Wordlessly, Shiori contemplated her son as they were eating, staring into that young face, which held such ancient, secretive eyes. He ate slowly, thoughtfully, as if his mind was somewhere else in a completely different world. As he snapped back for a moment, he became aware of her staring and smiled at her, innocently, eating a tad bit faster and pretending nothing had happened. But Shiori was not so sure about that anymore.
What is you secret, Shuuichi, she wondered. She had refused to see it over so many years, but the facts were, that her son was not like a son at all. He had never been, and that might have been the reason why she had not noticed. When he was little he had seemed distant to her. He had never cried or laughed, unlike other children and was often mistaken for a girl when he was a child, despite the hair which had been very short by then. He never played with other children or made any friends, he often sat at home or in the garden, as if he was waiting for something, unlike children his age, who ran about and played.
Back then, he had caused her a lot of sorrow. She had watched him for hours from the window, seeing a distant sadness in his demeanor, as if he was feeling in the wrong place, as if he was missing something important. And yet, when he was close to her, when she tried to grab and hug him and he’d turn away, she didn’t show how it hurt her. She had given her Shuuichi all the love she had, despite the fact, that he cast her aside.
Many people had told her, what a wonderful son she had – so smart, so well behaved, never in trouble and always obedient without complaints to his mother. While they were right, and Shuuichi was indeed a wonderful son, they had never seen the endless gap between him and his mother, never felt the sadness he spread when he was alone. They couldn’t see how he grew up refusing to make friends with anyone, however hard they tried.
Then, when Shuuichi had become older, he started changing. He wouldn’t open up for hugs or cuddling, still, he wouldn’t make any friends, but sometimes he would leave a flower for her on the table, along with a note where he was going. He seemed to understand why she was worried when he left the house without telling her where he was going. He seemed to understand that she actually cared for his well-being, that she wanted to be there for him.
“Shuuichi,” she adressed him sometimes, when he was watching the sky from his window, once again not appearing for dinner. She would set a filled plate next to him and run a hand through his hair, which he obediently let her do, without reacting to it. “I wished I knew what made you so sad. I wished I could help you.”
“Thank you, kasaan,” he would acknowledge and then take the plate, as if it was a gwesture to show her, that he appreciated her care.
But his transformation continued. Slolwy it crawled over the house and over his whole personality. Shuuichi would smile at her every now and then, invite her for the school play and watch it with her. He would accompany her on parties and chat with the guests. Today’s Shuuichi was different, today’s Shuuichi was a young, caring gentleman. But still, he was no son, he had never been. And yet, he was what she most cared about, what she loved like a son. He let his hair grow, not caring about looking like a girl, and Shiori had to realize, what beautiful hair her son had, how handsome he was in general, as if he had been meant to be a beautiful girl. And others noted, too. Shuuichi would take the compliments with gentleness, but not more. He refused any girl which brought him gifts, refused closer friendship with anyone.
And when Shiori had fallen sick, she first realized, that Shuuichi was her son after all. First he cared for her, helped her, cooked for her, did all he could, before he had to take her to hospital. There, he would wake at her side.
“Kasaan… kasaan…” were his slightly upset words, when he held her hand. Shiori knew, he cared. She didn’t want to die, but it wasn’t on her.
“Shuuichi… I wish I knew… your secret,” she had said.
And when she awoke again, she felt better, as if some ungropeable magic had healed her over night. As if his love for her, which he finally seemed to show, had healed all her wounds at once and brought her back to life.
Yes, Shuuichi had changed a lot, but never completely. He was just as secretive in his quiet moments as he had been in the years before. He had made friends with a strange boy called Hiei, but even that didn’t change his sad thoughtfulness. Her beautiful son was still restrained, sometimes hidden under a mask, as if he was trying to keep her from worrying. It was a gentle smile saying alright, a careless gesture, wanting to make her believe, he was just the kid he was supposed to be.
A smile, just like in that moment when he innocently smiled at her during that quiet meal. But it seemed, he wasn’t that innocent at all.
And those eyes… he was no older than a teenager, yet his eyes held a wisdom of endless years, his gestures were well behaved, well thought through, as if experience had told him a lot already. And it seemed he had sorrows far beyond of what Shiori could see.
