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I Won't Let Him

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8:52 AM

KEL woke up eight minutes early to an energetic two-year-old little sister calling him up.

"KELSEY! KELSEY!"

Despite the sudden awakening, seeing his adorable little sister's face was enough to make him shine a big bright smile at the toddler, sitting up straight and carrying her by the arms. "Hey you little munchkin! How you doin'?"

"Plane! Plane! Vrooom!" She sputtered out in between giggles.

KEL smiled, knowing exactly what she wanted.

"Alright, get ready for airplane time!"

KEL proceeded to spend the next couple of minutes waving his little sister around like an airplane while making engine noises, much to her delight.

9:10 AM

KEL was singing and whistling a random pop song that was stuck in his head in the showers, shaking his booty to the beat as he scrubbed and washed his back.

9:33 AM

KEL gave a satisfied sigh after finishing a more than healthy proportion of his breakfast, bending over to kiss his mom in the cheek as thank you for making him his favorite fried omelet with extra crispy bacon bits sprinkled all over.

9:45 AM

"Hutt Hutt- One two- Hutt Hutt- Three four-" KEL chanted repeatedly as he did a series of workout routines to burn the carbs he accumulated during breakfast.

Fifty reps of jumping jacks to loosen up his body.

Fifty pushups and situps to work his arm muscles and abs.

Five minutes shadowboxing to work on his reflexes and focus.

After he was finished with his diligent workout, he rewarded himself with a nice cold glass of the world's most divine drink known to man.

ORANGE JOE.

The perfect blend between coffee and root beer soda, mixed together to create a beautiful symphony of flavor. Even one sip was enough to energize him and keep him going for the entire day without any naps.

Which was why he immediately downed the whole entire glass bottle like a beast who hasn't had his thirst quenched in years.

10:00 AM

"Alright, time to go visit SUNNY!" KEL cheered to himself.

He hasn't visited the comatose boy since his birthday, after all. KEL had promised that he would do regular visits again, and he was a person that always takes his promises seriously.

Jumping around a bit to work on his legs and get the blood flowing, he took starting position right outside the front door of his house like an Olympic racer waiting for the starting pistol to go off.

Hm… Wonder what he should talk about once he gets there?

Counting down from three…

Even if SUNNY couldn't hear him, it was always nice to find things to talk about with the boy. It reminded him of the old days when SUNNY would always sit back and listen to KEL ramble about whatever was on his mind.

Two…

Maybe talk to him about all the friends KEL's made over the last six years? That might be interesting to talk about.

One…

Ah, whatever. He'll think of something by the time he gets there.

GO!

KEL immediately began dashing down the street like a madman on drugs, breaking every single speed record known to man.

He wasn't on the high school's basketball team for nothing, after all. If HERO's natural talent was all about his smarts and cooking skills, then KEL's natural talents definitely had to be in his absolute control over the basketball and the speed of his feet.

He'll be at the hospital in less than thirty minutes, flat!

10:25 AM

KEL pumped a fist to the air as he celebrated his new record, even as he was currently keeled over the floor and breathing heavily from overexerting himself.

"Need any help, sir?" The nurse at the reception desk asked in concern, noticing the boy wearing an orange hoodie collapsed in the middle of the waiting area.

Why wear a hoodie during the summer?

Because KEL liked the added challenge.

"I'm fine…" KEL muttered out with a satisfied nod, "Just give me a minute... to catch my breath."

The nurse shrugged before sitting back down at her desk.

After a while, KEL managed to eventually get his stamina back and hopped up to his feet like nothing ever happened.

The nurse watched him as he happily strolled over to the reception desk, before asking her, "Hi, my name is KEL. I'm here to visit a patient. He's the boy sleeping on floor seven, room 143!"

"Alright then…" The nurse began typing away on her computer as she prepared to fill out the visitation form, "Are you family or an acquaintance?"

"I'm a childhood friend! I used to visit SUNNY a lot back before high school, but I stopped at some point. Now I'm just trying to visit regularly again."

"I see… Alright…" The nurse continued typing with a nod.

KEL began humming to himself as he waited patiently for the nurse to finish recording his visit. He always gets to meet a different receptionist every time he comes here. One of these days, he should start making friends with them so that it'll be easier for him to be recognized whenever he's here.

