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I Won't Let Him

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"AW COME ON!"

KEL frustratedly stuck his tongue out as he desperately concentrated on the fighting game, doing his best to gain the upper hand again after being caught in a combo for so long.

Meanwhile, OMORI was casually playing at a steady pace. Carefully watching KEL's hands while paying attention to the TV screen at the same time, OMORI blocked and dodged every move KEL threw at him with barely any difficulty.

"PLAYER TWO WINS"

KEL slammed his face on the floor, his cry of defeat muffled by the carpet.

Alright, OMORI was just gonna mentally tally this win in his head again. Eleven to zero.

At this point, OMORI was starting to feel bad for the tanned boy for winning every two-player game in his collection.

Turning his head up from the floor, KEL asked incredulously, "Dude, this is like the hundredth time you beat me! Is there any game that you're not good at?!"

OMORI thought carefully on this question, before admitting, "Farming sims."

"Wuh?" KEL blinked.

"Farmings sims. They're too hard." OMORI explained simply. "Too much time management. I'm bad at those. Always ended up in debt."

Long-term planning has always been more his sister's specialty. OMORI tended to be better at short-sighted quick thinking.

RPGs and Action games. Those were the types that he preferred. Sometimes Bullet-Hells too if he feels particularly sadistic on himself. Mostly RPGs though.

"Well, I don't have any of those at least." KEL shrugged before sitting up and crawling over the game console. Pulling the cartridge out, KEL rummaged around his game collection as he asked, "That was the last two-player game I have so far. What else do you wanna play?" Smiling behind him, KEL told him excitedly, "I've got tons of brand new games that came out within the last six years! You will not believe how much my collection has grown since then! Zombie games, fantasy games, shooting games- We have plenty of time for you to catch up on them!"

OMORI thought a bit about it before deciding, "Mother Bound. Any from the trilogy will do."

KEL turned back with a raised eyebrow, "Really? That old series? Don't you want to play some of the newer games?"

OMORI nodded, "I'm sure."

The mindless RPG grinding will be good here. It'll give him an opportunity to talk and listen to KEL without needing to focus heavily on two things at once.

There were a lot of things he needed answers to, and KEL would be his only source of information until he could meet up with the others in this reality.

"Alright, if you say so." KEL shrugged, pulling out an old sequel of the game series and plugging it into the console. "I traded the others to get different games. This is the only one I got. Hope you don't mind."

The title screen on the TV appears, revealing that it was second in the trilogy.

OMORI has played this game hundreds of times at this point. It was one of his favorites.

OMORI wordlessly began to play, going through the introduction scenes in order to get to the gameplay.

As OMORI started playing, the door behind them opened up before a voice called out, "Oh boys~!"

Turning around, it was revealed to be KEL's mother coming in with a warm smile and a plate of orange slices.

"I brought you some healthy snacks if you want some! Hope I'm not being a bother!"

KEL pumped his fist as he cheered, "Aw yeah! Mom coming in to serve them sweet orange slices!"

OMORI nodded appreciatively, "Thanks."

Setting the plate down between the two of them, KEL's mother appraised OMORI as KEL began laying siege on the plate with his grubby little hands.

"Oh, I still can't believe you've finally come back to us, SUNNY!" KEL's mother said happily, pinching OMORI's cheek, "To think that it's already been six years! I bet your family must have been thrilled when they found out you woke up again!"

Despite feeling too numb to be bothered by his cheeks being pinched, OMORI couldn't help but feel a little belittled at the gesture.

Instead of complaining though, he mumbled out, "Yeah, they are."

MARI at least. He wasn't sure if she told their parents yet that he was here. Something to deal with later though. Heartless it may seem, but for now, his parents will only serve as a distraction for him trying to fulfill his mission.

"Your sister MARI, bless that poor girl, she's been cooped up in her house ever since that day. Did you know?" KEL's mother asked, "Hopefully now that you're back in her life, the girl can finally heal and have a healthy life again."

OMORI nodded in agreement, "I plan on that."

"Good!" She smiled happily before patting his cheek, "I'll be downstairs preparing lunch if you need me. You two get ready to come down once I'm done! Thanks again for coming to visit us, SUNNY!"

With that, KEL's mother finally stood up and left them to themselves again.

KEL, with orange slices filled up inside his cheeks like a squirrel hoarding food, looked curiously at him and asked, "Speaking of MARI, how is she doing now that you've finally woken up?"

OMORI winced as he watched KEL swallow everything without even chewing. Even though he should probably be choking to death at this point, KEL seemed unfazed.

Always a glutton, this guy...

"She's… I'm not really sure. I wouldn't say she's doing fine, but I know that she was happy to see me." OMORI answered.

KEL smiled at this, "Obviously! You're her little brother. She's been waiting for you to wake up since forever!"

"Yeah, but…" OMORI trailed off a bit, before saying, "She's different now."

KEL's smile slowly shifted into a frown, almost seeming guilty.

OMORI raised an eyebrow curiously.

KEL seems like he knows something about that.

OMORI turned to the TV screen and resumed playing. Killing snakes and all that jazz.

After a while, KEL slowly told him, "Hey… I saw MARI earlier when she opened the door for me, but she didn't seem interested in coming out to say hi."

OMORI nodded, "Yeah."

"Um… Did MARI ever… say anything about me?"

OMORI glanced at him a bit, before saying, "Yeah, she did. Just this morning when she gave everyone's gifts to me."

"Oh…" KEL mumbled awkwardly. "What did she tell you?"

"You look like you already know what she told me." OMORI stated neutrally.

"Eheh…" KEL chuckled softly at this, "Y-Yeah. I have an idea or two…"

After a long period of silence, OMORI would briefly glance over at KEL as he tried to work himself up to say something to him.

When KEL managed to work up the courage, KEL began, "Hey, SUNNY… I know MARI hates my guts… Honestly, I don't think I can blame her. I haven't been the best of friends with you. Not in the last four years, at least. Not until recently."

"Because you haven't visited in a long time?" OMORI asked curiously.

"Y-Yeah…" KEL nodded awkwardly, "I just… I wanna say that I'm-"

"Nope." OMORI interrupted.

KEL blinked stupidly as he turned to OMORI, even as OMORI kept mindlessly killing snakes.

"What do you mean, nope?" KEL asked confusedly.

"Don't apologize." OMORI stated simply.

"But-"

"No."

"But I just-"

"Nuh-uh."

"But I really am sor-"

"Cease."

