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I Won't Let Him

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"So… SUNNY…" KEL began carefully enough as they both began walking to wherever the heck they were planning to go.

OMORI assumed that KEL was leading him to the park, considering they just skipped past his house.

KEL had absolutely no idea where he was going either, he just wanted an excuse to hang out with his old best friend!

"Mhm?" OMORI hummed to show he was listening.

"How are you handling the whole… coma thing? It must be jarring to wake up one day and find out you're six years older than you remembered being, right?" KEL asked with a concerned smile.

OMORI shrugged, "Eh. Not too bothered by it."

He was a lot more bothered by the fact that he got sent to a different reality, initially. But he's long since rationalized and got over it.

"Seriously? Wow." KEL muttered, impressed by his friend's attitude. "Still, you must be confused by a lot of things though, right? It's not like the world didn't change these past six years while you were gone." KEL pounded a fist to his chest before proclaiming proudly, "If you have any questions or you want to get caught up on something, you can rely on ol' KEL to help you out! Count on me to be your tour guide of the future, little buddy!"

Tour guide, huh? That's a pretty apt description of something he needed right now.

He had a lot of questions that he needed answers to but now didn't seem like the right time. It would be better to wait for a more appropriate opportunity where he and KEL could have a serious discussion.

For now, KEL seemed like he was high on life and in a seriously good mood. He'd rather let the tanned boy enjoy his fun while it lasts. They have the whole day ahead of them, after all.

"Yeah, I do have some questions…" OMORI said neutrally, before shaking his head, "They can wait until later though. Kind of need to sort my thoughts first before asking."

"No problem man, take your time!" KEL said cheerfully, "I'll be right here whenever you need me!"

OMORI nodded appreciatively.

KEL in the meanwhile found it pretty impressive that his best buddy didn't seem all that fazed by the fact that he was gone for six years. Most people would probably freak out over the littlest thing, but SUNNY here was basically taking it all like a champ!

"Hope you don't mind if I want to ask a few things though. That's cool with you?" KEL asked curiously.

OMORI nodded, "Go nuts."

"How did it feel, waking up from the coma?" KEL asked, "Do you remember anything? Did you have any weird dreams?"

"Uh…" OMORI hesitated a bit as he thought up a realistic lie, before settling for a simple, "I dunno. Can't remember."

Best not to complicate things. KEL doesn't need to know about the things he experienced before coming to this world.

"Oh… yeah, I guess that's fair." KEL nodded understandingly, knowing that sometimes things could happen too quickly for anyone to really understand anything. "Do you at least remember how you got into a coma in the first place?"

"Fell down some stairs, right?" OMORI decided to answer.

"Yeah…" KEL nodded solemnly, "All of us took it pretty hard when we all found out, you know? We kind of thought we lost you that day."

"Mm." OMORI nodded awkwardly.

Did KEL know about the situation with MARI? Did she ever tell anyone that she believed it was all her fault for how he got into a coma?

Even though OMORI didn't believe that she should be blamed, if she had made the same mistake that he did in his original reality and kept it all a secret for all these years, it must be eating her up inside. Wallowing in self-guilt without telling anyone was practically torture. OMORI would need to do something about that to get MARI on the right path again…

"How about your eye? How is it?" KEL decided to ask next.

OMORI glanced at him, "Which one?"

Pointing to his right one, KEL said, "Your right one. With the eyepatch. The one you lost during the accident."

OMORI brought a hand up to that eye as he paused his steps, "Oh, KEL… I don't know how to tell you this, but I got some bad news…"

"Bad news? What?!" KEL stopped too, giving OMORI a startled look of concern, "What's wrong with it?!"

"I don't have it anymore." OMORI told him in complete seriousness.

KEL began wheezing incredulously as he humorously smiled, slapping OMORI's back, "I already knew that! Like six years ago! You almost scared me for a second there!"

OMORI shrugged, "You asked how it was."

"Yeah, but I meant more like how does it feel?" KEL clarified as he did his best to calm down.

"Uh… like I don't have it anymore?" OMORI offered stoically.

"Are you messing with me right now?" KEL asked with a chuckle.

"Admittedly, yeah." OMORI nodded.

KEL started laughing at this to the point where he had to cover his stomach to stop it from aching.

OMORI stood by patiently and watched as his friend slowly recovered.

Getting most of the giggles out of his system, KEL wiped the tears in his eyes as he glanced up at OMORI with a smile, "Dude, your sense of humor is as weird as I used to remember! I haven't had to deal with anything like that in years!"

OMORI gave a thumbs up in response.

Finally recovering from his laughing fit, KEL stood up straight again and gave his friend a fond smile.

"Aw man… Seeing you again is starting to bring back so many memories for me…" KEL happily told him as he brushed his hair in nostalgia, "We used to hang out all the time back when we were kids, you know?"

"Yeah." OMORI nodded.

"Heheheh," KEL chuckled again, standing back a bit and taking a good long look at his friend. "Man… I seriously can't believe it! Look at you! You're actually back! After all these years, you finally woke up again!"

"Mhm." OMORI kept nodding.

"Dude, it's just so awesome to finally see you again! You have no idea how much we all missed you, SUNNY." KEL told him, "We didn't even know if you'd ever wake up! All of us had been waiting forever just to see if there were any signs or hints!"

"Mm."

"Man, I can't wait to see the look on BASIL's and AUBREY's faces when they realize that you're finally baaaaaaaa…" KEL trailed off, his smile forming to a frown as his eyes widened when a realization struck him.

OMORI raised an eyebrow.

KEL realized something important. Very very important.

He was the only one who knew that SUNNY was back. Nobody else heard the news yet.

AUBREY, BASIL, and HERO had no idea that their old friend SUNNY was back in the land of the living, waiting for them to come see him.

Oh my god, he was such an idiot.

"Oh my god, I am such an idiot!" KEL suddenly shouted while slapping his cheeks together.

"I mean, sure, but don't beat yourself up about it." OMORI shrugged.

"I completely forgot about the others!" KEL explained, turning to OMORI with an excited grin, "Dude, BASIL and AUBREY have been waiting for you since forever! We have to go see them right now and tell them that you're finally awake! They are going to flip out once they see you!"

