It started when his grandfather was hospitalized, and he felt the need to bring something. Anything. A thing that could brighten up the room if only for just a tiny bit.
Of course, it couldn’t be too big since his grandfather was a true tsundere at heart. The man would notice right away, threw a complete fit over it, then pestered him on throwing it out. A waste of money that undoubtedly would turn out being. So, no books, no newspapers (except the ones the nurses brought), absolutely no hope in bringing the familiar, threadbare sheets which his grandfather had been using ever since forever (that Yuuji actually took comfort in its familiarity) and definitely, no well-wishes trinkets.
Yuuji pondered over this after another visit from the hospital. Nose getting used to the antiseptic smell and the clinical odors wafting through its hallways. He felt that twinge again, the thought on bringing and leaving nothing for his only family nagging him all the way home. The room seemed… lonely. Too generic. Devoid of warmth. There had been a whole fifteen minutes of Yuuji ‘softly’ remarking on his grandfather’s allocation, he was persistent that the nurses gave in. Touched and endeared by this child who wanted this grumpy old man to be comfortable. They set him at the room where it received the most sunlight, had a marginally lovely view, and in a quiet hall. When Itadori Wasuke finally retired, snoring softly in the darkened room, Yuuji had breathed a sigh at the satisfactory place.
But for him, it still didn’t seem enough yet. He wanted to make the place felt a bit like home, no matter how he abhorred the notion of a prolonged stay there. As he browsed through the aisle at the grocery store, his head was elsewhere. What’s one simple thing that wouldn’t be a waste if his grandfather decides he doesn’t like it when he puts it at his room? This followed him throughout his shopping, putting several meat and vegetable in his cart along with eggs and milk. He had to stop himself from getting that bitter tea he usually brewed, his grandfather wasn’t at the apartment anymore. Dinners would be just a one-person affair from now on.
The teen had almost put his whole thought down for a moment when he caught a crate near the cashier. He raised his brow, staring at it in all ten seconds, then nodded and grabbed two. They didn’t cost much money and his budgeting was saved by the discount the store gave the items. The girl behind the cash register giggled as she put them neatly in paper bags. It was surprisingly cuter when Yuuji didn’t blush or stuttering at his purchase. He bid her a good evening and went on his way.
The next time Yuuji visited Wasuke, he asked a nurse if there was an empty, unused container. He rubbed his head at his blunder, carnations filling his arms, red and purple in separate bouquets. The nurse looked on amusedly, standing up to fetch a plastic vase from lost and found, handing it to him after she thoroughly washed the dusts and old smell. A few moments later, she jolted when the patient Itadori Wasuke yelling in exasperation, something and something about the flowers. Though moments later when the pink-haired teen left for the day, she caught the most fleeting smile from the old man.
It became a well-known thing among the nurses. Every time without fail, one of them would try to glimpse that smile from their patient, and without fail, Wasuke would make it. Always after Yuuji headed for home, stubborn and shrugging off his grandfather’s complaints from bringing fresh flowers once a week.
“They’re not for you, old man,” Yuuji would sigh while putting the new ones carefully, “They’re for the nurses.”
And well, that was a very soft excuse to keep buying them.
He wasn’t a connoisseur in flowers, not a nerd in its language, but he came to like them. Appreciating the colors, the way the stem formed, the leaves, and how not everything smelled. There were Latin for the species, he didn’t pay too much attention to that. He was a layman through and through. It didn’t stop him from having a few favorites though.
Camellia, daisy, sunflower, bluebells, and hilariously, cherry blossom.
Of course, he wasn’t strict when buying them. Besides, when they weren’t in season, it could damage his wallet, so Yuuji bought bouquets in whatever flowers the shop put up. He no longer went to the supermarket – it was for quality reasons. And maybe because he noticed you had more variations with ribbons, wraps, or the arrangement.
It was already late when the teen went home (after being kicked out by his own grandfather – that old man’s aim was perfect, the pillow hit him squarely on the face). He whistled as he walked, detouring to a nearby convenience store for a quick dinner of instant ramens and some bread, along with rice balls. He was a bit tired from the exam week, finishing that TV series then jumping into his bed were the goals for tonight. The cashier balked at the small mountain of food he checked out being swept into his backpack.
A boy, elementary school by the looks of it, cheered loudly that Yuuji startled. He was grinning at the capsule in his hands, and Yuuji was suddenly curious. Egged on by the sheer delight the boy had.
“Hey, what you got there?” He lightly asked.
“The Legendary Warrior! It’s a rare one and I got it in one turn!” The grin was missing two front teeth.
Yuuji chuckled. “Wow, congratulations! Take good care of it now, alright?” He said to which the shorter boy nodded. The two then bowed and the boy immediately slinked his arm with his mother. Chatting merrily as he hopped onto the backseat of the bike. The mother and son seemed happy, radiating warm that Yuuji shook off. He glanced at the short row of gacha machines. Most would dispense keychains or even small cheap figurines from children anime and mascots, he noticed one show he had loved as a kid. Then at the end, smaller and unassuming from the rest, a machine with faded pink coloring caught his attention.
He knelt, noticing the printed words, and thought why not? A few coins later, some turning, and discarding of the plastic balls, he carefully tied the keychain around the edge of his phone case. It took a while, but he managed, and though his yellow case clashed, a lavender flower dangled from it. Merrily tinkling whenever it moved.
His classmates didn’t comment on it.
(Honestly, most actually found it cute.)
The lavender keychain was lost too soon. He could thank Sukuna for that. The bastard had apparently managed to snap it during his brief control over Yuuji’s body. Somehow, the frayed ends of the now broken keychain annoyed him more than his predicament. If only briefly.
Sukuna, for the most part, didn’t comment aside from sneering at his choice of accessory. Yuuji countered the ancient fart didn’t even know what ‘keychain’ meant. The former bit his hand which Yuuji replied with a slap on his own cheek. Whatever, at least, he knew it hit the eye and mouth. For someone who was a king, it was too easy how the two delved into petty squabbles. Yuuji didn’t know how to feel about that.
