“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
—Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
His ring-tone pierces through the quiet like an air raid siren.
Fushiguro Megumi jerks awake, immediately alert in the way that is trained into all police recruits during their first week in the academy - it’s been years since he’s set foot there, but old habits die hard, especially those drilled into your instincts every morning for ten months straight. For a moment, he stares at the ceiling of his room, unconsciously clinging to the last dusty cobwebs of sleep.
It’s early morning, a little past the ephemeral period between one day and next that the recruits back in Megumi’s training days had liked to call the “witching hour,” where you could never be sure if it was the night merging into the day or the day merging into the night. Outside his window, the air is clean and crisp, the city waking to the start of the day.
Still, there is still an hour before he needs to get up, and an hour of sleep in his line of work is worth more than a pound of gold.
His phone continues to ring, the drums and guitars reaching their crescendo as Bon Jovi blares the climax of his chorus, and Megumi rolls over onto his side to pick it up without even looking at the caller ID.
“Fushiguro.” He greets as he slides his thumb across the glowing screen, unable to keep the annoyance from his voice. The person on the other side of the line chuckles, a low, amused sound.
“Were you sleeping, ‘gumi?” He asks, like he doesn’t already know the answer.
“Yes.” Megumi says, purposefully emphasizing the single word. Gojo laughs again, brushing aside his frustration with practised ease. Megumi can already picture him kicking his legs up on the desk in his office, carelessly setting his expensive Oxfords on the polished mahogany.
“Well, up and at ‘em!” His superior chirps, and Megumi wonders if he’d stayed up all night watching chick flicks again. “We’ve got a recent string of homicides that I think you’ll be interested in.”
Megumi blinks, sitting up. The cobwebs are gone, now, dissolved in the face of this new information. His blankets pool around his waist, letting in the chill of the morning air, but he’s too intrigued to care.
“You’re assigning me a case?”
Gojo hums cheerfully to a tune Megumi doesn’t recognise. “Come over to HQ and you’ll know, won’t you? See you there!”
He hangs up, and the dial tone beeps in Megumi’s ears, flat and robotic. Megumi scowls lightly, but he’s too preoccupied to be genuinely annoyed by Gojo’s antics. He stares blankly at his phone, still trying to register what the older man had said. The morning is quiet, but even the silence seems to hold an undercurrent of expectancy.
His first official case in his new unit.
He wonders if he has enough time to brew a cup of coffee.
He doesn’t. Or rather, he doesn’t leave himself enough time to. Megumi makes it from his apartment in Omote-sando to Kasumigaseki, four stations away on the Chiyoda line, in ten minutes - a record even for him.
The cylindrically-shaped headquarters of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department is a familiar sight, and it towers above him as he pushes open its glass doors. Aside from the staff, the ground floor is empty, as expected of the early hour. He quickly walks over to the employee-only elevators, nodding at Nitta at the receptionist’s counter in greeting as he does so.
When he gets there, Ichiji, dressed in his usual crisp dress shirt and tie, is already waiting for him.
“Good morning, Megumi-kun.” He says in his genial, soft-spoken way. “Gojo-san said you’d be here. As his secretary, he asked me to give you this.”
He hands Megumi a laminated identification card on a dark blue ribbon, the kind all officers at HQ wear around their necks for easy access.
It’s simple and unassuming, a square piece of light blue plastic with a picture of Megumi’s face stamped on the upper left corner. Below it, Fushiguro Megumi is printed in bold lettering. Tokyo Metropolitan Police Criminal Investigation Bureau, Special Investigation Team Unit Three.
“Congratulations on your promotion,” Ichiji smiles at him. “I hear Gojo-san was very excited.”
He was. On the day Megumi received his promotion, Gojo invited himself over to his apartment, a shopping bag bulging with groceries in one hand and a one-liter bottle of soda in the other. He insisted on making Megumi a celebratory dinner even though he’d never so much as handled a stove in his entire life, and Megumi had to stop him before he did something stupid like confuse the water for oil and burn his entire building down.
Thanking Ichiji, Megumi steps into the elevator and swipes his new card through the magnetic reader.
The Bureau’s Special Investigation Team is a subdivision of the homicide division. It deals with criminal cases requiring special attention, and has seven specific units. Unit Three, which deals with serial murder cases, is located on the sixth floor of the TMPD, and so Megumi presses the corresponding button on the elevator panel.