"SUNNY, come on, I'm trying to-"

"Stooooooooooooooooop." OMORI emotionlessly drawled out.

KEL finally shut himself up with a disappointed frown.

Facing KEL, OMORI told him, "Don't apologize. I already forgive you."

"Seriously? Just like that?" KEL mumbled incredulously, "But SUNNY, I stopped visiting you for four entire years! I've basically convinced myself that you weren't worth visiting anymore! You're seriously not upset about that?"

OMORI shook his head, "It's not that big a deal. There was nothing you could have done about it anyway. You deserved to live your own life." Pausing the game, OMORI added, "Besides, you shouldn't feel forced to come visit if I was making you uncomfortable. Don't do something you don't want to do just for my expense."

It wasn't like OMORI was worth the effort anyway. KEL had every right to keep living his own life and make himself happy. Moving on and forgetting about him was the best call.

After saying all this though, KEL slowly blinked as he looked at the floor in careful thought.

Eventually, KEL brought himself to a small smile as he chuckled, "Heh… Just like BASIL said…"

OMORI raised an eyebrow at this.

What did BASIL have to do with this?

Before OMORI could ask further, KEL had already waved the topic away as he embarrassingly scratched his neck with a wide smile, "Heheh. Thanks, SUNNY. That really does put a load off of my mind. I mean, a part of me knew that you'd say something like that anyway, but I guess I was still feeling a little bit guilty since… I remembered how MARI kinda shouted at me for it."

"Yeah, she did seem upset." OMORI noted idly. "She made a big deal out of it. Told me that everyone except her and BASIL abandoned me to move on with their own lives. But… I honestly don't think that's a bad thing."

"She said that, huh?" KEL mumbled in thought.

OMORI resumed the game again, continuing forth until it played a cutscene as OMORI skipped past all the dialogue.

After a bit, OMORI decided to ask, "Hey KEL, you told me that you, AUBREY, and BASIL visited me during my birthday. Right?"

KEL nodded, "Yeah. The three of us celebrated it back at the hospital. We ate our share of a single cupcake and spent the whole day just hanging out with you."

"So does that mean that the group never disbanded after I got into that coma?" OMORI asked, "Besides MARI, is everyone still friends with each other?"

"Oh, that…" KEL hummed in thought, before offering an unsure, "I guess?"

"You guess?"

"Well… I'm gonna be honest, I think the group probably did get disbanded at some point…" KEL huffed as he thought back, "No thanks to me. After we all graduated from middle school, I kinda decided to just do my own thing separately from everyone else. I think I might have been avoiding AUBREY and BASIL on purpose up until recently."

OMORI nodded, showing that he was listening intently. "Any reason for that?"

"Well… Maybe I just didn't want to get chained by the past. The world was spinning, and I wanted to keep up with it. I dunno…" KEL sighed, "Thinking back, it really feels like a dumb reason. I feel happier now that I got to see the two of them again after so long."

"Well, that's good at least." OMORI stated neutrally.

KEL, AUBREY, and BASIL managed to make up with each other naturally with him in this reality.

OMORI wondered if that could've happened in his own reality? Would he have even made a difference, whether or not he left the house that day?

Hm.

...

While he had plenty of questions about MARI that he had wanted to ask, it might be prudent to get the biggest question out of the way first.

"What happened in the last six years since I was gone? How much have things changed since then?" OMORI ended up deciding to ask next.

KEL turned to him with an awkward smile, "You want the long version or short version?"

"The long version. Don't spare any details if you could help it." OMORI told him, "I want to know as much as you know."

KEL whistled softly as he ran a hand through his hair, giving it some thought. "Oh boy… Where do I even begin?"

"The beginning." OMORI requested.

KEL nodded understandingly, "Yeah, alright…"

It took him a moment to sift through his thoughts before he finally began.


"Oh, look at you! You're so adorable!"

KEL groaned as he suffered from his mom assaulting him by pinching his cheeks and smothering his forehead with kisses.

He was currently in the bathroom in front of the mirror, donned with a fancy suit and slick haircut.

KEL had just gotten home after a barber session to get his hair cleaned up alongside AUBREY and both of their dads. The reason why he was getting spruced up to look fancy in the first place was to get ready to go see his friend SUNNY and his sister MARI perform their recital.

Gonna be honest though, he was not digging how he looked in the suit.

It made him feel really really stupid.

With an excited giggle, his mom ran out of the room, "I need to go get my camera! Stay right there!"

Oh brother, Mom was going to immortalize this with a picture. KEL was not looking forward to seeing this again ten years down the line as an adult.

Speaking of brothers… Just as she left, HERO walked in from the background with an amused chuckle.

Gently patting the younger brother's head as to not mess up his hairdo whilst teasing him, HERO complimented, "My my my, KEL! You clean up good! You look like the dashing prince in someone else's fairy tale!"

"Oh shut up…" KEL grumbled uncomfortably, looking at himself self-consciously as he whined, "I look like a penguin! This outfit totally clashes with my style..."

"Ah, don't worry about that." HERO chuckled, coming to his side and putting an arm around his brother's shoulder, "We're wearing matching suits. People will think we're just a handsome pair of twins."

"We do not look anything alike to be called twins." KEL moaned while staring at the mirror, "You look way better since you're so tall. I look like a small monkey pretending to wear fancy clothing as a setup for a bad joke."

HERO reassured with a rough pat on the back, "Don't be so hard on yourself! Just because you're small, it doesn't mean you look bad because of it. Trust me though, girls will be all over you if they see you like this."

"Gross." KEL stuck his tongue out at this. "No thanks. I don't want cooties. I'll let you have them."

"Hahaha," HERO smiled confidently, "Shame for those girls then, I already have someone special waiting for me on stage." With a quick flutter of his hair, HERO gave a charming grin to himself in the mirror, "Guess I'll just have to leave a trail of broken hearts~"

"Eeeeewww."

Man, HERO was such a weirdo. It was a wonder how he managed to snag a pretty girl like MARI to be his girlfriend.

Then again, she could be pretty weird herself sometimes. Maybe people who were older siblings were just naturally attracted to each other's weirdness or something.

Well despite how his attitude suggested, KEL was actually super stoked to go see SUNNY and MARI perform today! He's been over to their house and listening to them practice for about a month now, and they sound amazing!

Sure, KEL wasn't exactly a consort of the art of classical music (Consor? Connoisseur? Conosaurus-Rex? Cole-slaw?) But even he knew a good song when he heard one.