He was mindlessly browsing through his phone when the curse quieted down – stating he was bored and that Yuuji was ‘no fun’ (which the teen was actually glad because the hell he would face if Sukuna found him ‘fun’ seemed like an express ticket to doom) – when he stopped and finally, finally paid attention to his room.
He had put up his poster, stored his clothes away, and generally created a structured mess, but something was still missing. He wasn’t ready (maybe he would never be) to set up the family picture. It was slipped into the album they had, still mostly empty aside from the usual graduation and birthday photos. His grandfather’s death was fresh, halted midway when he swallowed that first finger. So many things happened in the span of a week, and Yuuji was… well, scared might be the right word here, that he had moved on too fast. There was nothing, a numbness never relenting under his prodding. He didn’t like that. With a flourish, he picked his hoodie and went outside. There was technically a curfew for students, but Gojo wasn’t a stickler for rules, he rather let them roam during the evening then faced the consequences if they missed healthy sleep hours. (A reverse psychology as Megumi had so eloquently put when the first night Yuuji caught him walking out.)
It was just after dinner which meant some stores were still open. This was Tokyo, after all, nightlife thrived unlike Yuuji’s hometown. He passed several giggling high schoolers when the humble sign showed in his peripheral. It didn’t take long for him to confidently push the glass door, ringing the bell, and picked a bundle of white and yellow.
Megumi caught him cutting the bottom stems in the kitchen, a small vase filled with sugary water by his side. His friend took one flower, inspecting it before shrugging and put it back on the table.
“There’s a store nearby that sells flower food,” he said as he filled his bottle with water, “They don’t sell flowers, but they have interesting vases,” and with that, Megumi disappeared into his room again.
Well, Yuuji thought while he put the flowers into the plastic vase, that was a helpful advice. He didn’t expect such nonchalance to be completely honest. At least, he wasn’t counted as weird just by buying flowers. Yuuji had enough whispering from the flower shop staffs back at his old place to last him a lifetime.
Something clicked after he placed the vase. Something slotted into place and suddenly his room became livable. The splash of colors was the most welcomed. Sukuna clicked his tongue at his mood, grumbling something which he muted. What did the curse know about him, anyway? His hands moved the vase onto his desk, not risking his flailing hands knocking it from the bedside table. The flowers seemed soft, cheery with the undertone of calmness accompanied by the whites. He took a deep breath.
These flowers didn’t have a particular smell, but it was familiar. Memory whirred into life and Yuuji remembered they were the flowers he had put by the hospital’s window before the last ones. Before the final bouquet he purchased and brought on the day of his grandfather’s death. He could reminisce the unease, the stubborn hope, the feeling of missing someone close – he just wanted his grandfather to be better. An empty home was cold, and he had come to hate it deep down. Sometimes, when he visited, Yuuji felt like a young kid who would sulk and muffle his loneliness when his grandfather came home late.
Oh… He could feel it now.
His grandfather wasn’t coming back. He was dead. Gone. Stubborn and staying strong until the end – distantly Yuuji knew he had inherited that brand of stubbornness. The flowers were still there on his desk, silent, unknowing of the drops staining the wood. Yuuji hunched over, covering his mouth because Fushiguro was in the next room, and he never was one to cause noise disturbances. His head felt hot, his nose starting to be stuffed, he moved away from the desk. The bed creaked as he plopped down, ignoring Sukuna’s opening eye on his cheek the teen curled into himself. His pillow would have a damp spot soon.
In his room, Itadori Yuuji finally felt the dam broke and he mourned. It was strong, hitting him in the chest, and harder than anything. His eyes hurt, his lungs hurt, everything hurt, but he cried. The tears streamed down, leaving salty trails which felt cooling and hot at the same time. Sukuna went under after Yuuji didn’t even hear his quips. Ignored once again.
It was already completely dark outside when he managed to peel himself off the bed, his hands finding his bag then pulled out the photo album. He slumped against the wall, fingers wet from tears and snots opening the page one by one. The photos weren’t many, his grandfather being camera-shy didn’t help the collection, but there were still some where he was beside Yuuji. A scowl here, a small grin there. And slowly, Yuuji chuckled. Nostalgia and childhood memories a cooling towel on his mourning.
He missed his grandfather, he missed their time together, he missed the hand that would hold his as they walked home from school. Yuuji missed him, he really did. Seeing through the photos felt like he was celebrating the old man’s life – no matter how little and alone he seemed to be. Yuuji smiled through crumpled face. A sigh for bygone days and that he had had someone as a family, even if it was only one person. It was enough, he had been happy and fulfilled.
Yuuji had already said goodbye, and it was due time to move forward. There were still Sukuna, curses, and his grandfather’s final words to be done. He didn’t feel his eyes drifting closed, sleep claiming him as his energy had been thoroughly spent.
It was some minutes later that his door was slightly opened, Megumi peeking inside when he had heard sniffles. He held some cold medicine in his hand only to pocket it when he saw his new neighbor. Yuuji slept soundly, curled and with his arms hugging an album. Megumi didn’t wake him, and the morning after didn’t comment the swollen eyes – Yuuji had fortunately also didn’t feel blankets being draped over him the night before.
Ever since then, it was common for Megumi coming across Yuuji dutifully cutting fresh flowers and changing the water in the vase. It was no longer that cheap plastic, but a clear medium glass. It held the flowers wonderfully.
(Megumi thought all the colors complimented Yuuji. Weirdly enough.)
When they arrived at their respective rooms after his ‘resurrection’ and the tournament, the empty vase surprised him. Yuuji had anticipated the rotting smell of dead plants, but the vase was clean. Shining even. No wilted flowers, fallen leaves and sad bowing stems. Nothing. The glass vase glinted, almost looking polished. Yuuji tilted his head.
