The Final Journey
Spoilers for LN and Alicization
Eugeo has said his goodbyes to his friends and finds himself stranded somewhere between worlds. Will the kindness of a kindred spirit help him on his final quest to reunite with his loved ones and find peace?
Eugeo's voice and vision began to fade as his friend desperately called his name, begging him to stay. He had been so afraid of this moment...death...but now that the pain and panic had faded it didn't seem so bad. There was no way he could have ever hurt his friend and though this choice would bring sadness upon Kirito, it was certainly better than the other option. Of course, he hadn't been able to return Alice's memory, but perhaps...Eugeo's heart thudded slower and slower as Kirito's face and his surroundings dissolved into darkness. It didn't matter now, he was too weak to fight any of the last semblances feelings: fear and pain. Each labored breath became fainter as the last of his senses gave way to the sweet sleepy sensation and peace of death.
The silence and darkness was overwhelming at first, but Eugeo let it flow over him as his soul slipped away. It was as if he was weightless, and for a moment he caught a sensation of a chill leaving his body. Then suddenly out of the darkness, he felt a warmth surround him and a dim light appeared far off among the blackness.
His vision cleared as the light grew brighter, though it still seemed farther away.
"Eugeo, let's go!"
"Alice?" Eugeo could hear his voice call her name, though he wasn't speaking.
"Let's go! We can't be late!"
He felt a small, soft hand reach out and take his. It felt warm and comforting.
"Alice? Where?" Eugeo now saw her, a small blonde girl, smiling and leading him towards the light.
"Let's go Eugeo!" Her voice was like musical laughter and he found himself following her towards the light, which was growing almost blindingly bright.
"Alright, I'll follow you." He grabbed her hand and heard his voice again, the young voice he hadn't heard issue from his lips since he was a child. As they neared the shining light, Alice's laughter and long blonde hair began to fade into the brightness as Eugeo followed her.
Her laugher seemed to be drifting away as the gentle feeling of her hand in his released.
"Alice, wait up!" Eugeo followed her until the light became so bright it blinded him and he fell to his knees.
After a few moments the light finally faded and Eugeo felt his hands against his face. For another moment, he was still. He was dead, yet he could feel the warmth of his hands pressed against his skin. Another moment passed and he slowly lowered his hands and opened his eyes. At first the light that met his gaze was so bright it forced him to shut his eyes again. Then as a reflex, he took his hands and rubbed his eyes until the vision before him became clear and his senses slowly returned.
As he knelt on the ground, he became aware of the sensation of soft, cool grass under his knees and the feeling of warm sunshine against his body. Rubbing his eyes again, the scene before him appeared, a sunshine filled verdant field, dotted with small white and golden flowers blowing in a soft, silent breeze.
What is this place?
His gaze drifted from the ground in front of him across the field where he could see over a small ridge the tops of trees bending slowly back and forth against the zephyrous breeze that lilted all around him. For a moment, he remained still and let the warmth flow against him, then he opened his mouth to take a breath...
... nothing came.
I really am dead.
A moment of panic flashed through his chest. Where had Alice gone? He had heard her, leading him towards the light, and felt the touch of her soft hand against his. It had been his dying wish to be reunited with her memory... and yet... here he knelt... all alone.
Is this really how it ends?
Glancing around again Eugeo became more aware of his own limbs and the sensations of the field surrounding him. His chest no longer moved with breath or heartbeat but he felt something deep within him that had a vague semblance to his now silent pulse, rising and falling within him. Clutching at his chest, Eugeo felt his own skin, though it almost seemed as if he was touching something besides himself...his skin felt pleasantly warm and a soft ruffle of fabric met his fingers. Looking down he noticed the clothes he was wearing, no longer the silvery blue robes of a fallen Integrity Knight covered in blood, but a simple linin shirt, faded and slightly blue gray, and a plain pair of short pants. His feet were bare on top of the lush grass and his dusty blond bangs blew back and forth in front of his green eyes. If this was the afterlife, it seemed nearly identical to that of the fields around Rulid, the town he had been born and raised in, and yet there was a feeling of difference as well. Here, the wind made no sound as it swirled through the trees, void of any signs of life such as the songs of birds and the hum of insects and chatter of squirrels.