The nurse kept typing until she gave a strange look and briefly paused.

"You said the patient's name was SUNNY, and that he was on floor seven?"

"Yeppers!" KEL smiled happily.

The nurse silently browsed something on her computer with a confused look, before slowly coming to an understanding as she turned to KEL, "I'm sorry, but the patient in that room was already discharged since last night. He's not in the hospital anymore."

KEL blinked confusedly for a bit.

SUNNY… wasn't in the hospital anymore? What?

Discharged…? What did 'discharge' mean? It sounded like something he should already know...

KEL wracked in his brain to find the definition of this word, using every ounce of his brainpower to try to remember…

All of a sudden, he remembered a very specific line in this very specific scene from this one specific episode of this specific Hospital Romance Drama he once watched a few years back together with his mom and dad during family night.

"I'm sorry, MRS. SMITHERSON." The handsome doctor, portrayed by legendary young adult actor DAVID BECKINGHAM, apologized with tears in his eyes, "But I'm afraid your husband, who was hospitalized after saving the lives of several orphans, kittens, and orphaned kittens from the great fire, has tragically passed away while under my careless care."

"Oh no!" The beautiful widow, portrayed by famous supermodel ANN WITHERS, cried in grief as she wiped her tears with a velvet red handkerchief that was given to her earlier by her late husband, "Where is my husband's body now?"

"He's been discharged to the morgue since this morning."

Coming back from his flashback, KEL began to panic as he realized what this meant.

"You mean… Since yesterday night, my friend SUNNY passed away?!" KEL cried out in shock.

Before the nurse could even answer, he already had his head in his hands.

Oh SUNNY… How could this happen to you? You were just a kid, man! You barely even experienced life yet, and you were already tragically taken away from everyone…

Ohhh, damn it! How was BASIL and MARI going to react once they find out about this?! Oh god, they are going to freak out so bad!

KEL… He has to be the one to tell them about this. He has to take responsibility and be the bearer of bad news. He'll need to be the man to tell them that SUNNY passed away…

Oh god… MARI is going to fricking kill him dead…

HERO was going to have to go into debt just to afford the funeral services!

"Uh, sir?" The nurse called out to get his attention.

KEL sniffled a bit, holding back tears as he brought his head up, "Yes, ma'am?"

"I think you misunderstood what I meant." The nurse deadpanned, before explaining, "When I said your friend was discharged, it didn't mean he died or anything."

At this, KEL quickly bounced back from his slump with a surprised, "WHAT?! But I thought discharge means that you move them away to the morgue or something?!"

The nurse raised a skeptical eyebrow, "And who told you that?"

"Well, I saw this tv show about doctors and stuff… You know the one, with DAVID BECKINGHAM?" KEL recalled.

The nurse rolled her eyes at this, "Oh god, that series? That show was such a crapshoot. Nothing about it is even remotely realistic to how actual hospitals and doctors work. Most likely, they were just spouting nonsense to try to sound more dramatic."

Oh.

Well, now he just felt stupid for coming to the wrong conclusion.

"In that case, what does discharge mean again?" KEL felt the need to ask for corrections.

"Discharge just means that the patient gets checked out of the hospital. They're not here anymore." The nurse explained.

KEL blinked for a moment, before telling her, "But wait, SUNNY has been in a coma at this hospital for six years though."

The nurse shrugged, "I guess that must mean he woke up yesterday. He's probably already back home."

Already back home.

Already back home.

Back home.

Home.

Home.

SUNNY was back home.

As KEL began to blank out, the nurse looked around with an amused smile, "You know, when the front room is empty like this, it always makes a funny echo to whatever you say if you say it loud enough. BANANA!"

Banana.

Banana.

Banana.

"Heh." The nurse giggled, only to notice KEL not reacting or moving at all. Turning to the spaced-out boy, she asked, "You okay, sir?"

KEL slowly blinked as the realization hit him like a ton of bricks.

His best friend since childhood… His next-door neighbor… His pal and buddy…

He was awake.

SUNNY was back home.

"I have to go check on someone." KEL abruptly announced before already sprinting out the exit.

He ignored the nurse's odd looks as he rushed out, bumped into a pillar, tripped on the floor, got back up again, made it to the exit, and just kept running.

