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     “Megumi,” the voice calls out to him, rough and calm with an edge of something that he, at the young age of four can’t correctly identify. Megumi puts his short book down, the face of a princess curiously glancing up at him from the cover, as he turns around to greet the older man. His father. His dad. His papa.

     Then he remembers his early anger, and turns back around, raising the book to restart his greedy lecture. Ever since he learned how to, he has been giving him more and more children-appropriate books. That’s something he’s grateful for. The ability to always keep improving, to always have something else, gifted to him by the older man isn’t something he would forget easily, is what he promises himself whenever his fingers touch another badly wrapped book.

     “Megumi,” he lazily says, again, walking towards him. He has the habit, Megumi has recently come to notice, to draw out the names of people, tongue appreciating each and every letter, lips shaping them with the vagueness of someone who is very much uncaring of the rest of the world. “Megumi,” a hand places itself on top of his head, but he pays no attention to it, nor to the man now standing in front of the sofa, “don’t ignore your old man, would ya?”

     The kid huffs, marking the page with a small fold at the corner. “I told you I don’t like that name!” he complains, trying and inevitably failing at getting the hand out of his head.

     “Don’t be mean, I already told you what it means. You’re my little blessing, are you not?” he laughs under his breath, making a mess out of Megumi’s hair. He’s about to retaliate, when suddenly a small noise catches his attention.

     Standing off to the side, right in front of the genkan, a woman stands, hiding her smile with her hand. Megumi frowns even more, looking more and more ridiculous and, on some level, cute. As every kid would. He stares a bit more, offended that some woman charmed by his father would laugh at him, and then it occurs to him that he’s never actually came face to face with one of those said women, only ever heard of them from when one of his papa’s friends decided to mention how he was a… Something. His father always had the grace to never introduce him to any woman with dreams of becoming his new mother, which would never happen, naturally. Megumi was only barely getting the handle of the grief that’s been clouding his heart for years 

     He realizes then that the woman is with another kid—a girl, young just like him. He doesn’t comment on it, chooses to answer the man instead.

     “It’s a... An ugly name. I want something cooler. Like—Like—...” Megumi trails off, thinking, and his father snorts.

     “Right, whatever. When you think of a cool name, tell me, alright? I’ll see what I can do, kiddo,” the nickname makes him relax a bit, and then he allows himself to freely stare at the two girls, until his father speaks again. “Whatever, I came to ask you something.”

     The woman notices him staring, has noticed a long time ago, and with a little smile walks closer to them, holding the other child’s hand. Her steps are almost silent, something he finds suspicious, because no matter how hard he tries, the floor always makes noise when he walks, and his father always knows where he is, even though now, he makes no move to acknowledge her, his stony gace set on Megumi.

     “These two,” his head points in their direction, and the youngest girl waves at him excitedly. Even though his vocabulary is rough, his voice and eyes twinkle with fondness, “are Hinata and Tsumiki.”

     “Hello, Megumi-kun,” the older woman sets her knees on the floor, respectfully sitting down—unlike Megumi’s father—even though the ugly carpet must be hurting her legs. She extends a hand, waiting for a proper greeting, but he frowns instead, looking down. He can’t bear to hate people to their faces.

     “Don’t call me that,” he groans instead with as much annoyance as a three-year-old can have, and her laugh sounds like waves crashing against the ocean. She has a rough voice, very much like his father, but knows how to hide it.

     “Yeah, Toji-san mentioned something about you not liking your name,” she comments softly, and Toji smiles to himself. That small, secret, relaxed smile he only has when him and Megumi sit in front of their crappy TV to watch funny shows.

     Huh.

     Tsumiki sits down on the far corner of the sofa, away from Megumi, staring around them, at the place he calls home, and he feels a bit self-conscious. What is this? Who are these women?

     Why is she calling his dad “Toji-san” and not “Fushiguro”, like the rest? 

     “Megumi,” he calls him again, and Megumi obediently meets his gaze, “I wanted to ask you if you would like to move out with Hinata, and Tsumiki.”

     Megumi blinks, then looks at the book in his tiny hands. He’s young, and in his mind there’s no place for memories, there’s nothing important holding him in this place—only the shadows that call out to him at night and the clothes in his tiny room. There’s not much here—not much he can remember. His first steps and the hold of big arms when they thought of painting the walls, and the sharp feel of scissors against his head during summer when the heat is too strong to have bangs. On this same sofa, he had been watching TV with her once a very long time ago; and they had shared lunch on the table, and breakfast and dinner.