Steadying himself, Eugeo slowly rose to his feet. At first he stood still, then carefully moved his arms from his sides, first in front, and then behind him. It was strange; there was sensation in them. It felt nearly identical to how his arms had been before. Taking this as a sign, he slowly stepped forward once and then again, then feeling his limbs steady under him he took a few steps more across the wavering grass and gazed around at the empty, cloudless blue sky.
I really am alone here?
Wrapping his arms around himself as if he had caught a sudden chill, Eugeo realized there was one sense he had yet to find. Though he had no need for breath anymore, he recreated the motion of his chest rising and falling and opened his mouth to speak.
His own voice came forth, clearer and louder than he thought it would and he held his arms tighter around himself in an almost fear of the sound.
"I..I...can talk?" the question left his lips and floated away over the silent breeze.
"Hello...HELLO! Is there anyone out there? Please! I'm all alone!" Even in death he felt a simmering panic rise up through him. What if he hadn't made it into the afterlife? What if he hadn't been quick enough to follow Alice? Had he now lost her and the comfort of his soul forever? As his thoughts raced he forced his feet to move him forward, though he had no sense of the direction he was running.
"Hello? Anyone? I'm lost! Where am I!?" His voice had rung into a clear yell across the beautiful, but empty landscape. Falling suddenly to his knees Eugeo ran his hands through his hair, gripping it at the roots and forcing his head down away from the sunshine.
Please. Don't let me be here alone.
"PLEASE! Someone! Can't anyone hear me!" he cried, tearing his hands away from his hair in anguish. For the first time he felt a truly worldly sensation, tears against his face, just as they had been before. A sob rose in his chest and he pressed his hands into the grass below him as the tears fell from his eyes.
"Please...anyone..." his voice faded away in defeat.
... Another voice echoed across the field towards him, so soft he could hardly tell it from the thoughts racing in his head. But unlike the silent breeze it rose and fell as any human voice might as it moved closer to him.
"Hey! Hey! Over there!"
It was the voice of a girl, high and shrill, but somehow filled with an almost musical quality.
Lifting his head, Eugeo brushed his bangs, wet with tears to the side and came face to face with another set of deep amber eyes staring back at him.
"Huh?" Reeling backwards Eugeo fell against the ground and gazed up at the figure, now standing above him, a girl slightly younger than himself with a curious look on her face. She was clothed in the same plain linin shirt and pants as he was, although hers were tinted a light purple, almost lavender hue.
"Who, who are you?!" he stammered, backing away. The girl tilted her head to the side for a moment as her violet hair fell from one shoulder to the other. Leaning closer she placed a small hand on his shoulder and spoke again.
"I'm Yuuki! Who are you? I honestly didn't think there was anyone else out here!" Her eyes sparkled with a mixture of mischief and cheerfulness. Offering a hand to Eugeo, she helped him to his feet.
"I'm Eugeo." Unable to decide what to do with his hands when she let go, Eugeo brushed some of the grass off his shirt and pants and placed his hands nervously in his pockets, which had suddenly become very inviting.
"Hi Eugeo! Wow! Another person! It's been so long since I've seen anyone else, I was beginning to think I'd never see another soul again." Her smile had become so large that her eyes squinted shut and her long eyelashes batted against her pale cheeks.
"What do you mean by that?" Eugeo asked warily, taking a step back.
"Oh silly!" Yuuki exclaimed opening her eyes to stare back at him, "Don't be afraid, I'm just like you, a soul here in this world."
"Soul?" Eugeo murmured.
The violet haired girl shook her head. "Well, if you're here, you must be. I mean... you did die didn't you?" The words left her mouth as easily as if she was having a conversation with an old friend.