KEL had never run back home as fast as he did before.

SUNNY was back home.

SUNNY was back home!

SUNNY WAS BACK HOME!


Eight o'clock or something… He wasn't paying attention...

OMORI turned on the lights of the bathroom as he entered.

Checking himself out in the mirror, he could see his usual monochrome body in the reflection staring back at him.

Furrowing his eyebrows, OMORI forcefully closed his eyes before opening them again.

His reflection showed what he actually looked like this time.

His pale frail body was reflected in the mirror. His face showed only one single eye, as the one on his right was completely missing.

Nothing was behind him… For now…

OMORI sighed as he began washing his face, his mind completely overwhelmed with thoughts about what happened last night in his dreams.

There were lots of things he wanted to focus on first.

MARI threatening to commit suicide in order to convince Mom not to make her move.

The reason why Mom abandoned the family in the first place.

How MARI's BLACK SPACE seemed completely different than how his BLACK SPACE usually behaved…

But instead… He chose to focus on one thing in particular as he stared at himself in the mirror.

MARI was haunted by SOMETHING as well. This was the first time he had ever seen it.

He didn't even know that she had one until now after waking up…

Three eyes.

Hers had three eyes.

OMORI looked up at the mirror again to study his face.

Nothing was behind him… Yet.

The SOMETHING that usually haunted OMORI always had one eye. He knew exactly why as well.

SOMETHING took the form most reminiscent of the scene that haunted him the most. The sight of MARI's eye staring back at him judgmentally beneath her hair, as her body swayed on the tree by the rope on her neck.

It was born to constantly remind him of the murder he committed. No matter how hard OMORI tried to repress the truth, SOMETHING would always follow him.

What did MARI's SOMETHING represent? When did that start haunting her?

Assuming she was like him in this reality, it was probably on the day of the recital.

What did she see to spawn such a horrific face that now follows her even in her dreams? Why did her SOMETHING have three eyes and constantly flash that demonic smile?

The shadow of its body, the shape of it reminded him of himself. Just in even worse condition.

Mangled, jagged, bent and broken. Like someone took his body to the factory and threw him in the middle of the machinery gears while it was working. It looked horrible.

OMORI studied himself as he tried to figure it out.

The eyes… What did that represent?

Two on the left, one on the right.

Why show three eyes? Why not just one, like how his SOMETHING was?

He only had the one eye now, anyway.

Looking at himself, he really couldn't see it. He couldn't imagine what MARI saw that day to make her get haunted by-

Wait…

No…

Thinking about it again…

In her perspective, his right eye would be on her left. That was the eye that went missing.

Assuming that everything she and the doctors said was true, he had lost his right eye in this reality when his face collided on top of the broken pieces of the violin at the bottom of the stairs.

He still remembered the moment when BASIL stabbed his face with garden shears, as warm blood began flooding down his cheek.

MARI must've seen his face when the violin was still embedded in his eye, most likely. He imagined the sight probably wasn't pretty.

When you take that into account and start rethinking about it…

Two left eyes. His right eye, torn in half by the violin.

One right eye. The left eye that got out unscathed.

Yeah, he could see it now. That must've been mentally scarring for her.

Why the smile, though? What was that about?

Such an evil and malicious smile… As if it was actually enjoying the pleasure of haunting her.

The different forms that SOMETHING would take to scare him would occasionally have smiles like that, but it was never the most prominent thing about them.

Was his face smiling after he landed on the violin? OMORI couldn't imagine any reason why he would want to smile in a situation like that… Especially if he was in any pain or suffering...

He always hated smiling. It made him look weird. He didn't like to smile in pictures either, not even when he was a baby.

OMORI's eye widened as an idea popped into his head.

In this reality, he had protected her. MARI told him that he wrapped his hands around her body as they fell, doing his best so that he would be the only one to take the brunt of the damage.

Because of what he did, MARI was somehow still alive in this world.

Why did he just stand there and watch her fall? Why didn't he do anything? Why couldn't he have saved her that day?

Bleeding out on the floor, a broken piece of a violin sticking out of his eye…

Yet still smiling…?

I must've been happy when I saw that my sister wasn't hurt.

...

OMORI closed his eye as the realization settled.

So that was where the smile came from.