     Megumi blinks, and thinks that wherever his father goes, he will follow. Then his throat closes up with a terrifying thought.

     “Will you be there?”

     “Of course.”

     Yeah, of course his papa wouldn’t just leave him. It’s still light outside, many hours left until the moon comes out and he goes to work.

     “Sure, then.”

     That’s his first, and probably only, memory of his father—and Tsumiki, and Hinata—that Megumi has, and so bright and happy he’s sure they’re made up. After all, if his father tried to sell him off to be best buyer, how would he be the same one he remembers?

     In the distance of his head, a rough and dry and grieving voice murmurs “he has potential, Eiichi, the eyes of a sorcerer. Take him with you. That place is useless for someone like me, but for him—it’ll be a little better.”

     Megumi turns around, headphones covering his ears and blasting music, and falls asleep, pushing the memories to the back of his head.



     It’s not every night that he gets them—the memories of a life that he’s sure aren’t his. Too loud and colorful, these moments assaulting him at night speak of a life where everything was hugs and kisses, laughing in worn clothes and the grains of sugar dissolving in hazelnut tea, chocolate-y and so, so warm. These images show a smiling Megumi, a childish Megumi, a spoiled Megumi. He sees himself being a kid, and getting praised on the regular, and being outstanding.

     In reality, he doesn’t remember a time where he wasn’t just Gojō—sensei, now—’s shadow, boring and nothing new, just another kid with cursed energy lucky enough to have a developed technique and to be taken under The Gojō Satoru’s wing.

     It’s not always, but—sometimes, he dreams of a normally loud voice reduced to a simple whisper that narrates the story of Kaguyahime, and he dreams of calloused hands petting his head, and strong legs to hide behind. He dreams of big shoulders to look up to, and he dreams of fingers carding through his hair. “Don’t worry, little blessing,” a voice would say, “I won’t let the monsters get to you.”  

     But, no matter how real this idealistic life might seem during the late hours of the night or the early morning, in the end Tsumiki is still asleep when he goes to visit her in the hospital, her—she used to be his, too—mother is still missing, and his dad is still probably off somewhere doing stupid stuff without the weight of leaving a family behind in his conscience. Tsumiki is still asleep when he wakes up, and so he can never ask her if these visions show the truth, or if they just are the inventions of a lonely mind.

     During the most vulnerable nights —“you’re awfully smart for someone your age, if I’m not careful you’ll become smarter than me, Megumi”—, he hates himself for not asking Gojō-sensei more about his father, for forgetting his body, his face, his voice. He wants to know more, wants to belong. Maybe when he was younger this whole situation hadn’t seemed as important, eyes blinded by resentment and pettiness towards the only man who was supposed to be there, the man who had promised to always be there. 

     But, as always, he only ever ends up doing what he knows—asking for more and more training, knowing full well that his mind never retains the knowledge, the movements, the hand-signs. Megumi wonders if, perhaps, those memories that once held no weight in him now occupy every corner in his head.

     Hm.

     He wishes he could get rid of those. He wishes he could remember, invent, more.



     When he was around eight years old, he tried to find out who «Eiichi» was. The first time, that voice had assaulted him during one afternoon when he was dozing off on the floor, right by the window, and it had been accompanied by the image of a man holding a phone up to his ear, an image that he can’t be bothered to visualize now. Up until that point, he’d never met the Zen’in before, always denying Gojō’s invitations to do so, not believing those meetings to be necessary.

     Gojō had, then, explained who Zen’in Eiichi was. Some kind of secretary, apparently—the son of one of the most important members of the clan, with little cursed energy, or something. Megumi can’t remember clearly, if he can remember at all. His every moment up until teenagehood is just a blur of movement, constant mind-numbing noise, and different men walking in and out of his life. At first—the man who named him; then the man who gave him an identity, and the right to be.

     Megumi knows that they had a meeting, and his father had been mentioned briefly, this probably stopped by Gojō before he could note anything of importance. Probably. Megumi doesn’t really want to put any kind of blame on Gojō, because if anything, he should be grateful that he didn’t get to live a life with the Zen’in Clan.

     Still.

      “But for him—It’ll be a little better.”

     He can’t help but wonder what the man meant by that, if it happened at all. But, then again, whenever he thinks of the Zen’in the first person to come to mind is Maki-senpai, so young and so bitter, forced to become an adult and basically the guardian of her twin until she left the Clan. Not that he’d ever mention these thoughts to her, specifically: she hates being pitied and, most of all, she hates people feeling sad for her. She mentioned it to him, once, a long time ago, the fact that she had already come to terms with who she was, with her life, that she had accepted it all and was ready to overcome it. It never is good to dwell too much on past feelings.

