.hack/SOUL -- .hack/Destination of a Soul

Disclaimer: I do not own .hack/SIGN or any of the characters in the anime series. This is just a fan fic based AFTER the series. That's all.

And the fic still lives! Sorry about the looong delay.. such is life. In any case, we are drawing nearer to the conclusion of the fic. I told you it wouldn't be too long. The last chapter might be #8. However, this current chapter is very important because you will understand why the title is called .hack/SOUL - .hack/Destination of a Soul. Also a few mind-warping things between Tsukasa and Morgana that I always wanted to do. Hehe. Okay, that's enough. Enjoy the chapter. Let's hope the next one doesn't take this long!

Chapter 6 – Returning

Although it was a long and solitary ride on the bus home, my determination did not fade for a second. To stop my irritation towards the bus driver, who seemed to be driving at a low speed despite the lack of traffic, I gripped tightly onto the front of the seat while staring into the gray clouds that remained after the previous snowfalls this week. The weather was gradually getting warmer even though the last snow storm gave a slight warning that the real winter weather was coming. However, spring struggled to shout out across the fields as the snow began to melt and the sun's rays were just visible through the dreary sky, although the season was many months away. For the first time in a long while, everything was finally showing colour. It was as if Subaru was the one who sent a universal rainbow that helped me realize that not all hope was lost.

The bus gave a loud screech as it finally came towards the nearest stop to my apartment. I quickly left the vehicle and jogged to my home. I was surprised at how much green was already visible on the edges of the sidewalk. The trees continued to spread dull red and orange colours on their leaves as the short hint of winter quickly passed by. I glanced at the amount of fall grass as I increased my speed towards the large doors of the building.

It was not until I entered the erratic elevator that it hit me; I was excited. There was nothing that prepared me for what lied ahead, but at that point I had absolutely no skepticism. I was truly confident that I was able to bring Mimiru and Sora back to the real world. At the same time, I also believed that I could help Aura as well. I could still remember when I held her in my arms as she fell into a deep sleep once more. It all seemed so dreamlike, but there was no doubt in my mind that what happened to her had a lot to do with Morgana, which was a very true deal. If I could just find her and Aura, I might be able to find Mimiru and Sora..

My hand shook a bit as I opened the door with my keys. I peered into every room to see if Bear had returned home early. With every bit of luck on the planet, he was not there. Looking at the kitchen clock, it seemed that he would not be back for another three hours. Perfect.

I did not want to lose too much time. I ran into my room for a brief moment. I noticed a single piece of paper lying on my desk. It was there since I had that strange dream with Aura. The paper did, in fact, had every bit of detail from that dream. I read it, remembering how much this was my writing, and then folded it in two and placed it in the front pocket of my sweatshirt.

I went back to the kitchen to grab a soda from the fridge. After swiftly gulping half of it down my throat, I almost overlooked the article about the CC Corporation and the dismantling of the old World. I read it for the third time. For some reason, it only hit me then. The CC Corporation lied. They lied to millions of people all over the world when they held that meeting and said that everything was normal. Nothing was normal, and destroying my account was proof of that. Even greater proof was what happened to Sora and Mimiru. I felt so angry and frustrated. They made people so certain that everything was all right when in reality there were many problems occurring behind their backs and affecting a small handful of people which included me. I pushed the fury away and went back to what was needed to be done.

I threw the now empty soda can into the garbage basket in the computer room and placed myself into the chair. I just noticed that I put myself in the chair that Mimiru sat on before she was put in the hospital. It was an eccentric feeling, as if a ghost was sitting on it with me. I put on the necessary headgear and turned on the computer screen. Within moments I put in all of Subaru's account information.

Username: Subaru

Password: maha

I smiled again as I typed the password, knowing how Subaru had made it just for me. At first I wondered if she understood the risks of having such a short password, but nobody knew about Maha except us. I never forgot the things she had done for me. Through those long hours of staying beside sleeping Aura's bed, she would always be there. Strange things happened that forced me to question my trust for her, but in the end, her sacrifice meant everything. Even if she was just part of the game, I would never forget Maha.