"Man, I can't wait until we finally get to see them perform!" KEL cheered excitedly, "They're gonna look so cool up there! I'm gonna be the one cheering the loudest for them, just you watch!"

HERO chuckled at this, even as he looked at his reflection with a concerned smile, "Yeah… Hopefully, they do alright."

KEL turned to him curiously, "They should be fine. Why? Are you worried?"

HERO hummed to himself before admitting, "Well, you know how MARI can get. She always works too hard, striving for perfection even though she's already amazing the way she is. SUNNY is doing his best too, but I'm not sure if he can keep up with her level of dedication. I'm just afraid that they might end up making a big deal over a mistake or two."

"You've been over there to hear how they sound, right? SUNNY and MARI got this in the bag!" KEL reassured bombastically, "This night is going to end awesomely!"

HERO chuckled a bit with a more relaxed smile, "Yeah, you're probably right. Might just be worrying over nothing."

"I found my camera!" Their mom burst into the room excitedly, before gasping at the sight of her boys, "Oh my goodness, you two look adorable together! Stay still exactly like that and don't move a muscle!"

KEL and HERO looked at each other with a humorous smile before grinning at the mirror together.

"Cheese!"

Their mom took the picture and gave a cheerful smile, "Oh, this is absolutely precious! You two look like the perfect pair of brothers! I'm so lucky to have such a handsome duo of sons!"

"Better take as many pictures as you can, Mom." HERO warned her, "After this, KEL is probably never going to wear another suit ever again."

"I'll fight to the death if I have to!" KEL agreed with a dramatic pout.

"In that case, let me come back and record this with my camcorder! I want to cherish this memory for the rest of my life!"

Just like that, Mom was already running back to her room again.

KEL sighed tiredly, "I don't see what the big deal was. Mom can get so worked up over the weirdest things."

"Better hope she doesn't force you to keep that suit on for the rest of the night." HERO chuckled teasingly.

"Bleugh, I'd rather die."

All of a sudden, there was loud banging by the front of the house.

It sounded like someone was repeatedly banging on the door as if they were trying to break in. Whoever was banging on the door, seemed desperate for attention.

HERO and KEL gave concerned looks as they both turned around.

"Who do you think it is?" KEL couldn't help but ask.

HERO narrowed his eyes in suspicion, "I'm not sure, but it sounds urgent…"

"Do you think it's SUNNY's family coming to pick us up for the recital?"

HERO looked at the watch on his wrists before shaking his head, "It can't be. The recital doesn't start for another hour. They're still too early."

They also wouldn't be smashing the door down like this, HERO left the obvious unsaid.

Giving each other worried glances, HERO decided to go check out the commotion while KEL wordlessly followed after.

On the way down the stairs, their mom exited the room in confusion with a camcorder in her hand, "Something the matter? Who's at the door?"

KEL shrugged as he continued to follow after HERO.

By the time they both made it to the front door, the loud shouting on the other side revealed who it was.

"KEL! HERO! SOMEBODY!" BASIL's voice cried out in terror, the knocking on the door growing more and more desperate, "SUNNY needs help! Please answer the door!"

HERO quickly opened the door to let the flower boy inside after hearing that, where BASIL frantically rushed inside the house and looked around with eyes red from tears.

Seeing HERO, he immediately slammed towards the older boy in a desperate hug, "HELP! HERO, you have to call for help! SUNNY needs help!" BASIL cried out.

"Whoa, easy!" HERO kneeled down to his level and held the flower boy by his shoulders, "Calm down. What's going on, why are you panicking?"

"SUNNY! It's SUNNY, he's hurt! He's bleeding and he needs help!" BASIL sputtered out in quick bursts, his voice cracking as he gasped for breath. "He fell down the stairs and his eye is bleeding! The violin is broken and SUNNY's eye is bleeding!"

At this, HERO immediately turned to their mom who just came down the stairs to check what was wrong, and told her, "Mom, call an ambulance! It's an emergency!"

"What?! What happened?!" Their mom asked worriedly.

"Something happened to SUNNY! He fell down the stairs and now he's bleeding!"

Hearing the news, she quickly ran back into the house as she searched for their house phone.

Once that was taken care of, HERO turned back to BASIL and told him seriously, "BASIL, I need you to stay right here and try to calm down, okay? I'm going over there to check and make sure everything's okay."

BASIL made an affirmative noise as he covered his face with his arms, trying to do his best to stop crying. It didn't seem like he would be able to calm himself down anytime soon though, severely in shock and terrified from whatever happened to SUNNY.

Running outside, HERO quickly turned back to KEL and shouted, "KEL! Keep BASIL company and make sure he's alright! I'll be right back!"

"Y-Yeah, sure!" KEL nodded seriously.

HERO was already out of the front yard and running over to SUNNY's house.

Turning to the crying blond boy, KEL walked over to him and gave him a comforting pat on the back, "Sshhhh, there there, BASIL… Don't worry, HERO is already on his way. We're gonna get SUNNY help, okay?"

While he was still sobbing, BASIL nodded at KEL's words and tried to let it all out of his system.

"Everything is going to be fine. SUNNY is going to be alright…" KEL continued to whisper, doing his best to calm the poor kid down.

KEL had never seen BASIL so worked up before. Whatever happened to SUNNY must have seriously affected the flower boy if he was in this much shock and terror.

As KEL continued to comfort BASIL, KEL looked back at the opened front door with an uneasy feeling.

What in the world was going on right now? SUNNY fell down the stairs? Jeez, he really hopes the poor boy was alright… How was MARI doing? Did she know?

God, this has to be really bad timing, especially since tonight was the recital.

Thankfully, it didn't take long for KEL to hear sirens outside arriving soon after. The loud noise filling the neighborhood gave him a sense of relief that he expected BASIL really needed right now.

"See BASIL? Hear that? The ambulance is here. SUNNY is gonna be just fine!" KEL did his best to give BASIL a cheerful smile.

Hopefully, things were going to be okay like he said though...


OMORI continued grinding in-game, even as he listened intently to KEL recounting the day of the recital in his perspective.

"Did BASIL see what happened to me that day?" OMORI asked.

KEL shrugged, "I think so. BASIL was screaming about how you were bleeding because your eye landed on top of the violin."

Hm. Checks out. BASIL was there too back in his reality, and he saw everything that happened between him and MARI.

It would be safe to assume that if the timeline remained the same up until the point of the fall, then BASIL was probably there to see the argument and witness everything that happened before as well.

Once this day was over, he should try to get in contact with BASIL and ask him for his version of events.