     Maybe Megumi should take that advice. Maybe then he’d be able go get a good night’s sleep.

     Eiichi, at the time, had had a young face. He didn’t seem nervous, he didn’t seem like anything at all, standing right next to their table, not allowed to sit down. Megumi remembers calling out to him after that particular meeting, remembers him kneeling down and asking him what he needed.

      “Why did that man call you?”

     Eiichi’s surprised face, then a nostalgic smile.

      “Well, you see—”

     And then, nothing else he can remember.



     Gojō-sensei is staring down at him curiously, eyes glinting from behind his glasses, and Megumi knows better than to make eye contact. Even so, his gaze can’t help but wander around, focusing on the concrete they step on and the way the air seems to curl around them as the night throws a protective blanket over their figure, Limitless an invisible weight pressing on the side of his body from standing a bit too close to his teacher.

     The adult hums, suddenly, interrupting the unnerving silence. For such a loud man, the sound he makes seems less attention-catching than usual, but it remains too loud for the stillness of night. The teen glances up at him, feeling comfort in analyzing every thin strand of hair instead of finally making eye contact.

     “Say, Megumi,” his teacher begins, figure curling forward in a familiar way that has his mouth tingling with the need to tell him to correct his posture, as Tsumiki usually would do. His fingers twitch. He’d pay a visit to her once this is all over. “Why did you want to save Itadori Yuuji?” the answer comes thunder-fast to the front of his mind, and Megumi replies confidently.

     “It’s not everyday that a fitting vessel for the King of Curses appears. He can be useful,” Gojō-sensei gives him a glance that so clearly shows that he didn’t get the answer he was looking for. Megumi looks away, having made the mistake of looking straight into bright blue eyes, shining like lanterns in the middle of a forest. He sighs, after a while: “he seems like a good person.”

     Gojō-sensei giggles, throwing an arm around Megumi, although, when he looks, he realizes that it was nothing more than the pressure of the air around him changing just enough to give the impression of an arm holding him. “That’s so like you, Megumi,” and he wants to say, this is so like you, sensei, but he doesn’t, because it wouldn’t be polite to call out his teacher like that.

     Something changes around them when Megumi decides to shake his shoulders in an attempt to get rid of the pressure, which instantly dissipates. The sun is coming up and he can feel the tiredness pressing down on him, tilting his head down, closing his eyelids. Breathing in the cold air one more time, he turns around to go back inside the modest house his teacher has—and really, he should ask him why he has so many properties around Japan.

     “Don’t forget to sleep, sensei,” with a curt nod, Megumi leaves. Behind him, his teacher hums again in acknowledgement, focusing on the moon standing high above them.



     Kugisaki Nobara is half-everything he hates in a human being and half-everything he admires in one. She’s loud, disrespectful, uncaring about anyone and anything, but, on the other hand, she’s—well, she’s confident, strong, and incredibly pretty. And really, Megumi hadn’t believed that a sorcerer could have enough time to care about their appearance, since most adults he met were naturally handsome—Gojō-sensei, Nanami-san—or… Worrying—Ieri-sensei—, so really, she was admirable. But not when she was acting as a public disturbance.

     It is weird to get used to having classmates after a week of resting inside an empty classroom and a year of only sharing brief conversations with the adults coming in and out of his life. He doesn’t exactly know how to interact with people his age if it’s not with fists, taught to him by Maki-senpai only searching him for training. It takes a laughing Gojō-sensei warning him about fighting his new classmates that he realizes.

     He doesn’t desire to fight them, not really. Annoyance burns its way down his throat when all four of them go out to eat after a mission, and he struggles to swallow food when Itadori presses his body against his right side, and when Kugisaki does the same on his left side, while they fight over the last pieces of sushi. But it’s the same feeling he got the first time Gojō threw him a party on his birthday, and the only guests were him, Tsumiki, Ieri-sensei, Principal Yaga and, by some miracle, Nanami-san. Burning anger in his throat, while his face ached with the need to smile, his stomach clenching with the nervous feeling of finally being happy and not knowing what to do about it.

     That birthday was the day he laughed the most.

     “Sensei! Nobara ate my food!”

     “Lies and slander! Fushiguro, back me up!”

     “Don’t let her charm you, Fushiguro! We’re bros! Back me up!”

