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

Misao woke to the sound of a tea kettle. She squeezed her eyes shut and
rolled back over with a mumble.

'Stupid Jiya,' she thought sourly. 'I told him to shut the door when he
makes his tea in the morning.' She reached out to shut her door but her
hand met only air. She sat up with a start and stared at the person staring
back at her.

"Aoshi-kun, I'm sorry!" Misao babbled, sitting up. She noticed he was
already dressed and had his school bag in hand. "Oh no! What time is it? Am
I late? Oh god, I've got to go to school today!"

Aoshi stood up and took the kettle off the stove before emptying it into a
large bottle that stood on the counter. He placed the bottle in the
regridgerator and shut the door. He did all this in a very composed way
while Misao rushed to get dressed and gather her school things into her bag.

He said as she headed for the door, "I told you I'm just Aoshi."

Misao paused and looked back at him. There was a strange resigned way about
him. As she stared at him in blank confusion she caught sight of the green
digital clock on the kitchen counter.

"Augh, I'll miss the train!" She whirled to speed out the door and left
Aoshi standing in the apartment. He shook his head.

'She's still as impulsive as ever,' he thought, picking up his own bag and
following her out the door.


Misao across the platform towards her train. She could see the final people
being crowded into the train. She put on an extra burst of speed and pushed
her way through a group of primary students. She skidded to a stop just as
the doors closed.

"No! Wait!" she wanted to scream, but she just watched as a a car full of
Ishin-bashi students pulled away. A young man looked up at her and shot her
an appologetic half-smile and waved. Misao watched him dejectedly until his
car went around the corner.

She leaned against a pole and checked her watch and the board above her.
The red lights flashed 'Service to Yakihata, Ishin-bashi and Shibumi--11

"Eleven minutes!?" Misao wailed, checking her watch. "That's got to be the
longest break in the line! And I didn't even get any breakfast..."


Misao looked up and saw Chiho walking towards her, a large grin on her face.
Her long hair was pulled back in a large, flat double-bun at the base of
her neck. A cute curl bounced by her cheek.

"I didn't see you in biology," Chiho said. "What happened?"

Misao hesitated before saying, "Aoshi and I got attacked by some yakuza."


"We got away okay," Misao said with a casual shrug, "but we were so late we
got sent to the principal, and the nurse wanted us to go home." It was a
barely believable story, but one that would work in a pinch.

'And is this ever a pinch!' Misao thought as Chiho gave her the most
sorrowful look she could.

As the two of them stood, chatting, a voice behind Misao made her stiffen.
"…left without breakfast, didn't take a lunch and I found her wallet on the
coffe table."

A sharp laugh and somebody said, "I feel kinda sorry for her."

"Yeah, well, it's a good thing…" a couple of bills were hung in front of
Misao's face. She stared at them for a moment. "…she's got a friend like

Misao quickly grabbed the bills and stuffed them into the pocket of her
skirt, blushing furiously. The sounds of two pairs of Yakihata-uniform
shoes retreated further down the platform. As soon as the two boys had
left, Chiho leaned over to Misao's ear.

"What happened?"

"What do you mean?" Misao asked in a normal tone of voice. Chiho shot a
glace over her shoulder to where Aoshi and his friend had gone before

"You didn't, Misao-chan. Did you?"

"Do what!?"

Chiho gave Misao an accusing glare. She stared blankly at her friend for a
full minute before she blushed bright red.

"Kuwabara Chiho!" Misao hissed furiously, "What kind of girl do you think I

Chiho gave her a melencholy look. "But, he gave you money, didn't he?"

"For lunch! For LUNCH!"

Chiho's mouth opened in a round 'o' and she nodded at Misao in
understanding. Misao glared daggers at her.

"Really, Chiho," she muttered as the train pulled up, "you're the most
perverse person I know."

They stepped into the train and moved as far towards the other side as they
could. In the press they got seperated, but they didn't care. They'd meet
up when they got off the train. Misao grabbed a railing and held on as the
people poured in around her. The train finally jerked to a start and moved
away from the station. All around her were business men and women in dark
suits, school kids in brighter in colors, high schoolers in blacks and
blues. Here and there a patch, badge or scarf was a splash of color.

A voice behind Misao said softly, "Misao, you remember that alley?"

"Yes," she whispered back.

"It happened again last night."

"What did you see?" Misao couldn't keep the edge of excitement out of her
voice. Against her better judgement, she turned around and faced Aoshi. He
was leaning against the pole a few feet away, his arms folded over his

"I've figured some more of it out."