Right before I pressed enter, I whispered to myself, 'Mimiru, Sora... Aura... I'm coming!' And with that, I pressed the button and zoomed through the World.

It was an enchanting adventure already. Just the thought of seeing myself in Subaru's clothes was interesting enough. After passing through the initial stage, I managed to touch my feet onto the hard surface of the World, in Dona Roriak. As I looked around, everything could never have been more regular... except for one thing. The stares. People began to stare at me without saying a word. They walked by, gave me a hard glance, and then continued on their path. Confused, I turned to my side and saw why. I was holding Tsukasa's staff, my staff. I looked down and noticed that I was, to my utter surprise, Tsukasa, in the same appearance that I always had since I first entered the World.

"Oh my God! What is this!" I yelled. This was grossly wrong. I went into Subaru's account and entered the World as Tsukasa. It could not have gotten more disturbing. However, there was a reason behind it all, and I had to find it. Without contacting the others, or looking for them, I transferred to the area where Aura's bed lay.

The place looked as if years had passed since the last time I came. The blood from the ground had sunken into the dirt and Aura's bed looked a lot cleaner. The sheets were a bit torn though, and the pillow looked deflated. I walked over to the bed, kneeled down, and placed my hand on the pillow.

"Aura, if you know where I am, please find me," I said out loud, hoping that she heard me from wherever she was. Suddenly, I felt a cold arm on my shoulder. I could see, in the corner of my eye, a bright light beaming behind me. As I turned around, I felt the brush of beautiful white hair across my face.

"Aura!" I shouted. There she was. While still kneeling, I placed my arms around her. It wasn't until then that I felt something different. She was cold as ice, which was not how she initially felt like. She usually felt like a warm angel that, when touched, would take all the pain away. At this time, she looked as helpless as ever. Nonetheless, I continued to hold her in my arms, knowing that she was still the key to finding Mimiru and Sora.

The bright light that was coming from her had faded and I could see her a lot more clearly. As I let go of her to see her face, I noticed that something else was different. I could not tell if her eyes were open or closed, for they were covered by a thick white cloth of some sort, as if she was blind.

"This isn't me.." I heard her whisper. Her voice was so light and fragile I could hardly hear her. "This isnt threal me.." She muffled as if she could not hear her own words, as if she was deaf.

I put my right hand over her mouth as she spoke. I gasped. She had no breath. It was almost.. as if she wasn't alive at all. This wasn't Aura at all. This was...

"Aura, how did you do this? Where is the real you?" I said, having about a dozen other questions behind my back but trying my best to take my time so I could hear her barely speak.

"I'm wth you frinds.. onesawake but othr sleping.." she continued to muffle. I carefully heard every word and then realized she was trying to say that Mimiru and Sora were with her. Except.. only one was awake. I was running out of time.

"Where are you, Aura?" I yelled, trying desperately to maintain my composure. The situation was getting worse as the fake Aura began to fade. I tried to keep a strong grip on her shoulders, but my hands soon fell through her. I needed to get something out of her.

"Aura! Where are you?" I continued to shout. All I wanted was an answer..

"Im in... you soul..." she whispered as the remainder of her appearance vanished.

My soul?.. I said to myself, trying to understand what Aura meant by that. There had to be a way to bring her back. I looked around myself, trying to find clues of any matter.

And then, I looked at the pillow on Aura's bed. I remembered, the last time I came here, there was a note under it. I carefully got up and walked towards the side of the bed. With one hand, I dove it under the pillow, flinching a bit from the blood touching my skin. I never liked the feeling of blood. Sure enough, my hand felt a thin piece of paper. With two fingers, I took it out.