     Megumi pushes more food inside his mouth, making a grand job at ignoring the two pigs fighting on each side of his body, rapidly regretting his decision of sitting with them instead of Gojō-sensei. At that time, he made two mistakes: thinking that they would somehow be better than his teacher, and thinking that him being in the middle would cause any difference if they were to fight over some petty thing.

     He swallows, the other two sputter indignantly at being blatantly ignored, and decide to join forces to make Megumi acknowledge them. Gojō chuckles to himself a bit, and he shoots him a withering look before raising both arms to twist both Kugisaki’s and Itadori’s ear.

     It’s not ideal, this weird arrangement they’ve subconsciously set up between themselves where they get to fight all the time and Megumi is the one to tear them apart or pick a side in the argument, but somehow, it works well. They work well, and by some miracle, missions start passing by in a blur of happy yelling and laughter, instead of the smell of blood and sweat combined, and the sound of his own pained gasps grating on his ears. The three of them work like a well-oiled machine, and if Megumi ever notices Gojō-sensei more quiet, more tense, more serious than usual, then he doesn’t—can’t, won’t—mention it.



     Itadori dies, and everything comes crashing down on him, and their machine stops working.

     But Itadori is alive, and Megumi abandons the need to hug him and never let go in favor of punching him. Hard.



     When he first mentions the dreams—or memories, or whatever—to Itadori during a warm weekend, the other boy answers by staring at him for a prolonged period of time. First confused, then slowly morphing his expression into a more worried one, as his—idiot—brain starts making conclusions.

     Usually, Megumi would never be this open about it, would not even think about his problem with sleep in front of others. Gojō-sensei, for all he is a childish asshole, is incredibly perceptive, and Megumi always applies a high level of self-restraint when the man-child is around. Not that he thinks Gojō-sensei would do anything about it if he found out—would only tease him, probably. He knows him like one knows their emotionally absent guardian, and so he assumes that Gojō-sensei wouldn’t care unless it affected Megumi’s performance in missions. People never care about anything, really.

     Except Itadori, apparently.

     It’s only the two of them in the dorms, at the moment. Kugisaki is out on a shopping trip, Inumaki-senpai and Zen’in-senpai are both out on a mission, Gojō-sensei is out somewhere, as is the life of a Gojō-sensei, Panda is probably hanging out with the Principal or in the forest behind the dorms, Okkotsu-senpai is, of course, still overseas, and Hikari-senpai is still suspended.

     So it’s only the two of them in the dorms, and Megumi, who didn’t feel like visiting his sister at the hospital and having his whole week ruined because she won’t wake up no matter what he does or how long he reads her novels, thought Itadori nice enough to tell him about his Thing.

     “Mmh.”

     Megumi glares.

     “I don’t speak Itadori, Itadori. Be clear. Speak up.”

     “What does that mean!?” Itadori cries out, rightfully assuming that Megumi would use his name in a derogatory way.

     Another moment of silence, while Megumi decides to analyze the ceiling.

     He begins to regret his decision, and feels his face contort in annoyance. He should have just waited until Tsumiki woke up to talk to her about it, should have just snuck up and read the school files about himself, should have just talked to Gojō-sensei instead of—doing this. Instead of trusting some kid he’s known for—what? Four months? Two of which he spent thinking Itadori was dead. What the fuck is this, some shōnen manga where the protagonist and his best friend become best friends in a day? And shit, why is he feeling so wrong all of sudden, tired and full of energy at the same time, ready to run and to hide inside the closet until Tsumiki comes back.

     His breathing feels wet, and he violently stops himself from thinking. A careless voice whispers behind him “Megumi! You’re my little blessing!”, and he makes a move to get up before his condition worsens.

     Itadori immediately raises his hands to hold his arm, keeping him in place with a panicked look, mouth making incoherent sounds until Megumi sits back down, glaring at the wall, trying not to let the other see his face—he feels the ghost touch of a hand not there on his head, and the place where Itadori held him burns when he lets go.

     “Listen,” but Megumi won’t look. “You said these things were like, uh, memories? Well, ah, you know how sometimes kids will just. Uhm. Forget stuff that was like, traumatic or something. And you, like, you said that your dad tried to sell you? Which, if you—if you give me permission to say, was an asshole move by the way. You know. Who sells their kid? Right?” Itadori follows that with a series of nervous, awkward little laughs, trying to not let the silence take over.

     Megumi glares at the wall.

     “He said that a sorcerer like me would be better off with the Zen’in,” he mumbles, remembering the figure of a man holding a phone and frowning as he spoke.