MARI, while panicking over her little brother SUNNY bleeding out from under her, held him in her arms as she stared directly at his face…

...and saw him smile in relief.

OMORI curled up his hands in frustration.

Now that exact same smile of his was being used by her SOMETHING to haunt and torment her, constantly reminding her of that day as it overwhelmed her with guilt.

Another reason to hate his own smile.

Even when he was able to save his own sister, he always somehow ends up making things so much worse.

He should've just died right then and there to spare MARI the trouble…

Worthless.

Shaking his head clear, OMORI began thinking about something else while he proceeded to brush his teeth.

He had a long day ahead of him before he could get another opportunity to go back into his sister's HEADSPACE. He should use this time to gather as much information about this reality as possible so that he might find a way to help MARI face the truth and get her to forgive herself.

OMORI was going to kill that SOMETHING of hers or die trying.


HIKIKO laid still on her blanket as she stared at the bright endless void in front of her.

WELCOME TO BRIGHTSPACE

She was… doing something, right? Before she was here?

She couldn't seem to remember at the moment. It felt like she woke up from a bad dream.

Everything should be fine though.

Nothing bad ever happens to her in BRIGHTSPACE.

HIKIKO stood up to her feet, taking a quick look around the room.

The door to HEADSPACE wasn't there anymore. Looks like she'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

Hm… What should she do then in the meantime?

HIKIKO laid her laptop in front of her as she began recording her day in her journal.

HIKIKO began petting MEWO, watching her curl up into a ball as she purred.

"Something's already happened. Why are you still waiting?" The kitten curiously asked her.

HIKIKO didn't have an answer to respond with.

HIKIKO looked over at her toy piano as she pulled one of the missing piano keys out from her pocket.

Huh. Wonder where she found that?

She placed the key in its rightful spot.

The two piano keys sitting by themselves seemed pretty lonely. Hopefully, she'll find more.

Taking one last look around and knowing that there was nothing left to do, HIKIKO decided that now was a good time to wake up again.

She had something important to do today, didn't she?

Stepping over to the chair and rope, she began setting everything up again the same way she did last time.

Checking to make sure the noose was tight, she gave a satisfied nod before wrapping it around her neck.

She enjoyed the brief weightless sensation for a bit before the sudden-

MARI blearily opened her eyes as the sun shined over her face.

She gave a tired groan as she rubbed her eyes, feeling lethargic as usual.

Another nightmare. Again.

Why did she have to remember something like that this time? She hasn't thought about her mother in a long time now, not since she left.

Maybe it was because she had to talk about her last night with SUNNY. If she could help it, she'd rather not ever have to remember that woman ever again...

SUNNY!

MARI quickly looked around herself to try to find her little brother, only to see him missing.

She frantically whipped her hands around in order to feel him, maybe even try to look under the covers to see if he was hiding there.

Why was he gone? Why wasn't he here right now? Weren't they hugging each other to sleep just last night?

Where was he? WherewasheWherewasheWherewasheWherewasheWherewasheWherewashe-

Please god, don't let yesterday be just a hallucination! Please tell her that he was real, that he was with her, that he came back home with her!

He had to be real! He just had to be! Yesterday couldn't possibly be a dream, he had to be real!

MARI remembered.

In the kitchen. There he was, holding a steak knife in his hand.

Pointed directly at himself.

Without even thinking, she was already rushing out of the bedroom as she screamed out, "SUNNY!"

She tripped a bit, landing face-first onto the floor before picking herself up and ignoring the stinging pain in her lips. She disorientingly fumbled her way past the door and out into the main hall, pushing herself until she reached the top of the stairs.

Her phobia kicked in again, worse than before. The length of the stairs grew ever-expanding, to the point where it would be impossible not to get sick from the height itself.

Damn it! Not now! Not when her brother needed her!

She had to save him before it was too late!

But the stairs in front of her stretched out for miles and miles and miles. Even if she walked down now, by the time she reached the end, it would already be too late.

"SUNNY!" She screamed loudly again, hoping that it would be enough to stop him from even thinking about it.

Her hand was already holding onto the railing to prepare the journey down… but her legs were frozen. They couldn't move. They refused to move.

She couldn't move.

Her feet gave out, collapsed from under her as she couldn't even control them anymore.

If she couldn't move, she couldn't go down to save her little brother.

