat down on the couch with her in
his lap.

Misao sobered up and stared at his picture at the far end of the couch.
"You were crying," she told him softly. Aoshi blinked at her in disbelief.

'I cried for her then, but I didn't cry for my sister?' he thought in

"You picked me up and held me against your cheast and told me you'd get me
back home. I said I didn't think I'd get to see Jiya again. You said you'd
die before I did and tried to pick me up. But I had left a shoe, so you
picked it up for me and put it in your pocket. I started to fall asleep but
you hit me and yelled at me."

A shiver passed through Misao's body and Aoshi tightened his arms around her

"I laughed at you and said you were really cute when you got angery. Then
you started to cry again and you kissed my forehead." Misao's shoulders
moved up and down. "Then you woke me up here and I-"

She stopped abruptly. Aoshi rested his lips lightly on her forehead for a
moment, then pulled away. His face was hidden by shadows, but Misao thought
she could see a glimmer of something in his eye.

He set her down then and covered her with the blanket once more. He stood
with his back to her and said, "You must be something really special."

Misao stared at him while he pushed his bangs out of his face. He repeated
the motion with the other hand a moment later.

"I didn't even cry for my own sister, but I cry at the thought of losing
you." For a moment she could see the young man's face, illuminated by a
shaft of moonlight filtered through a waift of a cloud. A streak of
moisture wet his cheek. "What are we? Who are you?"

He started to back towards his room. "A- Aoshi-sama," Misao began.

"I'm just Aoshi," he replied, then turned his back and went to his room. He
paused at the door and said in a strangely affectionate voice, "Good night,

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