BASIL and AUBREY, huh?

So, KEL was still on good terms with everyone, despite what MARI told him. Makes sense, considering that she explained how BASIL invited both KEL and AUBREY to come visit him again for his eighteenth birthday.

So did the old friend group ever actually split at all? Or was it just recently that they all came back together again just so that they could celebrate his birthday?

If they did come back together, why didn't MARI jump at the chance to go back with them?

Hm, something to ask later. For now, it'll be nice to see how different the others were like in this new reality, as well as find out more about how they've been dealing with him gone in the past six years.

OMORI didn't get a chance to respond before KEL grabbed his hand and started dragging his body like a piece of luggage as the tanned boy began sprinting off at light speed.

Thank goodness his body was too numb to feel any of this, otherwise, he was sure he'd be in serious pain right now.


"W-We're here…" KEL gasped out, colliding to the ground right in front of BASIL's house.

OMORI crouched down next to him, asking, "You good?"

"Y-yeah…" KEL wheezed as he flashed a tired smile, "I've just… been running nonstop… this whole day... Never gave myself… the chance… to rest…"

"Ah." OMORI nodded understandingly.

"Just… give me… a minute…"

OMORI nodded again before standing up and taking a good look at BASIL's house.

It didn't seem to look all that different compared to the last time he was here. If anything, it actually seemed like it was in better condition.

The flowers and garden that decorated the outside of the house were more vibrant and plentiful than he ever saw it being before.

However different BASIL was like in this reality, it seemed he never stopped caring for his plants.

"Oh… He's stopped taking care of his plants lately…" POLLY sighed sadly while watering a potted plant next to the door, "Is there nothing I can do…?"

Well, this was a positive difference at least…

True to KEL's word, a minute passed before he was already up on his feet with an energetic bounce like nothing ever happened.

Excitedly stepping up to the front door of BASIL's house, he began to do his KEL patented knocking style as he proceeded to repeatedly slam his fist on the door like a crazed stalker trying to call out their favorite idol group.

"BASIL! BAAAASIIIIIIL!" KEL shouted happily, "BASIL YOU GOTTA COME OUT RIGHT NOW! YOU'RE NOT GONNA BELIEVE WHAT YOU'RE GONNA SEE!"

OMORI awkwardly stepped back a few distances away, hoping that if any strangers happened to be nearby and called the police for KEL's erratic behavior, then maybe he could avoid being associated with KEL when they came by to arrest him.

"BASIL! BASIL BASIL BASIL!" KEL kept knocking without a care in the world, "BASIL SERIOUSLY YOU NEED TO COME OUT AND SEE THIS!"

This would continue for the next several minutes, as KEL continuously knocked on BASIL's door like a desperate door-to-door salesman representing a pyramid scheme.

"BASIL! OPEN THE DOOR! BAAAAASIIIIIIIIL!"

After several more minutes of this and hearing no response from inside, OMORI began to believe that nobody was home.

Still, he let KEL continue his crazy knocking for several more minutes as OMORI began to drift off to space in order to pass the time.

Oh hey, a bumblebee landed on one of BASIL's plants outside.

This mundane sight interested OMORI greatly, as he stepped closer and crouched down to stare at it while it did it's pollination process.

KEL's shouting and knocking became background noises now as he thought back to something BASIL once taught him.

Two boys stared at the bee in fascination as it pollinated one of the flowers by the lake.

"You know, a lot of people always assume bees are hostile insects that sting anything on sight because of how cartoons and movies always depict them like that." The flower boy began explaining, "But that's not true at all! Bees are actually really smart and docile insects as long as they aren't provoked! They can recognize threats and they only attack as a last resort because their stingers are connected to an integral part of their body. Attacking means they're putting their lives on the line. Once they lose that stinger, they die soon after."

"Mm." The stoic boy nodded while listening carefully.

"Besides that, they're really hard workers who can be really friendly towards people." The flower boy smiled happily, turning to him, "I like bees. They're cute, they're kind, and they only ever do something drastic to protect the things they care about. In a way, they remind me of you, SUNNY!"

The stoic boy glanced back as he noted, "You always compare me to all the things you like, BASIL."

"O-Oh, do I?" BASIL blushed as looked away with an embarrassed smile, "I-I wonder why that is?"

Hm.

BASIL always thought highly of him, even when it was obvious that OMORI never deserved it…

...

They had both promised to always be there together after what happened that day…

But then he decided to lock himself away in his mind, abandoning everyone he cared about so that he could live in the past…

No wonder BASIL became so screwed up the next time they met up with each other…He was left alone to suffer by himself.

All because of what they did…

What was BASIL going to be like in this reality, he wondered...

*CRASH*

OMORI jolted out of his thoughts as he stood up and turned to the sound of glass getting broken.

KEL was nowhere near the front door anymore when OMORI turned to look.

Blinking a bit in confusion, OMORI stepped up closer to the house as he looked around, wondering where the hell KEL ran off to.

It wasn't until he heard something being rummaged around inside the house did he decide to put his ear against the door to listen.

"BASIL! Where are youuuuuu~?!" KEL shouted loudly from the opposite side of the door.

Oh god, KEL, what did you do this time?

POLLY was definitely not going to appreciate this…

OMORI sighed tiredly and stood back a bit.

He waited for a while before a sheepish KEL would eventually unlock the front door and stepped outside.

Giving OMORI an awkward smile, KEL muttered out, "Uh… He's not home..."

"Really." OMORI deadpanned.

And he couldn't have figured that out when no one came to answer him after knocking on the door for several minutes?

Seriously KEL, something like him coming back from a coma was not worth starting a commotion over...

Scratching the back of his neck, KEL mumbled awkwardly, "Er…Hey, SUNNY… Sooo, I might have accidentally broken a window just to get inside."

Accidentally, he says. Right. Sure.

"Do you… uh… know how much it costs to replace a broken window?" KEL asked, before shamefully asking, "I think I might… need you to spot me a couple… dollars…"

OMORI leaned in to give a pat on KEL's shoulder before closing his eyes and shaking his head, "No."