What would she have left if she didn't have her precious brother by her side? What would she do with herself without him in her life?

What good of a sister is she if she couldn't even protect her own little brother?

But then, she heard a door open behind her.

"MARI?!" She heard a familiar voice call out to her in a panic.

She turned around to find her little brother in the doorway to the bathroom, toothbrush in hand, foam on the lips, a worried look in his single eye.

Alive.

"MARI, what's wrong?!" SUNNY asked, throwing the toothbrush aside as he came up to her and kneeled down to grab her shoulder, "Why did you scream my name?"

MARI stared blankly at her little brother as he looked directly into her eyes.

He was fine. He wasn't going to stab himself. He was just fine.

The tension in her heart melted away as she felt pure and utter relief. MARI grabbed onto her little brother and held him tightly as she cried softly.

"You're alive… You're awake…" She gasped out in steady breaths, her tears soaking into his shirt.

"MARI, what's wrong?" SUNNY asked her gently, pulling her up and stepping away from the edge of the stairway with a nervous frown.

They were both laid out on the floor in the middle of the second floor, with MARI wrapping her arms around her little brother's chest.

"I… I didn't see you when I woke up…" She sobbed, "I thought… I thought you left me… Or I thought you were never here, or… I thought you…"

She couldn't even bring herself to say the last part out loud. She didn't even want to imagine it anymore.

The idea that he would want to kill himself for any reason, it just-

...

SUNNY would never kill himself. He'd never want to. Why would he want to? His big sister was right here with him, and he'd never leave his big sister alone… He loved her too much for that, MARI knew he did.

She just… She just had to make sure to remind him that she was real. That's all.

She just needed to tell him that he wasn't in a dream. None of this was a dream. She was real, he was real, and they were finally together again.

SUNNY looked down at her sadly as he hugged her back, "I'm sorry. I was just brushing my teeth. I didn't mean to scare you."

MARI shook her head, forcing herself to smile even though the tears won't stop flowing, "It's okay…Dental hygiene is important… It's good you remembered to brush your teeth."

"Yeah…" SUNNY replied neutrally, gently rubbing her back in circular motions to keep her steady.

It took MARI a long time again before she could breathe normally again.


OMORI began dabbing a small piece of cotton on his sister's busted lip, soaking up all the blood before he could treat it.

MARI had a look of pure shame and embarrassment, her cheeks blushing like a kid getting caught stealing candy.

"I'm so sorry I overreacted like that…" MARI began apologizing, "I must have scared you-"

"Shush and let me treat your lips." OMORI told her gently, pushing her chin up so that she could her mouth still.

MARI sat on her bed patiently while her little brother kneeled in front of her, continuously drying her blood with cotton. After soaking up all the blood, OMORI threw the cotton away before pulling out the drawers to search for something to heal the wound.

"There it is. Still in the same spot." OMORI nodded to himself.

This little thing was something that MARI taught him a while back while she used to treat a cut on his leg. Worried about the cut scarring his smooth skin, MARI covered the cut with powder made out of turmeric so that it wouldn't leave a mark after it naturally healed up.

He went on to apply a bit of turmeric powder on MARI's lip, covering up the wound with a gentle touch.

MARI found it impressive, watching her little brother being able to take care of her so precisely and gently despite his whole body being numb. His movements were so practiced, It was almost like he'd been treating cuts for a long time now.

It only made her feel further embarrassed, having to be at the receiving end of this situation instead of being the one taking care of him like she usually was.

"There. Now the cut won't leave a scar." OMORI told her.

After cleaning everything up, OMORI sat next to his big sister and touched shoulders with her.

MARI covered her face, still feeling the shame from earlier.

"Sorry again…" MARI mumbled, "I didn't know you were just brushing your teeth."

OMORI shook his head, "It's fine. It's my fault. I should've told you first before going anywhere."

OMORI seriously should've known better after what he witnessed in her mind. How did he not see this coming?

Of course she would freak out if she didn't see him the moment she woke up. After witnessing and stopping him from nearly killing himself yesterday, it was no wonder she would be crumbling down next to the staircase and screaming out for him at the bottom.

He was really such an idiot.

"No, really, it's not your fault." MARI said back, head in her hands as she stared at the floor.