It was blank. I tried my best to remember the word on the paper. I couldn't believe that I had forgotten something so important, especially now. And then, a memory of Philosophy class flashed in my mind. I didn't know why, but I concentrated on it:

The soul.. a definitely important philosophical reference to our topic. One can say that the existence of a soul creates a man, yet others would say that a man created the theory of a soul. Many different philosophers..

"That's it!" I remembered. S.O.U.L. That was how it was written. I didn't know why, but there just had to be some significance of this paper. It had some link to the real Aura.. perhaps it would help me find her, which would then help me find Mimiru and Sora. My options were extremely limited, but there had to be a way to reveal this link.

I crouched down and put the blank piece of paper on the dry crimson ground. As I got back up, I held my staff with both hands and concentrated on my reflection in the sphere of the stick. It was only I, Tsukasa, who could do this. No one could even come close. I knew exactly what had to be done.

I closed my eyes and led the tip of the staff over to the left edge of the paper. Very carefully, I began to trace S.O.U.L. back onto the sheet. I did not know if the text had returned, for my eyes had stayed shut for the entire time. I continued to hold the staff tightly as I concentrated on every curve and line I made, hoping that the word would return.

I stopped once I finished the last period. For some reason, I could not open my eyes. I could not determine whether this was of or against my will. I felt my fingers shake as I began losing my grip on the rod. Was I already getting scared? I had to hold on. Something extraordinary was going to happen.. I just knew it. I was definitely going to find them all. All I had to do was.. hold.. on..

"AURA!" I shouted as I brought up the staff with all my strength and smashed the tip to the paper, digging it deep into the ground. I expected to hear my voice echo, but I heard no sound after my staff hit the surface. I looked down and marveled at the strips of white light appearing from the paper. The word 'S.O.U.L." miraculously came into view and disappeared again in an instant. But the light continued to shine. All I could do was hold on as a strong gust of wind and ribbons of luminosity circulated around me. I still could not hear a thing. Before I knew it, the bright light had swallowed the entire scenery.

With no sky, no wind, or even a place to stand, I began to float in a white area of nothing.

"Welcome to your soul, Tsukasa," a voice echoed, undoubtedly Morgana's. Before I could act, the white background flashed into black, and then white again, multiple times until I could not bare to keep my eyes open. Once I opened them again I was on hard soil, my staff at least twelve feet away from me. There was finally a sky, a familiar sky that filled me with tranquility and reassurance. A sky that told me exactly where I was.

"What am I doing back in the real world?" I said, unsure if I was talking to myself or Morgana.

"This isn't the real world, Tsukasa," Morgana spoke once more. "This a reflection of the world, and your soul is the mirror. Everything you see hear is developed and maintained by you. This is your world."

Indeed my eyes showed me the world where I grew up in, but they lied when they wanted to convince me this was a reality. I could see, hear, and touch everything that was in front of me, but when I breathed, I inhaled a nasty scent of artificial air that felt worse than being the The World. Wherever I was, my soul or not, this was a nightmare covered in a blanket of deceit. I wiped the thoughts of my surroundings away and concentrated on what needed to be found.

"Where is Aura?" I said out loud. Asking the question was a waste of time.. I knew that.. but any hints to find her would do.

"She is not important at the moment, my dear Tsukasa," Morgana answered, her voice getting somewhat louder. "Finally, you have completed your journey. You have found your center.. your true world.. and you can live with me forever."

Her words echoed away. The last thing I heard from her was a deep inhale. I expected an exhale of breath, or perhaps another release of words, but I heard nothing after. Alone again, I went back to the means of exploration.. perhaps she was hiding Aura in this fake atmosphere.

When I turned around, I nearly tripped backwards at the sight. There in front of me, just about half a block away, was my old house. What hit my mind the first time I saw it was the long time interval between leaving the place and moving into Bear's apartment. It was like a haunting nostalgia.. something I longed to see in my dreams but never to enter.