"I kinda assumed that," Misao said dryly.

Aoshi's eyebrow twitched, but other than that she could have been talking to
a wall. "We're reincarnations of them," Aoshi told her so quietly she could
barely hear him over the sound of the train and the other people in the car.

"I assumed that too."

Aoshi continued as though he hadn't heard her. "Aside from inheriting their
appearances, we also have their personalities. Meaning we want the same
things they do, we like the same things they do, and the end result is a
loop in our memories."

Misao was silent for a long time. Aoshi watched her out of the corner of
his eye. 'She's taking this a lot better than I thought she would,' Aoshi
thought. Misao turned and looked up at him with a weak smile.

"I don't get it."

The young man sighed and shook his head. "You remember the alley-vision,
right," he said patiently.


"And you remember what happened, right."

Misao blushed and looked down when she replied affermatively.

"So what I'm saying is that if the old Aoshi was in love with the old Misao,
then the new Aoshi…"

The door opened and his last words were drowned out by the scuffle of feet
and the voice on the intercom saying, "Yakihata station. Please remember to
check for any personal belongings. Thank you."

Misao and Aoshi were pushed out the doors and onto the rapidly clearing
platform. Without saying a word they walked to one side as the train pulled
away again.

"What I was saying before was I…"

Misao held up a hand and placed it over his mouth delicately. A smug smirk
tugged at the corner of her mouth. "You don't need to tell me. I'm not
that stupid." She gave Aoshi a gentle look and pushed his bangs away from
his face with unabashed familiarity. "Nor am I so cruel to make you say it
when you obviously don't want to."

"Obviously don't want to?" Aoshi repeated. A brief look of confusion
crossed his features.

Misao gestured for him to lean closer to her so she could whisper in his
ear. "You're bright red," she informed him teasingly.

"Am I? I hadn't noticed…"

Misao laughed at him and walked toward the stairs. He fell into step next
to her and they walked down the street towards the school with their sleeves

"Misao-chan!" Chiho called at the same time a vaguely familier voice yelled,
"Hey, Aoshi-kun!"

The two people pulled up level with each other and the other pair, giving
the other an odd, distrusting look.

"Misao-chan, why don't you introduce me?" Chiho hinted. She managed to pin
both Aoshi and Misao with a meaningful stare.

"Um- Okay," Misao said nervously. "Aoshi, this is Nakamura Chiho.
Chiho-chan, this is Shinomori Aoshi." They both bowed to each other.

As he straightened Aoshi said, "I guess I'd better introduce you, now.
Misao, this is my friend Imazaki Gisuke." The boy with the cowlick smiled
at her and bowed politely. Misao hastily bowed back. "And Gisuke-kun, this
is Makimachi Misao."

Gisuke gave Aoshi a joshing look that seemed to say, 'If I'm your friend,
what is the Misao to you?' Aoshi ignored him. Misao caught an edge of the
look and twitched her shoulders nervously as Gisuke turned his smirk to her.

"Imazaki Gisuke?" Chiho said in a polite yet curious tone. "I was

Gisuke turned the full force of his dazzling smile of Chiho. "Yeah, that's
me. You're that girl that was having trouble with her books in the hall the
other day, weren't you."

"Oh yeah," Chiho replied, waving her hand coyly between them, smiling
winningly, "I was so embarrassed. Normally I'm pretty good about keeping it
all together. I'm so sorry if I made you late to class!"

Gisuke waved this away in a similer manner. "I don't mind being late if I
get to meet a girl as pretty as you!"

Misao smothered giggles and gave Chiho a strangled good-bye before she and
Aoshi left their friends hurriedly.

As soon as they were far enough away from the train station Misao burst into
lighthearted, cheerful laughter. For the first time in a long time Aoshi
was glad that he had someone to walk with on the way to school. When
Misao's fit had subsided, she walked in silence next to him, something that
Gisuke had never really been able to do.

Suddenly feeling very bold, Aoshi reached over and took Misao's hand. She
glanced up at him and surprisingly didn't smile. She just looked at him.
Aoshi gave her hand a squeeze and looked away.

"Y'know," he said in English after a while, "I think this is the start of a
beautiful friendship."

Misao screwed up her face in consternation. "Oh, hell. My English is
terrible. What's that mean?"

Aoshi looked up at the school as the sun rose above the edge of the tall
building and lit the mist around them a buttery yellow. "It means that I
think things are finally looking up for me."


NEXT CHAPTER: A little bit of that high-school romance crap, but then things
start to heat up. Let's just say that 'chaotic' doesn't exactly cover it!

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