Funny how BASIL went to get help instead of suggesting to MARI to hang his body to make it look like a suicide in this reality. Wouldn't that have been poetic for him if he died that way? Would have made for good karma.

"What happened after that?"

KEL brushed through his hair uncomfortably, before continuing, "After the ambulance took you away, we all rushed to the hospital to follow you..."


The sanitized hospital air smelled uncomfortable for KEL.

He thought about raising his complaints about it, but after checking around to see the atmosphere of the room, he thought better of it.

Probably wouldn't be really appropriate, considering they were all here to make sure SUNNY was all right.

Man, why were the doctors taking so long? When were they going to come out and give them the news about SUNNY's condition?

The longer he had to wait here, the more anxious he felt about it.

Especially whenever he looked over at MARI.

Poor girl looks like she just witnessed a world war being committed in front of her. Her blank eyes had a thousand-yard stare as she occasionally flexed her fingers in front of her face.

There was still blood on them too.

KEL grimaced a bit.

HERO was sitting next to her and noticed this, before wrapping a comforting arm around her shoulder, "You okay, MARI?"

MARI either didn't hear him or didn't bother to answer. All she could do was keep staring at her hands as if they were the only thing she could even see right now.

Man… SUNNY must have been seriously messed up if MARI was acting like this. This thought really didn't do well for his anxiety.

KEL decided to distract his thoughts by looking around the room a bit to study everyone else's reaction.

All their parents were there (besides BASIL, but KEL has never actually seen or met BASIL's parents before), standing near the side of the wall. SUNNY and MARI's parents were holding each other mournfully, looking just as anxious as KEL was feeling.

His parents stood nearby patiently. They seemed like they wanted to offer condolences, but it might be too awkward a time for that. So they just stood still as they waited like everyone else.

BASIL was sitting in the opposite corner of MARI, staying as far away from everyone else as possible. Although he had long since stopped crying, the new glare adorning his face as he burned a hole into the floor did not do much to reassure KEL that BASIL was going to be fine.

He didn't really know what BASIL was so angry about. Was it anger at SUNNY? At himself? About the violin? KEL wasn't sure if he should've asked. KEL wasn't sure if BASIL would've even answered him if he did.

...

Ugh, he didn't really know what to do in situations like these. He was never cut out for such serious or dramatic moments. The best thing he could usually think of doing at a time like this was to crack a silly joke or try to lift everyone's spirits up with something fun.

It sucked, but it was all he could really do…

Even he knew that there was a time and place for his stupid shenanigans though…

The next best thing he could really think of doing was to keep his mouth shut so that he didn't make anyone upset.

Sigh…

Man, he really hoped SUNNY was alright… SUNNY was always usually the quiet nice kid who was just a little bit shy and expressionless. He didn't deserve to go through something like this.

If only KEL knew how to help… He felt so powerless right now, just sitting here and twiddling his thumbs like this…

...

The sliding glass front door of the hospital's waiting room opened, and a girl in a fancy dress with a pink bow came rushing in.

Sliding to a stop after seeing everyone, AUBREY was breathing heavily as she frantically looked around. Seeing HERO and MARI sitting next to each other, she quickly turned her attention to them as she ran up and asked, "I came as soon as I heard! How's SUNNY?! Is he alright?!"

While MARI barely even acknowledged her existence, HERO stood up to tactfully pull her aside.

Carefully sitting her down next to KEL, HERO looked around before asking in concern, "Did you run here by yourself? Where's your mom and dad?"

AUBREY huffed angrily at this, "Mom and Dad didn't bother to make it. Never mind that, what happened to SUNNY?!"

HERO quickly hushed her as he calmed her down. Whispering gently, HERO gently told her, "AUBREY… SUNNY fell down the stairs and broke his violin. He landed on top of it and it got into his eye."

At this, AUBREY's expression went aghast as she covered her mouth. "N-No…! Is he going to be alright?!"

HERO looked away unsurely, "We don't know… The doctor hasn't come back yet. We're still waiting for them. He… He might lose his eye."

AUBREY lips began quivering as she covered her face with balled-up fists, "SUNNY… Please, no..."

When AUBREY was on the verge of crying, HERO did his best to hug and comfort the small girl, "Shhh, I know. I know. Don't cry, okay? I'm sure everything is going to be alright…"

"MARI… She must be devastated…" AUBREY sniffed as she wiped her eyes and glanced to look at the poor older sister.

MARI never stopped blankly staring at her hands.

After this was a long period of silence. Nobody else bothered to say or add anything as they all waited for the doctors to come back.

The wait for the doctors was agonizing.

KEL wished they could have done their jobs faster, if nothing else but to make this ominous atmosphere go away…

This sucked.

This really… This seriously sucked.


Huh, so that was the cover story then.

HERO told AUBREY that he fell down the stairs and broke the violin by landing on it.

Well, it was certainly better than using suicide to cover up a murder, that was for sure.

"Did MARI have anything to say about this?" OMORI mentioned, scooping a spoonful of curry into his mouth.

Despite how delicious it looked, his taste buds still refused to let him taste it. What a shame.

He and KEL were currently seated downstairs at the dinner table as they all ate lunch together. KEL's mother was busy feeding SALLY as KEL and OMORI continued their conversation.

"Not really. I think she was still in shock." KEL recalled with a sad frown, "She wouldn't talk to anyone about what happened. She wouldn't do anything except stare at her hands. I think she still had your blood on it or something…" KEL sighed.

As KEL proceeded to shovel another plate of curry down his throat, KEL's mother added her two cents, "I never seen anyone so distraught before. Neither your parents nor HERO could do anything to comfort her." With a sigh, she turned to OMORI with a sad frown, "I can't imagine what kind of thoughts were running through that poor girl's head that day. She must have seen something truly awful to stay in shock like that for so long. But I suppose I can't blame her… I'm sure I would have been the same way if anyone in my family was in a similar situation…"

OMORI hummed to himself as he continued eating.

MARI… She really went through a lot of trauma, didn't she?

Her SOMETHING was born that day, after all...

Emptying his plate, KEL went ahead and refilled it with another batch of curry again as he continued, "Eventually one of the doctors came in to tell us the news! When they told us that you were still alive, all of us were really relieved. We all checked up on you and saw that you were breathing just fine. You lost your eye, but at least you were going to live. The doctors reassured us that we could go home and rest easy. All we had to do now was wait for you to wake up." KEL smiled softly, only to resume frowning a second later, "But… You never did wake up."

She never woke up either.