KEL still never paid him back for the twenty dollars OMORI lent him just to afford to get that cookbook as a gift for HERO. Sure, it might not count anymore since that was in the other reality, but OMORI wasn't going to forget about something like that so easily.

He has a very good memory.

"Aheh… figures…" KEL mumbled before sighing, "Oh, my mom is going to kill me…"

"You should at least leave a note or something behind to explain that it wasn't a robber trying to break into the house." OMORI mentioned.

KEL slammed a fist in his palm as he smiled excitedly at the idea, "OH YEAH! That's a great idea, SUNNY!"

KEL then went back inside so that he could do whatever it was he needed to do.

OMORI waited a bit before KEL came back with a bright smile.

Locking and closing the front door, KEL turned to him and said cheerfully, "I wrote a note in BASIL's room that explains the whole situation! Once BASIL comes back home, it'll be the first thing he sees! He'll be so excited to hear that you're back, he'll probably even forget the fact that I broke the window in the first place!"

Assuming BASIL or POLLY doesn't call the police first before they find the note. Sure. Whatever.

Both of them walked away and silently stood on the sidewalk as they cautiously stared at the house.

"Welp." KEL began with a thin-lined expression, "Going to BASIL's was a bust."

Yeah, a busted window perhaps.

Turning to OMORI, the tanned boy resumed his carefree smile, "Oh well! We'll just need to skip him for now and go to AUBREY next! Oooohh, she's going to be so excited to see you again, I just know it!"

AUBREY…

It would be nice to see her again. OMORI wondered if in this reality, AUBREY was still a delinquent leader of a gang?

Losing MARI back in his old reality devastated her greatly. With no one in their old group to be there for her, she turned to rely on violence and anger as an outlet for all of her depression.

He hoped that she managed to at least turn out alright in this reality.

He couldn't imagine the bow-wearing girl drastically changing herself over someone like him. AUBREY always looked up to MARI and thought of her as if she was her own big sister… Him though, she thought of him as nothing more than just a friend.

He'll be ready for any surprises of course, but he was doubtful that AUBREY would think so highly of him that she would change the same way she did for MARI.

Only one way to find out...


"AUBREEEEYY!" KEL shouted loudly once again in the middle of the park, calling out for the girl like a stalker with a crush.

OMORI sat by on the bench in an attempt to stay away from the stares that KEL was attracting from all around him, casually reading a RECYCULTIST propaganda pamphlet to pass the time.

Kids and joggers would stop in place to wonder why there was a crazy boy in an orange hoodie shouting the same name over and over again for the past several minutes.

KEL had been searching everywhere for her, going to great lengths just to be able to spot even a trace of the pink-haired girl or even any of her SCOOTER GANG friends.

He checked around to ask the nearby park attendees if they had seen her, only to get no confirmation from them.

He did his best to draw a colored picture of what AUBREY looked like before showing them to the kids, only for them to laugh at how stupid his drawing was.

He climbed up to one of the tallest trees in the park and began shouting her name once more while doing a very silly stunt of screaming like TARZAN and slamming his fist into his chest like a monkey.

"AAAAW-AAAW-AW-AW-AWH-AAAAUBREYYYY!"

When everything failed to attract her attention, KEL slouched over to his eye-patched friend and practically collapsed right next to him on the bench seat.

"Augh, I couldn't find her…" KEL groaned.

"Mhm." OMORI hummed neutrally, finding a very interesting paragraph within the RECYCULTISTS manifesto.

"Man, where is she?" KEL sat up with a grumble, "Every other time I see her, she's always loitering around the park with her SCOOTER GANG… Why is she not here now of all times?! Heck, usually even one of the members in her gang could still be found somewhere around here. They're not even in the secret hideout by the lake either!"

OMORI glanced over at KEL, listening to every word with abided interest.

Hm, so AUBREY still ended up becoming a gang leader after all.

SCOOTER GANG, though? Was that their name?

Didn't they call themselves the HOOLIGANS the last time he remembered? Although, maybe he was just mixing up what other people had called them and assumed that her gang called themselves that. He never did get the chance to ask them to clarify, not after spraying the entire group with pepper spray…

They were surprisingly nice once you got to know them though.

If their name was different, was it because of something different happening in this reality? Was it even the same group from his old reality or was he just assuming that? Maybe AUBREY was a leader of a different gang group?

Hm, not much information to go on for a proper assessment.

Before he could think any further on that, KEL suddenly bounced up with an energetic smile before suggesting, "Ooh! Maybe they're all hanging out at the plaza! Let's go to HOBBEEZ and check to see if anyone in her group is there!"

As good a plan as any. Especially in comparison to breaking into BASIL's house or screaming like a mad man in public.

Dumping the RECYCULTISTS pamphlet in a nearby recycle bin, something he was sure they couldn't get mad at him for, OMORI followed after KEL as the orange boy happily led him over to HOBBEEZ.

On their way there, KEL paused a bit near the entrance as he took a quick glance at GINO's.

"Oh hey, go check in HOBBEEZ without me for a bit, I'm gonna grab a slice of pizza to refuel!" KEL asked excitedly, before remembering to ask, "Oh right! Do you want me to get you anything while I'm in there?"

OMORI shook his head.

"Cool, be right back!" KEL gave him a thumbs up before rushing inside the pizzeria.

OMORI, now left all alone, shrugged to himself before taking a peek inside the old hobby store. Even if he couldn't find AUBREY or any of the other gang members inside, it wouldn't hurt to check the place out to see if anything was different.

Taking a step inside, OMORI wasn't surprised to see that seemingly little has changed inside the hobby shop. The walls were adorned with plenty of memorabilia and merchandising of different fandoms, and the shelves were still filled with toys, games, movies, and other neat gadgets.

Besides a few customers he actually recognized from the old reality being here, no one from AUBREY's group was in the area.

Oh well. Might as well peruse just to pass the time and wait until KEL comes to pick him up.

OMORI felt himself get gravitated towards the comic book section, hands already opening a recent issue of CAPTAIN SPACEBOY.

Huh, this issue was definitely further ahead than the last issue he read. There were a lot of spoilers here that he hasn't gotten the chance to catch up on. No doubt because of the two-year gap.

