Everything is quiet, eerily so. Cursed energy, enormous amounts of it, completely isolate the room from the rest of the world. But the heavier silence is the one inside his own head.
"Hey…" Yuuji whispers out loud.
He trails off. His voice echoes starkly against the seals-covered walls; it's unnerving.
"Do you hear me?"
Still no response.
Even though, he can feel the curse's presence somewhere on the back of his mind, achingly familiar. Since he consumed the last finger, it has been like this – with Sukuna nothing more than a shadow. At first, it had worried Yuuji, thinking his unwanted body-mate was plotting something now that he has regained all of his power, but nothing has come.
For a split second, he did have taken over their shared body, his black tattoo lines slowly appearing over fair skin. He looked at the sorceress gathered all around them, weapons and cursed energy ready to strike – through his four-eyes Yuuji witnessed the scene, his friends' pained expression, fear and hatred on the other faces, and the icy determination to end it all, now, to end the reign of the two-faced specter once and for good. From his position on the backseat, the boy hoped for no more violence, no more blood on his hands, be them controlled by him or Sukuna, and deep down he knew it was a vain hope-
Or at least, he thought he knew.
Ryomen Sukuna has done nothing, said nothing, and the dark lines faded.
Yuuji found himself back at the commands before he could even wrap his head around it. Slowly, he raised his hands in the air. He had no intention to fight back.
"What, don't fancy killing your friends? Such a shame."
"Said the one who ran away."
The curse sneered but didn't answer.
He hasn't said anything either when they put the jujutsu-world version of handcuffs around their wrists – nothing when they dragged them to the headquarters, nothing when the date of their execution was given, nothing when they threw them in this tiny room and locked the door behind them.
Nothing – and the silence is slowly driving Yuuji crazy.
He feels a sudden surge of anger burning in his chest. This fucker, what makes him think he has the right to disappear now?!
The shout rasps up his dry throat, making him cough.
"Don't you dare hide away!" he adds in his head.
A tired sigh.
"I'm here, brat."
"What do you want?"
"Just wondering if you had somehow jumped ship."
He doesn't know what else to say. Usually, he has the opposite kind of issue, because it's nearly impossible to make Sukuna shut up when he has his mind set on annoying his vessel into hopefully submission. (Or maybe he just had nothing more interesting to do. Honestly, being stuck in a fifteen-year-old body you don't have any control on – except to manifest mouths on unexpecting body parts – does sound pretty boring, to say the least.) In return, Yuuji has become very skilled at tuning out his rantings.
He's not used to it being the only way around. (He would be lying if he says it doesn't empathize the tiniest bit with the curse now that he's receiving the same silence treatment.)
The thought has barely crossed his mind that he feels the familiar pull. He doesn't resist and when he blinks again, he finds himself in Sukuna's domain, at the feet of the mountain of skulls. The red waters pool around his legs and arms. Of course, he can't ever appear standing up in there, that would be too much of an honor.
Out of habit, Yuuji glanced up the throne. He's surprised to find it empty. Instead, the curse is sitting a few steps away, at the foot of the heap of bones. He is gazing down, half of his face obscured.
The boy straightens up, wiping his wet palms against his shirt.
"Hey, come on. Look at me, asshole."
Sukuna finally faces him, one eyebrow raised in disbelief.
"What makes you think you can give me orders?"
"What are you going to do anyway? Kill me?"
The curse rests his head against his closed fist, shadows emphasizing his sharp features.
"I could kill you," he continues, "here in my domain, again and again, until they come and do it for good. I bet by that point you would be glad they do, even though that would almost make it too easy for you. But also, I would enjoy it. Make the best of what little time we have left, you know?"
Sukuna grins, his sharp canines glistening in the feeble light.
"I could rip out your heart and feel it beating helplessly in my hand, like that time, I could crush it and feel your warm blood dripping down my arm. I bet you taste sweet, hum? I could gouge your eyes out, shatter your legs so you could only try to crawl away from me, I could slit your throat and watch you choke on your own blood. Open you up and crack your ribs one by one until you break down and cry and beg me for mercy. Maybe then I will kill you, but only to drag you back here all over again. How does that sound?"
He can feel Sukuna's cursed energy seething all around him, slicing and scalding. With his full power back, it's overwhelming, like a weight on his chest preventing him from taking a full breath. Instead of answering, Yuuji leans back on his hands, gazing at the giant structure of bone above them. A tired smile tugs at his lips.
"Eh, calm down, Satan."
