The other day, after Aki got sent to the nurse’s office, rumors began to spread through our fifth grade. Nurse Kashiwagi, who talked with her, reported to the teacher that according to her psychological assessment Aki Saotome is, without doubt, a psychopath.

“That’s why, when my Chi-chan died,” said one of my classmates, “she didn’t even cry.”

‘Chi-chan’ was her hamster. We had cried when it died, though I had faked the tears just like the others. Why? Because I hadn’t even known another person who had a pet until then. I cried only because everyone else was acting sad about it, except Aki, who stood expressionless. And that had turned the whole class against her.

“Psychopaths are demons,” they asserted, “it says so in the movies. Demons will hurt you, and not even feel bad about it.”

Someone started a daring contest then, demanding who would be brave enough to pat the demon’s head. Then every morning, as we came to class, some would go over to Aki and pat her head. Some hit.

“She won’t feel hurt,” they said. “Demons have no feelings.”

I hit, too.

And I was troubled by guilt. Until I reminded myself of what Aki was, and the relief flooded through me. There was no need for me to feel remorse, she was the bad one. I was the hero who punished the demon.

Aki stood up at her desk.

The sight of her tiny shoulders rising from her seat silenced us all.

“If I am a demon,” Aki asked, “then, what are you?”

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