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In Order To Live

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I’m going to eat all of Sukuna, I don’t care what happens after that. I’ve already decided how I’m going to die. - Itadori Yuuji

Megumi meets the fully human version of Yuuji Itadori for a couple of hours at best, before witnessing the 15-year-old throw away his life and future. Yuuji will say it wasn't for Megumi, and the shaman wishes he could believe him. It isn't something he can get over though, not when he's always aware that as they train and grow together at the College, Yuuji's continuous life hinges on paper-thin justifications and Satoru Gojo's temper. Not that he doesn't trust Gojo, but it's beside the point. Even as he matures as a shaman, increasingly awed by the expanse their world covers and wielding more and more of his own power, Yuuji is fated for death. 

The right death, if what he wishes for, is to be believed. 

It's something they've touched on before, the first time Yuuji died. (How is it possible to even have a first time? People do not die more than once, except now Yuuji does.) It's dangerous, the rising assumption that Yuuji Itadori cannot be killed. Megumi knows it's made the higher-ups nervous. 

The worst part is they are right. 

"Fushiguro, I don't trust you, but you're one of the few people who can summon the trump card," he has a lot of questions for the sudden earpiece, especially considering that last he heard of Mechamaru, he had become a traitor to the Shamans. Still, Megumi can tell there's little time for that at the moment. No use questioning the dead.

"Sensei?" Hiyori inquiries, her bow in hand and her long blue braid swishing behind her. She's looking around, trying to determine exactly where the voice came from. 

"It's a-an earpiece, Hiyori," Muun chimes in from behind them while writing down the length of his bleeding arm in thin green-ink. Despite the teen's nervous countenance, his hands are steady. At any other time, Megumi would've allowed himself a moment to be proud, but he'll have to save it for later. The archer hums, lips quivering amusedly, and Megumi knows what's coming in return to the offered information.

"I see!" She bumps one fist against her hand in a 'got it!' gesture, well-served in her pun. Her happiness is short-lived as Mechamaru explains the occurrences taking place further inside Shibuya. 

"Goujo-sensei?" Hiyori and Muun exclaim in astonishment. Megumi understands what it means when it's reported that Goujo has been sealed, and the first-grade exorcist grimaces. He looks down at his charges, thinking that they'd have to go through this at some point. As second years, honestly, they're already older than Megumi himself was. 

Fushiguro-senpai, who's the other guy in your class photo?

It's most definitely Gojo's unending luck that makes it so it's Megumi to explain one of the dirtiest secrets of the Magical College to impressionable 16-years-olds. He thinks of Nobara's own charges for the night, and in the end, takes no comfort in her equally tricky position. If anything, he pities the children that'll suffer through her explanation. They need to regroup his team. Shorthanded or not, it's clear that bringing in the students was a mistake, up for evaluation or not. 

"We're stepping out of the barrier for a moment. Keep an eye out for any other teams and call Kugisaki and Nanami as soon as we're out. Inform them that Gojo has been sealed, and I'll be implementing the last resort." 

"Last resort?" Hiyori questions excitedly. "That sounds so mysterious, senpai!" Megumi doesn't answer and immediately starts heading for the screen's exit, eyes glued to his phone in the wait of signal and senses spread wide open in case of an attack. All the while thinking how much he wishes this was anyone else's responsibility but his own and hating himself for it. From the briefing previous to his arrival at Shibuya, he'd known that the higher-ups had contemplated this. After all, the entirety of today's crusade seemed to be taking down Satoru Gojo. If anything were to happen to Gojo… there's only one thing we can do. 

"Se-senpai?" Muun queries from behind. Megumi grunts to confirm he's listening but doesn't break stride; they're close. "I-I thought that Gojo-sensei was th-the Shaman's trump c-card? If they've b-beaten him…?"

"Yeah, yeh! Gojo-sensei is always saying that he's the strongest shaman." 

"He is," Megumi agrees. He himself made high-grade more than a year ago, and Megumi does think both he and Okkotsu wouldn't do terribly against their former teacher, but in battle prowess alone, Goujo is in a league of his own. "But the trump card," gods, it feels dirty to even say it, "isn't a Shaman." Not anymore, at least. 

"Huh?" Hiyori questions, but the explanation is going to have to wait; Megumi's signal came back. Not that anything he says can compare to the real deal, his charges will be confronted with the secret in a matter of minutes. "Make your calls." As he says it, Megumi's own fingers type the principal's number by memory. Their conversation goes as well as can be expected, which is none at all. Megumi isn't the only shaman with reservations about the so-called trump card, but he also knows that they need to get Goujo out of whatever bind he's in, or the shaman world might collapse. 