“Hey, Itadori! Come on, put on your ugly hoody and let’s go!” Nobara’s voice called. She, on cue, scrunched her nose when he stepped out with his usual yellow hoody and jeans. He still had no idea why the thought of his outfit soured her mood. They were damn comfortable as far as he cared. “Alright, we’re going to add one more thing today,” she put her hands on her hips, “We’re going to fix your wardrobe,” Nobara pointed at him.
He had the decency looking affronted then gave up fighting as she dragged him through the shopping district. Megumi for his part only followed, hands in pockets and trying (failing, really) to look like an exasperated parent more than anything else. Yuuji almost felt betrayed if not for the other teen saving him from the obnoxious choices Nobara shoved at him. They discreetly put away several clothes Yuuji balked at both the style and price tag, he absolutely didn’t want to spend his poor money just because Nobara said so. Clothes were supposed to be worn daily (also, in his case, suffered shredding from time to time because Sukuna), he didn’t want useless ones piling up in his closet. Though looking at the rest, Yuuji was touched by how attentive Nobara could be. She mostly picked cotton and noticeably plain-looking styles, dropping them on his awaiting arms.
What supposed to be a short venture turned long by another four hours. By the end, there were bags hung around his arms. “Can we go eat now?” He whined as his friend swung hers happily. Elated after hunting down discounts. “I really, really want to eat,” he said again.
Megumi, thank the heavens for him, was the one who suggested a nearby all you can eat buffet. Trusting his words as the local, the three filed into a booth. Their bags caught eyes but Nobara honestly didn’t give a shit. Now that they all sat down, her stomach growled in tandem with Yuuji’s. She picked the food first, leaving the boys to sit and look over their purchases. Yuuji pouted, but she won fair and square through rock, paper, scissor.
“I never thought we could splurge with our stipends,” Yuuji said. “The school is really well off, huh,” he tapped one of the carton bags.
“… or maybe their teacher is the well-off one,” Megumi mumbled.
He knew Gojo had something to do with that. You don’t live near someone without noticing anything. That man had the power and the cunningness when it concerned his interests. Megumi snorted, but shook his head when Yuuji tilted his head.
“Oh, right,” he clapped his hands. (God fucking damn it, that was cute, Megumi distantly thought.) “Thank you for taking out the flowers,” Yuuji grinned. “You save my room from smelling bad,”
Megumi blinked, coughed, then lowered his head. “It’s nothing,” he said and since he was curious, he asked, “How did you know it was me?”
“Uh, Kugisaki won’t enter a boy’s dorm room, and the only person who lives beside my room is only you,” Yuuji answered. “Also, you knew I usually refilled the vase, so…” He trailed off. “Anyway, thanks, I’m glad I don’t have to clean the vase,” he smiled.
It was the restaurant lacking adequate air conditioner, Megumi reasoned when his face heated up and he lowered his head more like a turtle. He fingered his phone.
“The fuck you’re blushing about?” Nobara put her tray on the table. Loudly clattering. “Do you suddenly have a fever, Fushiguro?” She asked.
There was a cat smile on her face and Megumi narrowed his eyes. He would not rise to her bait. “Let’s go,” he stood up.
Along with Yuuji, they took turns picking up their food. Fortunately, Yuuji didn’t notice Nobara still smirking from her seat and thus didn’t make any comment. They soon returned to their booth, plates fragrant and mouth-watering with varied menus. Nobara dropped her smirk as they dug in, soon she forgot about Megumi’s blush altogether.
Then it was Nobara’s turn to blush, and she could hear the ‘nya’ sound from Megumi’s smirk. He stood behind Yuuji, hands in pockets, while pretending to look around the shop. She huffily blaming Yuuji for this, the teen oblivious and happily browsed through the shelf. His hair almost merged with the rest of the pink flowers.
“Kugisaki, you’re really sharp,” he praised, “They have really good plants around and your guess about them having a discount is spot-on,” Yuuji grinned as he picked up several types before bringing them to the staff by the register. He looked like a kid in a candy shop.
Nobara flipped her hair, “Of course,” she crossed her arms, “I’m good at this kind of thing,” she sniffed. Her head not once looking straight ahead. Megumi got lightly kicked when he tried to search her face.
She noticed the shop because of him. In her gloom when they all thought he had died, she gravitated towards the flower store during her walk. Flowers were never her thing but seeing Yuuji of all people bringing them back several times was interesting. He didn’t try to hide it, putting the plants confidently from the kitchen to his room. From her personal experience, boys like him would never be caught dead even touching a flower. So, it was fun seeing him fussing about among the blooms, completely in his own world. (It was funny how he looked like a Labrador playing with flowers. It was… well, Nobara shall never say it out loud, goddamn cute.)
She and Megumi were waiting by the window with the bags at their feet when a booming voice shook them.
“Brother!” Todo practically bulled through. The girl behind the table jolted. “Brother, good to see you!” He clapped him on the shoulders.
Yuuji raised his brow and greeted the big man. “Oh, hey, Todo, I thought you’ll be returning to Kyoto by now?”
“Oh, yes, we’ll return tomorrow. I’m here with Mai,” Todo nodded at the girl who crossed her arms when she got near. “By the way, is there a woman you’re seeing?” He asked when Yuuji paid, the flowers tucked in his arm.
The teen spluttered, making the staff giggled before thanking him for the purchase. “What? No, no, I don’t have a girlfriend,” he shook his head.
“Then for whom the bouquet is for?” Todo gestured towards him.
“It’s, um,” he scratched his cheek, “It’s for my dorm room. Spice up the place, you know,” he said.
Megumi and Nobara were already beside him, bags and with their faces all guarded. Todo, for his part, didn’t seem to notice their glares, unlike Mai.
A few seconds passed before his voice boomed again, “Wonderful! Wonderful! My brother has a good taste,” he clapped Yuuji’s shoulder, “Fragile as they are, a touch of green can lighten up the atmosphere. Your room must be very cozy then, brother,” Todo sagely nodded.
If it were anyone else, Megumi might take that as some sort of weird innuendo, but he lessened his intensity as did Nobara. Now they both just looked annoyed at the attention Todo made with his personality.