Lately, he seemed even more troubled than he had ever been before. It stung her heart to see him like this, but she knew he wouldn’t let her go through to him. He trusted her a lot by now, but these thoughts were too profound to let her know… And there was more behind that, then she would probably ever see.
“Shuuichi,” she adressed him softly, “will you let me help you some day?”
His eyes grew a little wider. “Kasaan…!”
“I love you, my son. You seem so troubled. I know you like to do things on your own, you are smarter than me and live in a different world, but I still am your caring mother, and I am worried.”
“Boku…” he started and glanced into her eyes, loosing his words.
“No,” she said, “I just let you know, I don’t ask for anything.”
Shuuichi nodded. “I haven’t been very thankful to you. But I care for you just as much.”
“I know that, Shuuichi.”
Shuuichi got up and fiddled with the sleeve of his purple uniform. “Please stay home tonight,” he said in a distant voice, as if not really aware of what he was saying. Then, he went off to school, like any other boy, but without the tiniest bit of haste, as if every one of his movements was well calculated.
What is your secret…
He had told her to stay home, and she did, hoping he didn’t forget, whatever he meant with all this. Because for what she knew, Shuuichi was choosing his words carefully, as if he was writing a book when he was speaking. That included short sentences as well as monologues. Not that his speech couldn’t be affected by happenings, that he couldn’t react or yell out in shock or talk in excitment – that also was all his, but he always seemed to know what he was doing and how much he gave away of himself.
So this evening, Shiori waited in the living room. She was reading, waiting. She never knew when he would return home. How often that had stung her motherly heart – sitting and waiting until finally, for heaven’s sake, she could hear the door being shoveled open, the keys dropping onto the counter and his silent steps up to his room in the darkness. She never made herself known, but went to sleep as soon as he was in his room, glad that he had returned home after all.
Only once – one horrible moment – she had met him on the corridor in such a night. His pants torn, in blood-soaked cloth, panting and in pain. She undressed him for the first time after several years, for the first time she saw his muscular body which didn’t show under his usual garments. But it wasn’t in a moment where she could mind – she was his caring mother in the first place, so she wrapped and bandaged her son without asking, didn’t ask who had inflicted those terrible wounds on him until morning.
But Shuuichi refused to tell her, despite her tears, excusing several time that he couldn’t tell her what had hurt and almost killed him – what cost him days to recover. Ever since that day, the evenings when he didn’t return home at all, were pure toture. She never told him how she was weeping alone, fearing finally something had happened to him, and how the same tears flooded her face with joy, when he did return after four days or a week. What he was doing to her, he probably had no idea.
This night, however, she believed, he wouldn’t betray her. He would come home, he had told her to stay and wait. And besides all the worries he caused her, she forced herself to believe in him, knowing he was smart and knew what he was doing, however hard it was to believe.
And then, finally, after hours of hoping, believing and waiting, the key turned in the lock and familiar footsteps could be heard on the floor. The lost son, the son she had never really possessed, once again had returned.
“Kurama, bakana!” she could hear another voice. Shuuichi had brought Hiei over.
The door to the living room slid open and her son, still in his school uniform, as well as the small black-clothed boy with the deep voice, his one and only friend, entered. Shiori was glad, that Shuuichi had Hiei, although the boy seemed violent and strange to her. It didn’t matter, Shuuichi had a friend after all.
“Kurama, if you tell her, I’ll kill her!” Hiei threatened.
“Don’t get yourself involved in affairs you cannot comprehend, Hiei,” was Shuuichi’s quiet reply which had a dangerous undertone in itself. He walked over to her, stood in front of her in the half-darkened room. Hiei watched from the door, his expression even more dangerous than usual. Hiei, as well as Shuuichi, were stronger than she was, but she felt safe in her son’s presence. She could feel an explanation about many things would follow in only a moment, but she feared the truth might be gruesome to her. That was the only thing making her afraid, as he stood before her. Exposed in his uniform, no bag, nothing in his hands, to her full display as if he was saying ‘look at me’. And she did. From his red bangs down his long hair to the veiled body, the spread finger and long legs.
