The kid appeared on his domain one cold day.
Sukuna had been strolling around the forest when he first heard rustling coming from a distance. Initially, he thought it might’ve been a deer foraging in his domain, but a gurgling sound made him think twice. It sounded like someone was being strangled, annoying more than terrifying.
For the long period of time since Sukuna had started living in the mountain, he hasn't come across a single curse. If he really thought about it, the last time he remembers seeing them was when he first stumbled to the forest, curses moving out of his way, as he moved up the mountain. At the time, he had assessed that humans were already creating enough chaos by themselves. Humanity and their ideologies, trying to bring peace to the world just to end up rebuilding the same oppressing system, only with another name. Sukuna wasn’t political, but after spending a millennium beside humans, some things had stayed with him: humans were repetitive and boring.
But Sukuna had gone up that mountain at least a century ago, so the unnatural sound was a bit surprising to say the least.
The struggling sound was getting louder and louder and he decided it was best to check it out, who knows, maybe it was some brave low curse wandering into his domain. Might make things interesting, then again, he hadn’t sensed anything when he first heard the gurgle.
As Sukuna trailed down the path, he found that everything was unusually quiet, especially for a forest this dense. It was like the wild life, altogether, had stopped their activities to listen in to this increasingly irritating sound. When he moved to remove the branches obstructing his view, his foot managed to hit something squishy, ‘how peculiar’. He placed more pressure on the object and the gurgling stopped. It seemed that had been a trigger of some sort because the forest returned to its normal self after the gurgle had died down; birds and crickets chirped away, the breeze gained strength and rustled leaves, everything had returned to normality.
His eyes moved away from the forest's scenery to his foot and he got a glimpse of what seemed to be a trembling bean-shaped being. He pressed down on the thing with his foot again and the groggy gurgle returned.
“Ahh, so you’re the one who has been making that awful noise”
When he finally removed his foot, what he found on the ground was… a rat. Their exposed lower regions revealed they were male, its naked skin wrinkled, a blush stretching from its face to its body and feet. Sukuna saw as claws closed tightly into fists, it mustn’t have been long since its birth.
“How disgusting”, he scorned.
Looking over the being’s face once more, Sukuna found small faded strokes on his cheeks, faded enough that they could easily be mistaken for freckles. Subconsciously, he traced over his own marks where his second pair of eyes laid underneath. Maybe this thing wasn’t just a rat after all, he thought with a raised eyebrow.
As he moved to pick up the newborn, he realized how light and small it was. It barely covered the expanse of his forearm, but it was certainly bigger than a rat. Lost in thought, he didn’t realize how long it had been until he heard a twig snap a distance away. He raised his head up to look for the cause of the sound, but the presence was pretty much gone.
A low whine left the lips of the being in his hands, but it didn’t struggle against his hold otherwise. If not for the cold weather Sukuna would have guessed the newborn wouldn’t have made a noise to begin with. They seemed to have been content just lying there on the ground as ants circled around him continuing on with their business.
“You’re an odd one huh”, he grumbled.
With that Sukuna returned to his shrine, a newborn on hand.
A couple of months passed by since Sukuna first picked up the newborn and he realized the thing he had found deep in the forest was indeed not a rodent, but what appeared to be a human child. However, he still holds his suspicions regarding this, faint stroke marks beneath eyes coming to his mind. The baby boy might be similar to him, a human turned curse, but they were far too young for this to be possible. Sukuna couldn’t remember how old he had been when he turned into a curse, but he did have a vague recollection of doing it to himself.
Another possibility could be that he came from a cursed womb, like the Death Paintings, but the boy didn’t show any sign of possessing cursed energy, and even if he did, out of all ten Death Paintings only the older one was completely humanoid, making it even more unlikely. He suspects the presence behind the snap of the twig would have the answers but it’s not like knowing what the boy is would worsen or improve his current situation.
For example, Sukuna found that feeding the baby hadn’t posed much of a problem since the boy wasn’t really a picky eater, that and the only substance of food he could digest was milk. Living on a mountain for so long had enabled Sukuna to find good sources of food, he couldn’t die of starvation but it was a nice thing to spend time on when lying around the tatami floor had become too boring.