The last time he was here was only a few days ago when he was still a sixteen-year-old. Now here he was a few days later, already eighteen in another timeline.

It became quite jarring once he realized this, to be honest. He wondered if CAPTAIN SPACEBOY ever went through something similar.

OMORI flipped a page, entranced with the story.

Oh, he did!

Neat.

Satisfied with the story so far, OMORI placed the comic back on the shelf before already losing interest and moving on to the next object to catch his attention.

"Hey, I don't think I've ever seen you around here before!"

OMORI perked up at the sound of someone calling out to him.

Turning around, he found himself face to face with the shopkeep of HOBBEEZ studying him up and down.

"You new in town, champ? You got good taste in coming here!" The shopkeep complimented before flipping his puffy hair proudly, "This place is one of the best hobby stores in the area. It's so popular, even people from downtown in the city would come and visit just to check out the merchandise."

The shopkeep didn't look or acted any different than how he remembered. Seems like there wouldn't be any noticeable differences here in HOBBEEZ for OMORI to take note of then.

"I like your eyepatch, champ!" The shopkeep gestured at his eye before pointing over at a poster of an edgier version of CAPTAIN SPACEBOY, "You trying to copy the look of the dark era outfit? I must say, I admire your style!"

OMORI blinked confusedly at this.

Did this guy really think OMORI was wearing an eyepatch just to look like CAPTAIN SPACEBOY?

Well, this ought to be funny.

"Me personally, I'm always going to be a fanboy over the original design. But nothing sells like hot cakes than an alternate adaptation where everything is darker and edgier- OH MY GOD-"

OMORI interrupted the shopkeep mid-sentence as he pulled his eyepatch up to reveal the empty eye socket to the poor guy.

"O-Oh… I see, you…" The shopkeep mumbled awkwardly, before hastily bowing to apologize, "I'm so sorry! For some reason, I forgot that people wearing eyepatches for medical reasons were a thing. I was so used to cosplayers and fans playing dress-up that I didn't even think that you were just a normal guy with an eyepatch…"

"It's okay. Your reaction was hilarious." OMORI stated stoically as he covered up his eye.

The shopkeeper still seemed uncomfortable despite OMORI's assurance. With a guilty expression, he nervously offered, "Uh, to make it up to you, I can give you a fifty percent discount on the next item you buy!"

OMORI shook his head, "No thanks. I'm just here with a friend. I didn't even bring any money with me."

Pretty sure his wallet full of cash was still in the pockets of his old clothing back in his original reality. Definitely not gonna get any of that money any time soon…

A shame. An old hobo in the park won the lottery on his last day before moving away and gave him double what OMORI donated to him. Never got the chance to spend any of that before he threw himself off the top of the hospital building.

"Oh… In that case, I'll just… leave you to your window shopping then." The shopkeeper mumbled awkwardly, as he moved back behind the counter.

OMORI nodded appreciatively before going back to perusing the shelves.

At some point, KEL walked into the shop while eating a slice of pizza. Noticing OMORI near the walls, he quickly stepped next to him and asked while chewing, "Hey man! Did you find AUBREY or one of her friends?"

OMORI shook his head.

He felt like he should really tell KEL the flaws in his plan to leave OMORI alone to search for AUBREY himself like this. KEL does remember that he just woke up yesterday from a supposedly six-year coma, right? In any normal circumstances that didn't involve reality switching, how was OMORI supposed to know what AUBREY or her friends even looked like? Especially if AUBREY decided to change her hair color in this reality.

Instead, he kept quiet. Not really worth the effort to bring up, to be honest.

"Aw, that sucks…" KEL mumbled with food in his mouth, before gulping to say, "At least this was a good excuse so that you could take the time to get yourself familiar with the place! HOBBEEZ sure has changed in the last six years while you were gone. Bet you didn't recognize it at first, huh?"

OMORI shrugged, not really sure how to answer that.

While OMORI kept perusing the walls for something interesting to stare at, KEL glanced around as he ate his pizza only for him to suddenly gasp in shock as his eyes landed directly on something dangling off of OMORI's belt.

"HEY! That's the PET ROCK I gave you, isn't it?!" KEL asked excitedly while pointing at the electronic toy.

OMORI turned to him questioningly before realizing what he said.

Unclipping the toy from his belt, he brought it up to KEL and asked, "You gave this to me on my birthday, right? Back at the hospital?"

KEL nodded cheerfully, "Yeah man! Wow, I didn't think I'd ever get to see you carrying that around." Then with an embarrassed smile, he whispered conspiratorially, "Don't tell anyone about this, but I actually completely forgot it was your birthday that day when I came to visit… I didn't want to look stupid, so I pulled that out on the spot and said it was my birthday gift to you in front of the others."

Yep. Typical KEL moment. Not even surprised.

Well, that does explain who the PET ROCK came from.

OMORI handed the electronic toy towards the tanned boy, "You want it back then? Since it wasn't meant to be a gift?"

"What? Nah, man! Go ahead and keep it." KEL insisted, pushing the toy back to him, "Don't worry, I already got tons of PET ROCKS collected over the years. I actually have several different versions of JASH already, so it's no skin off my back."

It was then that KEL actually lit up excitedly before he scarfed the pizza down to quickly finish it.

Dusting his hands off, KEL pulled out his own PET ROCK with him and took a challenging stance towards OMORI as he aimed the PET ROCK directly at the eyepatched boy.

"Let's test out your skills and see if you remember how to play! It's been years since we last played a game together!" KEL challenged him excitedly, "I'll have you know that I've gotten much more practice since we last battled six years ago! Think you can handle the heat?"

OMORI didn't have the heart to tell the poor boy what a horrible mistake he just put himself in.

With a casual shrug, OMORI aimed his PET ROCK directly at KEL's PET ROCK too, "Okay."

The two toys connected with each other via magnets. OMORI watched as a familiar dwarf-planet appeared onto his screen as their pets' health bars filled up.

KEL had a smirk as he announced, "LET'S CLASH!"

Five minutes later, KEL was sprawled dead on the floor as OMORI silently praised JASH for another flawless victory.

Clipping the PET ROCK back onto his belt, OMORI watched as KEL came back to life and dizzyingly fought to bring himself back on his feet.