"At first, we all thought that you were just taking your time to recover. The body trying to slowly repair itself or something, you know? But… after a few weeks passed and we didn't hear any news, we all started getting worried again."

KEL scratched his neck again as he sighed tiredly.

"When we had the free time, all of us would come together to work on a schedule to visit you..."


"He still hasn't woken up yet?" KEL asked disappointedly.

It had been about a few weeks by now, hadn't it? The doctors said that he should be waking up any time now.

Why wasn't he awake yet?

MARI looked up to see everyone arriving as she gave a small smile, "Oh, you're all here. Thanks so much for coming again, you guys."

MARI was sitting next to her little brother's side while holding his hand. It seemed like she'd been here for a long time now before they all arrived.

"Of course we would come!" AUBREY reassured as she returned the smile, "We all care about SUNNY just as much as you do!"

"Yeah. If you ever need us, we'll be here to keep you company." HERO added, walking up behind MARI to gently massage her shoulders.

MARI leaned back and smushed her face to HERO's arm in appreciation, "I'm glad to hear that."

KEL stood next to SUNNY's side, watching him as he steadily breathed. The heart monitor was beeping in a slow rhythm.

BASIL silently placed a vase containing a small white flower of some kind on the counter next to SUNNY's head.

Noticing this, MARI smiled gratefully, "Thanks BASIL. I'm sure SUNNY would appreciate the thoughtful gift…"

Even though he was being thanked, BASIL didn't seem to want to acknowledge her. He silently walked all the way over to the wall of the room to give himself some space and stare at the floor.

"You okay, BASIL?" KEL felt the need to ask.

BASIL simply nodded but didn't say anything else.

Although everyone was a bit worried about how unusual the flower boy was acting, they all figured that BASIL was probably still sad about what happened to SUNNY.

No one could blame him. Everyone was worried about SUNNY too.

AUBREY came up to stand next to SUNNY as she looked down on him sadly.

The pink-bowed girl sighed as she held SUNNY's other hand, "Please, SUNNY… Wake up already… Everyone's really worried about you. Don't you want to see us again?"

SUNNY did not respond.

MARI sighed depressingly at this, "He's been like this for weeks now… No matter what I do, nothing seems to wake him up."

"That… doesn't sound good…" HERO mumbled in concern. "Did the doctors say anything about it?"

MARI shook her head, "Not yet... I'm gonna ask my parents about it soon."


"He's in a coma." HERO mumbled weakly from his bed.

KEL instantly stopped as he heard this, slowly letting the toy ball he was spinning drop to the floor and bounce away.

"W-What?" KEL asked nervously, "W-Who do you mean?!"

"SUNNY." HERO answered forlornly as he stared at the floor. "His parents told me earlier today when I came by. The doctors say that he was showing no signs of waking up. They have no idea when he'll regain consciousness, or if he'll even regain it at all."

Oh my god.

SUNNY was…

His best friend was in a coma?

...

Shaking his head clear from the shock, KEL quickly stepped up to his brother and asked desperately, "Then what do we do?! How are we going to help SUNNY?!"

HERO shook his head at this, "I don't we can…"

"But there had to be something that we could do, right? This can't be something permanent!" KEL shouted as he kept shaking HERO, "How long will SUNNY stay asleep for anyway?! He's only just a kid! Comas are supposed to be something that only happens when you get into an extreme accident or something, right?! All SUNNY did was fall down some stairs, there's no way he could just go into a coma from something like that! RIGHT?!"

SUNNY was only here just a few weeks ago! They had been playing together and having fun just earlier this month! How could something like this have happened all of a sudden?!

"I don't know what else to say, KEL." HERO mumbled remorsefully, "I'm sorry. But we might not see SUNNY again for a long time…"

"T-That can't be right…" KEL mumbled in shock.

Stepping a few feet back, KEL felt himself tumble back and land on his butt.

"That can't be right… SUNNY was just here! He was supposed to be playing the recital with MARI just a few weeks ago!" KEL kept telling himself, his vision growing blurry as tears flooded his eyes, "We were all supposed to go see them play! How could he be in a coma?!"

It wasn't fair.

It just wasn't fair.

What was he supposed to do now?

His friend SUNNY needed help from them. All of them. He was in the most dangerous situation that KEL could possibly think of.

They had to do something, shouldn't they?

How could they have let this happen?!

It…

"It's not f-fair…" KEL choked up.

How could he feel so powerless right now? Was there seriously nothing he could do?

Was the only thing he could possibly do for SUNNY was to just… accept it?

"It's not fair!" KEL shouted out.

He couldn't even register someone wrapping their arms around him until they started whispering next to his ear.

"Shh, I know... I know." HERO whispered gently, rubbing KEL's head as he comforted him, "I'm sorry. I know."

The gravity of the situation finally settled in at that moment. Seeing HERO doing his best to comfort him like this showed just how serious everything was.

His best friend from next door was in a coma, and there was nothing anyone could do except wait.

The floodgates opened before KEL could even stop it.

He cried so hard that day, letting his tears stain his big brother's shirt as HERO did his best to keep a hold of him.

This…

This seriously sucked...


OMORI felt an uncomfortable frown forming on his lips as he watched KEL somberly recall that day with a sad smile.

SALLY was in between them as they all played together with colorful building block sets. SALLY kept making all these unique architectures just from her imagination alone, stuff that looked strangely beautiful in its chaotic nature.

This girl probably had a talent lying dormant somewhere.

"I'm… I'm sorry you had to deal with that, KEL…" OMORI mumbled, "I didn't realize you took it so hard."

KEL shook his head as he gave a curious smile, "Why are you apologizing? It's not like it was your fault or anything."

In a way, it kind of was…

But OMORI kept that to himself since he knew KEL wouldn't understand.

"Besides… I wasn't the one who took the news the hardest." KEL continued on, helping SALLY by adding in his own decorations to the toy monument in front of them, "HERO told me that MARI really didn't take it well. When the doctors told your family, she apparently kind of just… shut down."

OMORI furrowed his brows as he listened intently, "Shut down?"

"Yeah…" KEL nodded pitifully, "She kept herself locked up in her room for about an entire month or two. Wouldn't come out for any reason… Sometimes we would come to visit her and check to see if she was okay, but… She was practically a zombie in her bed. She'd rarely eat either, not unless it was HERO's cooking for some reason… When we asked her if she was okay, she'd always just say the same thing over and over again…"

"And what did she say?"

"That it was all her fault." KEL shrugged softly, "She kept blaming herself over it."

Hm.

