I am Shuichi Minamino. I am ten years old, and my heart stopped beating today.
It doesn't mean I'm dead. It means my body has finally finished changing. It's a demon's heart now. Because I am also the demon fox Kurama, and today is the day I should leave. I do not belong in this world.
I'm glaring into my orange juice as I think. "Shuichi?" Mother says, sliding my breakfast under my nose. A sausage, toast, two fried eggs. I sit up. My chin was almost in the eggs. "Is something wrong?"
I smile. "No, Mother. Of course not." She can never know. Whatever happens, she can never know. I'm sorry, I think at her again, as I have so many times a day since the memories started to come back. I try once again to plan my departure. I can't just vanish. Mother would look for me forever. But no matter what I tell her, she will probably still look for me. I'm her child. The only thing that might persuade her to let me go is the truth, and I cannot tell her that. She raised me well. I have always been a good child. And now I know that part of me is bad by her lights: a thief, a traitor, and a murderer, too, come to that. It is hard for me. There are times I do not like myself at all. She could not bear it. She is a mother. She would feel it was her fault.
I begin to eat my eggs with every evidence of enjoyment. They are good eggs, even if I can't concentrate on them. Perhaps I could fake my death. That way Mother could mourn for me and move on.
I drain my orange juice and gather up my dishes, taking them to the sink and rinsing them out. Mother will wash them properly after I've gone to school. To which I should be going now, even if I begin not to see the point…
"Shuichi," Mother's voice halts me by the door as I reach for my school bag. I turn toward her. She is twisting her hands in her apron, but stops as she feels my eyes on them. She smiles at me. "Shuichi, I wanted to tell you that I love you. I don't know what I'd do without you. I feel like I don't say it enough."
I think of the breakfast I just ate, look at the scars on her hands and think of the day she got them. I think of her hand on my shoulder when she comes into my room after she thinks I'm asleep. I smile back at her. "Believe me, Mother, you say it every day." Yes, Mother loves me. More than anything. She has no one else but me in the world. And I do not want to see her hurt. When I leave, no matter how I decide to do it, she will weep, and weep, and weep. The demonic heart under my breastbone clenches at the thought, and I look down in surprise.
And I know something: I love my mother. I will always love her, even if my hair grows silver again and my eyes steely yellow. It shouldn't be possible. I am Yo-ko Kurama, the demon fox. I don't belong here. I am leaving any day. I am…
I laugh at myself. Listen to me. Trying to make myself believe it, when really I have realized the truth. I never had any real intention of leaving. This is my life. I can't pretend that I am not Kurama, but that doesn't mean I should decide that I am not Shuichi. I will not make Shiori Minamino weep.
I am not going anywhere.
I laugh again at the sheer feeling of a weight gone. I am not going anywhere.
Mother blinks, then smiles. She can see how glad I am, even if she cannot guess the reason. "What is it, Shuichi?"
"Nothing, Mother. Just had a funny thought, that's all." I pick up my school bag. Shuichi wants to get good grades and make his mother proud.
"Have a nice time at school," Mother says.
I smile at her again. "Of course, Mother. You have a good day, too." I'm sorry, I think again, because Kurama will not be an easy son to have sometimes, because I will go on keeping secrets from her for the rest of her life. But it is a softer sorry, a regret I can live with. I will be the best son I can. I will look after Mother.
I am Shuichi Minamino. I am Kurama. Today my heart stopped beating. But that does not mean it will let me forget it is there. I step outside, and the cool, promise-laden air of early spring surrounds me. No, I think, as the door closes behind me, I am not going anywhere.