The sixth floor is almost empty, but there are a few people still milling about from their overtime shifts, forced to pull all-nighters at the office because of their respective cases. Some nod at him when he passes by - which he returns - and others stare at him when they think he isn’t looking, but most of them don’t even notice him, too preoccupied with their work.
Quietly, he walks past the section of office tables and heads in the direction of the conference rooms.
“Yo Megumi,” Maki waves casually as he enters Conference Room One. She’s alone, sitting at one of the chairs by the long table in the centre of the room. The yellow light of the morning accentuates the green highlights in her dark hair, pulled up in its usual ponytail. “You’re here early, huh?”
“Maki-senpai.” Megumi greets, sliding into the seat next to hers. “You’re here pretty early, too.”
The older woman grins, leaning back in her seat. She taps her fingers, scarred and calloused from years of experience with various types of weapons, on the surface of the table. “Yeah, but I’ve been here for a while, so I’m used to Satoru calling us at weird hours.”
Megumi just shrugs in response to her unspoken question. The truth is, he’d just been too excited to see for himself what even Gojo had remarked as interesting, but he’s slightly embarrassed to tell her that. He’s curious about what could have caught Gojo’s attention when he never saw the man even flinch the whole time Megumi was under his tutelage, as he brought Megumi along to various crime scenes as a way to teach him how to apply the skills he’d learnt in the academy.
“What do you see here, Megumi?” He would ask, blue eyes glinting behind his dark shades as he pointed to a shallow footprint, or a wide puddle, or the yellow-green bruises around a victim’s neck. “Tell me something about the killer.”
Megumi would tell him, listing his observations and theories under his patient gaze, and afterwards he would fill in the blanks that Megumi had missed. It had been a very direct method of teaching, to say the least, never mind the dozens of protocols Gojo had probably violated by just bringing him along, but it gave Megumi much valuable experience in the art of hands-on profiling.
Maki makes a vague, thoughtful sound at Megumi’s non-reply, but doesn’t press further. This is why she is one of the people Megumi likes the most among all the people at the Bureau - she understands his preference for silence.
It’s not that he dislikes people, or is particularly aversive to social interaction; he’s got friends of his own too, like Maki and Kugisaki, Toge, and Panda from Unit One. It’s just that sometimes he simply doesn’t feel the need to speak, preferring to save his words for when they’re truly necessary. Maki’s told him before that it’s one of the things about him that she appreciates, and he respects her in turn for her unshakeable morals and her steady, confident demeanour.
Exactly eight minutes later, Gojo strides into the room with all the confidence of a host who knows that the party won’t start without him. Following behind him is Yuuta, who waves at Megumi when he sees him. Including Maki, that makes two out of three of the unit’s senior officers in the room, and the realisation only makes Megumi more curious about today’s case.
“Good morning, kiddos!” Megumi’s new captain says, even though Megumi had his twenty-fifth birthday four months ago, and Maki is two years older than him. “We’ve got a busy day ahead of us, so let’s get started, shall we?”
With a flourish, he tosses a stack of yellow folders onto the table, the colour a darker shade than the ones Megumi used to handle when he was in the general homicide division, as he makes his way to the front of the room.
They each take one.
“Oh, dear.” Yuuta exhales as he flips his open. The dark smudges under his eyes, evidence of many sleepless nights, look even heavier than usual. “I see why you wanted us now, Gojo-san - this is awful.”
There are several photos of a total of three corpses taken from different angles in the deceptively thin folder.
Kitagawa Ayumi, 12/01/2021, is written in dark blue ink underneath the first photo, which captures the image of a decapitated woman clad in a beautiful scarlet gown. The bleeding stump of her neck has been cauterised and sewn shut with black thread, and a single rose in full bloom takes the place of her head, which has been placed in the palm of her outstretched hand like a champagne glass.
The next page reveals Hoshino Daiki, 09/02/2021, a man with a pair of breasts sewn onto his chest with the same black thread like a felt-cloth puppet. The left breast, a flaccid and pale slab of flesh, flaps loosely, torn from its position. A further examination of his corpse, Megumi reads, reveals lacerations on his pelvis, which the killer has shattered (much like how you would split a watermelon open, Ieiri Shoko’s scrawled script comments dryly) in order to remove his pelvic bones and internal reproductive organs to make room for a crudely implanted uterus.