MARI felt like such a massive idiot for coming to the wrong conclusion so quickly. Now she had her little brother needlessly worrying about her like she might snap at any moment.

She wasn't crazy. She was just...

She was just overprotective about him. It had been so long since she had him back in her life, she didn't want to lose him again.

But everything should be fine now. Her SUNNY was here with her, alive and awake. The six long years of waiting didn't mean anything anymore.

Forcing herself to calm down, she shook the energy out of her and turned to him with a big smile, "So! Did you have a good night's sleep, SUNNY?"

It would be best to change the topic to something else.

OMORI thought about how to answer this question, wondering whether it would be worth it or not to describe everything that happened.

In the end, he decided to just shrug and answer, "As good as any." without elaborating further.

Probably better to keep it a secret for now. Wouldn't want her to become more closely guarded in her dreams, if that was even possible.

"Oh, that's good!" MARI said in a cheerful tone.

MARI was at least thankful that yesterday wasn't a fluke. She still had that irrational fear that SUNNY would go back into another coma for some reason, leaving her once again. If that had actually happened, she wouldn't know how to take it.

But no, he was here and awake. She was truly blessed by life to be given a second chance with her precious little brother.

MARI hugged him again, this time in a more warm and welcoming manner rather than the paranoid relief from earlier.

OMORI gently hugged her back, hoping that she finally calmed down.

"Oh, I almost forgot!" MARI suddenly gasped, pulling away as she stood up to grab her purse.

OMORI raised an eyebrow as she began digging inside her handbag, only to see her pulling out some toys and bringing it over to him.

"Happy birthday!" MARI cheered.

OMORI looked at the objects in her hand.

A PET ROCK and a keychain of his favorite cat mascot.

"These are for me?" OMORI asked, grabbing the two of them and giving them a quick study.

"Yep! These were gifts left by your bed back when you were still sleeping at the hospital on your birthday!" MARI told him, "I wanted to give them to you earlier, but it didn't seem appropriate until now."

OMORI observed the keychain as it shimmered in the light, depicting his favorite BIG YELLOW CAT. Always the loyal guardian that protected him from danger in HEADSPACE, keeping out monsters and the like from entering NEIGHBOR'S ROOM.

In a way, it felt nice to know that the BIG YELLOW CAT was still following him even now. Like a sign that the cat was still keeping his oath to protect OMORI from danger as long as he was with him.

OMORI turned on the PET ROCK, revealing that it was his main signature pet JASH. A white round block on two stump-legs, OMORI remembered all the times this character would sell him stuff at the many shops littered in his HEADSPACE.

He was also a deceptively powerful fighter in the right hands, despite the unassuming appearance. He remembered beating the CHAMPION's own version of JASH in the OTHERMART store with this pet, claiming rightful ownership of the prestigious cap that proved he was the ultimate champion.

It was strange though… He never owned JASH until he had to buy it for himself back at HOBBEEZ in his original reality. Yet here it was, sitting in his hand as if it came along with him to this new world.

"Did you buy these for me, MARI?" OMORI asked curiously.

He was a bit confused to see MARI shifted around nervously, her smile wavering as she looked in other directions instead of at himself.

MARI nervously began running through her options as she tried to think how she should respond.

If she admitted to him that those gifts were from KEL and AUBREY, he'll be under the wrong assumption that those two have been keeping tabs on him at the hospital alongside her and BASIL.

She didn't want that. She DESPERATELY didn't want that. MARI wanted to tell the truth about how horrible all of their friends were for leaving him behind so that he could understand why she hated them so much.

But she also really did want to let SUNNY keep thinking that his friends still cared about him so that he would be happy. It would devastate her if her little brother ended up getting hurt over knowing the truth of what happened.

MARI still hadn't been able to decide how she was supposed to tackle this situation, nor figure out how SUNNY would react.

She just wanted things to go back to the way things used to be…

Yet she also still wanted to never forgive them for what they did.

Even now, she felt so conflicted about it.

"MARI?" OMORI tilted his head, curious as to why she was nervously staying quiet.

Shoot, she better picked an answer now before he ends up getting worried.

MARI took a deep breath and sighed, before admitting, "No. Those aren't from me. BASIL brought over KEL and AUBREY to visit you for your eighteenth birthday. Those gifts are from them."