"Die?" Eugeo shuddered, "So...I really am... dead?" Looking down at his hands his green eyes widened.
Yuuki's smile faded and she leaned towards him again. "Oh gosh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be so forward like that! Look, I've been here for a while so I've gotten used to it, but I know what you must be feeling. At first it's kind of weird and scary, you don't breath, you can't feel your heart in your chest anymore...and it's weird to feel the breeze but not hear any of it rustling through the trees like before..." her voice faded off as she looked up towards the sky. "Even the warmth of the sun feels different here, it's never too strong even though it's so bright." Turning back towards him a faint smile returned, as if she had just remembered something comforting.
"I take it you haven't been here long then, Eugeo," she added in a quieter voice.
"Well," Eugeo paused for a moment, "I don't think I have. I mean I don't even really know how I got here in the first place the last thing I remember was..."
"... A bright light?" Yuuki interrupted, "That's what happens before you know..." she stopped and looked lost in thought for a moment. "Well, either way, you ended up here so that's good for me!" Her smile returned in earnest. "I've been wandering these fields for a long time looking for someone, honestly, I'm surprised you're the first person I've come across since I've been here."
"So, where is here exactly?" Eugeo asked, taking a hand out of his pocket and placing it on the back of his neck. "I mean if we're dead, is this the afterlife? Heaven?"
A look of deep concentration crossed Yuuki's face and she brushed her hair back before answering simply.
"I believe it's neither."
"Neither?" Eugeo gasped leaning forward suddenly and grabbing the shoulders of the younger girl. "What do you mean neither? Are we trapped here? Why didn't we make it to the afterlife? Did something bad happen?"
Yuuki giggled and took his hands in hers, swinging them back and forth slightly. "You ask a lot of questions, you know? But listen, this place isn't bad at all, actually it's not really bad or good: it just is. It's like we're in some sort of in between state, not quite the afterlife but not quite the life we were in before. That's why we can feel some things but not others. Why we can't hear the wind or birds. It's not a bad thing, but yes, there's definitely something more."
"More?" Eugeo echoed quietly.
Yuuki let go of his hands and crossed them across her chest, nodding. "Yes, there's definitely something more. Since I've been here, I've done a lot of thinking, a lot of exploring and I've come to the conclusion that somehow this place is in between where we came from and where we are meant to go." She paused and motioned over his shoulder.
"Come and sit, I'll explain everything I've figured out to you." She walked by him pointing to the far edge of the field where some willow trees were growing silently. Eugeo followed her. As they sat down finally beneath the gentle shade of the branches moving silently in the breeze, Eugeo looked back to Yuuki who seemed lost in thought again, waiting for her to offer another explanation. He studied her face for a moment, wondering how she could have gotten here; she couldn't have been more than 15 or 16 years old. What could have caused someone so young and happy to die?
"So," meeting his gaze Yuuki spoke up again, "You want to know more about this place we're in, right Eugeo?"
"Mhm," he nodded fervently.
"Well, first, I need to ask you something," her face became abruptly serious. "I'd like to ask you, how did you die?"
The question was so sudden Eugeo for a moment couldn't answer her. What did his death have to do with this place? Regaining composure, he wondered if he could trust this girl, could he tell her what he couldn't even tell Kirito, what he had died for? It didn't really matter now, he was dead, there was no way he was going to get back and since this place didn't seem bad, perhaps feelings like anxiety and distrust had died with him too.
"I died in battle," looking down at his hands Eugeo offered the following explanation to Yuuki. "I died trying to save my two best friends. One of them had lost her memory and I was going to restore it to her, the other... I died because I couldn't face him in battle, I couldn't fight him and because of that I had to die. He was mad at me, he said it would have been okay to fight, but I didn't want to hurt him. I never wanted to hurt anyone I cared about..." he stopped, his hands now shaking, he looked up and met Yuuki's gaze. She looked sad and reached out and touched his hand gently.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"No, it's all right," Eugeo gathered his composure, "Actually, it feels better that I was able to tell someone else that, really..." he squeezed her hand.