The third photo is labelled Watanabe Ryo, 28/02/2021. The man in it lies face-down on the ground. At first glance, he seems to have been relatively untouched, but when Megumi looks closer, he notices something strange about the placement of his limbs: more specifically, his hands and feet. His feet are sewn onto his wrists where his hands used to be, and his hands protrude grotesquely from his ankles.
From what Megumi can see, all three victims are connected by two commonalities: the reallocation of their body parts after death, and the thick, black thread that forms the stitches on their bodies.
“They’re calling the killer the Anatomist.” Gojo says, propping his chin on his steepled hands, tone musing. “Personally I think it’s too cool of a moniker - given the nature of the murders and the locations where the victims were found, it’s safe to say that our killer is someone who wants attention, and giving them an interesting name will only encourage them. But I digress.”
He slides two photos across the table, and Megumi sucks in a sharp breath when he sees them.
The boy in the left picture has dark hair that droops down over the right side of his face. His round eyes are a soft brown, the kind that melts into honey-gold when they catch the light, and they suit the gentle smile he wears. He looks young, eighteen years old at the most - he could easily be any other high school boy.
Megumi barely recognises that boy in the photo on the right. The creature lies on its - not it, no, that is a human boy - back. Four appendages vaguely mammalian in nature have been sewn onto his front with the same thread present in all the other victims, sticking up in the air like some grotesque parody of surprise. His face has been completely altered as well, enlarged and moulded somehow into a rounded snout, each eye relocated to one side of his ‘face’ like an amphibian.
Barely any traces of the kind-looking boy exist: without the tuft of hair on his head and the colour of his eyes, Megumi would never have thought that they were the same species, let alone the same person. But he looks into the boy’s eyes, golden from the sunlight on the day his corpse was photographed, and recognises the pure, human fear in them.
“Jesus.” Maki exhales.
Gojo’s expression is blank. “This is the fourth known victim to date. Yoshino Junpei was found on display at Chidoriga-fuchi Park last night at 9:47 PM. A couple of teenagers were cycling through the place as a shortcut, and saw him in front of the decorative bushes.”
“The time intervals between the discovery of each body are growing shorter and shorter, too.” Yuuta points out, frowning. “Hoshino-san was found around a month after Kitagawa-san, and Watanabe-san roughly two and a half weeks after that. And today is the fourth of March, meaning that with Yoshino-san, that period has shortened to a week.”
“Yep.” Gojo agrees, popping the ‘p.’ “They’re getting bolder. At the rate this is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if a new body turns up next week, so you can see that this is pretty high priority.”
He claps his hands together, ending the subject for the time being. “Maki and Yuuta,” he orders, “each of you pick two to three officers from this unit you want to work with for this case, and meet me here in an hour. I trust your judgement, so there’s no need to run them by me. Any questions?”
When Megumi raises a hand, he whirls towards him, pointing expectedly. “Yeah, Megumi?”
“What am I doing?” He asks, feeling vaguely lost.
The officers in the Bureau call Gojo by the nickname Six Eyes because they say he sees everything as if he actually does possess two extra sets of eyes. It’s a silly reason, but Megumi thinks he understands the logic behind it when Gojo looks, really looks at him.
It’s almost overwhelming, the way those blue eyes focus and fixate on you, like they’re the lens of a sniper and they’ve caught you right in their crosshairs. You don’t escape that kind of gaze unscathed, not if he doesn’t want you to.
But those eyes have watched him for thirteen years, and so they barely faze him now.
“You,” Gojo says, putting his dark shades back on, “are going to interview someone very special. This case is a bit different from what we’re used to, as you know, so we need your skills more than ever. Yaga-san thinks the opinion of someone who is as much of an anomaly as our killer might help you.”
Maki catches on to the meaning behind his words quickly, straightening in her chair. “You’re assigning Megumi to interview a criminal?”
The older man shoots her a finger-gun, cocking it teasingly. “Bingo, Maki-chan! He’s quite a well-known psychiatrist - or well, he was before he was incarcerated -, so Yaga-san thinks he has something to offer to the investigation. He’s on death row at the moment, but we’re going to offer him a temporary pardon for the duration of this case if he agrees to work with us.”