Suddenly the door of the house opened. My breathing literally stopped, and I felt as if I was paralyzed. I did not know who would walk out that door and present themselves. Perhaps it was Aura. Perhaps she found her way into my soul by means of tapping into the deep memories of my childhood residence. Or perhaps.. perhaps it was..

"... father?" I heard myself say. I touched my mouth in amazement. Where did I conjure up the nerve to call him my father once more? Ever since my mother's death, he was selfish, rude, and abusive towards me. I had lost a lot of respect and compassion for him, which was one of the reasons that lead me to The World. Once I found myself again and returned, I was much stronger. Leaving that hospital, I knew I would make things right again. There were so many people who helped me.. Subaru.. Bear.. Mimiru... Mimiru!

I blinked hard to bring myself back into focus. The door had opened as far as it could, presenting a black space that traveled around the house. My father was definitely not there. As far as my eyes could tell, there was no one standing there. I did not want to wait too long for something to happen, so I took a step towards the shelter. Perhaps I was being lead into something.

However, I stopped when a dark, blurred figure quickly appeared beside the door. It surely startled me, but I was able to maintain my composure. It was hard to explain how the figure appeared.. it was almost like it formed itself from the darkness within the house. However way it emerged, I could not tell who it was. There was hardly any texture or detail to the figure, making it difficult to tell if it was even human.

Suddenly, a long part from the bottom of the figure split, yet continued to stay connected at one part, and began to move towards me. The other part, which was left from the separation, make a move forward, passed the other part and closer to me. They seemed to resemble long legs. Indeed, it was walking to me.

It took me a while to realize that the figure was, in fact, that of a human being. Yet, the image in front of me looked more of a silhouette than something real and concrete. Once it got closer, I was able to distinguish the arms.. then the shoulders.. a neck.. and a head with long hair trailing behind it. However, the silhouette never colourized.

Suddenly, as I looked at what appeared to be the head of the figure, a small hole opened up at where the mouth should be. I could only assume that it was going to speak.


It did speak.. I could see the mouth opening and closing as it said my name.. but for some reason, I voice flew to my ears as if it was said behind me. I turned around, but no one was there. Quickly, I fixed my head to its original position to make sure the figure was still there.

"Can you guess who I am..?" it spoke once again. I could feel the blood pulsing through my hands as they wrapped into hard fists. I was not in the mood for another one of Morgana's games. There had to be an end to all of this.

"I won't guess, but I can do something else!" I said as I walked towards the dark figure. I finally had a concrete plan: I would grab the figure, which was surely Morgana, throw a convincing threat at her, and if worse came to worse, I would use my staff to..

Where is my staff? I said to myself while taking large steps forward. I thought I had seen it just a while ago, but I could not remember. Well, it did not matter yet. Right now, there had to be action. Despite the confusing atmosphere and struggle to get where I was, I felt like I was in a dominating position. There was no surprises just yet, or any arising tricks that could catch me off guard. I watched where I was going as I was only a few feet from Morgana. I brought up my arms, just as I was face to face with her, and made an attempt to grab her arms, wherever they should've been.

As my hands touched the black substance, I instantly felt as if quick sand was surrounding the tip of my fingers. The darkness seemed to be sucking my fingernails in, but stopped when it hit the middle of my fingers. As disgusting as it would have sounded, my fingers actually felt comfortable in the substance. With the figure still staying inactive, I moved on with my plan.

"Listen to me! I'm not the silent, lost soul I once was. Unlike you, I've changed and become a better person."

"Nobody knows that better than I do, Tsukasa," the figure said, in a voice I could not have taken for granted.

"S-Subaru?" I managed to say.

Before I knew it, the dark muddy substance covering my fingers evaporated, along with the rest of it on the person, revealing Subaru herself. I stepped back in astonishment, but also in disgust.

"I- I don't believe this. You really think I'm going to fall for this? I know very well that you aren't Subaru," I said bluntly, keeping my arms at the level of my chin in a form of defense.

