Yusuke slumped down in his chair, nearly spilling his soda. Kurama frowned at the close call, not wanting to see the chair ruined but also not wanting to use the energy to tell Yusuke off. It was too hot in any case. The boys sat in Kurama's living room with the fan turned all the way up and glass after glass of ice water, cold tea, soda, and fruit juice. The shades were drawn down to hide the room from the sun in the midst of the pounding afternoon heat.
Kurama had his hair tied up to expose the nape of his neck to the breeze from the fans, and Yusuke had pulled his shirt up to expose as much skin as possible without actually taking his shirt off. Kurama didn't have the same reserve, not in his own house at least, and had pulled his shirt off hours ago to take advantage of the fan.
Yusuke made a face like he wanted to say something, but frowned instead. He'd done that at least four times in the past hour and Kurama had half a mind to just demand to know what Yusuke wanted to say. The other half wished fervently that Yusuke wouldn't say anything and they could just get through the heat of the day in companionable silence and talk later when it was cooler and they could sit outside with some beer and watch fireflies. Fortunately, Kurama wasn't the patient type, at least not where a mystery was concerned.
"What?" he said suddenly, more sharply than he'd intended. Yusuke looked up, puzzled.
"What do you mean 'what'?" Yusuke retorted.
Kurama gave Yusuke an exasperated look and sighed deeply.
"Fine," Yusuke snapped. He looked away and glared at the TV. "I guess… This is going to sound dumb, okay? Don't laugh at me. Seriously. Okay, so I- I don't really know who I am anymore." Yusuke seemed to slump further down in the chair. He stared intently at the TV, not even glancing at Kurama.
"What do you mean?" Kurama prodded, honestly curious.
"I'm kind of nobody, you know?" Yusuke asked morosely. "I'm human because I was raised human, and until four years ago that's all I was. Then I became tantei and I was still human, just kind of a special one. Now I'm suddenly a demon too? What am I supposed to be? I have this whole side of me I don't even know, but I'm expected to embrace it and jump into demon society like I was never human. Everyone in the demon world is expecting me to suddenly be this whole other person, like because I'm part demon that makes me less human."
Kurama was silent for a while, not knowing if Yusuke wanted solutions or if he just needed to vent. "It makes sense though, that you feel this way," he said slowly, watching for Yusuke's reaction. Yusuke's gaze snapped around to rest on Kurama. Kurama felt like he was being examined carefully.
"Why does it make sense?" Yusuke asked, his voice thick.
"You were raised human, not even knowing there was anything else to be," Kurama said softly. "You were raised Japanese." Yusuke frowned at that remark. "You must understand, Yusuke, that Japan is one of the least diverse nations in the world. In contrast, where I grew up in the demon world, there was no majority race, and there was no dominant language or culture. I learned to adapt because I had to, and I also learned to celebrate my own culture. In your experience, a Japanese human is all you've learned to be. Your experience is similar to that of a bicultural person who is raised with only one culture- there comes a time when it's appropriate to explore the other side of your heritage, but there is always pressure from both sides to pick one thing to be, to define yourself."
Yusuke sat up in his chair and faced Kurama, tracing circles on his glass with one finger. "So I should just be human? What are you saying?"
"I'm saying that you need to define yourself. You are human, that's a part of your nature, and a very big part since you were raised here. But you are also demon, and not just any demon, you're in Raizen's line, which isn't something to just ignore. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't ignore either side. It's not popular in the demon world to be human, and you'll face a lot of pressure to disown your human side. Here, on the other hand, you have to suppress your demon side because most humans are unaware of the other worlds. You might want to talk with Hiei about this, if you can get him to open up to you. I'm youko, that's all I am, and that's what I was raised to be. I've never personally had to go through an identity crisis, not even reincarnating as human, but Hiei can probably relate."
Yusuke snorted. "Yeah I can see Hiei really wanting to tell me all about his personal life." Kurama laughed.
"I admit it's not likely, but Hiei really can relate to you better than I can," Kurama pressed.
"Okay, I'll bring it up when I see him next," Yusuke conceded, "but I'm not expecting anything."
It was a few weeks before Yusuke saw Hiei, and he hadn't really thought much about his identity in those weeks. Living in the human world, it was easy to push aside the problems of being biracial. Apparently Kurama hadn't forgotten or shoved the issue away, because Hiei actually sought Yusuke out and asked if he wanted to talk. Yusuke agreed out of sheer surprise at being asked, and it wasn't until they had agreed to meet later that night that he fully realized what had just happened.