A recently incarcerated ex-psychiatrist who has been both convicted of crimes serious enough to put him on death row, and is interesting enough to Gojo that he would call him an anomaly… There are only so many people who fit the first criteria, and even less who fulfil the second. Megumi can count with one hand the number of people who qualify for both.
So when Gojo hands him another folder, he already has a suspicion lurking at the back of his mind.
Megumi takes the folder and flips it open, revealing its first item: a glossy mug shot of a man with pink hair slicked back from his forehead. Thin symmetrical scars curve under each of his eyes, but they are not the most glaring aspects about him. Rather, it is the intricate pattern of tattoos inked on his face, smooth black lines etched along his jaw and cheekbones, that make him instantly recognisable.
His eyes are hooded as he looks directly into the camera, and there is a slight tug at the corners of his mouth that’s reminiscent of a smile. It strikes Megumi how comfortable he is in the picture - it isn’t the false bravado of first-time offenders trying to look tough, nor is it the defeated exhaustion of some criminals who know their time has run out. No, this is a man completely and wholly at ease in his skin and his surroundings, and it almost makes Megumi uneasy.
“Itadori Yuuji.” He says. “The Double-Faced Spectre.”
Maki whistles faintly, leaning over his shoulder to get a better look. “Damn. Isn’t this his first case, Satoru?”
“His first case for this unit.” Gojo corrects her cheerily. “Megumi’s been in the Bureau for five years, you know! He’s quite experienced.”
He peers at Megumi over his shades, blue eyes narrowed mischievously. “So how about it? Think you can do it, Megumi?”
A decade into the past. A blue, expectant gaze and warm fingers curling loosely at the nape of his neck. The metallic scent of blood. Think you can do it, Megumi? Tell me something about the killer.
Megumi tucks the photo back into the folder; closes it. He meets Gojo’s eyes head-on, and he thinks he sees something like satisfaction flash in the older man’s eyes.
“Yes.” He says.
Gojo grins, then. Maki rolls her eyes, muttering something about this damn weirdo, and Yuuta laughs. Gojo ignores them.
“Good.” He praises. “Take a look at his files tonight. You’re going to pay him a visit tomorrow.”
The Tokyo Detention House, a series of blocky buildings stretching out from a central dome-like structure that is the administrative sector, sits in Katsushika. Against the glare of the afternoon sun, it rather looks like a large spider: the wings of the facility forming its spindly legs and the administrative building the main, bulging body.
When Megumi steps inside the director’s office, Naoya is there.
“Megumi-kun!” He leans against his chair. His Kansai twang, evident in the way he spits out his consonants like melon seeds, is as thick as ever. “I got your superior’s message. Here to interview Itadori Yuuji, ain’tcha?”
His green eyes, a shade darker than Megumi’s own, curve at the corners when he smiles, all oily confidence and superiority. Megumi is reminded of the foxes Kugisaki would tell him about when describing life in her home village, the ones with cunning, narrow eyes that would steal the chicks straight from the coop to eat.
Megumi nods. “I’ll be quick,” he says, and Naoya laughs.
“Of course you will.” He replies, voice sickly-sweet and bordering on patronising. “He’s got a lot of visitors, ex-darling of the psychiatry world that he was, but he either turned them all away immediately, or told them to get out after a minute at most. I don’t think you’ll be any different, cousin.”
Somehow he’s gotten even more annoying since Megumi agreed to give the director position to him when he graduated from the academy. He hadn’t wanted to be head of a detention facility that holds one of Japan’s seven execution chambers and still has no desire for the position now, familial duties be damned, but Naoya’s mocking grin makes him regret contributing to swelling his ego even further.
“Take me to his cell, please.” Megumi replies instead, inwardly enjoying the way Naoya’s expression immediately contorts into a scowl at how he’s ignored his taunts.
“...Fine.” He jabs the intercom button on his desk with considerably more force than necessary, and when he speaks next, his voice is slightly strained.
“Kento-kun.” He calls. “Come up and take my dear cousin to Itadori Yuuji’s cell.”
The man who walks through the door a few minutes later is dressed in a blue guard uniform and a leopard-printed tie. He introduces himself as Nanami Kento, head of security at the facility, and he looks like he hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in twenty years. He takes Megumi out of the office and into the high-security wing, guiding him down the numerous corridors.