"It's interesting though," Yuuki began again, "It seems you were taken before your time, as those who fall in battle usually are. Humans are meant to grow old and wise and live long lives, its tragic when a warrior, no matter how courageous, falls in battle. But it's interesting, I see a parallel between the way we both died..."
"What do you mean?" Eugeo leaned closer.
"I too died in battle before my time," Yuuki said plainly, "Although, it was a different battle, I fought something intangible, the demon of illness." Her voice drifted off with a sigh.
"Oh, that's awful," Eugeo murmured. "It must have been a terrible illness..."
"Mm," Yuuki nodded, "It was incurable, or so they said. But the circumstances of my getting it were outside of my control, which was the most tragic of all. They said I could have lived a long life...but instead...here I am." Her smile returned. "But don't you see, there's a similarity to both our deaths. I think that's why you ended up here as well."
"Okay," Eugeo nodded, "I sort of get what you're saying, we both died 'before our time' as you said but what does that have to do with this place? And why aren't there more people here, we can't be the only ones who ever fell into this predicament."
"I'm sure there are others," Yuuki added, "For some reason though, I haven't been able to find anyone else. Perhaps we were meant to meet here? Who knows? But the circumstances of your death and my death are definitely what's brought us here...it's like...we aren't finished...we still have time left on our journey...I'm not sure but I feel like that's why we're here. It's not that we aren't worthy, we just aren't ready yet, does that make sense to you, Eugeo?"
He nodded slightly, "I think so."
"There's another thing too," Yuuki leaned back against the tree trunk next to him, "For a while when I was first here, I figured like any afterlife, that time had stopped too. But something strange happened, eventually evening and then nighttime came...even though I'm dead, I suddenly felt tired and came to sleep under these trees, when I fell asleep I began to dream..." she paused. "Well, at first I thought I was dreaming but it wasn't like any dream I had ever experienced before. I was there, like I am now, but I was also watching myself. It took me a while to realize it was memories of my life before. I saw my friends, I even saw things that had happened when I though I would be too young to remember. When I finally woke up to the warm sunshine, that's when I got the feeling about this place. About how I was here because my journey wasn't over yet. Somehow I knew this place, this place wasn't the end, it was just another part of the journey, I'm sure that's why you're here as well. Perhaps when the night falls again, you will be able to see your memories of life before."
"Maybe," Eugeo wrapped his arms around his knees. "Before I came here, you know when I was walking to the bright light. There was someone else with me... my childhood friend, her name is Alice... we were children and she was leading me towards the the light and she kept saying that we had to go and we couldn't be late and I kept following her but then..." he stopped and buried his head against his knees.
"What?" Yuuki asked softy placing her hand on his shoulder.
"She disappeared," Eugeo's voice was muffled. Then he lifted his head up, tears welling in his eyes. "Somehow I lost her, I don't know why. But all I wanted was to follow her memory into the next world and then I was here alone."
"You're not alone now," Yuuki leaned against him.
Wiping the tears from his eyes Eugeo sniffled. "Yeah, that's true."
"And maybe she isn't gone either," Yuuki added. "Maybe that's why you came here, you have to go and find her."
"Do you think?" Eugeo sat up and his eyes met Yuuki's. She looked so determined and trusting.
"I think that might be the point of this place, " she continued, "The fallen heroes and warriors, perhaps they come to this place to find their peace? I remember when I was alive, I used to love to read all sorts of books, and a common theme in mythology is the warrior's last journey, a right of passage that earns them the peace of the soul. I always figured it was just fairy tales and folklore, but now that I'm here it just feels so real. I feel like I still have a purpose that I'm striving towards and now that I've met you... I think it is true...look," she stopped and pointed across the field where the ground rose up and to the trees beyond. "Beyond those trees there's a great forest, I've wandered in there before and climbed the trees. At the top of one of the taller ones I caught a glimpse of mountains and valleys in the distance. For some reason I felt drawn to those mountains...as if that's where I was meant to be. I think that's where you are meant to go too...perhaps it's where your friend Alice went, somewhere beyond those mountains." Her gaze grew hazy as she looked wistfully off into the distance. Then she turned and grabbed Eugeo's hands, her eyes alive with determination and mischief.