What is your secret…?
“Kasaan…” he said, almost sadly, as it seemed. “I’m sorry for causing you so much trouble, so many restless nights. I could have spared you all that, but that would also have meant leaving you. I know how often I break your heart and how many questions you must have about me, how different I am from other sons. I owe you an explanation, I want you to understand.”
Shiori trustfully watched him. Suddenly, something around hims seemed to spiral. It was like a red wave, as if something evil and strong was grasping her son, or he was grasping it. Then, his long hair started to stretch. What had been thick and red before turned into long silver strands – the large green eyes melted into tiny brown ones. He grew, almost unnoticeably, even taller than she was. And where there had been a uniform before, there was a naked chest, only covered by a thin shawl, and his pants had turned white.
On top of his head, triangular silver ears had spread under the hair and a bushy silver tail swung a gentle beat behind him.
“Kasaan…” said a deep voice, as the foxlike person was fully developed. It was all he said, letting her know he still was her son.
And a beautiful one. Whatever he was, he was of a menacing, powerful appearance, beautiful in his own special way, wise, old and young at the same time. He was impressive and he was her son, her powerful, secretive boy. who had powers beyond imagination. Powers that floated the room.
“I warned you, Kurama,” Hiei said darkly. He had come a step closer. Shuuichi, in his new form, looked at him with a proud, yet majestic expression. Something sparkled in Hiei’s red eyes.
“…ensatsken … kuko---” he started yelling and a black wave, cracking with electrification sparkled around him and his bandaged arm. Shiori could only watch in awe, as her son threw something at his friend that developed into green ropes and pinned him against the wall.
“YOUKO! Take you plants away or I’ll kill both of you, if Koenma…”
“Hiei,” came her son’s dark reply, “it’s no matter to settle for anyone but me and Shiori.”
He turned his eyes away from the struggling friend and looked back at Shiori. A cold wave of evil, powerful and mean, stung her as their gazes met.
“Don’t be upset,” he said, “In this shape I am called YoukoKurama… Me and Hiei are demons and possess the power of evil youki…”
Hiei stopped struggling. YoukoKurama, her beautiful son, sat down on the carpet, away from her and started telling her his story, the story of an ancient creature. How he had died and was reborn inside her stomach, how he had learned from her, what it meant to give yourself for someone else, and how thankful he was for that lesson. It was, as if he was someone else, yet he was Shuuichi, or whatever he may be called. Yet, he still was himself. And while they were talking, some of the evil power flew away. By the end of their talk, the familiar red-head, the human form of her son, was sitting before her again.
“Shuuichi…” she gasped.
Shuuichi took Hiei off the wall.
“Returning to what I was before would force me to go back into the world of the demons and leave you behind. Yet, I will have to leave you some day, kasaan. I can’t allow this body to age with Shuuichi. Also, this human body restricts my power, when I am fighting.”
Tears were filling Shiori’s eyes, although she understood, that the had to return where he came from. “I understand if you want to go. I must seem like a mere second in your life.”
“Hn,” Hiei snorted and settled on the window sill.
Shuuichi came over and hugged her. She knew it was a seldom gesture, and she savoured and tasted it.
“No. I won’t go yet… After all you taught me, I will never forget you. Neither will Hiei… because there is another thing I have not told you.” Calmly he settled down next to her on the sofa and purposely ignored Hiei’s angry glare.
“Hiei is a demon as well. Much younger than I am, less experienced but just as strong. He doesn’t have a human body like I do. But through your love, mother, I learned what it means to care for someone, to not be selfish. And when I fell in love with Hiei,” he continued, his pale cheeks flushing a little, “I learned to be just the same way… to care for someone who seemed so cold to me, but who actually liked and loved me.”
Shiori threw a glance at her son’s supposed lover. Hiei had turned his face away from them and starred out of the window. “Hn. Urusai, baka kitsune,” he growled.
Shuuichi just smirked. Shiroi acknowledged her sons choice, because she could read the happiness that this brought to him. And actually, facing someone who is over 900 years old, she didn’t feel like she had the right to question anything he did anymore. She was no longer his mother, but a mere human being which cared for him.