“Oh!” Todo clicked his fingers, “Maybe I should buy flowers for Tanaka-chan, she’s having another meet and greet, you see,” he explained to Yuuji alone. “I wish you were interested in an idol, but I won’t force you, brother. Now, excuse me, I’m buying some roses for Tanaka-chan,” he said. The Kyoto sorcerer left them in search of said flowers, towering over an old staff as he looked over the blooms.
Yuuji sighed, handing his purchase to Megumi before re-entering the store, clearly feeling pity at the poor old lady intimidated by Todo’s build and scar. “I’ll be right back,” he said to his friends, “Sorry, please wait up a bit, yeah?” Then he soon came to the old lady’s rescue. (He didn’t see how Nobara and Megumi mentally pulled a ‘ten-point for Itadori’ plaque.)
“Hmm? Peonies and lilies? Weird but interesting,” Mai commented when a few minutes passed.
Nobara put her hand on her hip. “What do you want?” She asked.
“Nothing, I’m just as annoyed as you with that gorilla over there,” Mai shrugged. “We were supposed to return today, but he insisted to stay longer since that idol has another event. Not far from here too,” she pointed to a building just a few more steps away.
Looking at the banner with the famous girl’s face on it doing a cutesy pose, Megumi asked, “Then why are you here? You can just go back alone by now,”
Mai froze for a split second before sniffing, “Someone has to reel that big dumbass in or he’s not returning anytime soon. Not when Tokyo has both his dear Tanaka-chan and brother,” she said. But her tone didn’t manage to convince the other two. Mai noticed this and decided it was time to catch up with her fellow Kyoto sorcerer. She fixed her purse, walking quickly away from the two.
“…. Huh,” Nobara shared a look with Megumi, “that was weird.”
Todo already had a set of roses, all twelve in deep red, wrapped neatly in a cream paper and tied with a maroon ribbon. He was writing the card as Yuuji waved at her.
“Hey,” he greeted, “Are you going to buy something also?” At Mai’s raised brow, he added, “Todo said you’re going to the event too, so I thought you would,”
Todo was penning down his words like a damn calligraphy master. Hunched over with a small pan over a fancy looking card. Mai wondered how much these all cost.
“Hmm, I don’t know, I think giving flowers that will wilt anyway is a waste,” she said. “So, no, I’m not going to do like Todo over here,”
“The gesture might make Tanaka happy though,” Yuuji mused, “It’s the thought that counts. She seems to appreciate it when fans give her something,” then before Mai’s raised her brow again, he said, “Todo showed me fan clips,”
She looked at him. Really looked. Something about the way he voiced his reason made her feel bad. What the hell? She just said it was a useless thing, and she meant it. There was nothing about this teen’s wistful face would make her change her mind. Sure, Tanaka was quite talented when she gave her a chance, no wonder Todo was enraptured by her. Yet Mai only came along because someone needed to get him back, that was all, and it was a plus that Tanaka had some pretty good songs under her. That was it. Nothing more. Mai convinced herself hard, she didn’t need to bring something for an artist that didn’t even know she existed.
So, why in the ever-loving fuck, her hands grabbed the nearest and smallest flower set, putting them on the register, then pulled out her purse?
“Sorry, your card is declined,” the beeping noise sounded like a bell of shame. Mai hid her grimace. Of course, she forgot to top up her card, she berated herself. It would be more embarrassing to withdraw her purchase, so she pulled out her phone for her back account.
“Ah, here, I’ll cover it,” Yuuji slipped some notes to the cashier. He then gave the tied together sweet alyssums in clear and yellow wrap to her. “You don’t have to pay me, it’s alright,” he waved her off.
Mai was too surprised doing anything except grabbing the small bouquet and murmured a ‘thank you’ before Todo walked out with his opulent one.
Yuuji grinned, “No problem, have fun at the event,” he said.
His face almost made Mai reaching for her sunglasses. She recomposed herself, fixing her hair, and said a clear “Thank you and goodbye,” then pointedly ignoring the way Megumi and Nobara stared at her back. Catching up with Todo who speed walked towards the gathering lines under Tanaka’s banner.
“What?” Yuuji asked when he picked up their shopping bags. His friends were looking at him funnily.
“Nothing,” Nobara shook her head which Megumi shared, “Nothing at all.”
Since her job involved dealing with bodies (even dead ones), the office was sterile – all plain and hints of metal. It was alright, definitely not something Shoko would complain about. As long as the place was comfortable enough (because it shan’t be completely comfortable no matter how hard she would have tried), she was fine. But it didn’t mean anything was beyond acceptance, say for example, the marigolds with chrysanthemums and gentians perching themselves on her desk.
They were fresh, the petals bright and waxy soft under her fingertips, they were lovely. Yuuji had practically (happily, excitedly, you know, like the puppy he was) shoved the flowers into her opened hands. The teen had had looked nervous when she just stared after several seconds, almost twitching to retrieve the plants yet waited a bit a more. He was saved the embarrassment as Shoko gave him a smile, a small thanks given before Yuuji took that as a sign and had happily waved at her while he headed to the backyard some steps away from her office.
Her lighter was halfway to the cigarette’s tip but a glance at the pile of colors, she stopped. The cigarette was re-pocketed, her lighter played between her fingers, and she then stepped out. The building was quiet, it was a Saturday after all, even the principal wouldn’t waste an off day. Shoko shouldn’t even come in, she only came for the documents she had forgotten during her late nighter. Her feet took her to the backyard, a small area mushed between two wings of the technical school. Soon, the familiar pink head came into view. Shoko didn’t greet him, mouth shutting about her presence, only leaning against a wall. Respectfully waiting until the teen was finished.
“… Sorry, I can’t come often,” Yuuji spoke. Whispered. “You know, Gojo-sensei sent us on back-to-back missions. Kugisaki was fuming, demanding food when we finally got dropped back by Ichiji-san. Couldn’t really blame her, I was so hungry!” He crossed his arms, nodding to himself. “We ended up ordering lots of food. You should see the faces of the delivery guys, it was like that spider-man meme,” he giggled.