     Eiichi. Eiichi. Eiichi.

     “So not an asshole move then...?”

     “Just shut up, Itadori. I don’t know why I even—ugh.”

     The other shifts uncomfortably in his place, sitting with his back supported by the bed. Megumi glances at his hands, fingers twitching with the need to practice his hand-signs to be faster, better. And isn’t that just the story of his life—right here, right now, this moment represents the very essence of Fushiguro Megumi better than anything else ever could: sitting in an almost bare room, someone else squirming next to him, unable to relax and ready to jump into the familiar motions of a fight at any moment. With Tsumiki, he always had something to do, be it either helping her bake or going to the store to buy ingredients; then with Gojō, before he was sensei, he could always trust that the older man would fight him whenever he asked.

     But in the school, now, Gojō-sensei’s always busy, as are the second years, and he only could be useful sitting in a classroom, writing down pages and pages of mathematical bullshit, because even during missions he always needed an extra hand.

     And it’s funny, almost, because despite being the supposedly strongest first-year, Itadori died right in front of him, Kugisaki got shot, and Tsumiki—Tsumiki—

     Itadori brings him back to reality with a hand on his shoulder.

     “I think—” Megumi draws in a silent breath, staring hard at those brown eyes full of seriousness and something else, something unknown, something that reminds him so much of Tsumiki it hurts, “that our past isn’t really that important, you know? I, personally, don’t know my parents like, at all. I don’t have any memories of them. But—this isn’t about me. Fushiguro, I don’t think that those memories or whatever are really that important. I mean, you’re you, you know? It doesn’t—your past doesn’t matter, I don’t think. We can all only go forward from now on, so we shouldn’t dwell on things like parents and all that! We can only get better in order to make them proud, wherever they are!”



     Weeks pass by, and sooner than desired, Megumi finds himself back in his hometown, hunting down a pathetic curse that lets itself be known by opening doors.

     He can feel the feeling of homelessness getting worse after those particular words of pity, the night sky doing nothing and too much to stop his thoughts from going too far back, to when everything was fuzzy and he never had to worry about dead friends, dead family. The tremble in his hands beginning to become particularly hard to hide, the blood inside his mouth more vomiting-inducing than anything he has ever tasted. Megumi has, throughout the years, remained the same: coming from nowhere, going nowhere. Always transient. His father was the scum of the family, a loser who left with nothing and had remained like that, taking stupid jobs and making even stupider bets, and his mother—his biological mother—an idiot woman who let herself be tricked by him. And then, Megumi, the result of that wicked combination—a ghost in the flesh, half-translucent and never capable of trying harder.

     If Tsumiki were here, she would take his hands right out of his pockets and hold them, she would tell him to ask for help. But he cannot ask for something he doesn’t remember the shape of, if he ever knew it at all.

     After that particularly confusing conversation, Itadori keeps looking his way with a worried gleam in his eyes, and Megumi just wants it all to stop, but people never listen to what others want. He learns this through Gojō-sensei, through Zen’in-senpai, through Tsumiki. Through his dad, selling him off to the very family that ruined him forever, that hated him so much he preferred a life full of death than to keep living with them—Megumi presses the heels of his palms against his eyes. How much was I worth? he thinks, lower lip trembling, throat burning. How much? How much? Was it a lot, was it less than rent?

      How much did you love me?

     It is the simplicity of reality, after all, and one cannot help but dwell on everything. Itadori had said that the past did not matter, but if even his father decided that he was too much, too less—how could he ever hope for anyone to love him, ever? It took the mastering of his Cursed Technique for Gojō to spend more than two days a week with them, with him and Tsumiki, and it took even more hard work to get Zen’in to talk to him, for Nanami-san to look at him, and for Ieri-sensei to treat his wounds with her Cursed Technique. So much, so much, so much. People always ask so much of him and he doesn’t know how much he can give, if these little tasks won’t be his ruin, if these plastic relationships are really worth it all. After these few years of life, Megumi thinks that, if he were able to truly glance at his own soul, then it would be easy to pinpoint the places where a chunk is missing and recognize—Gojō, and then Gojō -sensei, and Tsumiki and his father, his own blood, family. And Itadori. And Kugisaki, and every person he was unable to save because the curse was too fast, too strong, because the curse scaped and Megumi was too weak to do anything but call an adult to get it done.

      How much was I worth?

     Megumi takes a deep breath before getting up, getting ready for a session of late-night training.

      How much am I worth?