“Don’t give him any pens or pencils.” He informs Megumi as they walk, tone brusque but not unkind. “He’s got his own felt-tip pen. Anything you want to give him, you put through the slot. Anything he gives you, you receive through the slot.”
Megumi nods crisply, not trusting himself to speak. Nervousness coils in the pit of his stomach, lazily flicking its forked tongue. The feeling is unfamiliar as well as unwelcome, and he wills it to disappear.
The hallway they’re currently in is wide and long, illuminated by bright florescent lights that reflect harshly against the concrete walls and floor. In a way, the stark bareness of the place is vaguely similar to that of a hospital, and Megumi wonders if perhaps that is the point. Each side holds a number of holding cells with thick steel doors, no doubt all occupied. They are not marked, and Megumi wonders if he should try to memorise their current path in case he gets lost.
Nanami seems to have no such concerns. He walks at a brisk and comfortable pace: fast enough to not waste time, but not too quick as to seem hurried.
“I don’t have to tell you to be careful.” He says. His voice has a faint rasp that gives the impression of boredom when he speaks, but Megumi looks at his haggard cheeks and thinks he’s probably just exhausted. “The last person who came here had to be taken to the hospital.”
“I thought the security here was the best in the country.” Megumi remarks curiously. Naoya may be an insufferable bastard, but he’s smart enough to know that it’s in his best interest to keep the facility running smoothly.
The older man glances at him, a movement that Megumi almost misses because of the glasses perched on the bridge of his nose.
“He took her finger when she put her hand through the slot to get her survey back.” He describes flatly. “He used the metal tip of her own pen - when she withdrew her hand, her index finger was severed right from the knuckle.”
It’s an explanation that warrants an explanation in itself, but Megumi doesn’t press further.
Eventually, they reach the end of the hallway and its last holding cell. It is separated from the others and is considerably larger, its walls forming an isolated square room. Notably, the wall facing them is a thick glass pane, providing a clear view into the room.
Its occupant is not particularly tall, but his broad shoulders fill out the standard prison uniform that he wears. He sits on the single bed in the room, and when he looks up the facility’s lights illuminate the tattoos on his face.
Itadori Yuuji. The media calls him the Double-Faced Spectre of Tokyo, in reference to his double identity as both a renowned forensic psychiatrist and a serial killer.
But within the Bureau, he has another, shorter nickname: The Cannibal.
“Kento.” He greets Nanami cordially. His voice is a deep timbre, like the rumbling of an oncoming storm. “I see you’ve brought my guest.”
“Good afternoon, Itadori-san.” Megumi says, walking closer. He does not miss how the older man’s gaze follows him. “My name is Fushiguro Megumi. I’m an investigator from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, and I was hoping to ask you a few questions.”
Itadori’s stare is assessing as it is piercing. Not exactly cold but nowhere near friendly, it holds a sort of calculating curiosity that makes Megumi suspect he’s thinking of how to flay and skin him alive; pluck out his ribcage and analyse the stringy map of his muscles.
He has no doubt that Itadori can do that - Megumi’s seen the photos of all of Itadori’s nine victims, seen the clean, methodical cuts in each of the bodies. Every ergonomic slice perfectly measured to the millimetre in order to retrieve the choicest parts for consumption.
Whatever Itadori sees must satisfy him somewhat, because he simply says: “Kento. Fetch a chair for him…Megumi, was it?”
He smiles slightly at Megumi. It is not the smile of a prisoner.
Nanami drags a plastic chair over to the front of the cell. Megumi thanks him, and he walks away after nodding politely in response.
“Yes.” He confirms, once he sits down. “It’s Megumi.”
Itadori’s smile widens. There is a small desk next to his bed, along with a chair, and he stands up to pull the latter over to the glass wall. He sits on it, facing Megumi. With the added proximity, Megumi notices that his eyes are a very light brown, so light that his irises look red when they catch the light.
They, Megumi also realises, also haven’t left his face from the moment he’d spoken.
“Tell me what you came here for.” He says - commands, really.
They’ve known each other for five minutes, and already Megumi knows that he’s nothing like any of the criminal’s he’s ever profiled. Itadori reclines in his plastic chair like its a throne, looking utterly relaxed just like in his mug-shot. No one, not even the most violent of criminals, looks that genuinely comfortable in a high-security prison like this, and the fact that he does tells Megumi that he’s either very, very stupid, or very, very dangerous.