There were flowers rested on the small stone graves. Each had a few stems in front of it.
Yuuji’s laugh flitted down, a volume reduced. “There’s a new series, you know,” he said after some silent seconds, “It’s a mystery, a bit gory, but the suspense is promising. You would like it,” the teen’s look was wistfully melancholic, “and no doubt we could have sleepover filled with just us talking about it,”
There was a bird zipping pass Shoko. It nearly bumped her nose making her gasped. Yuuji’s head snapped to her. “Oh, Ieri-san,” he nodded, “Are you leaving? Sorry, I’ll finish up here so you can lock up the place,” Yuuji immediately stood up.
Shoko shrugged, “Well, soon but not now,” she reached for her lighter.
But Yuuji already moved, picking up his bag, and gave the stone a solid, “I have to go now. I’ll visit sometime soon, Junpei,” his eyes crinkled when he said the name. Then he looked to Shoko, “Well, thank you for letting me stay a while, Ieri-san. Hope you also like the flowers,”
“It’s good,” she said and was about to light her cigarette before she sighed once more, pocketing both her tobacco and lighter yet again after a glance at the teen. “Do you like candies?” She offered them from her coat, they were piling up thanks to Gojo, a futile effort on discouraging her nicotine fix.
Yuuji smiled, “Yes, thanks,” he picked two red-colored ones. Raspberry or strawberries, probably not even both. “I’ll get going now. Have a nice weekend, Ieri-san,” he bowed.
His cotton bag dropped slightly, just enough for her to glimpse at another flower arrangements. Huh, Shoko hummed, there was still one more. She nodded to him, waving until he was gone from the hall. His feet excitedly running on wood. After that, Shoko finally had her smoke. The woman sat against the wall near the head stones. Clouds puffed into the air above the names whose deaths were perpetrated by a curse. The stones were still. Stagnant. The flowers were going to be looking fresh for mere days, that was if the wind or rain hadn’t ruined them.
Shoko flicked some ashes, “Don’t worry, I’ll try to make something out of these flowers,” she said.
The stones seemed to glint; Shoko chugged it up to the sun peeking through the clouds. By the end of her second cigarettes, she had a handful of the blooms while still leaving some on the ground. She did the same with the ones in her office. After locking the doors and did the usual checks, Shoko stepped out from the school. The flowers filled her bag, and she thought how lovely they contrasted the grey sky.
Traffic was bad around Tokyo. Ichiji’s back was stiff against hours of driving, his hands possibly long indented by the steering wheel. He blinked away the many red taillights, massaging his temple before putting his glasses on again. The radio had long been less than a distraction and more of an annoying background noise. Yuuji didn’t mind that, busying himself with his phone when they didn’t have any interest in conversation. The car was uncharacteristically quiet, Ichiji thought even Yuuji wouldn’t be too chatty when his friends and teacher weren’t around.
The teen had now put his phone away, snoring lightly at the back, and head slightly mushed on the window. He must still be tired, Ichiji thought, lowering the fans inside the car. The three First Years hadn’t exchanged many words when he picked them up last night. Looking ruffled, scuffed, and dirty at the back seat. Nobara was nodding her head then knocked it hard against the door while Megumi had all but ready to crawl to his dorm. Only Yuuji had been mildly awake, hefting his two friends up by the shoulders. The teen even managed to bid Ichiji good night as he trotted across the school yard with his two loads.
But it seemed the fatigue finally crashed onto him when he wasn’t moving. Ichiji almost picked his phone and (softly) asked Nanami to consider cancelling their outing, but the excited buzz Yuuji had with his leg tapping were enough for Ichiji from ever making the call. He deserved some fun after the hard missions Gojo cheerily assigned to the First Years. Yuuji’s friends chose to sleep like a log while he readily agreed meeting with Nanami.
Ichiji huffed, smiling when Yuuji made a small snort in his sleep, and pressed the gas when the light turned green. They had been in traffic for one and a half hour now. Ichiji should be off duty today, but the place was quite far and took longer by train, it would be cruel to leave Yuuji navigating alone. Not to mention he wasn’t a local – a high chance he could get lost. Nanami offered to pick him up yet it wouldn’t do when the man was in the middle of finishing up his own mission.
So, in light of all this, Ichiji took up as a driver. He reasoned since that place was quite nice for a weekend outing, he might just as well. It wasn’t like he would need to take both Nanami and Yuuji back. They probably would even forget about him altogether soon after. (Ichiji couldn’t blame them, his presence was so marginal at times and he had a natural talent to be invisible.)
When there was another congestion, he pulled the brake yet again, and took a huge gulp of juice. His eyes found the makeshift pot by the dashboard. The baby’s breaths and foxgloves were gathered inside the plastic cup while their brethren snuggled close by his side in the cup holder. Yuuji had given them when Ichiji first arrived at the dorms. The flowers seemed fresh, likely so because the teen bought those in the morning despite the late hours he and his friends had returned to the school dorm. Ichiji didn’t have time saying thank you as Yuuji asked him to wait a bit then zoomed into the office where Shoko was. His bag bopping against him as he walked away. The man had rummaged the car trunk for something to hold the flowers in. With a little bit of improvisation, Ichiji managed to decorate the car with those. Yuuji had thrown a small grin when he buckled up.
“Are we there yet, Ichiji-san?” Yuuji groggily asked. He rubbed his eyes with his sleeves.
“Just a little bit more, Itadori-kun,” the man replied. “I can drop you near the next intersection. Nanami-san told you he’ll wait by the sidewalk, right?”
Yuuji nodded, stifling a yawn, and pulled his phone out. He squinted his eyes at the screen. “I wonder if Nanamin already arrives,” he mumbled.
There was a sudden knock on the window when they got stuck again. Ichiji jolted and Yuuji immediately scooted to the other door.