 

     “It’s not good to stay up late, Fushiguro,” Kugisaki condemns from where she stands under the doorframe, one arm coming up to press against the left side of her stomach, right where Zen’in’s rubber bullets hit, back then when they thought Itadori was in a casket and not a basement. It feels like it happened a long time ago, and an hour ago. If he focuses enough, Megumi can still remember the way tiny rocks felt as they embedded themselves into his uniform and then, his skin. The smell of blood and sweat and the sound of his wheezing; a memento to his solo missions, perhaps. 

     It’s almost funny, because he can’t remember what words he exactly said, then—he’s always been indecisive like that, the only thing clear in his head always remaining the same: people are annoying, people are useless, people care too much and people don’t care enough. ‘Someone with a strong moral compass’, or something, was the best answer at that time, because he knew that if he ever got into a relationship with someone like that, then it’d be easy to predict the outcome—a bad person would break him, and he would break a good person.

     Then again, that reply had been the one that earned him a free tour of the ground.

     “I could say the same thing to you,” although, in reality, he’s more used to staying awake than sleeping. Somehow, he feels as if sleeping more than five, four hours would be worse for his health. If he were to find Kugisaki herself training at this late hour, then the only thing he would question was why she wasn’t wearing a facemask, or something on her hair. She looked like the type to rock that stuff—he knows that she’s the type to look unbelievably pretty while dripping in sweat.

     Maybe it’s the confidence, who knows? Certainly not Megumi, who hasn’t been around people his age enough to know what he likes and what he doesn’t.

     “I was going to the bathroom,” the bathroom is in a completely different building, Kugisaki. “Fine! I woke up angry because of a bad dream and I wanted to punch something,” she rolls her eyes, and something in her tells him that the anger was directed at Mai Zen’in.

     “I heard that physical activity helps you sleep?” he’s really not sure of what to say, hands forming familiar signs.

     “No. You have to exercise thirty minutes before bed, or you won’t sleep well. I know, because I googled it, right before coming here. You also should avoid using your phone. Whatever,” she walks deeper into the room, closing the door behind her and standing horizontally in front of him. “Why are you here, though?”

     “Couldn’t sleep. Um. Are we about to fight?”

      “Train. We’re going to train. Why couldn’t you sleep?”

     There are many ways to answer that question, from Megumi’s point of view—there’s the pulsating headache that settles in the back of his head whenever he thinks too hard about his family, there’s the light that streams in through the curtains from the lamps outside the dorms—when he needs total darkness to sleep—, there’s Itadori, whose cursed energy is as loud as him, sleeping on the bedroom next to his. There’s the inherent hunger for power, the need to not get left behind, and the deep-rooted feeling of failure that drags him out of bed and into the training rooms.

     But he can’t tell Kugisaki that, can he.

     He settles for “I’m not strong enough,” and apparently, that’s the wrong answer, going by Kugisaki’s frown as she aims a kick at his left side. He dodges. She’s gotten as fast as Zen’in-senpai, now, and it’s really a shame that she hasn’t gotten a promotion yet.

     “Strong enough for what? You literally train with the strongest, when he won’t even let me ask him, and control shadows, and you defeated that Special Grade back at the bridge, remember?” She seems against naming Gojō-sensei whenever she acknowledges his strength, which honestly is something Megumi should take note of. Still, he has the urge to look down, right, anywhere but her, suddenly feeling exposed.

     For someone who focuses more on herself than the rest, Kugisaki is very perceptive, and he half-resents her for that.

     “Yeah, but,” he huffs, avoiding another punch, “I passed out right after that,” hugging one of Sukuna’s fingers, which is a very weird thing to do it seems.

     She stops then, giving him a weird look. He stares right back, unsettled by the abrupt stop.

     “Fushiguro,” she crosses her arms, huffing, looking as uncomfortable as he feels. They’re not made for this, they’re all rough edges and cold blood, that’s the reason why they have Itadori, to have a balance in between apathy and devotion. “Our teacher is literally the strongest shaman there is, I mean I can understand your standards being a bit fucked up because of that, but—like—you don’t need to be as strong as him, only as strong as the curses we need to exorcise.”

     “Well, duh.”

     They both stare at each other, Kugisaki squinting at him while he blinks passively. Itadori’s in it to save people, Kugisaki’s in it for the money. And Fushiguro?

     He’s still finding his reason.

     “You’re such an idiot! Let’s go, I’m bored of this already!” Kugisaki commands, leaving the room. He follows her, thinking that this, somehow, must be a part of it.



      “Hey. What’s your name?”

     “Not Zen’in, huh...”