One day, when he had gone out looking for food for the boy, he returned to an empty shrine. He had left the baby lying down on the wood floor at the front, as he normally did when he headed out for the kid’s food, except this time the kid went missing.
Sukuna stood at the entrance, the kid’s food on one hand, and a bored look on his face.
That day he spent an excruciating amount of time trying to find the boy. Sukuna had checked all the area that made up his shrine, only to meet the soft clinking of the wind chimes. The boy didn’t have any cursed energy so it wasn’t like Sukuna could pinpoint the kid’s location.
It wasn’t until he was a few kilometers down the mountain that he heard the familiar gurgling sound. As he moved towards the sound, he found himself on a riverbed, and saw a few beavers cutting trees and eating bark; the kid facing up against one of the dams.
Once he was close enough, Sukuna grabbed the kid's back with one hand and raised him until he was facing him. Upon seeing Sukuna’s blank face, the kid slowly opened his mouth.
“Don’t you dare”, said Sukuna with a threat at the tip of his tongue, but the boy’s mouth only widened more and started giggling without restraint, small hands reaching out to Sukuna.
“Brat”, Sukuna grumbled.
That was the first time the brat had ever giggled and Sukuna found that, compared to the annoying dying sound he constantly made, he wouldn’t mind hearing this again.
The kid going missing had served as a lesson for Sukuna.
When they got back from the riverbed, brat on his arms, Sukuna went straight to the wind chimes hanging off the ceiling and jerked at two of them until they popped off. Removing the rectangular slip of paper, he tied both bells onto the kid’s left foot.
“There”, he said with a tone of finality.
Months after having lost the baby, Sukuna had to make a bigger expedition than normal. Curses had been coming closer to his domain. He couldn’t understand what made them want to come near, it wasn’t like he’d changed his demeanor. Before the brat had come around, curses just seemed to instinctively know not to come close to the mountain, just like when Sukuna first arrived, the curses stayed out of his sight. It had been like that everytime he came near anyone, they’d freeze and tremble with his mere presence, he didn’t need to do anything else. He had a kid living with him on the mountain now, but he was confident his presence alone remained the same. Was the kid doing this? Were kids a sign of invitation? Nevertheless, Sukuna decided to check things out himself, maybe something had happened.
He left the shrine as the sun was peeking out the horizon, ready to give start to another day. The kid was sleeping inside, hidden away from the world by warm blankets, bells in place on his left foot.
On his journey to the bottom of the mountain, Sukuna got to see the beavers from months back, they had been working as usual. But the way they looked at him was quite unusual, he got a sense they had a vendetta against him.
Sukuna hummed as he walked by.
Once Sukuna was near the bottom of the mountain he recognized the source of the cursed energy. Curse energy had been rare to come by when he lived alone, but even when it hadn’t been, at one point in Sukuna’s life it had become boring. Average curses could barely walk, even less say a word or hold a fight. They were like the brat back at his shrine, useless. The interesting thing down the mountain here though was that this presence had more cursed energy than the average curse.
This was a special curse. He hasn’t seen one of those since before he started living in the forest.
“State your business, Death Painting”, Sukuna muttered.
The tall man on the other side was clad in black and white, pigtails on top of his head. The form was intriguing, but the thick dark mark running across his nose was proof enough of who he was.
“You are in possession of one of my siblings, sir”, Choso, the older of the Death Paintings, said with a tinge of nervousness, but a resolute tone.
“Whatever do you mean? I have no need for one of you”. The only other person with him on the mountain was the brat, who he was sure was still sleeping under a pile of blankets. Obviously, the Death Painting was referring to the kid but he had determined a while ago that the possibility of him being a curse was almost none.
“They… ”, Choso said with a scowl, “I know they are with you. I can feel them.”
“Why are you referring to him as ‘they’?”
To Sukuna, it appeared that the man in front of him didn’t even know the kid. What did catch his interest, on the other hand, was that last part. He’ll humour him a bit, see where this takes him: “Nevermind that, ‘feel them’ you say?”