"Holy crap…" KEL mumbled, shaking his head clear before saying, "You didn't even let up for a second! Man, I should have known better… You always were pretty good at video games out of all of us."

OMORI gave a stoic shrug in response.

Honestly, it was more like KEL just kept spamming the same move over and over again. Powerful, but easy to counter. He'd be shocked if KEL managed to win an actual serious game with anyone else other than him with this kind of playstyle.

"Nice to know that the last six years didn't dull your senses at least." KEL chuckled heartily, being a good sport despite the loss.

KEL and OMORI hung out together at HOBBEEZ for a decent while before the two exited the shop.

KEL had a satisfied smile on his face as OMORI followed after him, "Ah man, that was fun! Anyways, what did you want to do next?"

"Weren't we looking for AUBREY?" OMORI reminded.

"Oh shoot, that's right!" KEL slapped himself in the face before groaning, "Ugh, I am such a spaz! I have no idea where the heck she is though! Was she still even in town right now?"

OMORI hummed as he wondered.

If this reality's AUBREY was similar to the one back home, then no doubt she would avoid staying at her house if she could help it.

Even before MARI died, AUBREY's living situation has never been ideal for a girl like her. With two neglectful parents who always argued with each other as they lived an impoverished lifestyle, OMORI could recount almost every single time AUBREY needed him to vent out all of the problems she was going through.

She was always so sad and stressed out, never wanting to be alone or go back home. She would often search out for him so that she could invite him to hang out at the playground, sitting on the swings just so that they could be alone to talk to each other.

He always made sure to give AUBREY special attention in order to make her feel better. Mostly because he genuinely felt bad that she had to be in that situation. Partially because he had a raging crush on her at the time and took any excuse to be as close to her as possible.

After MARI died though…

It was no surprise that AUBREY chose to hate him for abandoning her like that… Maybe if he had been there for her when she needed him…

No… He wouldn't be of reliable help towards her anyway, he didn't think. If anything, he would just make her situation worse. Especially since he was the reason why MARI died in the first place.

...

If AUBREY couldn't be found around town today, he wondered where she could possibly be…

"Well, anyway…" KEL mumbled disappointedly before turning to OMORI, "Even if we can't find the others, you want to go somewhere else?"

Actually…

"Can you buy me some flowers over at FIX-IT? I kinda do have somewhere I want to be." OMORI mentioned.

"Flowers?" KEL raised an eyebrow at this, but shrugged anyway, "Alright. Sure. Whatever you need, buddy."

They could even check up on AUBREY's house along the way. Just to make sure she wasn't at home.

Wherever she was, she wasn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Meanwhile, a few towns away from FARAWAY…

"And that's the last of them!" KIM proudly cheered as she kicked an enemy gang member to his knees.

Lined up in front of AUBREY was the entire group of an enemy gang, known as the PIT-STOP CREW of NOWHERESVILLE, completely bruised and beaten to a bloody pulp as they all laid on their knees.

Every single one of them was tied up so that they couldn't escape. VANCE and ANGEL patted their hands at a job well done before joining her up front.

The PIT-STOP CREW all trembled nervously as the entirety of the SCOOTER GANG leered down at them with either a contemptuous glare or a sadistic smile.

One particular member worked up the nerve to stutter out, "H-Hey man, c'mon! You beat us already! We ain't gonna do nothing to you guys anymore! J-Just let us go, man!"

"No can do, pal." VANCE denied without a shred of empathy for their prey, "We got personal beef with one of you guys, and we're not letting anyone go until that beef is settled."

The PIT-STOP CREW grew confused at this as they all looked at each other with questioning glances.

"Is that why you came to our town to attack us? Because you had a grudge against one of us?" One member called out incredulously, "What the hell did we even do to you guys to deserve this?! We've been avoiding FARAWAY town like the plague ever since we heard rumors about you guys!"

At this, AUBREY put on an intimidating air as she slammed her nailed bat on the concrete ground to make a loud thunk noise, silencing everyone in an instant.

Bringing her bat up, she gave a very cruel smile, "Four years ago, months before the SCOOTER GANG was born. A stupid little group calling themselves the PIT-STOP CREW came to visit our fair FARAWAY in order to cause some trouble. Vandalism, property damage, even a little bit of burglary here and there- or so I hear."

AUBREY turned her head over to CHARLIE and gestured the silent giant over to stand next to her.

CHARLIE came up front with her, her usual shy face now donning a very hateful glare.

AUBREY leaned on CHARLIE like a pillar and kicked a foot up, continuing, "None of that is what we're here for though. We're actually here for a very very special reason. You see our very big friend over here? Their name is CHARLIE. Tell them what you told us, CHARLIE."

"You. Pushed. My. Mother. Down. The sidewalk." CHARLIE punctuated, seething at the scared group underneath her.

The entire group nervously grew pale as they heard this.

"Exactly. Poor dear mother of CHARLIE busted her hip from the fall and ended up losing her ability to walk properly ever since then. She's forced to rely on a walking aid for the rest of her life." AUBREY kept explaining, her smile growing more malicious by the second, "So on her behalf, we're here to collect on that grudge."

"W-Wait a second!" One of the younger members of the beaten gang cried out, "How can you even know that it was us in the first place?! This was four years ago, there's no way you could remember who did that! Hell, none of us could remember something that long ago."

"See, that would be true…" AUBREY chuckled, "If we didn't have someone reliable to help us. Take the stage MIKHAEL! Your turn to shine."

The blond wigged boy came into view from behind CHARLIE, stepping up front as he gave an annoyed groan, "It's THE MAVERICK! How many times do I have to tell you to introduce me as THE MAVERICK, THE BOSS?"

"Whatever." AUBREY glanced away disinterestedly.

MIKHAEL gave another groan before shaking himself out of it and proceeding to pose menacingly, "You evildoers have made a graaaaaaave mistake, attacking the mother of one of THE MAVERICK'S closest allies! For you see, even if we have no evidence or clues that would even suggest who could have been the culprit of such a malicious crime, you have all lacked the foresight to predict your most fatal error!"

MIKHAEL continued to style on them boys as he menacingly waved his body around like a karate master, making noises as if preparing to attack.