“Oh! Nanamin! You’re here,” he said. Without more prodding, he tapped the driver’s seat, “Ichiji-san, I’ll drop off here, okay? Thank you for driving me all the way here, I’m going now. Have a good afternoon!” He chirpily said, then swiftly joined Nanami on the sidewalk.
Ichiji gave him a wave from the window before the car in front started moving. He watched from his rearview mirror Yuuji grinning up to Nanami while the man patted him on the head. They were already chatting, soon walking away side by side. No trace of sleepiness or fatigue visible on either. Ichiji sighed happily. At least, they would be having an enjoyable day. He glanced at the pink foxgloves and white baby’s breaths, took a deep breath himself, and turned his car to the right. His mind already thinking of a park where he could sit and enjoy some snacks alone.
“Oh right, here,” Yuuji halted and reached into his bag.
Nanami stopped his walk, waiting curiously as the teen pulled a slim bouquet. “Is this for me?” He asked when Yuuji placed it in his hands.
“Of course! I hope you like it,” he scratched his cheek. “I found them at the store and thought the lilies looked like one of your suits,”
The said lilies were white, almost a creamy yellow shade under certain lights. They were tight with a simple yellow bow and wrapped in brown paper. Yuuji looked on nervously when Nanami didn’t talk yet.
The older man fixed his glasses and held the bouquet closer. “It’s wonderful, Itadori-kun. Thank you, I’ll take good care of this,” he put it carefully inside his messenger bag. Making sure it was safely tucked between his clothes while the petals could still have room peeking out of the bag. The added weight felt precious.
Nanami wondered if this was a new habit the teen had developed. He was sure he saw some flowers on Ichiji’s dashboard, and Shoko had posted a picture of some too on her SNS with the caption “a lovely arrangement from a nice student”. It didn’t take long for Nanami to connect the dots. He honestly didn’t know what to comment. It was nice though. The thought that he was kept in mind by Yuuji. It was warming.
With one final grin, Yuuji resumed their walk. Nanami had one hand on his bag all the way.
“So, where should we eat?”
Gojo was a grown man. An adult. He paid his tax, had his own apartment, and he had a job. He had students who looked up to him (though if you asked Nobara and Megumi, they would give him doubting looks) and he himself had responsibilities. He was emotionally stable (alright, partly stable because jujutsu sorcerers) and he had a high-functioning, intelligent mind.
But boy, was he feeling like a jealous kid right now. If it weren’t for his pride, he might be throwing a tantrum. Though he was already on the way, skipping it, and went straight for sulking. The cause? Photos. Yes, you heard that right, photos. One from Shoko, one from Nanami, and several from his two students. He almost wanted to whine. And Gojo Satoru wasn’t usually one to mope.
“Gojo-sensei,” Yuuji’s voice filtered through the lounge, “Are you here?”
The man raised his hand from his position on the sofa. Voice muffled into the cushion. “… here,”
Footsteps came near him. “Whoa, Gojo-sensei, what’s going on?” Yuuji gasped when he saw his teacher. Gojo had all but slumped onto his seat, pouting, and with his phone hanging from his fingers. He looked miserable. “Um, Gojo-sensei? Are you alright?”
“Yuuji,” the older man replied, “Do you really not like me?” He slowly righted himself up.
“What do you mean?” His student raised his brow. “Of course, I like you, Gojo-sensei. You’re my teacher, right? And you’re good at this jujutsu thing,” he said.
“Really? You like me?”
“For real, sensei,”
Gojo swiftly latched onto the teen. “So why don’t I get flowers too?” He shook his shoulders, “Nanami shared the photo of the flowers you gave him and Shoko who rarely post anything did post a bouquet! Your classmates sometimes put flowers on their online story! And Ichiji! I saw the dried flowers in the car,” Gojo pouted. “Everyone has their own flowers except me, am I really that forgettable? Hey, hey, Yuuji-kun, please don’t tell me you do,” he sniffed. (Dramatically.)
Yuuji blinked. Then he blinked again. And once more for good measure before he sighed. An eye-rolling accompanied his reply, “Gojo-sensei,” he calmly put his hands over the larger ones still on his shoulders, “Can you release me first?” When the taller man gingerly did, he continued, “Good now, please see what’s in my hands,”
There was a rustle where Gojo pulled his blindfold and looked down. Blue greeted him in varied shades. They were wrapped in clear plastic with pure white ribbon tying them together. Poppies, delphinium, hydrangeas, asters…
“… Oh,” Gojo dumbly said. He held the bouquet as Yuuji pushed them to him. His hands cradled it like a babe. His Infinity shut off. “These all for me?” He asked because it felt too surreal.
Yuuji grinned, hand scratching his cheek. “Of course! It took a while for me to collect all blue colored flowers. They don’t match your eyes, but well, they still are blue,” he snickered. “See, I don’t forget about you, Gojo-sensei,” he huffed.
Gojo was caressing one of the petals from the large bouquet. Soft and pliant under his fingers. The blindfold was completely taken off then.
“Yuuji!” He latched onto the teen again. “Awe, this is so sweet! I knew you like me! I shouldn’t have doubted my own student. Of course, they like their teacher, I’m the strongest after all,” he tightened his hold and ruffled Yuuji’s hair. “What a good student I have,” he sang.
Yuuji for the most part let his teacher smothered him. Sighing at the display. Gojo could be weird sometimes. He never thought flowers would send the man into a fit. But he was glad that his teacher liked it. Felt nice seeing the recipient being all jolly and happy.
They ended up not doing any training for the day. Instead, Gojo’s phone almost ran out of storage and he almost got blocked by everyone on the SNS by how many spamming he did. He had Ichiji, the poor man being so confused by his smug smirk directly pointed to him, driven them to the city center. The man splurged on food and since this was Yuuji, the teen was all too happy to let the day went by with the two enjoying sweet and savory snacks through the bustling city.
At the end of the day, Gojo did got temporarily blocked online by everyone.
Nobara came across her teacher smiling alone in the hallway. She had a thick book under her arm and a resin mold in her hands.