"Isn't it amazing.." the figure's skin evaporated, presenting another character, Mimiru. I almost could not help falling for it when I saw her. She looked so real, but I could not let my eyes give in. "How much your soul can contain?" Another change, this time, from Mimiru to Bear in his business suit. "I can be anything your soul desires."

I could not help but back away. I knew she was trying to toy with my emotions, but I was not going to give in.. she knew that.. so what was she planning? There was not much I could do.

"And perhaps," in an instant she became Sora, speaking in his playful voice, "your one desire all along," she then moved from Sora to Krim, "was to see me.."

What could I do but expect her to change into another friend of mine? What was she trying to lead me to? All I could possibly do was watch as she changed into...

Her next form... I... I could not believe. No.. it isn't.. Tsukasa.. please.. listen to yourself.. it isn't.. The voice inside me faded away as my hands grew numb and my eyes stared at the new figure in front of me with a slight blurred vision as a thin layer of water formed around them.

"M-mother..?" I said with every strength in my voice box. My mother.. she was standing there.. just the way she looked before she left.. before she died. She seemed a lot taller when I was a child.. and now I was almost her height.. she had the thickest brown hair that trailed down to her waist.. short strands floating in front of her face.. in front of her vibrant brown eyes that matched mine exactly.. to her pointed noise that stood out so positively. And that smile.. with the lips like sugar, that I loved to kiss when I was little.. brighter than any part of her body.

She was wearing the last thing before she died, a long orange dress that she told me my grandmother gave to her. It was at least a size too big but she continued to wear it, mainly for walking in the garden because it was the most perfect clothing for late spring.

Please.. listen to me.. it's not-

"Tsukasa.." her sweet, poignant voice escaped her mouth and entranced my senses. The waves in her tone caused me to close my eyes as I swam in her warm presence. I could not help but picture a strong, vivid memory from many years ago.

I was not one to think about the inevitable. Frankly, I was too scared to. But then, one day, I did. Sure, I had those days where I would think about it and my mind would just travel to another thought, but this time.. it became obsessive. I felt alone with my own thoughts, and scared. This was one of the most powerful memories of my childhood, because when I felt like nothing could cure me from my own thoughts.. she was there.. and she helped me through it all.

"What's wrong, dear?" I heard my mother call from outside my room. I did not want her to see me crying into my pillow. I tried my best to wipe my tears away, but she had already entered the room and took a glimpse of my red face and stuffy nose.

"Nothing, nothing mommy," I said weakly. I knew I had no chance of hiding my feelings from her. All I could do was watch her as she approached me and sat in the middle of my bed.

"You've been like this for the past two weeks now. Something like this isn't normal. Why are you feeling so down all the time?" my mother asked as she put her hand on my head. I brought my cheek to the side of my wet pillow and let the rest of my tears fall across my nose and onto the fabric.

"I'm.. scared, mommy," I was finally able to say. I never wanted to talk about what I was feeling in the past little while, but by now I was too deep to lift myself out. I was foolish to think I could handle my emotions on my own.

I was just a little girl.

"You don't have to be scared anymore. Just tell me everything," she said while brushing my hair with her smooth fingers.

What could I say to her? She could answer back in so many different ways, but I would constantly think to myself that, in the end, it would not matter. There were things in life that not even the kindest people could stand against. I let that fear take hold of me.

"I'm scared that.. you're going to leave," I finally said. I inhaled quickly as a few more tears swam across my skin. I looked to my side and could see my mother's face. Her eyes were widened, with concern and perplexity swimming through them.

"Honey.. what are you talking about? I'm not leaving you.. I'm still here," she said. I did not expect any more from her. What else could she say? It did not make a difference.

"Yes, but.. but you won't always be here.. one day you will be g-gone," I almost could not say those painful words. Why was I thinking these things? I did not even know why. And how would she answer me? In the end, she was just a human.