Megumi doesn’t think it’s the former.
“There’s been a recent string of homicides that the Bureau suspects is the work of a single killer.” He begins, turning on the recorder and picking up the folder that he’d placed on his lap. “We were hoping to get your opinions on -”
Itadori holds up a hand, cutting him off.
“What makes you think,” he says calmly, “that you can order me around, hm? You may be the Bureau’s lapdog, but do not presume for a second that I’m subject to the same whims that you are.”
There is a frigid undertone to his voice that hadn’t been present before, and despite himself, Megumi tenses.
Still, his professional pride doesn’t allow his expression to change. “No one’s saying that you’re a lapdog, Itadori-san. This is a transaction.”
“Ah yes,” the older man murmurs, “the deal that the Bureau offered.”
He props his chin on his hand, gaze frigid. “I suppose you thought I would take it, like a mongrel starving for a piece of meat? I thought Gojo Satoru’s mentee would be someone worth my attention, but you’re just a disappointment.”
He’s not even looking at Megumi anymore, head turned to the side and voice dismissive, like Megumi is just an annoyance. “Do you know what you look like to me, little lapdog? With your perfectly pressed uniform and your organised papers? You look like a pup still wet behind the ears. Go back to the academy, pathetic boy, and tell Gojo Satoru that if he really wants a deal, he’d better come here himself.”
“Gojo-san is busy.” Megumi replies simply. “And you’re not Itadori Yuuji, so I guess that makes us both pathetic, doesn’t it?”
Silence. The pure, frozen quiet of the world a moment before a thunderbolt strikes, or a hurricane devastates.
He has Not-Itadori’s attention now, the full intensity of his stare purely directed at him with all the force of a natural disaster. “…What did you say?”
“You’re not Itadori Yuuji.” Megumi maintains. His voice does not shake, but he folds his hands securely in his lap, drying the cold sweat beading on his palms on the fabric of his pants. He should be scared - he is scared, but Not-Itadori’s reaction fuels the adrenaline sparking in his veins, flushing out any other feelings aside from the sheer, heady realisation that he is right.
His throat feels like sandpaper, but he continues. “You can’t be him. I don’t have any proof, but you just don’t feel right - Itadori’s files from the orphanage he was sent to as a child after his grandfather passed just don’t match up with who you are.” He pauses, trying to find the right words. “I just don’t see that boy in you.”
Itadori Yuuji had been a cheerful, extroverted boy whose dream was to be a fire-fighter. It’s not that children don’t change over time as they grow up, but…
Twenty-one years ago, a concerned passerby carried him to the hospital when he'd collapsed while walking back to the orphanage. His medical report was something straight out of a horror story: hairline fractures in his skull, evidence of broken ribs and fingers not healing properly; a right arm slightly twisted at the elbow from being broken and left untreated far too many times. The list went on and on, and the doctor in charge of his report immediately alerted the authorities - when they found out that Itadori had been living in an orphanage, a quick investigation brought to the light the child abuse that it facilitated.
All the perpetrators had been arrested and jailed, but when Itadori woke up, it was like he'd become an entirely different person. What few reports that had been salvaged from a decade ago detailed an abrupt change in his speech and mannerisms. He'd started using much more advanced vocabulary for his age which Itadori had never used, for one, and his likes and dislikes had completely changed.
Whereas Itadori had previously loved crowded places and socialising, the child that woke up in the hospital preferred quieter spaces and hated talking to people. He had also developed a sudden intense passion for psychology, a subject that Itadori was never shown to have an interest in, which he fed voraciously in any way possible. That interest - obsession, almost -, had allowed him to complete his secondary education with top marks, eventually leading to his acceptance at Tokyo University with a full scholarship.
At the time, those changes had just been chalked up to trauma. Yet last night, when Megumi had been reading his files, that conclusion just hadn't sounded right. He couldn't put his finger on it, only that he knew that it was wrong.
“People change.” Not-Itadori says, but he’s smiling, a savage grin that stretches across his lips and shows far too many teeth. “Especially victims of abuse. Surely you’re aware of the treatment I suffered from at the orphanage?”