“So he’s a boy… “, the man with pigtails whispered to himself before he gave Sukuna a determined look. “that’s right, I can feel him. It’s only natural for me to be able to. I’m his older brother, it’s my duty to care for him. So I can’t let you keep him, sir. I need you to hand him over to me”.
So it seemed rather than sensing the presence of someone as one would with cursed energy, this Painting claimed to sense the kid through their alleged familial bond. That’s just sentimental crap, bullshit overall since he doubts they’re related at all.
“What’s his name?”, Sukuna said with an irritated tone. It was nearing midday and he was getting tired of this conversation.
“His name. What 's the boy’s name? You're his brother right? You should know that much”.
A name. Choso looked lost with that question. It was an unfair question, especially because it had no real answer but this man had to face reality. Sukuna hadn’t had a conversation in so long and he quickly realized he didn’t miss it one bit with how disagreeable curses like the one in front of him could be.
“You don’t know, do you?”
“I do! His name is… Yuuji”. Despite Choso sounding confident when he said the boy was his brother, his tone defiled him when he uttered the made up name.
“Wrong. The brat’s nameless. You can’t expect me to believe you’re his brother when you clearly didn’t even know he was a boy”. Speaking about the brat, it won’t be long before he wakes up. He sleeps less these days. Sukuna doesn’t know whether that’s normal or bad.
Upon hearing Sukuna point out Choso’s mistake, a light blush dusted the younger curse’s cheeks. Yeah, it couldn’t be more obvious.
“Just go if you have no other business here”
Choso had no other choice but to retreat, his form vanishing from behind the canopy of trees.
Sukuna had had enough with the conversation as it showed no sign of progressing, he’d thought things would turn out to be interesting since the man was a Death Painting but he didn’t show any sign of hostility. Nevertheless, Sukuna had to remain on alert, if he learned anything from the conversation it was that the Death Painting was obsessed with family, he wouldn't put it past him to not return another day.
On his way back to the shrine, he stopped by some berry bushes he found on his journey back for the brat to eat. By the time he got to the gate it was a bit past midday. He slipped into the shrine and walked into the room the kid was supposed to be sleeping in, but there was no kid, just a pile of brown blankets thrown carelessly around.
Why did this always happen to him?
A muffled sound and the jostling of bells could be heard from the back. The brat wasn’t too far off then. Good, he couldn’t handle more problems for today.
As Sukuna slid the door from the backyard he saw the small baby crawling trying to reach for a big statue of him.
The statue was a representation of Sukuna’s original form; a giant impending form, four arms, two faces, a form he no longer went by these days.
The baby was struggling to get any closer to the statue, a huff leaving his lips.
What the hell is he trying to accomplish? Sukuna thought to himself.
Not wanting to disturb the scene Sukuna remained quiet and saw how the baby was standing up on his feet with only a bit of trouble. With how energetic he was, it hadn’t taken long for him to learn how to stand up on his own.
Sukuna tilted his head to get a better view, the kid’s back was facing him so he couldn’t really see beyond his arms raised high above his head. He wanted to see what kind of face the kid was making. Perhaps, Sukuna thought with a smirk, he had on that pout he made when concentrated. But a snotty sniff coming from the statue interrupted his thoughts. A frown plastered on his face, was the kid crying?
Another sniff, and a babble came out of the baby as he kept trying to reach the four meter statue.
Tiny feet turned around to face him until their eyes met. Sukuna saw their flustered cheeks littered with dried tears, new ones forming as soon as they saw him.
“Ba… Baba”, the baby whimpered with a sniff.
Was Sukuna gone that long? He knew he took longer than usual, but he’d expected for the kid to be used to him leaving from time to time.
Sukuna didn’t have more time to think about it because the kid was now moving towards him, hands outstretched and bells jingling, in quick continuous steps.
“Babaaaaaaaaa!”, the kid wailed, ugly tears staining red his already puffed cheeks.
Who would’ve thought the kid’s first steps would be like this. The kid wasn’t an experienced walker so it surprised him how quick he was going.
Not long after Sukuna thought that, the boy stumbled to the front, tripping over his own feet. But Sukuna flashed in front of him, index and middle finger on top of the kid’s forehead to prevent him from falling down to the ground.