OMORI could remember a time like that. Keeping himself locked away in his room to avoid having to do anything outside.

At some point, he managed to work himself up to finally leave the room in order to travel around the house, but… That was only after he began suppressing the truth.

"It wasn't until later when she finally got better and started leaving the house again!" KEL smiled optimistically for a bit, before toning it back as he remembered, "Or at least, seemingly got better. She still wasn't the same as she used to be, but at least she was finally talking to other people again. I was pretty relieved to see her, even if it was only to go visit you at the hospital."

The reason why he locked himself up in his room in the first place was because of the world he created in his mind. He couldn't deal with anything outside, so he would spend most of his time in his make-believe safe space where nothing went wrong.

WHITE SPACE.

This must have been when MARI started going through the same process too. Hearing that her little brother was going to be stuck in a coma for who knows how long must have triggered something within her. She was slowly forgetting her memories to keep herself sane again, if OMORI had to guess.

The question he had to figure out though, what were those memories that she was trying to forget in the first place?

"Did MARI ever tell anyone why she thought it was her fault?" OMORI asked.

KEL shook his head, "No, I don't think so. I think she just blames herself for not being able to save you. Like she feels responsible that she couldn't have prevented it from happening in the first place, you know?"

OMORI widened his eye at this.

A crucial piece of information finally came to light.

MARI never told them about what happened, just like OMORI didn't in his reality. KEL and the others were all convinced it was just an accident that MARI couldn't possibly have been a part of.

Judging by how KEL still didn't seem to know even to this day, then that must mean that BASIL was still keeping it all a secret too or he genuinely didn't know either.

"Hey, SUNNY…" KEL called to him, knocking him out of his thoughts.

OMORI blinked before returning his attention to his friend, "Yeah?"

"I'm worried about MARI sometimes." KEL admitted, "The way she's been living, I don't think it's healthy. I've tried getting her to come outside the house to hang out plenty of times, but she would never budge on it. Then when I stopped visiting you, she grew even colder and distant than I've ever seen her." With a sigh, KEL told him, "If she's still blaming herself over what happened to you, I hope you find a way to get her to snap out of it. At this point, I think you might be the only one who can convince her to go back to normal again."

The only one, huh?

He'll certainly do everything he possibly can.

But…

SALLY came up to him while he was distracted, grabbing onto his shirt while staring at his eyepatch.

OMORI looked at her curiously, before gently greeting her, "Hello, SALLY. Something you need?"

"SPACEBOY!" She suddenly shouted while pointing at his eyepatch.

OMORI raised an eyebrow at this.

That was the second time today someone thought he was wearing an eyepatch just to look like CAPTAIN SPACEBOY. What are the odds?

KEL gently picked his little sister up and placed her on his lap as he looked at OMORI with an embarrassed smile, "Sorry about that! I've been letting her watch the Saturday cartoons ever since she was born. She doesn't know any better, I haven't taught her not to point and stare yet."

OMORI shrugged indifferently, "It's okay. She's just a kid."

Bringing his attention to the younger girl, KEL began to tickle her as punishment, "Lookie here you little rascal, you can't be pointing and shouting stuff like that. Alright? It's not very nice."

SALLY laughed happily, having lots of fun playing with her older brother even as she was tickled all over the place.

"How old is she now?" OMORI asked.

Looking up at him, KEL smiled, "She's turning three in about three more months. Babies grow up so fast, you know?"

Considering that the last time OMORI saw SALLY, she was only about nine months old, then yeah. They definitely do grow up fast.

Two years could go by just as fast as a quick jump down from the hospital.

Heh. That was a good one. He'll need to use that later.

Resuming back on topic, OMORI decided to ask next, "Did something happen between MARI and HERO?"

KEL frowned a bit after hearing this, even as he continued playing with her little sister.

"Yeah." The tanned boy nodded, "I think it might have been my fault."

"How so?" OMORI tilted his head curiously.


"Hey, MARI!" KEL shouted out after seeing the older girl leave her house.

"Oh, KEL. Good morning." MARI returned a weak smile and wave to the boy.

With an excited grin, KEL ran across their yard and came up to her, "MARI, you wanna hang out at our house today? HERO's learning how to make some kind of Asian food thing called Bang Shoe or something."

"Bang shoe?" MARI mumbled, before realizing, "Oh, Bánh Xèo."

"Yeah, it's some sort of weird pancake thing that you eat with meat and shrimp!" KEL said with a bounce, "You wanna come over and try it when he's done tonight?"

With a sad smile, she shook her head, "Sorry, KEL. Not today. I'm about to go visit SUNNY again."

"Oh, in that case, let me come with you!" KEL offered happily.

It had been a while since he last visited his friend. It'll be nice to see his face again.

Besides, it's the least KEL could do for him. He'll just have to keep visiting again and again until his best friend finally wakes up!

MARI smiled gratefully at this, "Of course! I'm sure he'd love that!"


"Hey, MARI!" KEL shouted after seeing the older girl leave her house.

"Oh, KEL. Good afternoon." MARI returned a weak smile and wave to the boy.

"Summer's finally here! Don't you just love that sun shining down at us!" KEL asked happily, "Days like this just make you want to go out and do something energetic!"

"Heh," MARI laughed awkwardly, before shaking her head, "Maybe for someone like you, KEL. For me, I'm just planning to visit SUNNY again."

"Oh… Okay." KEL nodded understandingly.

MARI hasn't been doing anything except visiting SUNNY anymore. SUNNY sure was lucky to have such a devoted sister.

"AUBREY and HERO said they'll be joining me today." MARI told him, before asking, "You want to come with us?"

"Sure!" KEL agreed.

It'll be nice to see his friend's face again. It's the least he could do for him after all. He'll keep visiting until SUNNY finally wakes up again!


"Hey, MARI!" KEL shouted after seeing the older girl leave her house.

"Oh, KEL. Good evening." MARI returned a weak smile and wave to the boy.

KEL couldn't help but feel an uneasy pit of deja vu forming in his stomach whenever they said hi to each other like this.

Ignoring the weird thought, KEL came up to her with a smile, "Winter's finally here. Nice weather to sometimes just stay cooped up inside and enjoy the heater with a warm blanket, you know?"

"I guess." MARI smiled half-heartedly.

"You wanna come over and hang out with us? We're having smores and hot chocolate by the fireplace! It'll be fun!" KEL invited.

"Sorry, not now." MARI shook her head, "I'm just visiting SUNNY again."

"Oh, again." KEL mumbled with a neutral frown.