 He wonders how many people they'll have to bury this time. 

As he hangs up, he turns to his underclassmen. Hiyori has put her bow away and is massaging her ear while Muun tries to placate her. Both are done, apparently. 

“Nanami-san d-did not answer, senpai,” Muun reports. 

"Kugisaki-senpai did," Hiyori's unfocused eyes find him, displaying all of her annoyance. "She almost blew my ear off, said she was homing in on our position asap." Megumi winces. He should've called Kugisaki himself; her coming could turn into an explosive combination. Who is he kidding? This night is out of their control anyway.

"Listen here," as he calls to attention, Megumi reaches deep within his storage and finds a single black scroll, it's almost as long as his forearm and as thick and thin as a thermos. The malevolent energy emanating out of it causes both students to take a step back. 

"Senpai…?" Hiyori inquires, hesitant. Briefly, Megumi wonders what the scroll looks like to her own brand of seeing. Gojo once confided in him that he had some issues looking at it for too long (though that could be guilt). 

"This is a Special Grade Cursed Object, a Summoning Scroll named Nihonshoki. It has a twin-scroll, called Yamatobumi. They are used as the last resort in case of something happening to Satoru Gojo." 

"What does it summon, sempai?" Hiyori asks curiously, now seemingly more comfortable as she scans the scroll. 

"A Curse Vessel, the body of Yuuji Itadori."

"A p-person?" Megumi nods, unfolding the scroll across the pavement. He makes sure to be inside the barrier as he does so. He rolls up his sleeve, kneeling to place his hand on top of the scriptures. 

"Back off." Megumi thinks about telling them just how much of a risk they're taking, but his heart knows it's better to not know. Orders for this have been given, and even if something goes wrong, there's no running from Sukuna Ryoumen. "And let me do all the talking," he makes sure his gaze shares his seriousness. It might be a little pointless, he's only worried about Hiyori mouthing off, and his glare is wasted on her. "no screwing around." 

"Yes, sempai," they chorus softly, stepping back as requested. Megumi breathes in, 

Live long for me, will ya? 

and pushes his cursed energy into the scroll. 

For a moment, it's like the moon lights off, all the shadows converging on one spot, a wind that threatens to shake them off their feet hits. Then, it's gone. In its place stands a man that Megumi hasn't seen face to face in years.

Yuuji's taller and thinner than he remembers. His hair, the same light brown, is long down his back, some ends curling across his face. The traditional garb he wears is a muted pink, a strange choice that clashes slightly with the long black scarf that wraps itself around his neck. His feet are bare.

Yuuki blinks once, twice, before looking down at Megumi, who keeps his hands close together just in case. There are no black markings in sight, but as always, since Yuuji consumed the first of Sukuna Ryoumen's fingers, the slits for his second pair of eyes lay closed right under his own. The former classmates take each other in, Megumi knows he hasn't changed much. Losing his baby fat and ridding himself of the Technical School's uniform recently. He and Kugisaki graduated without Yuuji. 

Live long for me, will ya? 

(He's still a little bitter about it, he knows.)

The reencounter is charged with tension, and Megumi catches his students gathering their strength from where they stand off to the side. He told them the scroll summoned Yuuji Itadori, but Megumi doesn't know if that's true anymore. This Yuuji that stands before him has been locked away in the bowels of the Magical School for years; the only person ever allowed to check on him is Gojo. Locked-up with the special-grade Cursed Spirit inhabiting his body, Megumi reminds himself. 

"I didn't think you could summon me, Fushigorou!" the man exclaims good-naturedly. He is looking around, gauging their location probably, as he grins. "Is this Shibuya? Looks kind of strange without all the people. Though if I'm here, things must be pretty bad, huh?" Still cautious, Megumi refurls the scroll and stands up, noticing that he's taller than Yuuji even now.

"You could say that, yes," Megumi agrees. He's disappointed to see Yuuji lose his cheer, but it's almost a breath of fresh air, how much he's still like the brash kid who just couldn't let Megumi die. "It's good to see you, Itadori." Yuuji grins at him.

"It's good to stretch my legs from time to time, though it's been a while since I was out," he suddenly looks at the scroll in Megumi's hand and squints, as if putting together puzzle pieces. "Wait, where's…?"

"If it's not the other brat!" He's seen it plenty of times before, but Megumi's out of practice because he startles when a mouth materializes itself in Yuuji's cheek. Inking black lines up his face and leaving a single eye glowing red. Unlike Megumi, who's taken aback by the appearance of Sukuna, Yuuji is unflappable. 