"We should go!" she exclaimed, "To those mountains, now that there's two of us I'm sure it would be an easy journey to make. After all, what bad sorts of things could happen to two who are already dead?" Her laughter rose up through the branches of the willow, which wavered with the breeze and brushed against Eugeo's face. Looking up, he caught glimpses of the bright sunlight and blue sky peeking between the soft branches. Yuuki, still smiling followed his gaze up.
"Look Eugeo, look!" her sudden movement caused him to almost fall backwards against the tree. "Look way up there! Could it be! It is! A flower! Look!"
Yuuki jumped up and began scaling the gnarled branches of the willow tree. Her body was lithe and quick and she reached the higher branches with skillful ease. Glancing down she caught his gaze again and pointed to the branch above her.
"Look at this little pink flower here! I wonder how it got all the way up in these branches. Willows don't grow flowers. It looks almost like a rose!" Reaching up she secured the tender blossom in her small hand and whisked back down the branches like a small slender cat. Sitting in front of him she opened her palm and showed him the flower. It was a small soft pink rose with a tiny ruffle of petals that fluttered in the noiseless breeze. Holding it up close to his face, Yuuki leaned close and exclaimed.
"Look how beautiful this little rose is! I've never seen one like it when I was alive, it's absolutely perfect!"
"Yeah," Eugeo was entranced, "These kind of roses were extremely rare where I came from and even the most sought after were never as delicate and perfect as this one, I wonder where it came from? Does it mean something maybe?"
"Oh!" Yuuki gave a small gasp, "Smell it! Oh my, it's sweeter than anything I've ever smelled before, I just realized that I think this is the first scent of any living thing I've had since I've been here! Oh, do smell it, Eugeo!"
Leaning forward Eugeo brought his nose close to the small flower. It did indeed have a lovely scent, unlike anything he had ever smelled before. For a moment he and Yuuki watched the flower in wonder, then a sudden, silent gust thrust the flower from her hand and whisked it across the field.
"Oh no!" Yuuki cried out, "It's gone! It's..." she turned back towards Eugeo. "It's a sign Eugeo, that flower, we have to follow it, we have to make the journey to those mountains, that's why we're here. We're fighters, brave warriors, we have one more trial we have to face and overcome and that flower has confirmed that for me! I think if we can make it to beyond those mountains we'll find what we're looking for, don't you think?"
Gazing up towards where the flower had been carried away to, Eugeo felt something deep within him pulling him after it. For a moment he thought he could even hear Alice's voice again, beckoning him to follow the flower back to her, but perhaps it was only his mind. Either way, Yuuki was right, there was something beyond those mountains and they would have to travel there to find it.
"Yes," standing up and clenching his hands into fists, Eugeo spoke determinedly.
Yuuki stood up next to him. "Are you ready for this?" The sparkle and mischief had returned to her eyes. "Who knows what we'll find out there?"
"I'm ready," he turned back to her and gave a genuine smile. His pale face had been so serious before but now Yuuki thought he looked almost handsome.
"Alright then, lets go!" She grabbed his hand and they took off across the field, towards the forest and the mountains beyond it.
Okay so I really wanted to do a Yuuki / Eugeo fic. I feel like the two of them would have been great friends and companions on an adventure and since they both passed too soon *CRIES* I figured I would do a fantastic mythological adventure fic of them trying to gain entrance to the afterlife. Where they've both landed is sort of a limbo, in between their worlds and the afterlife and they'll have to find a way to get to their ultimate destination. So I guess this is AU but I like the idea and I'm going to ride with it. Hope you enjoy it too!:)