OMORI nodded in understanding, looking at the gifts again.

So… KEL, AUBREY, and BASIL. They still care about him enough in this reality to visit him even while he was in a coma. BASIL, he wasn't too surprised to hear. Of course, BASIL would continue to keep caring about him.

KEL and AUBREY though? OMORI wasn't too sure just how much different this new reality was compared to the old one, but hearing that they visited him on his birthday together was a bit of a surprise.

Did AUBREY and BASIL ever have that falling out, causing her to relentlessly bully him while OMORI was gone?

How was KEL faring in this other reality? Surely, the happy-go-lucky boy would've eventually chosen to move on from him after just a few years. He was never one to want to get stuck in the past, OMORI didn't think…

Hm.

Whatever. He'll figure it out as he goes.

Clipping the PET ROCK to his belt and pocketing the keychain, he nodded appreciatively, "I should go thank them at some point."

For some reason, MARI gave a depressed groan at this.

OMORI gave a questioning look, wondering why that would make her uncomfortable.

"I… shouldn't then?"

MARI looked up at him with conflicted eyes, wondering if she should say what she was thinking or not.

In the end, she was biting the bullet as she clenched her eyes shut and just admitted it, "WHEN… When you became comatose, only BASIL and I ever believed you would come back!"

OMORI blinked in confusion.

MARI gave a huff, before emotionally continuing, "KEL, AUBREY, and HERO… They all gave up on you! KEL and AUBREY stopped coming to visit you four years ago so that they could live their own lives! None of them wanted to be around you anymore! They all thought that you were as good as dead!" MARI took a deep breath before continuing, "For the last four years, BASIL and I were the only ones that ever came by to keep you company! We were the only ones that knew you'd come back! Everyone else in the group just left you!"

There. She said it. She finally admitted it to him.

MARI kept her eyes shut, patiently waiting for her little brother's reaction. She didn't know what the fallout would be, but she knew that he had to be hurt and upset by it.

No matter what, she'll stand by him. She'll be there for him. She'll accept whatever he has to say about it.

Meanwhile, OMORI nodded to himself as he closed his eyes.

Ah… This was starting to make a little more sense now.

So… Their friend group did get dismantled at some point. For MARI, this happened four years ago.

They all went their separate ways over the years to live their own lives, huh? It was a bit sad, but based on how it went in his original reality, it wasn't unexpected. Everyone's lives became negatively affected over MARI's death...

HERO shut himself out for a year before moving on to college.

KEL had to suffer watching his older brother rot away during that time, unable to do anything to help the people he cared about.

AUBREY grew to hate everyone who left her behind, her isolation changing her into becoming the hardened delinquent of a gang leader.

BASIL… BASIL had it the worst out of all of them. Almost worse than even OMORI. At least OMORI was able to keep himself sane by going into denial, but BASIL had been forced to suffer knowing the truth all alone this whole time… If SUNNY never came to check up on him that night, he knew that BASIL would have tried to kill himself.

All his friends, suffering one way or another… All because of him.

All because he murdered the person that mattered the most.

Now he found himself facing the exact same situation again… Just switching positions with his sister this time.

He really didn't know whether this was better or worse in comparison.

Looking over at MARI, based on how resentful her words sounded, it seemed she grew to harbor some anger at their old friends.

This makes a little bit of sense too… Instead of moving on from her little brother like everyone else, she was one of the few that stuck behind to wait for him. This would explain why her HEADSPACE had her still surrounded by all their old friends. She was stuck in the past, just the same as he was. She missed the old days just as much as he once did.

But wait… Something didn't add up…

If she was still resentful at everyone for leaving him, then how did that explain AUBREY and KEL coming to visit him on his eighteenth birthday at BASIL's invitation? If what MARI said was true, why would they bother coming at all? Why would MARI even let them?

Hm… There might be more to this that he wasn't seeing…

Maybe once he had the chance, he should go around to find the others and ask them for their point of view of the last six years. At the very least, they'll be in for a big surprise once they see him again.

Whether it was going to be a touching reunion or not, he'll have to find out the hard way...

Wouldn't it be nice if MARI came back to life and brought everyone back together? Wouldn't life have been wonderful if she never died at all? If only he never killed her… If only.