How long has it been now? It had to be about a year since the accident, wasn't it?

"Do you want to come with me?" MARI asked expectantly.

"Uh… Um…" KEL mumbled uncomfortably before saying, "Sure. I'll let HERO and my parents know."

I mean, he might as well. It'll be the least he could do for his friend. He'll just need to… keep visiting until he finally wakes up again.


"Oh. Hey, MARI." KEL greeted with a small smile, seeing the older girl leave her house.

"Oh, KEL. Good morning." MARI returned a weak smile and wave to the boy.

KEL calmly walked up to her as he dribbled his basketball over, "How are you doing today? Is everything good?"

"I guess." MARI shrugged, not bothering to elaborate further.

There was an awkward silence between them as KEL tried to think of something else to say to the girl.

Scratching his neck, he decided to ask, "Uh, you still keeping in contact with HERO? I know that ever since he left for college, it's probably been a bit lonely for you."

MARI shook her head reassuringly, "It's fine. HERO still calls me sometimes when he's not busy. We talk a bit and catch up on small things."

"That's good… That's good." KEL nodded neutrally at this.

It's been about two years since the accident. KEL's been managing to be fine on his own without his older brother watching over him, even as he prepares to transition from middle school to high school.

MARI was supposed to be going to college with his older brother, wasn't she? But… She still hasn't moved on from SUNNY yet...

He hasn't seen AUBREY or BASIL in a while either. Mostly since he's been busy hanging out with a new group of friends. They were probably doing alright for themselves, hopefully.

KEL would usually try to hang out with them, but…

"Are you busy?" MARI asked, before inviting him, "Do you want to come with me to see SUNNY?"

Again?

SUNNY… How many times has KEL visited him at this point?

Too many times to count. Too many for someone like him.

It was always the same thing, over and over again...

What was even the point anymore?

Was SUNNY ever even going to wake up again? He already missed out on all his middle school years.

It felt so… tiring, to be honest. Seeing him, sleeping on that bed. With absolutely no changes whatsoever. He never gives any hints of coming back. All he ever does is sleep now.

No matter how many times KEL came to visit him, it's not like SUNNY was ever going to pop out of his bed and play with him anymore.

Nothing ever changes.

It…

Seriously…

Sucked.

"Not today…" KEL decided, before awkwardly apologizing, "Sorry, but I kind of have plans."

"Oh." MARI blinked in surprise, before gently smiling, "It's okay. Next time then."


BASIL's grandmother passed away.

They held a private funeral for her in the church. KEL wasn't invited, so he didn't join.

Poor BASIL… KEL tried to visit him one time to offer condolences, but BASIL asked him to leave him alone and give him some time to grieve.

KEL didn't want to be pushy or be disrespectful, so he accepted BASIL's wishes and left him alone.

He hasn't seen AUBREY around in a while. The only time they ever see each other was after school when everyone was going home, but KEL was usually too busy with other friends to make time for her anymore.

He was actually on his way to meet up with someone, only to be surprised to see MARI hanging out right outside his door.

"Oh. Hi, MARI." KEL greeted softly.

"KEL. Hi." MARI nodded curtly.

The way MARI was staring at him made him feel uncomfortable. He really didn't know what to say or do here. KEL hasn't seen her in a long while, so having her pop up all of a sudden kinda spooked him a little.

"Need something, MARI?" KEL asked awkwardly.

"I'm about to go see SUNNY today." MARI told him, before asking expectantly, "Do you want to come? You always used to come visit with me before."

Oh…

"Erm… Sorry, MARI. Not today." KEL sheepishly declined, "I already made plans to hang out with someone right now."

"You always make so many plans lately." MARI noted bluntly as she narrowed her eyes at him, "Why don't you ever visit SUNNY anymore?"

KEL didn't know why, to be honest. He didn't know how to answer either.

So instead, he did his best to dodge the question with an embarrassed, "Oh, you know! Sometimes things just pop up without me realizing! A-Anyways, I should probably go now! I can't keep my friend waiting for me!"

Without another word, KEL awkwardly ran away from her as he sprinted over to the plaza.

He seriously did not know how to confront her over something about this.

He didn't even know how to confront himself with this problem either.

Visiting SUNNY should be something he had to do, shouldn't it? It was the least he could do for his friend.

But…

He just…

He just couldn't for some reason.

He just couldn't.

Not anymore.


It's been four years since the accident.

He's now a healthy high schooler living a normal comfortable life.

His parents gave birth to a cute baby girl earlier this year. They named her SALLY. KEL felt really happy to become a big brother to someone now. This must have been how HERO felt when their parents gave birth to him!

He's met and made tons of new friends over the years. He's practically surrounded himself with all sorts of amazingly cool people. Every day is basically a busy day of him making connections with others and living life to the fullest.

Later this month, he has plans to try out for the basketball team! Hopefully he gets accepted. He liked to think he was pretty fast and good with the ball, so he's not too worried about it. Still, the thought does make him a bit excited and nervous.

On his way to OTHERMART, he was on an errand to pick up some beef for his dad. The old man recently got into a new hobby of grilling food, buying tons of books that taught him how to make the perfect burger. KEL was fully supportive of this, as he could not resist the idea of eating perfectly grilled meat.

As he went down the aisle though, he spotted someone very familiar. A girl with long black hair that he hasn't seen in a long while.

"Hey, MARI!" KEL shouted after seeing the older girl walk past with a shopping cart full of random frozen food.

MARI stood up straight in surprise, slowly turning around to see the tanned boy coming up to her with a big dumb smile.

"MARI! It's been a while! How've you been?" KEL asked happily.

Instead of returning the greeting, MARI stared at him blankly as if she didn't even recognize him.

For the longest time, she didn't say anything.

KEL was beginning to feel a little bit creeped out from the prolonged staring contest.

"M-MARI?" KEL greeted again, this time with an awkward, "It's me, KEL! You recognize me, don't you?"

The moment he mentioned his name, MARI suddenly snapped just like that.

The odd stare became a very cold glare, one that he never thought he'd ever see MARI give to him before in his life. It was enough to knock the sails off his boat as he stumbled back in surprise.

"Don't bother me."

That was all MARI had to say before briskly walking away.

KEL was completely floored by the response.

He was stuck there frozen in place as he kept mulling over her reaction towards him.


"And she just walked away? Without another word?" HERO asked in concern.

His older brother finally came back to visit the family again. He was taking a small break from college, meaning he'd be able to hang out for the next few months until he had to go back to continue.