     “Good for you.”

     GRK.



     Megumi blinks himself awake, staring at the rather sad imitation of flowers left on his nightstand, right next to a glass of water. Light streams in from the open curtains, reflecting off of the walls and ceiling, blinding him momentarily before he realizes that he’s inside the infirmary. Before he realizes that the dream wasn’t actually a dream, just another memory.

     To his right, Itadori loudly sleeps, white sheets flung off his body and arms twisted in an unnatural way, almost as if he thought of himself inside his own dorm room. Next to him, Kugisaki plays games on her phone, filling the empty room with the irking sound of a constant tap-tap-tap until she looks up to acknowledge him waking up.

     He half-expects her to yell or glare at him, maybe complain about the bandages covering half of her face and probably the rest of her body. Megumi himself can’t really feel very hurt, body impeccable after Sukuna healing him—and Itadori too, probably. He wonders why they’re there when all Kugisaku does is nod, before turning back to her phone. The silence makes something ugly in his stomach start to bubble. He watches as Kugisaki taps away at her phone in silence, concentrated, serious, pretending that this is just another aftermath of a training gone wrong and not possibly the last moments Itadori will spend with them.

     He stares—Kugisaki has a cold kind of beauty. It unsettles him because there is something feminine underneath a beastly aura that she takes good care of showing. There is something admirable about this artificial detachment that he desperately needs to master, too. His mind wanders back to that man in specific.

     Megumi supposes that the only person who must know is the last person he wants to talk to. Right on cue, the door softly opens, and a rather dark looking Gojō-sensei enters, and he’s never seen—or heard—someone with a presence so loud being so quiet. It annoys and upsets him to no end, that everyone is acting so still, when they should be planning a way to keep Itadori alive, to run from the elders, to at least let him enjoy his life a bit more. He holds the bag on his right hand up, his forced smile infuriating as Megumi reaches over and roughly shakes Itadori awake.

     Kugisaki puts her phone down when Itadori complains, blinking himself awake, and Gojō-sensei stills in front of the door.

     “Fushiguro—why’d you wake me up?”

     Itadori’s voice is only broken and raw because of sleep, Megumi knows this, everyone knows this. It still doesn’t stop his hand from clenching where it rests atop his knee.

     “Gojō-sensei brought breakfast.”

     “It’s, ah, it’s cake,” Gojō-sensei giggles nervously, his paper bag crinkling with his own nerves, but Itadori instantly perks up.

     “Cake!?”

     “Cake.”

     Between those two, something strains. Megumi noticed it that night Itadori came back covered in blood and tears, clutching the box where Gojō-sensei was sealed—then, once the sun came up and everyone regrouped, when Gojō-sensei dragged Itadori and Kugisaki close to himself for a few seconds. At that moment, he had excused himself, going to a secluded area to rest for a bit before going back to the college.

     Kugisaki sits up. “It better be good,” she mumbles as Gojō-sensei sits on Itadori’s bed. Megumi stares for a bit, then eyes the flowers.

     “I gotta go,” he says, moving the sheets off his body and noting that, instead of the dirty uniform, he’s wearing a light blue pair of pants and t-shirt. Itadori makes a confused noise, and Kugisaki huffs—and something in his chest aches at it.

     But it’s Gojō-sensei who makes him pause on the way to the door.

     “Megumi,” his teacher raises the bag once more, a grief-filled, desperate smile on his face, “eat something, yeah?”

     “No thanks, Gojō-sensei. I’ve—I have to visit someone.”

     He better not interfere between them. The three of them.



     He doesn’t know what exactly he lacks that makes Gojō-sensei feel as indifferent about him as anybody else. Maybe it’s because he’s too weak, too young, maybe Gojō-sensei had only taken him and his sister in to spite the Zen’in and nothing more, and then surprised himself with the responsabilities of taking care of two children.

     In any case, Megumi has already accepted that people like Gojō-sensei—big, strong, powerful—don’t care about others. People never care about anything. He doesn’t mind it. He just wishes that something was different.



     The morgue is quiet, cold, and filled to the brim with the dead bodies after the Shibuya Incident when he walks inside. From behind the door, Shoko-sensei nods at him once then walks deeper inside her own office, and Megumi takes it upon himself to slowly peel off the white sheet covering the body—like unraveling a gift, it comes off easily, a sleeping face greeting him.

