It felt like the end of the world. Or what the end of the world looked like for people who didn’t see destruction and violence every other day or so. Cursed energy streaming from everywhere, undercurrents still carrying the despair and anger they were born of, channelled into whirlpools that could have been distracting for anyone else but him.
But Satoru Gojo’s complete attention was focused on that one blend of darkness he would have recognized anywhere. His best friend was here.
Of course he was here. The residuals of energy told Satoru everything he needed to know about the confrontation; he wouldn’t even need to ask his students what had gone down. He pushed back the pride swelling in his chest knowing that he’d been right about the young Yuta, and took a few lazy steps towards the school buildings, hands firmly buried in his pockets; he refused to run. In the folds of fabric, his fingers toyed with a small, round object that had never left him since its former owner had abandoned it.
He removed his blindfold and lifted his head to the trees shadowing the path; birds were chirping and singing, relieved that the fight was over, oblivious to the quiet, tragic aftermath that was about to take place under their feet.
And why should they care? They were above such matters, allowed to ignore what men and sorcerers were doing.
He stopped walking and waited, silent, for Suguru Geto to appear.
The persistent notion that he should have known gnawed at Satoru’s conscience – what he imagined his conscience was, anyway. How could one not see one’s best friend, the person that seemed to be made of the same soul, turn to utter darkness and tumble into evil?
But then, nobody else had seen anything.
Satoru’s jaw clenched. He was supposed to be the one toeing the line, teetering on the edge of insanity more than any other, the almost bad guy, the dangerous one, the uncontrollable piece. The one they were all slightly afraid of. How many times had Suguru and him fought over their conceptions of the world and its order, how his friend was so angry that humans meant so little in the eyes of the most powerful sorcerer, but how could they ever mean more, when these eyes could see everything and these hands crush the world? He was Satoru Gojo, the only Blessed One in a world of curses. He didn’t care about the weak; he didn’t have to care, despite what his teachers and masters and even Suguru had told him.
He kicked a small pebble with the tip of his shoe, sending it into a wall. It bounced right back at his face, but never reached him. He looked at the little stone, suspended in mid-air.
He remembered that day, a lifetime ago, when Suguru and Shoko had spent an entire afternoon throwing random objects at him, just to see them stopped by his technique. Had everything already gone wrong then? he wondered. Had his friend felt abandoned while he had to train and hone his techniques?
Perhaps the curses Suguru consumed and tamed had polluted his mind further, their darkness feeding on what had sprung in his soul after the Star Vessel debacle…
Having to absorb concentrated anger, despair, and jealousy to save people, all because non-sorcerers were utterly unable to control their output of cursed energy... And where Satoru didn’t care, Suguru had gone from pity, to bitterness, to anger. It made sense, after all. Why would he have to dedicate his life, sacrifice his well-being because idiot monkeys poured all their negative emotions out into the world? Monkeys who had had a child killed, out of blind faith.
It wasn’t fair.
Satoru heard a groan; his friend – what was left of him – was approaching. He didn’t move an inch. There was a coldness in his throat, hard, heavy, and it was descending onto his chest. His insides were being frozen and he couldn’t even feel them anymore. He felt hollow. A dark chuckle escaped his lips. Hollow.
Unprompted, his mind brought back to him the last time – the actual last time – he had seen Suguru happy.
That night in Okinawa had been warm, the sky free from clouds, a blanket of diamond cold stars over their heads. The girl and her guardian had gone to bed after eating every type of dessert the hotel had to offer, and he had wandered on the beach for yet another sleepless night to ensure everyone’s safety. He had bragged that he was fine, but it was definitely taking a toll. Yet the smile on the girl’s face had been worth it.
Suguru had joined him to look at the sea and they had sat in silence on the sand, watching the tide come in.
“What we decided,” Suguru had said. “You still agree?”
“Yeah. Of course.”
“It might get us in trouble.”
Satoru had started drawing little circles in the sand with a stick. “I don’t care. They want a child to sacrifice her life. They brainwashed her so well that she believes she wants to do it Who would want such a fate? If she decides she won’t do it, after all, then we let her go. They’ll find someone else.”
There had been a short silence. “Then this someone else will have to give their life up.”
Satoru stopped drawing circles and threw the stick into the sea. “Difference is, I don’t know this someone else.”
“If you hadn’t met Riko you wouldn’t even care, right?”
“We can’t care about everything. It would eat us alive.”
His friend hadn’t answered. Satoru’s eyes had found themselves drawn to a sand castle built by some kid on the beach, that was slowly getting swallowed by the rising tide. With each hungry wave, the castle crumbled a little more, wet lumps of sand rolling down to join the infinity of the sea.
“You should get some sleep. You’re not the one who has to stay awake.”
“And find you tomorrow morning snoring on this beach, sand everywhere in your hair? No way. Your job is to not sleep, and mine is to make sure you do just that,” Suguru had answered with a smile, giving him a solid pat on the back.
Satoru had smiled back. At that point, he was sure they could be the two most powerful sorcerers in the world. Nothing and nobody would stop them.
Another groan and the scent of blood snapped him out of his reverie and he focused on the spot where he knew Suguru would appear anytime now.
They were still the most powerful, but one of them had fallen. Sorcerer. Curse user.
What a difference a name could make.
But it wasn’t just the name, he knew. It was the actions. Suguru had wiped out an entire village, obliterated his own parents. To eliminate curses, he believed, he had to cut the supply of cursed energy at its source: humans and their messy, uncontrolled emissions. The normal ones. The “monkeys.”
The cold weight in Satoru’s chest turned acid. Yeah, they were weak and pathetic and it was a pain to make sure there weren’t too many collaterals or witnesses in his missions; that didn’t mean they all deserved to die. Roughed up? Yes. Genocided? Of course not. It wasn’t exactly their fault, if they couldn’t manipulate cursed energy. It was the way the world was: unfair.
And what would sorcerers do when curses were gone? There was enough infighting already.
Suguru was there, now, a faint smirk on his lips.
What wave had caused the castle to crumble, in the end? He remembered almost snapping himself, carrying Riko’s body away from the Star Religious Group. Asking his friend if there really needed to be a reason to kill all those pathetic animals.
Yes, had been the answer. Of course.
It seemed that Suguru had found the reason.
There was no hope anymore, no way out. He needed to do what he’d come here to do. He could barely concentrate on what they were saying. Something about trust. One last witty comeback. A rattled, exhausted laugh.
A strange sensation assaulted his eyes when Suguru handed him the student card. It stung to look at his best friend. The one and only.
The persistent thought hung heavy on his shoulder, like a curse on a poor human. If he had seen before, if he had noticed, he could have saved him. Perhaps. At least he could have tried.
But then, he could only save those who were prepared to be saved.
Suguru Geto had been past saving for some time now, since the day he’d massacred the villagers. In his pocket, Satoru’s fingertip brushed again on the small, round pin. The truth was there, tangible and hard: his friend had died that night, and his sorcerer pin was all that was left of him.
“Any last words?”
The bitterness, the cold ice, the sting in his eyes, the regrets, the memory of the sand castle dissolving into the sea… everything vanished with Suguru’s answer.
He had never been happy. Despite everything, despite his strength and despite Satoru, he could never have been happy.
“You should at least curse me at the end,” his friend concluded with a smile.
Perhaps he was right, to smile then. Satoru tried to force a smile, too. It wasn’t the end of the world, after all.
He was Satoru, of the Gojo clan. The strongest Sorcerer.
The Blessed One.
He didn’t need anyone to love.