"HUWAAAAAAAAH~" MIKHAEL posed again, this time pulling the bangs of his wig away from his face and making his eyes cross, "I happen to be born with the special ability of divine pre-sight! This ability allows me to instantly recall any information from the past so long as I was there to be a witness to that past in the first place!"

The entire enemy gang glanced at each other with even more confused looks, before one of them asked, "What does that mean?"

"Ugh-" KIM groaned, "It means our guy here has a photographic memory! Seriously MIKHAEL, lead in with that next time!"

"THE MAVERICK!" MIKHAEL insisted again, before telling her, "And it doesn't sound as cool if I just call it that! Let me sprinkle a little bit of pizazz sometimes, will ya?!"

"The point is-" AUBREY interrupted, bringing herself to attention again, "It doesn't matter whether you guys remember it or not. We have someone who was there to witness what happened that day and can easily remember every single moment. What we're going to be doing is having him check out each of your faces one by one until we find the guy we're looking for, so that we can teach the punk a lesson!"

"W-What exactly are you going to do to him…?" One of the gang members asked hesitantly.

AUBREY resumed her malicious smile again, "Oh, you'll see. We'll be making it a public lesson for all of you to watch together as a group! Doesn't that sound fun?"

The guy who asked the question gulped, "I want my mommy."

"Not until we get revenge for our friend's mommy first, villain!" ANGEL curled a knuckle up to the gang member with a menacing glare.

"Alright, MIKHAEL. Do your thing." AUBREY signed off.

"I told you already it's-" MIKHAEL stopped himself and moaned, "Oh never mind! Four entire years together, and I still get no respect from you guys…"

MIKHAEL started bouncing in place as he shook off his entire body. Then, going up to the first gang member in the line, MIKHAEL started chanting an ominous-sounding language that seemed like he made up on the spot.

"Ancient divine guardians of the past! Guide me to the truth that I seek!" MIKHAEL chanted slowly, "La-li-lu-le-lo! La-li-lu-le-lo! La-li-lu-le-lo! La-li-lu-"

KIM brought it to herself to step behind MIKHAEL and slap him upside the head, "Can you get this done sometime within the next year, idiot?! Stop wasting time, you're putting CHARLIE in suspense!"

"OW!" MIKHAEL grunted as his wig fell to his feet. "Alright- alright already! I'll take it seriously this time!" MIKHAEL grumbled while picking up his wig and putting it back into place. Turning around, he gave a quick apology, "Sorry, CHARLIE. I'll get started now."

CHARLIE gave an appreciative nod and smile.

For the next few minutes, MIKHAEL would begin studying the faces of each and every gang member one by one.

"Nope, it's not him."

Whenever MIKHAEL pulled a negative on the gang member, ANGEL and KIM would take them away as AUBREY forcefully grabbed the next one to be placed right in front of him.

"Nuh-uh, not him either."

The ones that he cleared up would be pushed away into a pile under VANCE's watchful eye. The burly man would keep close watch to make sure they didn't try to run away, all while silently chewing on a piece of taffy.

"Nope, definitely not this-"

MIKHAEL was startled back as this particular gang member tried to be defiant, spitting a loogie at his face.

MIKHAEL was nimble enough to dodge out of the way though, giving a mocking smile, "Haha! Missed me, you feisty little weasel!"

Not willing to let this act of defiance slide, AUBREY made a show to bring the bastard up to his feet before headbutting him into unconsciousness with one single blow.

The other gang members watched horrified as their friend slumped over instantaneously before AUBREY threw him away like a disregarded piece of trash.

"Anyone else wants to try something funny?" AUBREY asked in a threatening tone, "Go ahead. Make my day. I'm still not satisfied with the fight you guys put up earlier, if you could even call it a fight to begin with."

The PIT-STOP CREW all rapidly shook their heads in fear.

"Thought so." AUBREY smiled smugly at their obedience, before shouting, "NEXT!"

This would continue for a while before MIKHAEL would finally recognize someone.

"No, it's not him eith- WAIT!" MIKHAEL called out, pulling himself closer to study the face of the person in front of him.

He was a chubby guy with a fake gold tooth, long hair dyed completely black to try to make himself look like a heavy-metal fan.

And he looked absolutely pissing-in-his-pants scared right now.

MIKHAEL concentrated further on the details of his face before raising his voice in recognition, "It's him! We found him! We got the guy!"

"Nonononono- I have no idea what you're talking about man!" The metalhead insisted repeatedly, "Whoever it is you're looking for, I'm a totally different guy!"

Walking next to MIKHAEL, KIM looked down at the enemy gang member and asked, "You absolutely sure?"

"Positive!" MIKHAEL nodded determinedly, as he explained, "There's no way it's not him. I can still remember that day perfectly like it was yesterday. Me, ANGEL, and CHARLIE just got back from the OTHERMART store and we were on our way home. That was when ANGEL noticed CHARLIE'S mom and called out to her to say hello. She turned to wave back at us when a bunch of thugs was suddenly speeding down the sidewalk on skateboards."

MIKHAEL pointed an accusatory finger right at the gang member's face.

"This guy was the one who sped up behind her and bumped her out of the way! When she fell over and cried in pain, he was laughing like he thought it was just a funny joke! I distinctly remember because he was the only one not wearing a helmet to cover his face!"

"That's not fair!" The gang member cried out, "You can't possibly know that it's me for sure! There are loads of guys that I look similar to! It's a popular look!"

"Ahuh…" KIM deadpanned, before shrugging disinterestedly, "Welp, if MIKHAEL says he's sure, then I believe in him."

ANGEL spoke up with confidence, "When it comes to memory games, I can trust the MASTER with my life! If he says it's him, then there's no doubt that it's him!"

"Two vouches of confidence. Good enough for me." AUBREY nodded, before turning to the gang member with a sadistic grin, "Sorry dipshit, but you deserve what's coming."

"W-W-What are you guys gonna do to me?" The gang member quivered in fear.

AUBREY and the others stepped aside to make way for the giant that was CHARLIE to menacingly approach the unlucky bastard.

CHARLIE had an unforgiving glare as she peered down at the boy, blood lust radiating in the air.