“Don’t cry now”, Sukuna shushed the child.
That didn’t stop the boy from crying and he only went to hold the arm Sukuna had against his head with both his hands.
“Ba… baba”, the boy said in between sniffs.
The kid was calling him ‘baba’, wasn’t that what human babies called their fathers? Sukuna had never introduced himself to the kid as his father. Where had he picked that up?
Sukuna kneeled in front of the boy and raised a finger pointing at himself, “Baba?”. The kid stopped crying, no longer sniffing as much, but still holding tightly onto Sukuna’s arm. Sukuna tried again, this time asking the kid if he meant father, but the kid just looked at him, no sign of recognition.
“Look brat, what-”. Then the kid started hiccupping, just like he had done that time he got kidnapped by the beavers. Sukuna knew instantly the little shit was up to no good.
“Brat? Is that it? You’re calling me brat?” and the little rascal had the gall to walk up to him, keeping himself steady by using the hand Sukuna still had on his forehead, and hug his midsection all while giggling ‘baba’.
“Fair enough, ba”, Sukuna said as he picked up the boy and walked towards the engawa to sit, ‘ba’ on his lap. He did leave the kid all on his own for way longer than usual all without feeding him, he must’ve been starving.
How did the kid know the statue was of him though? He thought while feeding the kid the berries he brought back with him. He still had the black marks and the two pairs of eyes but he had adopted a more humanoid form, he wasn’t as tall and he no longer had four arms.
On a second thought, maybe it wasn’t that odd, the brat hasn’t seen anyone else except for Sukuna and he was the only one with tattoos and four eyes. Speaking of eyes, he thought while looking down at the baby, the kid’s own marks had been turning darker as the time passed. When Sukuna first met him, they were barely there, now they had a soft brown hue to them.
He wondered what they were. Just birthmarks, perhaps.
After a particularly rough winter, not because of food scarcity, but because of the cold—Sukuna lived at the top of a mountain so the kid got sick very quickly when the nights suddenly got colder—spring was finally here.
The kid could now hold a conversation with him and Sukuna found that, compared to his talk with the Death Painting some time ago, this was welcomed.
The kid turned to be very inquisitive yet dumb at the same time.
The other day while they were out foraging, the brat asked Sukuna what he was called. When he heard that, Sukuna had stopped picking up herbs for their tea—drinking tea on early mornings had become a routine for a few weeks now—stood up and turned around to face the kid.
Only the two of them lived in the mountain, there was no one else to call Sukuna by his name except for the brat, but Sukuna had never mentioned it before so it made sense.
It was just that Sukuna never really had the opportunity to tell him his name, he wasn’t one to state his own title, he found it childish.
The kid could’ve gone his entire life not knowing Sukuna’s name, had that been on Sukuna?
Despite his initial surprise, he thought it wouldn’t hurt to see how far he could take it, so he asked the kid what he thought he was called.
“Oh! Uhmm… Baba. I always thought you were jus’ baba, baba”. The kid said enthusiastically.
Sukuna hummed. While that was true to an extent, it wasn’t really his name. The kid did say ‘thought’ so he was obviously questioning his own knowledge.
What Sukuna wanted to know was what caused the sudden doubt.
“What brings this up?”. He had never corrected the kid before, at the time that was just what the kid was able to call him as a baby, over the time Sukuna just got used to it.
The kid told him he was asking because of the story he once told him over winter. It had been cold outside, the kid had a runny nose and couldn’t sleep well. Out of desperation, Sukuna ended up telling him a ‘story’ about three brothers called Eso, Kechizu, and Choso.
The kid said that he had been wondering for a while why they weren’t called the same, if all bells were called bells, and all beavers were called beavers, then why weren’t all the brothers just Eso or Kechizu. The kid started questioning if the way he referred to Sukuna was even correct at all. That had started a whole other conversation on how things were called, and that individuals could even have a name of their own.
“What is your name then, baba?” The kid said while leaning against Sukuna’s abdomen, who was sitting up against a tree.
“My name is Ryomen Sukuna”. He left out his alias, that was another conversation for another day.