“Shuui—Kurama,” she began, but he put his hand on hers and cut her right off.
“Shuuichi. I still am your son, and I still care for you like a son.”
“Shuuichi… the fox-form you took… you were amazing. So powerful, so majestic… is that really you?”
“Yes, that is me. I am glad you like me that way. I feel more confident in this other body, so I am colder, more evil, because more of the evil power sparkles around me.”
“Why are you evil…?” she said almost desperately. If he was a demon, couldn’t he be a good one? …
“I have been evil for a long time, but I can use this power for what I want. Right now, I am working with humans and with Hiei,” (Hiei snorted annoyedly) “and for good purposes. I cannot tell you much more about it.”
“Shuuichi… you are a wonderful demon. You filled me with awe…” she whispered. Her son smirked.
“You liked me like that?” he asked.
“Yes. Can I see you again?”
Kurama/Shuuichi nodded and pulled a rose out from under his hair, which he gave to Shiori. “Turned into a whip, this is my weapon,” he said and let her contemplate it. “but I also control many other plants.”
Once again Hiei snorted annoyedly. Shuuichi blushed as he heard that. “I mostly use them for fighting!” he said quickly. Shiori smirked a little, not trying to imagine anything.
“And this,” Kurama said, holding up a bottle, “is the Fruit of Past Life. So far the only mean I found to turn back into the youko if I want to.” He drank some of it, but nothing happened. “It takes a while.”
Shuuichi went over to Hiei abandoning his mother for a second, who was still watching him. His hand went on Hiei’s back and he spoke to him silently. There were some words she could pick up, some she didn’t. He told his demon-lover to accept that he had told her about the truth and that he couldn’t understand how much it meant to him to be honest with his mother. He also said, that he knew Hiei understood Shuuichi’s love for Shiori and that he therefore trusted Hiei to remain silent about all this.
Then, after a while, the Fruit of Past Life took effect. Shuuichi changed in the same way he had before. He came over to her and sat on the sofa with her. Shiori was frightened and in awe. He was so much taller than her, strong and fierceful, and although she knew it was him, he didn’t look like it at all. Kurama smirked down on her.
“Afraid of me, mother?” he growled.
“N-no… y-yes, truthfully, I am.”
“I’m just a tame fox.”
Hiei, on his part of the window, chuckled. “Kudaran, kitsune no baka.”
Kurama rubbed his silver head on Shiori’s arm, his grey ears twitching a little. Hesitantly she reached out a hand and patted him on his head. He ears stopped twitching and he closed his eyes. The tail was on her lap and she gently caressed it with the other hand.
“Mmhh…” his deep voice purred, “please keep doing that.”
Hiei repeated: “Kitsune no baka,” but the silver fox ignored him. Shiori was unsure whether she had a fox before her, or a strange young man – when actually it was an ancient creature of a world she wouldn’t comprehend.
“Kurama,” Hiei called, “finish it sometimes.”
“What, youkai? Are you…”
Shiori didn’t comprehend that suggestive talking and kept on caressing the purring fox. Suddenly his form melted again, and within seconds she had a real fox on her lap – silver, with his triangular ears and bushy tail... no… several tails… And it still was her son.
“That’s the kitsune in him,” Hiei said darkly. “that is the form in which a hunter shot him. He can take it at will.”
Shiori nodded and massaged the purring animal. They sat like that in silence, until the medicine wore off and Kurama reluctantly had to take the form of Shuuichi again. He got up and thanked her silently. Hiei hopped down from the window sill and followed Shuuichi outside.
“Thank you, my fire demon,” he could hear her son’s voice before the door snapped close.
Shiori picked up the rose and contemplated it.
“So that is your secret, my beautiful son,” she told the rose. “Now I know I have a reason to worry about you never coming home… please tell me before you leave.”
She sniffed the rose. As she did so, she saw a small letter hidden in the petals. Hastily she opened it.
“When you lay sick, I went into the demon world and stole a tool to save you. Luck and friendship kept me from giving my own life for yours. I love you, mother, and I won’t leave too soon. I’ll not abandon you and this beautiful world of the humans.”