The curse laughs, low in his throat, and it makes the boy shiver despite his best efforts.
"I could carve in forever that stupid smile of yours."
"Go on then. Why are you still sitting here?"
"Don't tempt me."
They have engaged in a staring match. Sukuna still has his maniac grin, distorting the black lines on his face, but his eyes are completely void – none of that burning flame, no sadistic glint or haughty look.
"This is all your fault anyway," the curse says flatly.
"Eh? How so?"
"You could have let me kill them. I would have won."
"I think you're full of yourself."
"And I think you underestimate me, brat."
"You couldn't even take over my body, King of curses, and I was only a high schooler that saw a curse for the very first time that day."
The crimson eyes narrow dangerously.
"Also," Yuuji continues, "to me, it sounds like it's your fault. I mean, you did kill me, you made me hurt and slaughter so many people, and in the end, it's because you're here that I'm going to be executed. You know, I'm barely sixteen. It's not fair."
"I don't give a shit about fairness."
Somehow, at some point, his anger has vanished. He can't really bring himself to resent the curse anymore. Something about sharing the same fate in the end, maybe? Or perhaps it's just, it's over – and he's so tired. Hatred is for those who still have a future ahead of them.
"So, we are going to die," he says out loud.
Sukuna stays silent. There is a strange expression across the curse's face, but it's difficult to read with the supernumerary eyes and the solid black lines – not to mention how foreign and alien it seems, coming from him.
Yuuji gets on his feet before his mind has the time to consider what he's doing and he walks to Sukuna, stopping just in front of him. The curse barely spares him a glance.
(Self-preservation be damned, he has never had any to begin with.)
"You are scared," Yuuji states.
Anger flashes in the bloody red eyes for the briefest moment, then Sukuna exhales slowly and the energy around him settles down.
That takes Yuuji by surprise. He never expected the curse to admit it – actually, he had half a mind that his comment was going to get him a taste of all these horrible things he just got threatened with.
"You already died once," he says without knowing where he's going with this.
"How was it?"
"Do you remember it?" he presses on. "Or did you turn right away into a curse?"
"I did, so I don't know what it's like to be dead. But I do remember dying."
There is a loud crack that has him tense up. Yuuji looks around him, puzzled, spars a cautious glance towards the bones above before he realizes that Sukuna has crushed a skull in his hand. The curse is looking at the fragments like he isn't sure what happened. A thin trail of blood is running down his forearm, coming from where one shard pierced his skin.
Instead of replying, he throws the remains of the skull into the red waters, watches intently the ripples it caused. Yuuji doesn't know what to do, so eventually, he sits down next to him.
"I don't know anything about your human life," he muses.
"Well, there are the things Gojo-sensei told me."
He can tell just the mention of his name is enough to rile up Sukuna.
It's not a question, it's a demand. Yuuji doesn't see a reason not to oblige though:
"He just said that you were human once, but that there were people almost worshipping you already, for some reason. You were killed, you became a curse, and then all sorcerers joined forces to defeat you, and there were still the fingers they couldn't destroy. Then again, enter me."
"Entered you, indeed."
"If that makes you feel better, that was not the best day of my life either."
"Wait, brat, the worst is to come."
"At least this way, the world would be rid of you."
Sukuna is looking straight at him now, back to leaning on one elbow against the mountain of skulls.
"Is it really worth your life?" he asks.
There hasn't been a beat, not a single space for hesitation. His life means nothing when put in balance with all the lives Sukuna took through him. The image of the destruction in Shibuya, the blood and the corpses, has branded itself on his retina, coming to haunt him both in days and in nights.
"You're a strange human," the curse comments. "Normally, people are ready to do anything to survive – to beg, to lie, even to kill. Just to see another dawn."
"You're talking like you weren't once human."
"No, precisely, I'm talking like this because I know what it was like."
It's Yuuji's turn to get his interest peaked. A strange thought crosses his mind, so of course, he has to ask:
"Hey, did you know you were going to turn into a curse?"
"Did you wish for it?"
"… Also yes."
"Why does it matter?"
"I don't know. I'm just trying to understand."
"Don't," he sneers. "You'll go mad."
"Why are you evil?" Yuuji persists.
Sukuna laughs. And if it sounds a little broken, a little insane, then that's entirely his own business.
"I'm a curse, boy. I cannot not be evil."
"Then why did you wish to become one?" he insists, becoming a little frustrated – he does not understand, and he wants to.
(Let him have at least that before he loses his life to the cruel world of curses and sorcerers.)