“Liomen”, the kid repeated.
“Ryomen, not Liomen, you need to roll your R’s”
“Stop”, he said as he took the kid’s hands out of his mouth, “Just call me Sukuna”.
The kid hurriedly turned to look up at him and asked what Sukuna had been expecting ever since the conversation started:
“What is my name, Sukuna?”
“Hmmm… ” Sukuna closed his eyes and leaned his head against the tree he was resting on. “Your name is Yuuji”
The kid wouldn’t stop repeating his own name days later until Sukuna threatened to take his name away.
“What is it now?” Sukuna had been drinking tea on the engawa when the rough clinking of bells coming towards him could be heard.
“What will we be eating today?”
Yuuji had been asking that question a lot lately, it seemed he was getting tired of eating fruits and vegetables.
“Why do you say that?” Sukuna couldn’t care less what they ate, he didn’t need it, he only ate to keep Yuuji company. But looking over the kid, he did seem on the thin side, that hadn’t been an issue back when he was a baby. Maybe he should take more into consideration the toddler's diet.
“I was thinking… maybe we could try something new?”
“Come up here”. Sukuna nodded his head to the side and the kid hurried to climb over the engawa to sit crossed legged beside him.
“What do you have in mind?”
The kid told him he had seen a weasel eat a rodent at the front of the gate. He was wondering if they could also try eating something similar since he had never tried it before.
That reminded Sukuna of the time he encountered Yuuji as a newborn, all small and wrinkled, he had been so sure the kid was a rat.
So the kid wanted meat, huh? He could work with that, a smirk formed on his face.
Sukuna rolled his kimono’s sleeve a few inches back before yanking his left arm out completely. As a curse he had more control of his body, so he prevented the blood from spilling out his joint. Cleaning the mess up later would’ve been tedious.
“Here, try this”, he said to the kid.
Yuuji took the offered arm and inspected it. “Is it really okay for me to have this? Won’t you need it later?”
“I can grow another one later, kid. Go on or it’ll go bad.”
After hearing his approval, Yuuji didn't hesitate to tear into tattooed skin. On his side, Sukuna leaned into his remaining hand, waiting for a reaction. “How is it?”
“It tastes kind of salty and sour, and it’s getting all over me”, the toddler whined.
The place he had bitten into was dripping with blood, the red substance falling onto the floor.
So much for not wanting to make a mess.
Yuuji looked at his own small arm and wondered out loud if it was best to bite into his own, rather than someone else’s, maybe that had been the cause of the weird taste.
Sukuna saw how the boy was looking at his own arm, lips stained red. A small frown settled on Sukuna’s face. He hadn’t expected for the kid to…
“Baba can I-” Yuuji shifted his gaze on his arm to look up at Sukuna, but Sukuna took the arm he had given him and lowered the kid’s arm away from his own bloodied mouth.
The kid had looked so much like him, rustled peach hair, dark marks beneath eyes, teeth tearing into bodies—a time when he still used his grandiose form.
“I’ll cook something for you. Let’s not do that again, alright?” Sukuna stood up rustling the boy’s peach hair after regrowing the missing limb and incinerating the old one.
“Alright!”, Yuuji said before wiping his mouth with his sleeve, getting up to join Sukuna inside.
The day after, Sukuna and Yuuji spent the entire afternoon cleaning up the blood from the wood and the toddler’s kimono.
Sukuna was cutting wood.
Tree leaves rustled with the wind, birds chirped at each other, it was another nice day deep in the forest.
The brat had gone down the mountain to the river, he wanted to play with the animals there. Sukuna told him he could go alone, he wasn’t on good terms with certain flat tailed animals there. So he only walked Yuuji midway, showing him the path to follow on his way back.
But that had been hours ago, it was near sundown when he heard the familiar chime of bells.
The kid had run up to him yelling ‘Sukuna! Sukuna!’ and was currently bouncing energetically on the balls of his feet.
“So you made lots of friends, you say”
“Yep! The tiny bears were especially nice”
“I think you mean beavers, brat”. Sukuna had no idea how the kid knew all the names of the animals in their mountain except for his once perpetrators.