".. why are you thinking about these things?" my mother asked. I was hoping she would not give me a question like that, because I did not know. "You know you shouldn't be. There are so many other things to think about. Why are you making yourself think about this?"

"I.. don't know. I.. can't help it," I whimpered. It was true, I could not help it.

"Tsukasa.. please, don't do this to yourself," she continued. "Don't think about things that shouldn't worry you now. I'm still here. I love you, your father loves you, I love your father.. and I think he loves me.." She ended the sentence with a short sigh. I was startled by the last thing she said, and shot straight up from the bed.

"Of course he does!" I said louder than my previous tone. At that point, nothing else mattered to me but for mom to realize that dad loved him. I always hated when they got into fights.. it just killed me inside. I would cry and cry.. and only stop when they had settled everything.

"Then don't worry," she began squeezing me harder, but there was more comfort in the grip than pain. "I promise that everything will be alright. Just don't think about these things, and know that we're here for you no matter what. We will always be here. Always."

I had already gone too deep in reality which warped my idea of what 'always' truly meant. Nevertheless, I felt cured. Cured by the warmth of my mother. Everything felt right again. This was, indeed, the most wonderful feeling in the entire word.

"Thank you mommy. I love you."

It was about two months later that she died, and my cure was gone. I cannot think of a more horrible feeling than at that time, which is now a tattered memory. My love and my help was gone, and I cried once again. However, there was nothing in the other half that aided my soul. My father became an alcoholic just a few days after my mother passed away, and instead of comfort and affection I had to deal with hateful words and abuse that added to this horrible feeling. I had no friends, and when I tried to make some, my father would make sure that I was as miserable as he was.

Thank goodness I discovered the World. It was a long, difficult journey to remember myself, but it was all worth it to find friends that I love with all my heart. I had never loved anyone more than I loved my mother, but they were still dear to me, and I would protect them as they would for me. It was like I saw a piece of my mother in them.

It was as if my mother was still living...

Before I opened my eyes once again, I could feel two warm, skinny arms wrapped around me that felt like a reassuring cover that kept every fond memory in tact and every happy feeling alive. I slowly breathed her in.. her long brown hair brushing against my nose. My cheek rested on her neck while I stared at my old house. What perfect scenery.. and what perfect love. In the end, I did not care what was real anymore. There was no reality.. there was no soul.. there was just me and her.

"Tsukasa," I heard her whisper. My mother squeezed me harder, her lips touching my neck. "I love you, Tsukasa."

Each of her fingers massaged my spine comfortably. I could not find any other place I would rather be than here, with her.. forever.

"Mother, I lo-" before I could finish my sentence, I felt a tremendous shot of pressure in the middle of my back. The pressure caused me to choke on my words and straighten my back from my mother's grasp. I was very confused at what had happened at that moment. I wanted to say something, but I suddenly realized why I could not.

I felt something slowly digging inside of me. It took me a few more seconds to understand what had happened; my mother had stabbed me in the back with her own hand. How she could do it, I did not know, but she did not stop there. While I still could not do anything, she continued to bury her fingers deep under my skin, to the point where I could no longer arch my back. The pain began once I felt thin strands of blood slowly pour down my back, through my clothes and eventually touching my feet. She used her other hand to hold my neck from pushing away. I had no way of escaping, and I had no idea why this was happening, until it finally hit me...

I was fooled.

I could not believe it. I.. could not believe I fell for this. Morgana had changed her appearance so many times before my eyes.. so why, all of a sudden, did everything make sense when she turned into my own mother? Was I still holding onto the past so much that I could not tell what was real anymore? Could I not even tell what was real in my very own soul?

When she finally stopped digging her hand into my body, I had already surrendered my soul to her.

What other choice did I have?

I was such a fool.

I hope you enjoyed the chapter. Please review and be sure to check my profile for updates on the next chapter