"I was… angry," Sukuna slowly says. "I was left behind, mortally wounded, and I didn't want to die. Not yet, not before…"
He trails off. Yuuji waits a bit, but nothing comes.
"Before what?" he inquires.
"It's none of your business."
Sukuna stands abruptly, leaving his vessel sitting on his own, puzzled.
"I barely remember it anyway", the curse adds.
"No buts, brat."
"They are here."
Yuuji is about to ask for more explanation when he senses it too. He doesn't know how, couldn't explain it for the life of him, but even if he's currently in Sukuna's domain, all of a sudden he's acutely aware that there is someone near his physical body. He stands up, uneasy. The fear is back, plunging its claws deep into his heart.
(He doesn't want to die, doesn't want to die, doesn't w-)
"Well, I'm going to take my leave." He laughs awkwardly. "Sukuna, I hope I never saw you again."
"The feeling is mutual, boy."
"And don't do anything stupid. Like, you know, trying to take over my body, uh?"
The curse is about to retort but Yuuji is already gone.
So, this is it.
This room too is covered in seals, just like his limbs are. There is barely concealed fear on the faces of the higher-ups, all gathered in this one place to ensure their greatest enemy is finally destroyed. Yuuji grits his teeth. He wants to scream, to tell them he is not their enemy, that he has nothing to do with all of it, that they are going to kill a human-
He knows that they know, and that they don't care.
He understands. Really, he does. He has always been ready to put his life on the line to save others – and, right now, dying, that's the best gift he could offer to this humanity he so deeply wants to protect. Hell, he even accepted this fate right from the start. It's not like he just learned about it.
Then why does it feel so hard to accept?!
He will never see another sunrise.
He will never see the faces of his friends again, he will never hear their voices, fight alongside them and laugh and smile and cry… No more training with the second-years, no more whining while he's dutifully trailing behind a hyper Kugisaki on a shopping spree, no more trying – and failing – to teach Fushiguro how to cook something actually edible, no more late-night movies marathons, no more-
In a few minutes, it will be over. He just wishes they could hurry up because he's not sure for how much longer he can hold back his tears.
He searches for a familiar face in the crowd, but it's all people he barely knows – except for his sensei. He wishes he could meet his eyes, but Gojo is wearing his blindfold as usual.
A small part of him now understands what Sukuna meant when he said humans, on the brink of death, were capable of anything.
As on cue, he feels his presence stirring in the back of his mind.
"You're right on time, King of curses," he says dryly.
No verbal response, but he can feel cursed energy tickling at his fingertips. For a brief instant, he tenses up, thinking Sukuna is trying one last time to take over – but there is none of the usual feelings; no numbness, no fire blooming deep within his chest, no pressing headache. He relaxes.
That's when he realizes that the curse's presence is starting to be felt outside his body.
"Wait, wait, wait, Sukuna, what are doing?"
His slightly worried confusion morphs into full-blown panic as the cursed energy around him seems to only grow and grow, making the very air heavy and shivering. There are gasps and screams all around – gasps of fear and screams to kill it, kill it now.
He sees the blast of energy on the left a fraction of seconds too late, and anyway it's not like he could anything with his hands bound behind his back and the seals wrapped around-
The paper strips have fallen to the ground, frayed and still fuming.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Sukuna repels the attack like it's nothing. Yuuji frantically looks down at his wrists, but the skin is bare, with no trace of black tattooed lines. He realizes in the same heartbeat that he can't feel the curse anymore, not inside at least. It's like a black hole. On the outside though, his energy is overpowering, darkness and fire and blood, flaming four eyes in the midst of simmering shadows.
"Sukuna!" he cries out. "Stop!"
As if the curse would ever listen to him.
For just an instant, only a heartbeat really, he finds himself back in this domain he knows all too well – except the waters have turned into a deep black, sucking away all the light, and the titanic ribcage above is crumbling. The rumble is deafening. Never again this place has looked more like hell.
Sukuna's silhouette is barely visible amidst the chaos, his back to his vessel. His kimono is stained red.
"Hey!" Yuuji calls.
The curse glances over his shoulder. For the first time, he smiles – not a smirk, but a genuine, bloodied smile.
And the giant structure of bone comes crashing down.
Instinctively, Yuuji raises his arms to protect himself but before he knows it, he's thrown back to the real world, his breath knocked away. His ears still ring.
It does not come from the inside of his head, but it's not a physical sound either. Barely a whisper – already a memory.
"W-what…?" he stammers.
Sukuna is gone.