Turning to the other gang members, AUBREY kept her sadistic grin as she told them, "Enjoy the show kiddos! Remember that this is what happens when you mess with the SCOOTER GANG from FARAWAY!"

Turning back to CHARLIE, AUBREY gave a thumbs-up as the go-ahead.

Now able to unleash her four-year-long pent-up fury, CHARLIE effortlessly grabbed the gang member up to the air.

Bringing him up to her face, she whispered, "You break my mom's hip. I break yours."

The following scene that comes after has been deemed too goretastically violent to be appropriate within a story rated T as for Teens. Let it be known that the gang member did not have a good time, as you fill in the blanks with your own imagination. During the aftermath of this incident, the gang member was reported to be crippled for life and was forced to be stuck in a wheelchair in order to travel. The good news for him is that he can still do sick flips and tricks on the skateboard park, impressing everyone else as he became the new WHEELCHAIR TRICKSTER of NOWHERESVILLE. Sadly, he was still in agony over the loss of his hips and fell into a deep depression soon after.

We now return you back to our daily scheduled program.


BASIL wiped a sweat from his brow, smiling at himself now that he was finally done taking care of the bonsais trees.

"There you go, Mr. and Mrs. Bonsai!" He happily congratulated, "Now you look as beautiful as ever!"

The plants did not respond back, but BASIL could feel the appreciation from them all the same.

With a proud smile, he put away his garden shears and went to clean up all the leaves and dead branches that fell to the floor. Once that was done, he moved on to take care of the next plant.

Working at FIX-IT has always been something he figured he'd like doing, mostly because he got to surround himself with plants of all varieties in the back of the garden station.

He used to come here all the time to gawk and admire the plants as a kid, so it felt only natural to want to work here part-time as an adult.

The benefits of working here weren't bad for someone like him either. Decent pay and a major discount on all plants, seeds, and garden tools? Sign him up, please!

Not only that, but it also gave him a very satisfying sense of fulfillment while he worked here.

After his grandmother died and BASIL went into that three-month-long slump, he felt like he had no direction or purpose. Without a sense of responsibility to push him out of the house, he felt like he was going to stagnate inside for the rest of his life.

That definitely wouldn't do, especially not after he had promised himself that he would work towards improving to become a better person. So he began looking for jobs to give him some meaning and responsibilities in life.

It wasn't that he needed the money to take care of himself. His parents were wealthy business entrepreneurs who would always send him a check or two every month to make sure he lived a decent life. Finding a job was mostly just an excuse to find a purpose and leave the house.

This was back when he was fourteen of course, and there weren't exactly a lot of stores around who wanted to hire someone below the required age of sixteen.

Luckily for him, the store manager of FIX-IT happens to be a very lazy and irresponsible person who jumped at the chance to hire some cheap child labor!

Proving himself to be useful by showing off his cleaning skills and gardening skills, the manager put him to work as a janitor who also happens to keep track of the garden.

For the next four years, he worked here in relative peace while moving on with life, coming to terms with his grandmother's passing and waiting for his best friend SUNNY to one day wake up from his coma.

Along the way, he met several nice people and became friendly acquaintances with other part-time employees. He also got into the manager's good graces by being a diligent worker who was able to help out customers with his knowledge of plants.

Lately, though, it seems FIX-IT has been having trouble finding new workers after the last few employees moved on to apply for other higher-paying jobs. BASIL has been required to work overtime just to be able to cover the shifts of the missing employees.

While he doesn't mind too much about the extra work, he does find it inconvenient since it cuts his free time down to where he can't even visit SUNNY as frequently anymore.

Hopefully, the manager finds some extra workers soon… BASIL hasn't had the chance to visit SUNNY since his birthday. Even though it's only been a few days now, BASIL couldn't help but get anxious for his friend's sake.

He doesn't want SUNNY to get lonely after all.

But then again, maybe he had nothing to worry about… AUBREY and KEL did promise that they'll be visiting SUNNY regularly now. Not only that, but SUNNY still had someone else to keep him company every single day.

That person was… MARI… his sister...

BASIL shook his head, doing his best not to let the thought of the girl taint his good mood.

SUNNY should be fine without him for a couple of days. He won't get lonely.

"Hey, BASIL!"

BASIL perked up after hearing the manager call out his name.

Turning around, BASIL greeted happily, "Hey bossman! Something you needed from me again?"

"A couple of customers came in asking for a bouquet of flowers called the… uh…" The manager snapped his fingers a bit as he tried to remember the name, "Lilies of the valley?"

BASIL lit up at this, "Oh, lily of the valley! Those are excellent choices!"

Stepping over to the back to grab a handful of those flowers, BASIL expertly began wrapping it all up with a beautiful design as he created a professional-looking bouquet of flowers.

Returning to hand the bouquet to the manager, BASIL noted, "It's said that these flowers are able to ward off evil spirits and help people see a brighter future! Whoever these are meant for must be a very caring and positive person!"

They used to remind him of a friend back when he was a kid. Back before the incident, at least.

"Cool, cool…" the manager nodded interestingly, "I'll tell them you said that. How much did you grab again?"

"Exactly five dollars worth, sir." BASIL informed him happily.

"Atta-boy, I knew I could count on you!" The manager praised before heading back to the counter, "Keep up the good work, BASIL!"

"Yessir!" The flower boy saluted before getting back to work.

Usually, people who come in to buy flowers as a gift don't tend to ask for specifics. It was always either the most beautiful ones or the most meaningful ones. While BASIL found them cute, he knew that most people would overlook the lily of the valley since it didn't look as lively or as pretty as most other popular flowers.

Whoever that came in to ask specifically for the lily of the valley must have known the significance behind them.

Ah, so cool! He wished he could've handed the flowers personally so that he could compliment them for how thoughtful they were.

Alas, a gardener's work is never done. At least not until 8:00 PM by tonight.

BASIL wished good luck to the person buying the flowers and hoped that the recipient would appreciate the loving gift.

For now though, he had to get back to work.

Thus, he continued on to take care of the plants in the garden section so that they would be in perfect condition for the next customers to buy.


"Uh…" KEL mumbled dubiously, "You… You sure this house belongs to AUBREY?"

