When Senku wakes up, he’ll say that his first thought is, I’m out.
It’s not a lie.
But like a lot of things he says in a world more stone than steel, it’s a half truth; uttered not with the intention to hide, but with careless flippancy because somewhere along the way, his regard for his own well-being was knocked down from the top of the list towards the very bottom, overtaken by science and redevelopment, finding a cure and stopping Tsukasa, taking care of his village and his villagers ( because they’re his now, this much he knows) .
He doesn’t stop to question when exactly Taiju and Yuzuriha’s (and Kohaku and Suika and Kinrou and Ginrou and Gen) lives start to take precedence over his, doesn’t really see a point to because as far as he’s concerned, if it’s not actively hindering science he’ll let it be.
So when Senku wakes up after three thousand and seven hundred years of petrification, it’s not a lie that his first thought is, I’m out.
It’s just not the whole truth.
It goes like this.
He remembers seeing the flash of green light, the feeling of his body turning to stone, carves it deep into his memory because it’s important and he can’t forget important things. He remembers forming a plan within the first few seconds of petrification because while his body couldn’t move he could still think and he’ll milk that for all it’s worth. He remembers cursing whatever - whoever - caused the green light. He remembers—
—he remembers numbers.
It starts with a one. Then a two. Then three and four.
The numbers climb high and then higher and it’s a mind numbing task but one he does because he has no other choice. Inevitably, he loses track, but it takes less than a second to regather his thoughts and continue from there because he has no other choice than to count.
So he counts. And counts.
He remembers numbers. He remembers the initial one, then two, then three and four and up to possibly eight hundred thousand and some.
Ask him if he remembers counting the numbers between that and one hundred seventeen billion three hundred fifty-four million eight hundred ninety-three thousand eight hundred seventy.
Ask him what it was like staying conscious for over three thousand and seven hundred years with only numbers and his own thoughts for company.
Ask him what his first thought was upon breaking out of petrification.
He’ll tell you a half truth, half lie. Switch topics so smoothly, almost no one notices.
Almost no one, that is.
The people in Ishigami village chalk up Senku’s eccentricities as normal and expected, having no one to compare the actions of one depetrified human to. They see him tune out words mid conversation, the way his eyes unfocus and his hands move like clockwork, thoughtless but precise. They hear him talk to himself, holding a conversation easily like he’s done it a thousand times and more, asking questions and answering himself moments later. They notice the lack of his presence, when he goes missing for days on end, reappearing just as suddenly as he disappeared.
Senku’s behavior is no cause for concern among the people in Ishigami Village.
After all, it’s probably just be a depetrification thing.
And then Asagiri Gen arrives.
Asagiri Gen, renowned mentalist and master manipulator, who has spent his entire life dedicated to his craft, who has read more books than he can count on psychology and the human psyche, who has more than a decent understanding on what sensory overload looks like.
What happens is this.
He sees Senku tune out words mid conversation, sees the way he draws in on himself almost imperceptibly, see his hands tense at his sides like he’s straining against the urge to cover his ears, sees that it’s been over six minutes straight of conversation that has been increasing in volume for the last two, and immediately quiets down, talking in low tones and soft voices and subtly pushing the others to do so too.
He hears Senku talk to himself and recognizes it for what it is, a way for him to organize his thoughts because thinking out loud is easier than thinking quietly, and listening to your own voice isn’t as grating as listening to others. He figures out, eventually, that Senku desperately wants a second (new) voice to listen to, but Chrome is too loud and too much and Kohaku doesn’t know enough about science to keep up with the conversation. So he provides as much as he can for Senku without ever being too much, speaks when he knows that he’s needed and quiet when he knows that he’s not.
He notices Senku slipping out of bed and village one night, swaying like he’s dizzy and drunk ( like there’s too much to see and too much to hear ) and follows him discreetly into the dense forest, walking for what seems like hours until they reach an area that, at first, isn’t all that noteworthy.
It isn’t until Senku stumbles and sits himself at the roots of a tree, head thrown back and muscles lax that he starts to realize where he is. It isn’t until a few minutes pass and he notes to himself in passing that he can’t even hear crickets that he realizes.
It’s dead silent. The only thing he can hear is the rush of wind through leaves, and even that is faint.
Senku disappears for a few days because sometimes the village is just too much.
Gen likes to think he understands.
He follows Senku again the next time he disappears into the eerily silent forest and he isn’t naive enough to pretend Senku hasn’t noticed him, isn’t naive enough to not realize that Senku allows it, allows him (and it makes the greedy part of him that he’s never denied, proud).
It becomes a thing, the two of them, in the dead silent forest, being just as silent themselves, and he hoards it fiercely like a dragon.
Nobody notices the fact that they automatically speak in lower voices near Senku now, the fact that they’ll actively avoid causing too much disruption and destruction when Senku is present. Nobody notices that they’ve all somehow learned to walk quietly even though they were never actually taught.
Nobody notices because Asagiri Gen is a master manipulator with subtlety in spades.
But here’s the thing Gen overlooked.
He had deduced, in the most plausible and rational way he could with the evidence he had, that Senku had been susceptible to sensory overload even three thousand and seven hundred years ago.
And in a way, he’s not wrong, because Senku himself doesn’t really know when certain things became too much and too hard to handle, not when he was trapped in stone with no way to test his limits.
But the most plausible and rational explanation isn’t always the truth.
(because who could stay awake for all those years?)
(because who would stay awake for all those years?)
one. then two. then three and four.
(one. then two. then three and four—
—billion six hundred thirty-nine million twenty-eight thousand seven hundred forty-one.
four billion six hundred thirty-nine million twenty-eight thousand seven hundred forty-two.
four billion six hundred thirty-nine million twenty-eight thousand seven hundred forty-three— )
When Gen figures it out, horror is the only thing he feels.
And then it’s a ball of anguish and feels and of course he would.
Because of course Senku would.
So Senku is different these days, in a world more stone than steel. He tells half truths and can’t stand anything more than his own voice in his head. He’s thinner than he’s ever been before and it’s not so much that he forgets to eat but that he forgets he needs to. He hides in the forest when things become too much and cringes away from physical contact just as much as he craves for it.
Senku doesn’t put much thought into it.
It’s not important to the development of science, so he doesn’t bother dwelling on it. Doesn’t bother thinking about what it means that he can’t stand certain fabrics and textures anymore, he just avoids wearing them. Doesn’t bother thinking about what it means that he initially forgot who Taiju and Yuzuriha were, nothing more than blurry names to a blurry face before he remembered out of necessity.
Doesn’t bother thinking about the fact that his first thought was—