"We're in Shibuya," his former classmate comments, crossing his arms and making no effort to curve the Cursed Spirit. When they'd still been in school, and Sukuna popped out, Yuuji would be effective and somewhat embarrassed about subjugating the spirit back. It's not hard to guess that continuous unending isolation is a sure-fire way of eliminating such a habit. 

"Never heard of it," the demon comments off-handedly, his single red eye pinned on Megumi, while Yuuji's own drifts to the students.

"It's Edo," Yuuji further clarifies, still looking up and down Megumi's charges. He hates how it puts him on edge, but there's really no helping it, especially at the moment when Sukuna is scratching the surface. But… Edo, not Tokyo.

"I don't care, brat," Sukuna murmurs, but his own eyes drift through the buildings and emptied streets. 

"Excuse me, but we never get to go sight-seeing! This is… Oh my god, that girl is blind! What?" Yuuji's tangent on local tourism deviates once he realizes the reality of Hiyori's vacant gaze. He turns to Megumi, "how does that work?" 

Megumi opens his mouth to respond but doesn't get the chance. 

"There's something wrong with your face!" Hiyori snaps out of her stupor, looking at Yuuji. From where she stands, the side of Yuuji's face used by Sukuna shouldn't be visible. Not for the first time, Megumi wonders how Hiyori sees the world. Muun shoots her a curious glance, eyes roaming over Itadori, trying to spot what his classmate's seen. 

"Oi!" Yuuji exclaims in mock hurt, "that's rude, you know?!" As he turns to address the kids, Megumi notices the exact moment Muun spots the red eye and extra mouth adorning Yuuji's face. The second-year immediately takes a step back; the sigils in his arm stutter but do not unravel. 

"This is the trump card?" Hiyori mutters uncertainly, eyes still looking at Yuuji.

"That's what you call us?" Megumi notices the question is addressed to him, and he shrugs. It sounds better than Sealed Curse, after all. 

"Presumptuous," Sukuna sniffs, his eye shifting lazily in disinterest while Yuuji's brighten in excitement. 

"I was going to say objectifying, actually," the younger man informs but doesn't seem too upset at the prospect. It makes anger shoot inside Megumi, Yuuji's always been like this, dismissive of his own pain, and it pisses him off. 

"Hiyori, Muun, meet Yuuji Itadori, the host of Special Grade Curse, Sukuna Ryoumen, a demon often known as the King of Curses."

"K-king of C-curses, senpai?" Muun questions, trying to digest the information and match it to the man standing before him. To these young ones, growing up in an era with no Sukuna fingers causing chaos, they've probably only heard of Sukuna Ryoumen in passing. A strange concept to Megumi, who spent almost two years explicitly looking for them. 

"What did you call us for, brat?" A mouth curls in distaste as it calls him. Megumi will never forget the first time he met Sukuna Ryoumen, back when the shaman rules obligated him to put Yuuji Itadori down immediately after sacrificing his future to save Megumi's life. How different life would've been if he had. 

I didn't regret saving you, not for a moment. 

"We're in the middle of a catastrophe with an untold number of casualties. A faction of High Grade, nature-oriented Curses joined in with dark curse workers to apprehend Gojo. They've sealed him."

"Gojo?" Sukuna sounds intrigued, "shamans have really let themselves go through the centuries."

"Is Gojo-sensei okay?" Yuuji asks, eyes turning more severe than they've been since he arrived.

"He's been a pain to the abductors even now, he found a way to keep them from moving the sealing object or something along those lines, but we doubt it'll last indefinitely."

"I just love how you people keep us in the dark box and pull us out in a pinch expecting help." Sukuna's utter disdain for shamans comes true, but his interest is growing because the red eye disappears, and instead, Yuuji's second pair of eyelids open, just as crimson and most definitely aware. The lines remain only on one side of his face, but Megumi finds them to be a little darker than before. 

"We'll obviously rescue Gojo-sensei, though." Megumi is a little relieved that Yuuji doesn't deny the accusation, that his sacrificial nature has not blurred the reality of how unjust his life has turned. Megumi needs to tell him that none of them has forgotten about him before the summon runs out. 

"Speak for yourself, brat!" the demon intones affronted, "my only interest in this place would be obliterating it off the face of the planet for fun."

"We need to work on your definition of fun, man."

"Not this again!"

Megumi is at a loss for what to think, and so he doesn't say anything. He knew, intellectually, that Yuuji must've changed. Betrayed and sealed, abandoned by the very society he was ready to commit the ultimate sacrifice for. Consistently used and feared. But, somehow, he didn't expect to ever hear… banter? Between the former shaman and the King of Curses. 