“Gojo-sensei, what are you doing?” She asked.
“Hello, Kugisaki-chan,” he turned to her. “Nothing, just admiring the blooms here,” a flower was lightly tapped.
Throughout the classroom and dorm, there were small vases filled with blue flowers placed. Usually on the windowsills or tables, sometimes even on a shelf. The seniors ignored them when they found more than one. If this wasn’t bragging, Nobara didn’t know what was. Her online feed still had some damn blue flowers spams thanks to Gojo.
“Huh, alright then,” she said. Unimpressed.
Nobara was about to pass him when he tilted his head at the cups and mold in her hands.
“Oh? You’re into arts and craft, Kugisaki-chan?” Gojo asked. “Resin to preserve the petals?” He teasingly smiled.
She huffed. “Well, blame that idiot to bring back so many of them that the bin usually overflows with them,” she flipped stray bangs away from her face. “Besides, I’m bored. Reusing them seems less wasteful, how hard can it be?”
Nobara wouldn’t tell him that she got the inspiration from the Kyoto school. She definitely wouldn’t say how seeing the cute and pretty trinkets in the box sent for Yuuji made her want to try making them herself. And it absolutely had nothing to do with her friend’s touched expression and small smiles when he held the bookmarks and the resin creations.
She held her things tighter when Gojo didn’t stop looking – even blindfolded, his eyes seemed to see through her everything. “Are we done here? I need to go finish this up,” she said.
“Of course, have fun with your craft project, Kugisaki-chan,” Gojo said and slid away. His annoying smile in place.
Nobara guessed he saw through her bullshit and decided that it wasn’t worth getting fret over. So what if she did it for a different reason? It was her business. Hers only. She walked away while checking to make sure the petals were all in place and completely submerged in the resin mix. This had been her third try, the last two were so bad, she would never claim them as her doing. Megumi seemed to be better at this, but he rather went with Yuuji for a ‘quality’ time at the market. She swore the teen was preening whenever Yuuji commented how helpful he was bringing home the groceries.
After she disappeared into the corner, Gojo rubbed his chin. His eyes flicked to the vase beside him and back to where Nobara had been. There was a minute before he hummed. Fingers snapping as if saying ‘aha!’.
At first, Yuuji thought it was just another quirk Gojo started doing that wouldn’t last for a whole week. The man put stickers everywhere. Megumi would let them stick to their books, bags, and uniforms before peeling them to the trash on each day’s end. Nobara looked on huffily and commented they weren’t in kindergarten anymore but had the heart to actually not immediately chuck the stickers off and instead electing to evade Gojo’s ridiculous range.
As for Yuuji? He got the most stickers out of everyone. It didn’t even warrant anything that he did, only that Gojo just slapped one on him whenever he felt like it. He had stickers on his books the most and Gojo brushed off any inquiries. His teacher always had a knack to give a not-answer, really, his tack was amazing. The teen ended up just letting this thing be. His teacher could be weird, granted any jujutsu sorcerer was weird. (And that meant his fellow first years also which he wouldn’t voice it to them anytime because it was like calling the kettle black.)
But then this ‘sticker-sticking’ thing went on pass the one-week mark. Yuuji now had a small notebook filled with varied emojis, mascots, and weirdly enough, flowers. They were placed haphazardly (Nobara’s words not his. He’d like to think it was an abstract art) with plastic sheets covering each page because somehow Yuuji didn’t want even one fell off and lost forever. Of course, he didn’t have time bringing the notebook everywhere and besides, with his track record, he wouldn’t want the small book being shredded to pieces during their missions. Some of the stickers Gojo put on his sleeves or his face when he greeted them after were instead placed on his phone case.
“…. It looks crowded,” Megumi commented about the case one afternoon.
They were eating in Yuuji’s room. Instant ramen with ham and egg because Ponyo and Studio Ghibli had their magic on them. Really, one look at that one scene and Megumi had clicked pause, then headed to the kitchen with Yuuji in tow. The two boys sat on the floor, a laptop in front of them, and the steams of ramen wafting.
Yuuji stopped mid-slurp. “Ah, you’re right,” he rubbed his phone, “I don’t know what’s with Gojo-sensei and his sticker obsession, but well…” He shrugged and resumed his slurping until the noodle hit his nose. (That was too cute, Megumi gripped his chopsticks.) “… Well, it’s kinda cute, don’t you think? Look, these bunny fits so well with the daisy here,” Yuuji tapped the said stickers. “The yellow case contrasts them well. See? The dandelions and butterflies look so cheery,” his case was bombarded with so many things that it made Megumi’s own phone looked like a sad virgin.
“Do you want to stick one on yours, Fushiguro?”
Megumi shrugged as he sipped his broth. He never considered accessories to be his thing. But huh, maybe a sticker wouldn’t hurt, he glanced at Yuuji.
“Sure, just one,” he nodded.
And it wasn’t as if he chose the wolf-puppy that just so happened to be a pair of black and white. The white one was put on his black case while the black one sat at the corner of his friend’s yellow case. He reasoned it reminded him of his shikigamis. That was all. It definitely wasn’t because he felt a tiny twinge when Nobara and Yuuji had matching coasters made out of resin and the last rose bouquet Yuuji bought. No, it absolutely wasn’t because of it.
The credit was playing as Megumi got up and bid him good night. Insistently carrying the bowls and glasses himself. When he left the room, Yuuji moved the laptop to his desk. Turning it off, he placed it away from the vase and photo frame. Full camellias filled the glass vase this time, almost covering the smiling faces of him and his grandfather, the frame finally pulled out from his bag after months. Yuuji had also placed a box and the sticker-filled notebook beside the two. He picked his chair and settled himself before opening the plastic box.