“Can I go again tomorrow?”
“Need me to walk you again?”
“Nope! I can do it myself”
And just like that Yuuji started going down the mountain every day of the week, until one day he returned looking strangely down.
Sukuna asked the kid what the matter was and the kid told him he had seen other curses not far from where he usually played. They had smoke coming out of their mouth and had been burning off the berry bushes.
“They looked like me and you”, the boy said.
The kid only knew of curses. That was also on Sukuna since the only stories Sukuna ever told the boy were of curses. Humans didn’t exist in the kid’s head.
Sukuna hadn’t sensed any cursed energy entering the mountain, except for the occasional Death Painting, who was still adamant on getting his brother back, but Sukuna never allowed him to go up the mountain, at least not enough that he would be near the river.
He was sure the ‘curses’ Yuuji had seen were just young humans who had happened to go up the mountain. He’ll keep an eye on them if they decide to come back though.
The morning after, when Sukuna was getting ready for their bath, he couldn’t find the kid anywhere. He also couldn’t hear the kid’s bells.
Someone like Sukuna, who had lived very very long, with the brat nonetheless, couldn’t be surprised by this cliche anymore.
The bells’ part was new, Sukuna made sure the kid always had them on, so he’ll give him that.
As he made his way down the mountain, he found the bells lying on the ground, they had been near the river. The beavers hadn’t looked too happy to see him looking around, Sukuna was sure they knew what had happened for him to be there.
“Yeah, yeah, I know”, he grumbled, dismissing them with a wave as he continued his way down.
He didn’t go that far before he heard the kid talking with what he presumed was a human.
“Sir Curse, can you please let me down?”
“Sir?! Kid, do I look like your father?!”
“I don’t know”
From where he stood, there only seemed to be three teenagers, one holding the kid above the ground from the back end of his collar, the other two besides him.
Sukuna got closer to the scene, “Kid, how do you always manage to get yourself kidnapped?”
Hearing a new voice, all three teenagers looked up at Sukuna.
“And who the fuck are you?”
“Dude, you his father?”
The kid rotated towards Sukuna while on the teenager’s hold.
“Sukuna! Look! These are the curses I mentioned before!” Yuuji raised both of his hands high up in the air, and Sukuna caught a scratch on his left cheek.
He narrowed his eyes at the teenager whose hold was on Yuuji, “You touched the brat?”
“What if we did?”, said the teenager with a flustered Yuuji on his fist.
Judging by the look on the kid, he had done that to himself, not the teenager. So nothing happened. Sukuna sighed, he couldn't handle this shit so early in the morning. Calling his domain expansion, he sliced the teenagers into pieces. “He has lice”, he muttered to the bodies as he grabbed Yuuji falling from the air.
“I don’t have lice, baba”
“That’s why we take baths, kid”
Sukuna sat the toddler on top of his shoulders, tying the bells again on his left foot as he walked towards their home.
While Sukuna had been rinsing Yuuji’s hair with water, the kid asked him if he had found lice on his hair. Sukuna grabbed a lock of peach hair and pretended to look for the little insects, he told the child the shower had worked because he did not find any.
Now all dried out and changed, Sukuna and Yuuji were lounging on a comforter they had placed on the engawa. Yuuji asked Sukuna for another piece of chocolate—before returning to the shrine, Sukuna had turned around again to the teenager’s bodies after catching scent of the sweet candy—Sukuna told him eating too much chocolate would slice his head off but Yuuji only whined ‘babaaaa’, and Sukuna relented.
They spent the rest of the day lounging, eating chocolate, watching as bugs got stuck to the ceiling, when Yuuji asked:
Sukuna hummed, implying he was listening.
The child turned around, looking at something in the distance.
“What is a father?”
“A father… ”, Sukuna said after he gave it some thought, “is someone who has helped into creating you”
“Is that it?”
“In certain context, it’s someone who has taken care of you”
“Are you my father?”
From the corner of his eye, Sukuna saw how Yuuji was looking at his statue a couple of meters ahead, the place where Yuuji had given his first steps, bawling his eyes out because Sukuna had left him alone for too long.