MARI slowly looked up, wondering why her little brother hasn't said anything in the last few minutes.

She saw him looking at the corner of the room with an intensely focused expression as if he was heavily deep in thought. MARI had never seen him look so serious before…

Did the news that all his old friends leaving him seriously bother him that much?

Ugh, she knew she should've kept her mouth shut… She couldn't even begin to imagine what was going on in his mind right now.

"SUNNY… Are you okay?" MARI asked, before reassuring, "I know how much it hurts to find out, but I promise you that I'll always be there for you-"

"Hm?" Her little brother was jolted out of his thoughts, looking over at her with a curious expression. After blinking a bit, he realized something as he told her, "Oh, I'm fine. It doesn't bother me that much."

MARI stared blankly at him in shock.

"You… You're not bothered?" MARI repeated incredulously, "But… Why?"

He shrugged neutrally, "I was gone for six years, right? Everyone had their own lives to live, and there was no way to know if I'd ever wake up again. I probably would have done the same in their shoes."

MARI stood back a bit as she processed his reaction.

A very… WIDE range of emotions was tearing themselves apart from within her.

Anger. She was angry- No- absolutely livid that her precious little SUNNY was so forgiving and understanding towards everyone else. Here she was, spending the last six years of her life waiting for SUNNY to come back from his coma while everyone else got to enjoy living their own carefree lives like it was nobody's business. Yet instead of hating them just as much as she did, her kind-hearted little brother instantly gave them all a free pass like it didn't even bother him.

Joy. She was absolutely thrilled and proud to know that SUNNY didn't harbor any resentment towards their old friends like she initially thought he would. Instead, he understood that everyone had their own lives to worry about and knew that it would have been selfish to keep them all chained back over his tragedy. No doubt he'll be able to get along with everyone again and probably even reunite everyone back to the way things used to be, just like she always wanted.

Sorrow. Everyone had left him to die. Why couldn't he understand that? Why was he so unbothered by the fact that no one except BASIL and herself had cared about him in the last six years? Was it because he still felt guilty from what he dreamed about in his coma? Did he not think he deserved to be cared about? Was he happy to know that everyone moved on from him because he thought he wasn't worth it? She knew from the bottom of her heart that if it had happened to anyone else in their group, her SUNNY would always be visiting them every chance he got to show his concern and care. Why would he ever say that he would do the same in their shoes, when MARI knew for a fact that SUNNY wouldn't?

Relief. He wasn't heartbroken about it. He wasn't bothered or depressed about it.

She wouldn't have to worry about him finding another reason to kill himself.

But that doesn't mean that she'll forgive them. Someone had to keep them accountable, and if it wasn't going to be SUNNY, then it at least has to be her.

All these conflicting emotions were fighting for control as MARI did her best to keep it all contained. It got so bad though that it was beginning to overwhelm her, making her legs feel weak.

OMORI noticed that his sister was starting to tilt, already standing up to catch her before she could fall. She landed softly against his arms, her eyes rapidly blinking as if trying to keep herself conscious.

"MARI?" He called out in concern.

Noticing that she was starting to lose herself, MARI quickly got herself back up again and shook her head as she gave a reassuring smile, "Oh, sorry… I'm probably just weak because I'm starving for breakfast!"

Hopefully, that was a realistic excuse. Honestly, she wasn't all that hungry… But it's too late to back out now. MARI already made him needlessly worry about her from earlier this morning, she didn't want to keep adding in more things to stress him out.

Wanting to change the topic as soon as possible to keep her mind off the situation, she gently tugged at her little brother, "Hey, how about I make us breakfast?"

OMORI had a dubious look as he studied his sister.

For some reason, it felt like she was keeping so many secrets away from him just so that he didn't have to worry.

If only there was a way to find out how to get her to open up… It would make his job at helping her face the truth far easier…

"Sure…" OMORI sighed, not knowing what else to say.

It really seemed like MARI had gone through a lot these past six years… He didn't know where to start.

Hopefully nothing else stressful happens today.


SUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOMESUNNYWASBACKHOME

KEL shifted his speed from Turbo to MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, already in the process of breaking every single speed record in history.

At the rate he was going, he'll need to go around the diameter of the entire world just to give him enough time to slow down before making it to SUNNY's house without destroying the whole town via delayed shockwave.