It felt like when he was a kid again, when during the summer he caught some bugs and excitedly showed them to his grandfather while they ate watermelons, never failing to chatter inexhaustibly. He pulled the things he had received over the last few months. The bookmark which Todo of all people had sent with several book recommendations which honestly helped Yuuji a lot in the jujutsu matters, a flat rectangle with the preserved sweet alyssums from Mai (she had slipped a small card stating the smell had been nice), and surprisingly Momo made adorably pressed flowers that she admitted were from Mai’s bunch. There were also a lily perfectly dried in silica gel that was placed inside a clear globe from Nanami (which Yuuji honestly balked since it looked expensive), a charm made from the flowers he placed on the graves and carefully placed into the locket by Shoko, a keychain from Ichiji, and lastly a wonky cup given by Nobara before she brushed the fact then gave him the coaster. The notebook with Gojo’s stickers was put on top of the box when he put everything back in.
Yuuji rested his head in his hands.
The gifts gave him a funny feeling deep within his heart where Sukuna wouldn’t be able to touch. He doubted the curse had something like that within himself. It felt… nice and warm when he held these little, inconsequential things. Almost like a dragon with his hoard, but that didn’t sound right because Yuuji hated being selfish. It was the thought that rang a kind chord for him. Just the notion that someone remembered him, went through a day to give something, and asked nothing in return. Done with no cost demanded. It felt like he mattered and that he was remembered.
A reminder that he wasn’t alone. That he was worthy of a position as someone noticeable in others’ life. (Maybe someday, he could make his grandfather’s words into a reality.)
There was a knock and Yuuji jolted from his dozing.
“Fushiguro?” His friend stood with hands in his pockets. “What’s up?”
Megumi noted his mussed hair, “Sorry, were you already asleep?”
“No, no, not yet,” Yuuji shook his head. “So….”
Before the silence went on, Megumi pulled one hand from his sweatpants and opened it to Yuuji. “Here, it’s for you. I forgot to give it earlier,” he said.
The circular object had a short braid tied with it; purple petals decorated the inside. Yuuji opened his palm, then thumbing it when Megumi dropped it onto the hand. “Thank you, Fushiguro,” he smiled, feeling the solid thickness of the disk.
His friend rubbed his head, drooping his head that his chin touched his shirt’s collar then nodded. “Glad you like it,” he said. “Well, it’s getting late now, so good night, Itadori,” Megumi gave him one last glance before entering his own room. The door swiftly closed after.
Yuuji locked his door and inspected the gift under the lamp. The flower was a purple anemone, submerged in a clear resin and with small glitters mixed in. There were small swirls of black surrounding it, forming a frame. The connected braid was dark maroon and had a small hook at the end. Yuuji wondered if Megumi was secretly good at this kind of thing. This could easily be well-received and made to sell. Maybe Nobara would pester him if she knew. Overall, the trinket was well-crafted.
There was a spring in his steep when he went over to his desk. His hand opening the box and then stopping. A few seconds of contemplation, Yuuji then pulled out his phone. The poor thing had already seemed overcrowded, but that only meant adding one thing wouldn’t matter in the encompassing aesthetic. He carefully released the hook and tied the loose end to the corner of the case where his previous lavender accessory had been. Sukuna only sneered at another phone chain, Yuuji easily brushed him off.
The next morning when the First Years were waiting for Ichiji to pick them up, Yuuji played with his phone and didn’t notice the way Megumi slightly tilted his lips. Nobara though, well, she caught it and gave the teen a shit-eating smirk. Her friend elected to let her be squished between him and Yuuji when they filed into the car, foregoing their usual seating and pointedly looked the other way. She accepted that with good grace in the rare time.
The phone chain clicked noisily whenever Yuuji picked his device. It became a constant. He didn’t think much about it. And then he didn’t hear it anymore when he entered Shibuya.
He wondered what happened to his room. Surely now that the Jujutsu board went on with his execution, they would strip the place. His belongings mattered little to them and Yuuji felt heavy at the thought that his grandfather’s photo, the notebook, and the box being thrown out, even maybe burned since he was something abhorrent in their eyes. Those little trifles people went through the trouble giving him were wasted. It was a sad image.
He blinked, then turned to Megumi. They had been walking for some time now, Yuta and Choso close behind them. “Yeah?”
“Is something wrong? Are you tired?”
He shook his head. “No, I’m not. Come on, let’s hurry to this Tengen-sama,” he said and paced himself more.
Megumi frowned as Yuuji went ahead but didn’t stop him. His friend dug his hands into his pocket and looked upwards. It was a late afternoon, the sun starting to hide away and the clouds sparse. The sky was mixed between purplish blue and deep orange. Its beauty was stark against the carnage below. Untouchable and grant. Empyrean in its vastness which shouldn’t dwell with the earth below.
Yuuji wanted to eternalize it as a mortal yet couldn’t. His phone was crushed into pieces during the battle. Its weight missing from his person. The flower disk had been already cracked before the device, the constant bumping and hitting its undoing. The shards had dug into his thighs when that Suguru Geto dealt him that one massive, cursed blow.
He sighed, hand grabbing his hood only to remember he wasn’t wearing it any longer. He sighed again. Megumi finally caught up to him. Raising his brow slightly when he looked at Yuuji. A silent offer to lean on if he was truly exhausted. The teen gave him a brittle smile at the gesture, and together they threaded on. Shoulders brushing with familiarity.
It helped. Somehow. Megumi’s presence a reminder that he wasn’t completely alone. Hadn’t been completely branded as a sinner despite the blood that stained his hands and his allowing of Sukuna’s rampage. Yuuji felt tiredness that seeped into his soul, a yoke that he put on himself for penance. He had been ready to disappear and became nothing but a cursed memory yet of course, Megumi wouldn’t let him.
And maybe that was why Yuuji still had the strength to walk still.
He had lost so much in a blink. Wondering how the hell he was even functioning now.
But Megumi asked for him. Asked for his help. Imploring him to save him. Despite it all.
He needed to get himself together. He needed to be fine. He would be fine. Not for him. For Megumi. For Gojo. For Nobara. For Nanami. For the others.
There was a bunch of bent wildflowers sprouting from the cracked concrete road.
Yuuji stepped on them and kept on moving.