     The messy hair, the barely-there wrinkles on his forehead, the upturned nose, the scar on the side of his lips. He makes sure to take it all in one last time, trying to see if this will help, wracking his brain for a lucid memory. He doesn’t want to remember this man as countless nights spent training, sleepless dreams, the smell of blood and fear cursing through his body—he wants to remember him for who he was, who he seemed to be: Megumi’s father.

     He’s not crying, no, but frustration burns heavily in his gut when the only thing he can do is stare at the holes on both sides of his head, his own hands still on top of the dead man’s chest. The question is there: when Itadori dies, will it be like this, too? Will Megumi forget about him and then spend an eternity hurting for him?

     Shoko-sensei comes back, lighter and a packet of cigarettes on one hand as she leans over the body, next to Megumi. She hands them both, and he gingerly accepts them, waiting as she prepares to speak.

     “He was as strong as Getō, and smarter than all of us combined. Did you know that? I think Gojō saw that in you, too,” she mentions offhandedly, and like Kugisaki, her coldness is admirable. Megumi remembers sitting inside the infirmary after getting attacked by a first-grade curse when he barely knew how to summon his shikigami; she had been writing a slip to him at that time so he could skip school with no problem, and her letters had been tight, long words cramped in a small space as she spoke to him with a detached tone of voice, and then to Gojō-sensei.

     “I think Gojō-sensei just saw a way to piss off the Zen’in.” She gives him a weird stare, then softly pats his shoulder. Megumi tries not to think too deep about it.

     “Try to not choke, I’ll be attending the others,” ‘others’ being Kugisaki, probably. Megumi nods, wondering how she knew about this secret habit he picked up in middle school, and Shoko-sensei leaves again.

     He lights on a cigarette and drops the box next to Tōji’s neck, bringing it to his mouth and easily breathing in the smoke. It comes to him like second nature—suck on the cigarette, breathe in, breathe out. The taste is horrible, one of the cheap ones and undoubtedly, Shoko-sensei planned this, because it’s also the first type he ever put in his mouth, right before eating two apples, drinking a lot of coffee and brushing his teeth three times to hide the smell.

     He exhales the smoke through his nose, thinking that maybe that will lessen the chances of cancer, and thinks about why he knows, knew, how to perfectly do this, ever since he first grabbed one.

      Ah.

     It comes to him like a dam breaking, water flooding all of his senses.

     Megumi remembers when Tōji took him to the Zoo. His father hadn’t known what to do with that boy who didn’t cry, who hadn’t said anything since the death of his mother. His father took him to the cinema, to the playground, the circus, anywhere away from the house, away from the photos of his smiling mother with the title of teacher, of the clothes still hanging on the hangers, of the painting she had chosen to hang on top of the bed. Paris from the window: there was a cat with a human face, a man flying with a triangular parachute, a colorful window, a dark couple and a man with two faces and a heart in his hand.

     The zoo was full of families, pink cotton candy, yellow, light blue, laughter, balloons, kangaro dolls, whales, bears. His father had said: “Look, Megumi, a wolf. Look, Megumi, a snake. Look, Megumi, the owls.” He had stared without speaking because he felt that his father had no words, that those said were absent. He sensed, without knowing it with certainty, that those words were about to break, held by a very thin, transparent thread.

     When they arrived at the lions’ den, his father stared without saying anything, lighting up a cigarette. The lionesses rested in the sun, the lion was not there. When someone threw them a cookie, the lionesses looked away indifferently. He thought they were too far away, that at that moment all he wanted to do was to jump into the pit and lie down among the lionesses and sleep. He would have liked to touch them. The boys around them screamed, growled, tried to roar, people huddled, asked permission. But all of a sudden everyone became quiet. The lion came out of the shadows, from some cave, and walked very slowly.

     He had glanced up at his father, to say “Dad, the lion, there is the lion, do you see it?” But his father was looking up, blurring among all those people, cigarette held in one hand as he breathed in, breathed out through his nose. He wasn’t crying but Megumi could see the tears, there, behind the words he couldn't say.



     Megumi finishes the cigarette and throws it inside the trashcan. He covers the body and leaves the morgue with his hands inside his pants’ pockets. Shoko-sensei nods at him when he passes by the infirmary, Kugisaki glances but doesn’t move. Outside, the sun shines bright and Gojō-sensei sits on the staircase leading to the outside world.

     Megumi sits next to him, accepts an orange-flavored candy offered to him, and realizes that some things just can’t be expressed with words. He thinks of Kugisaki’s eye-patch, of Itadori’s scar, of Gojō-sensei’s tight frame. Thinks that if Itadori is in it to protect others and Kugisaki is in it for the money, then he’s in it for them both.