OMORI nodded.

The rundown decrepit dump in front of them belonged to no other, sadly enough. As much as OMORI wished otherwise, this disgusting place was indeed AUBREY's home.

Compared to the other reality, this house was actually in worse condition. Trash bags littered all over the side of the house as if the owner couldn't be bothered to have it dumped. The roof was damaged with holes and other deterioration, making him wonder how the hell they could sleep at night if it rains or snows.

Broken windows were boarded up instead of fixed, a sign of how truly impoverished the living conditions are.

All because of a neglectful and irresponsible mother who was probably busy getting drunk off her high horse and sleeping in front of a loud static TV, rather than actually being a positive role model for her daughter.

The first time he came here to check up on AUBREY, he was shocked and disgusted at how a girl like her could live in such a horrible place for so long.

Now? Honestly, he felt more pissed off than anything else.

"SUNNY, careful! You're gripping on the bouquet too tightly!" KEL called out in concern.

At the mention of the bouquet in his hands, he snapped out of his thoughts and took a quick look to assess damages.

Still in good condition. Phew...

OMORI really needed to keep a handle on his emotions. He was usually better at hiding them than this…

"So, Uh…" KEL mumbled awkwardly, "Should we go knock and see if she's home?"

While it would be amusing to see KEL commit another break-in just to find AUBREY, the joke kinda lands flat if the house was already in such bad condition that a broken window wouldn't even make a difference.

Besides that, OMORI knew that AUBREY wasn't here. She would have already left by now at this hour in the afternoon.

"She's not here." OMORI stated.

"Are you sure?" KEL asked curiously, "How can you tell?"

"She'd never want to stay here if she could help it." OMORI explained, "Wherever she was right now, she was going to be out with friends for as long as possible until the dead hours of the night."

"Huh… okay then…" KEL glanced over at his friend with a curious look.

He was a bit surprised to see SUNNY seemingly knowing so much about AUBREY. KEL didn't even know where she lived despite being friends with her back in the old days, so it was a shock to find out that SUNNY already knew.

Maybe it was because SUNNY and AUBREY used to hang out together by themselves a lot behind everyone's backs. KEL did only recently find out about their mutual crushes a few days ago, so it seems possible.

Still, whatever he was expecting out of AUBREY's house, he certainly wasn't expecting this!

Maybe this played a part in the reason why she joined a gang? Poor living conditions?

KEL didn't know enough to be sure, and he definitely wasn't smart enough to make any proper assumptions. Best to play it safe and avoid bringing up the topic for now.

"Let's keep moving." OMORI said as he moved further down the street.

KEL took one last pitiful glance at the house before following after his buddy.

They continued down the road in silence, with OMORI holding the bouquet as carefully as possible.

It wasn't until they finally made it to the church did KEL speak up again.

"The church? Is that what the flowers were for? Are you visiting someone in the cemetery, SUNNY?" KEL asked.

OMORI nodded, "Sort of."

OMORI doubted that the person he was planning to visit was there anymore. Still, he knew this was something he had to do.

Just as a reminder for himself.

KEL kept silent as the two of them entered the church building and passed by the priest on the way. The entire building was unpopulated with the usual churchgoers since the time for the sermon wasn't today, so only a couple of stragglers were praying on the benches.

The priest saw the flowers in OMORI's hand and gave an understanding nod, leaving the two of them to their business.

OMORI kept going to the back and entered the cemetery without any distractions. KEL kept himself quiet as he followed after.

Finally arriving at their destination, OMORI carefully looked around before heading towards the corner near the back of the cemetery

There it was. The empty spot that used to house his sister's grave.

In this reality, since MARI never died, this spot was unused and empty. It was nothing more than just a plain piece of the ground outside until it would be used to make room for the next deceased person.

Still, OMORI gently laid the flowers next to the spot where MARI's tombstone would be as he gave a moment of silence.

KEL looked confusedly at his friend, wondering why SUNNY was placing flowers on a random spot on the ground instead of near any of the other gravesites. He wanted to point this out and ask about it, but after seeing the solemn look on SUNNY's face as he stared at the spot, KEL decided not to interrupt him.

He may be stupid at times, but he wasn't going to be disrespectful. Especially not to his friends.

OMORI closed his eye, his mind remembering back to when he first came to MARI's grave for the first time in four years.

He came alone with KEL, just like today. KEL confessed to him what happened to him and his brother after MARI's death.

OMORI never did properly pay his respects to his sister during the last three days he had left in FARAWAY, did he? Especially since his mind was still repressing the truth about what happened at the time…

This was his chance to fix that.

He took a deep breath to steady himself as he slowly began…

Hey, MARI. It's what's left of your little brother.

Sorry that he couldn't do this properly any sooner when he had the chance. He never worked up the resolve until now… it was kind of funny, in a way. He couldn't say anything while you were still here, and now that he was trying to speak to you, you weren't even here anymore.

Sorry for being such a disappointment.

It was such a shock to see you alive again, you know. He couldn't make any sense of it until now. He had thought he was still living in another dream.

But now that he knew better, OMORI was resolved to making sure he sees this job through to the end. He won't mess up like all the other times. Not this one.

He won't forget the promise he made to you. OMORI swears to his dying breath that he'll do everything he can to help save the version of you in this other reality. He'll make sure you come to terms with the truth and get you to forgive yourself before it's too late. He won't let you go down the same path he did.

This was his punishment after all.

Once this was all over and the MARI in this reality forgives herself, he'll promise to come follow you soon after. Wait for him until then, okay?

I'm sorry I killed you, MARI. I won't ever forgive myself for what I did…

OMORI took another deep breath to relax as he finished praying.

He felt a little better now. It won't make up for what he did, but it was definitely a start.

Turning to KEL, he said, "I'm done now. Let's go somewhere else."

"O-Oh, okay. Good." KEL mumbled awkwardly, before asking, "In that case, you wanna head over back to my house?"

OMORI nodded, "Sure."

He still had questions that needed to be answered after all. Hanging out at KEL's house so that he could get caught up on the last six years will be his next step for today.

He'll make sure the empty spot where he placed the flowers will stay an empty spot in this reality.