"Shibuya is filled with people," he mentions, because the last time Yuuji had come out, their objective had undoubtedly been achieved, but the cost… well.

"Really now?" Sukuna relishes. 

"I'll see you soon enough, shaman," Sukuna's crimson disappeared from Yuuji's eyes just as the second pair of eyelids grow heavy and shut off. As Yuuji takes control of his body, the King of Curses throws out one last grim remark. "Take a good look, brat." 

Around them, there is the empty expanse of nothingness where there had once been a village.

Yuuji's knees buckled under him, and he wretches at the edges of the destruction. 

"...nothing but a murderer" is the only thing Megumi catches of his muttering, wide eyes frozen in shock. Megumi reaches out, for comfort but he has no words. Before Megumi can compose himself, the summoning runs out, and Yuuji disappears. 

On days like that, it's hard to remember why they stay. Gojo had said it though: if they ever hope to help Yuuji, they need the power to do it. Not only the ability to exorcise Curses, but to purify their own twisted society. Some days are harder than others, and Megumi tries his best, and from his brief discussions with Yuuji before he was sealed, he knows this is also what his friend wants, but it's all so fucking unfair. 

Long live for me, will ya?

"... He's the only one who can possibly grant it, after all," Yuuji's voice breaks into his mind, his tone is neutral but firm, born out of the same conviction that has carried him through a world he was never meant to know. Megumi realizes his students have come closer to the older pair and asked Yuuji a question. It's foolish of Megumi to lose his concentration at a time like this.

"Grant you what?" Hiyori presses, "why would a Cursed Spirit help Gojo-sensei?"

"I am not helping out that shaman!"

" Huh? But you just said you would!" Megumi watches the exchange with trepidation, but Yuuji seems to control his inner demon well-enough, which is a valuable experience for the students. (Maybe he also wishes Yuuji had more chances to talk to people. Plus, getting the younger generations on their side is imperative to free him from the seal.)

"There's a-another m-mouth on h-his che-ek, Hiyori, it s-seems to b-be in disa-disagreement." Gojo really has to work on Muun's stuttering. 

"I certainly am."

"Well," Yuuji overrides, "he certainly says that, but I'm pretty sure you want to take down Goujo-sensei yourself." Sukuna doesn't deign the accusation with an answer. "As for me…" Yuuji's warm eyes get lost over the children's heads, faraway. "Gojo-sensei is the only person who might be able to kill me."

"Itadori!" Megumi bites out, unhappy at the reminder of just how different he and Yuuji's goals tend to be. It's a strange scene, with Yuuji's second pair of eyes - Sukuna's eyes - rolling themselves at the earnest statement. 

"That's what you're after?" Hiyori demands, confused. Honestly, as lovely as this chat is, Megumi knows they need to start moving. 

"D-death?" Muun echoes out. 

"The right death," Yuuji clarifies. He picks up on Megumi's disapproval and offers a rueful smile while straightens out of the crouch he'd entered to speak directly to the kids. Hiyori met him fearlessly, but Muun, able to see the ever-changing body of Sukuna's vessel, shows himself more apprehensive. "So, where's Gojo-sensei?"

"At the Shinjuku subway station, Itadori," Mechamaru's earpiece speaks.

"Mechamaru?" Yuuji questions, both eyebrows raising in surprise.

"Don't worry about that now," Megumi interrupts; Yuuji's presence is limited-time only. He notices that the black lines have faded, and the second lids have closed. 

"Why would…?" They need the Cursed Spirit.

"Don't worry about it," Yuuji waves him off, "I've got it. If things get outta control, he'll just drop a catastrophe on anything near." He twitches, recalling something unpleasant. "But I don't think it'll come to that. I've integrated most of Sukuna's powers, after all." 

"Already?!" Megumi bursts in surprise, only to receive a disconcerted stare from Yuuji. 

"It's been a couple of years... hasn't it?" he answers, but his tone pitches upward in question, doubting his accuracy. 

"It has…" Megumi replies, feeling silly. 

"Let's get to it then." 

The plan was simple, the way Satoru Gojo explained it to the higher-ups: Sukuna's vessel, able to reign in the King of Curses, would consume the fingers, taking the indestructible power. Once Yuuji Itadori had them all, he would be executed. Yuuji Itadori, therefore, studies and lives on borrowed time. The thing is, when he is executed, Yuuji wakes up. He wakes up again and again. 

You didn't think I'd actually let you die, right?