He wonders when the world last felt like a playground, a fertile ground, rather than lands and oceans rigged with cheap white flags and capitalist schemes and rigid norms and exploitive institutions.
The one: the Jujutsu Sorcerer establishment, run by old men who have little sense of a rapidly changing age, who are far too willing to dehumanize a possessed child and neutralize him without additional trial.
It is not as if he thrives on naivete or is allowed to live on it. There is a simple foundation of logic to all of this: Gojou is impossibly powerful, a thunder strike of a human, a myth of a sorcerer. He must make the most of it. He offers Yuuji an alternative: delayed execution. He writes him off as dead until he is stronger, less vulnerable. He keeps Megumi and the rest of the students and faculty in the dark so that they won't be forced to carry out an old fool's assassination order.
He antagonizes Gakuganji because he is the only one who will but mostly because it is fun, probing an ancient volcano dormant with all its staunch conservatism. He does it also to bode ill will: a fair warning, really, since he is nothing but courteous. Sagelike, even. Geto would sneer at him.
Yuuji thinks of him as his teacher, his personal instructor, and he is not wrong. He is also not completely right. Gojou is keeping him on a long leash, but he will not be the one to tell him that. Nanami shakes his head and pitches in.
He meets Ryomen Sukuna once during all of this: the first time Yuuji gets himself indoctrinated into the parallel world of spirits and curses and human monsters. He talks to him a few times after that, mostly via a disconnected mouth with gleaming rows of canines formed out of the skin of Yuuji's hand or cheek, mocking and demonic and kind of its own routine delight: trading verbal blows and other insults, meager threats, rote spiels.
"I find you tedious. Begone," drones Sukuna's voice, from the side of Yuuji's face that isn't currently flattened to a unread textbook, a small pool of drool there. He was meant to be studying, but.
Gojou barely shifts his attention beyond the brim of his little book. "Great minds think alike."
Like this, with no possession over Yuuji's facial features, Sukuna's amused incredulity is hard-pressed to come through. Still, Gojou gets the idea from the curve of his mouth, pulling around teeth. A single blistering red eye narrows at him, entertained. "Oh? Pray tell, how interested will you be while I am tearing you limb from limb?"
"Lackluster, that." Gojou flips a page. "You would think the King of Curses would have a more animated imagination."
"This from the man who obeys relics."
"This from twenty disembodied fingers, with no body to call their own."
"The brat's will be mine soon enough."
Another page. "Hm. And how is that going for you?" If he strains his ear, Gojou might have just heard Yuuji snicker. Sukuna just scowls with an indignant glower. It is charming for the way the room's temperature rises a few degrees. "Do not forget, sorcerer: you will be the first I kill."
"You will find I am rather contrary to expectations." Gojou hums and then smiles, blithe. "Want to try your luck, O'King?"
The red eye blinks at him, narrow and languid, considering. When Yuuji's cheek melds back and seals shut, Gojou clips his handbook shut. Fun, fun, fun.
In a minute, Yuuji sits up in his seat, stunned awake. A series of conflicted expressions pass over his face, before he finally looks resigned.
"Are you sure?" Yuuji asks, small, because he is a good kid and he worries for Gojou's life in a way nobody else does anymore. For that, Gojou smiles, genuine, and pats the kid's head once.
"Do not worry about it," he says. "It will be a little power check, to see how he is doing with six fingers. Give us twenty minutes."
Yuuji nods, once, and Gojou warps them to a nearby clearing, void of people and buildings. By the time Gojou unhands the cuff of Yuuji's hoodie, it is Sukuna surveying him with a critical eye.
"A little power check," he sneers. Ink spills over his face, his arms, fully forming. "We will see about that."
It is a playfight at best. Sukuna may still reign as the legendary curse, but he has yet to be fully restored, a dozen or something demon fingers short, trapped in a fifteen-year old's adolescent body.
And Gojou will not take him seriously. It is part spite, part necessity, part non-concern. It isn't like he doesn't know the stories, the epics; he just doesn't remember the last time he felt compelled to win a fight.
He is trying to wage a revolution, actually. The execution of his endgame requires an exquisite capacity for patience.
"Take off your blindfold," Sukuna says, anyway, irritable and impetuous and insatiable, ripe for autocracy. Gojou thinks about a world with a single entity above them all, thinks that it could be rewarding, for a brief infinity.
Gojou does not know how Sukuna has managed to live through one thousand years of it. He does not understand why Sukuna would want to live a thousand more of it. It is a question worth asking, he supposes, later.
For now: "Try your best to make me, king."