“Abuse does change its victims,” Megumi agrees, “but I’ve seen your psychiatric reports. The main consensus is that you consume your victims to regain a sense of control that you lost during your time in the orphanage, but I don’t think that’s the case, because you don’t display any of the symptoms of abuse that someone with Itadori’s personality should have had.”
And that’s another chink, another flaw in Not-Itadori’s identity. He had shown no signs of timidness, anxiety, or social withdrawal, all common symptoms of abuse, even on the day he'd woken up at the hospital. He doesn’t even display aggression, another typical sign - in fact, his m.o. is the exact opposite of that trait. There had just been a sudden, complete shift of personality, and maybe that in itself was the reaction to trauma that he was diagnosed with, but somehow Megumi doesn’t think so.
It just doesn’t make sense.
Not-Itadori leans forward. Megumi can’t place his expression, but he looks almost enraptured, eyes wide and pupils blown to tiny brown pinpricks.
“Who am I then?” He asks. He is so close to the glass wall between them that his lips nearly brush against it when he speaks. “If not Itadori Yuuji? Tell me.”
They’ve gone way off-topic, so far out of the original ballpark that Megumi barely remembers that they had been talking about before. He swallows harshly, heartbeat thudding loudly in his ears, th-thump th-hump th-thump, as the pieces fall into place.
“I would have thought you were an imposter,” he forges onwards, each word dropping onto the floor like a grenade, “but your DNA is an exact match with Itadori’s records, and he doesn’t have a twin. So if you aren’t someone pretending to be him…you must really be the owner of the body. Just not the original owner.”
He has absolutely no evidence to back this up - he’s purely running on instinct, pure speculation, and what he recalls of Not-Itadori’s files. And it sounds absolutely insane. A split personality having full control of the original body for over two decades? The definition of dissociation, the term that underlies Dissociative Identity Disorder, lacks a precise empirical definition, but even this sounds too crazy.
But again, that feeling of being right settles deep in his chest, embedded in his sternum. He know he’s not wrong, just as surely as he knows the sky is blue and the grass is green, and maybe in any other situation this mad certainty would scare him.
But he knows. He’s right.
For a long, long moment that could have been either a second or a century, Not-Itadori simply stares at him.
In that one single instant, he looks at Megumi, and time crystallises.
“Fushiguro Megumi.” He breathes. He presses his right palm flat against the glass, like he'd like nothing more than to reach out from behind it and touch Megumi. “You are fascinating.”
He sounds awed, in the way one would when witnessing a miracle, and Megumi leans back in his chair just the slightest fraction.
“Itadori was never diagnosed with DID,” he says carefully, and Not-Itadori’s mouth twists.
“DID hadn't even been a fully recognised concept in Japan two decades ago." He explains simply. "And do you think the orphanage bothered to hire any qualified psychiatrists?”
Megumi supposes it makes sense. DID is a tricky condition to diagnose, and it rarely gets acknowledged in Japan's criminal justice system. Furthermore, Not-Itadori is the most coherent and intelligent split personality that Megumi's ever seen or read about - there's a high chance that no one had diagnosed Itadori with DID simply because they hadn't thought it was possible.
“...What do I call you, then?” He asks. “Since you’re not Itadori Yuuji.”
Not-Itadori puts a hand to his chin, thinking.
“I’ve never really thought about it before.” He muses. “It wasn’t like I ever needed a name, because no one ever found out that I wasn’t the brat. But they call me the Double-Faced Spectre, don’t they?”
He grins, wide and amused, like he’s just told the punchline to a funny joke. “Then call me Sukuna.”
“Sukuna.” Megumi tries, rolling the word in his mouth and tasting it on his tongue. It sounds strange, but somehow fits the man in front of him.
Sukuna cocks his head to the side. “I like how that name sounds when you say it,” he remarks matter-of-factly.
What is that supposed to mean?
But if Sukuna notices his confusion, he doesn’t comment on it. He simply reclines back in his chair, folding his arms loosely.
“Come back tomorrow, Fushiguro Megumi,” he says, “and I’ll take a look at your case.”
“Really.” He affirms, amused. “Consider it payment for just now - it can get boring around here, and you’ve just given me the most entertainment I’ve had in months.”
Sukuna grins at Megumi, teeth glinting white like shredded bone.
“So continue to entertain me, Fushiguro Megumi," he says, "and I will give you what you seek.”