Hiei wasn't one for heart to heart conversations across a table like Kurama was, so Yusuke met him later that night for a walk. It felt weird at first going on a walk in the park with Hiei, but Yusuke was grateful for the darkness and the excuse not to have eye contact.
"So…" Yusuke began, "this is kind of awkward. What do we do now?"
Hiei scoffed. "You have a problem," he said bluntly. "Kurama thinks it will help if I tell you about my own experience. I'm telling you these things because you are my friend and I agree that it will help you."
Yusuke was surprised by Hiei's seriousness. "I didn't think it was really that big a deal," he admitted, feeling more awkward because Hiei apparently felt obligated to share personal details of his life.
"It is because the way you define yourself carries over to the rest of your life, and if you don't know who you are, you let others define you." Hiei said softly. Yusuke fell silent.
"I am koorime and I am also a fire demon," Hiei began. "I am neither one nor the other, but I am also not both at once. I am koorime because I can make hiruseki, but I am not koorime because I am not a woman and I cannot use ice. I am a fire demon because I can call fire, but I am not a fire demon because I am not immune to the effects of flame and I am not harmed by water. So few koorime are impregnated by outsiders, I can safely say that I am unique in my generation."
Yusuke nodded in the darkness.
"The bandits who raised me defined who I was for much of my life: an oddity with a rare and valuable gift. Since I don't look koorime, I'm never treated as one, but I still have aspects of that heritage and culture. When I carry a sword, I'm treated as a swordsman, with respect for my physical abilities but without consideration for my ability to use ki. When I don't carry a sword, others assume I am proficient with ki but deficient physically. Do you see where I am going with this?"
Yusuke thought for a while. "Not really," he admitted.
"I know who I am, and I know what my abilities are both with a sword and with my ki. My knowledge of my capabilities and limitations is superior to the observations of a stranger who only sees whether I carry a weapon or not. It is the same with my cultural identity. I have never met a person who looked at me and saw me as a koorime, but I know I am half koorime. My knowledge of my heritage is my identity, and I need both sides of myself to have a full picture of who I am. Do you understand now?"
"You mean what Kurama was talking about?" Yusuke asked absently.
"As I was not present for your conversation with the fox, I can't answer that," Hiei retorted.
Yusuke chuckled. "Sorry," he said. "Kurama was just saying how there would be pressure to pick a side and how I shouldn't. Is that what you mean?"
"It is," Hiei said. The park path turned around a corner and the pair was treated to a view of the moon rising over the lake, illuminating the rushes and muting the tiny lights of the fireflies.
"You need to be aware of both sides," Hiei continued. "It is difficult- and also not beneficial- to try to be equal. You have a much stronger affinity toward your human side as a consequence of having more exposure to this culture. While you should learn about the history and culture of your demon side, it is unrealistic to expect that you will embrace all aspects of that culture, especially where it conflicts with human culture. On the other hand, there are parts of your demon side that you may enjoy and even prefer, and that's good too. The problem is, as Kurama noted, that demons often don't recognize being part human as having value. Humanity is seen as a liability in the demon world across most cultures. I think Kurama was overreacting a bit though. The demon world is much more diverse than the human world, and you will find more acceptance there than here."
Yusuke scoffed. "Not with Hokushin though," he complained. "He wants me to practically exorcise the human world from my existence and become the next mazoku lord, creating a glorious empire and blah blah blah."
Hiei raised an eyebrow. "You expected differently? When I said you would find more acceptance, I meant in general. Neither the koorime nor the fire demons count me as one of their own because there is too much of the other. However, other demon cultures don't really care what I am since I am definitely not one of them; therefore I am like all demons not of their race."
"Yeah I guess," Yusuke conceded, "but I don't really have to deal with demons of other races, just mazoku who are angry I'm not demon enough for them."
"That's a problem you have to deal with though," Hiei countered, "and one way to deal with it is to have a solid self identity that their anger won't change."
"That's going to be hard though," Yusuke complained.
"Being biracial is never easy," Hiei retorted, "but it's what you are, so you have to deal with it, even if you deal with it by pretending you aren't biracial."
Yusuke was silent. He had a lot to consider before he went back to the demon world.