Sukuna's hissed chuckle is the only sound that cuts through the hugeness of the space before they are dancing stinging arcs around each other, their bodies crisp and sharp and incisive, arms long and hands catching. Blows never landing. On him. On Yuuji's body, red starts.
Gojou slams Sukuna into shallow water, sending up a spray. "I would appreciate it dearly if you aren't so careless with my student," he says. His hands make no contact, and the demon curse cranes his neck up at him, teeth gleaming, so vividly amused. "Oh, sorcerer, concern looks darling on you." His knees lock together and then Gojou is flying.
He shakes himself off before sidestepping another powerful kick, a crater in the ground behind him where his head had been. Gojou hopes Yuuji isn't watching them too closely; your instructor getting near-mauled by your curse-possessed hands isn't easy to digest.
"I have bested all your ancestors," Sukuna's voice all around him somehow, "I can do it again."
And he is vicious, Gojou will give him that--weaponizing every opening he makes obvious and creating ones when he does not. "You have an awful temper," he says as Sukuna bends his arm into breaking. Gojou just follows the movement, arcing overhead, and uses his momentum to throw Sukuna off him.
"Three thousand years, and your bloodline remains just as irritating." Sukuna is flat on the ground, four eyes insidious on Yuuji's face. "I will end it."
"Fourteen minutes," says Gojou, pleasant, and he darts into the sky, parrying Sukuna's fists, a kick, two hits to the abdomen. Nothing touches him. Not if Gojou lets it.
He's grinning, he realizes. Oops. Somewhere, Geto's disembodied voice hums: finally, a fiend for a fiend. "Try harder," Gojou says, a rigged dare, and watches Sukuna's teeth grow sharper, his four eyes bloodier.
"Brat," and Sukuna flings a glut of cursed energy point-blank, cold and fiery and heavy like rocks and fire and blades. It slides off of Gojou like water.
"Next," he says. Snaps his fingers, catapulting Sukuna into the nearest acre of trees.
He is climbing out of a mouth made of mud-dirt, ripped stumps of trees and their mangled branches crumbled all around, unperturbed and not a speck of broken skin on Yuuji's body by the time Gojou hovers above him.
"How is it?" he asks. "Being so evil. Murdering innocents. Running the world red with blood. Etcetera, etcetera. Quite boring, I imagine."
Sukuna squints at him. Within a blink and the next, Gojou is facing him, twin anomalies in the summer sky. Two adjacent parables festering in the lack, in this dry, marketed, bordered world.
"What a rotten question," is what he gives. Sukuna's head is cocked back, as if gaining that margin of high ground will make him bigger, make Gojou cower. "I do not find goodness interesting," his voice strangely void of malice, even contempt. His smaller slits for eyes open, close, twice. "It hardly compels me."
"You say that like you have not been human." Gojou watches Sukuna watch him, and dismisses the compulsion to take off his blindfold. "You really should die, you know."
"My first life matters little in the face of all the rest I have spent terrorizing the world," says Sukuna, tucking Yuuji's hands into the pockets of the sorcerer uniform. He looks distantly absent, and for a moment Gojou actually thinks he looks young, like a lost child. It is an atrocious thought.
When Sukuna smiles, he makes Yuuji's mouth curl in all the wrong corners. "Well. Out of all the sorcerers I have killed, you seem the most amenable to obliterating the world."
"That is quite the liberal interpretation," Gojou says, not bothering to move as Sukuna sets him alight with hellfire. Doesn't when Sukuna makes a derisive sound and cants closer, either. "It is a big world. I prefer "dismantling" and "abolishing"."
"Semantics and morals," Sukuna says. Another red eye twists free on Yuuji's face. "I have seen the likes of you in every era. Righteous little men, playing savior. You think you are so capable. You think you can make even a lick of difference." Murderous almost, the smile that takes shape as Sukuna coos, full and long: "You truly think a thing as short-lived and miserable as you can remake the face of the world?"
Geto's disenchanted face, grim and smiling and hateful, gleams like so many teeth. Gojou slips a finger under his blindfold and stares the curse in the eye.
"Yes," he says, mutiny cool in his mouth, and he doesn't know what is in his face to make a curse grin, animal. "You will have your fun yet, Sukuna."
The elaborate ink patterning is evaporating by the time Sukuna speaks again, voice harrowing and huge and singing. "I retract my earlier words. This will be interesting, it seems," and here the body Sukuna shares with Yuuji begins to plummet, consciousness dispersing, joy wild and acute on his face. His last words sound like a knell, resounding and etching themselves into a grave somewhere, in lasting perpetuity: "I will enjoy annihilating the world you intend to create, Gojou Satoru."