During this visit, KEL brought up what happened with MARI to HERO so that he could ask for some advice.

"Yeah…" KEL muttered sadly, "I've been trying to visit her sometimes to see what was up. Been knocking on her doors pretty much every day, but… She's been ignoring me ever since then."

HERO hummed in heavy thought, his eyes narrowing as he stared at the ceiling.

"That's weird… MARI never brought anything up whenever I called her on the phone. I saw her just a bit ago too, and she doesn't seem all that weird to me. In fact, she was pretty happy when I came to visit."

"Aw man… That must mean I did something wrong then." KEL groaned, lowering his face on his hands.

"Do you even know what you did to make her act so cold towards you?" HERO asked.

KEL shook his head, "Not really… I mean, I haven't even seen her in a while before then! Up until that point in the OTHERMART, I was too busy with other stuff to really think about MARI. This has been the first time in forever. I seriously can't think of anything I did wrong…"

Or maybe… it was because of the fact that KEL hadn't seen her in a long while that made her so angry at him?

Whatever the case was, HERO nodded resolutely before standing up, "Alright then. I'm gonna go over and try to figure this out. See if I can't fix this old bridge again."

"Should I come with?" KEL asked, moving to follow after him, "I can come to apologize to her, face to face."

HERO waved him away with a reassuring smile, "I appreciated the thought, but maybe now's not the best time. Wait until after I figure out what's going on first before doing anything. An empty apology might just make things worse if you don't know why you're apologizing in the first place."

"Oh… Yeah, okay." KEL nodded understandably, before sitting back down. Looking up to his older brother, KEL muttered, "Thanks, HERO."

"No probs. Just give me a day to sort everything out."


It took him about nighttime before HERO came back.

Heavy rain pounded against the window as brief sounds of thunder rumbled across the town. It was the heaviest storm to ever pop up since this season.

KEL was surprised to see HERO coming back soaking wet as if he was standing outside in the rain for half the day.

"Dude, you okay?! Do you need me to grab a towel or something?" KEL asked in concern, jumping off his bed and rushing to his brother's side to help.

Instead of answering, HERO had a far-off look with a miserable expression donned on his face.

"HERO…?" KEL called out weakly.

"MARI broke up with me…" HERO said despondently.

He didn't bother uttering another word before moving all the way to his bed and collapsing on top of it with barely an expression changing.

Oh.

Shoot.

KEL didn't know what else to say or what to do.

He wanted to try to comfort his older brother about what happened, but…

Maybe it would be better if he just left it alone.

KEL was the type to somehow mess things up a lot without meaning to, after all.

Maybe he should have kept his mouth shut about MARI being angry about him in the first place. It seemed like a problem he could've easily solved himself without bringing HERO into all this.

Damn it.

This sucked.

This seriously sucked.

This…

Ugh... Why was he so useless?


KEL gave a frustrated huff as he started scratching his hair, "It was probably my fault for this, but when HERO became concerned about the way she was treating me, he went to go visit her. I don't know what happened between the two of them, but they broke up after that." KEL rubbed his face down as he continued, "HERO wouldn't tell me why. I think it was because he didn't want me to feel guilty…"

HECTOR excitedly returned to them while carrying back the tennis ball.

Putting it down in front of OMORI's feet, he waggled his tail and gave a happy bark as he waited for it to be thrown again.

Picking the ball up, OMORI obliged the good boy as he gave his best attempt to throw the ball out into the yard.

HECTOR quickly chased after, leaving the two boys alone again.

"That really does suck." OMORI stated.

"Yeah…" KEL mumbled back.

Hm…

That explains why MARI flared up when OMORI mentioned HERO yesterday… They must have had an argument over something important, maybe…

Did HERO notice how unhealthy MARI has been living her life? Did KEL bringing up what happened between them become the hint that caused HERO to delve further into his sister's problems?

HERO would never let MARI become a reclusive shut-in… He loved her too much to let her waste away. He would've done something drastic to pull her out.

Did MARI feel like HERO was trying to take her away from her little brother? Was she upset at how HERO was trying to push her to move on?

If MARI was willing to threaten their own mother about committing suicide just so that she could stay with him, OMORI could only imagine what sort of things MARI had to say to get HERO to back off.

Poor guy…

What a damn shame. Those two were perfect for each other too. OMORI had never seen a more amazing relationship than those two.

Even now, OMORI somehow inadvertently caused the two lovebirds to get separated from each other again.

Sigh…

At least it wasn't murder that tore them apart this time. OMORI had the chance to fix this while he was still here.

"HERO never told you anything about what happened?" OMORI asked to make sure.

"No." KEL shook his head disappointedly, "He didn't want to talk about it when I asked."

Hm… If only OMORI could figure out more about what happened…

Let's recap then.

Everything from before the day of the recital stayed exactly the same. Nothing different between this reality and the other one.

The turning point was when he had somehow managed to save MARI from the fall, sacrificing himself instead.

After going into a coma, MARI became devastated over him and started blaming herself. She made the mistake of not telling anyone why she thought it was her fault. Everyone thought it was just an accident, but to MARI and even potentially BASIL, MARI almost nearly killed her own little brother.

The group stayed together for two years before HERO left for college. MARI and HERO still had a good relationship at this point.

KEL began to lose faith and broke away from the group in order to move on with his life. This was when MARI began resenting him.

OMORI still didn't have a clear picture of what BASIL and AUBREY did during this time. Judging by how MARI also resented AUBREY as well, and how AUBREY still ended up becoming a leader of a gang, perhaps AUBREY must have stopped visiting at some point during this time too.

BASIL's grandmother died two years earlier than he remembered happening in his original reality. How and why that was different, OMORI wasn't sure. No doubt it affected the flower boy negatively though, so that was something he'll need to check out later when he has the chance.

Maybe he should ask again to make sure.

"What about BASIL and AUBREY? How have they been doing in the last six years? Do you know how they feel towards MARI?" OMORI asked.

KEL hummed, "Well, like I said, I haven't been really a part of the group in a long time. I'm not too sure what happened to AUBREY, but she's also really different than how she used to be. BASIL's actually been doing pretty fine for himself at least." KEL began thinking about it some more, before continuing, "I don't know about how they're dealing with MARI, but I do know that MARI has been avoiding the both of them. Kind of like how she's been avoiding me…"

Really?

Hm…

That aligns with how MARI feels about AUBREY, KEL, and HERO…

But BASIL? She was avoiding him too? That doesn't match up…

MARI had told him earlier this morning that both BASIL and her were the only ones to have been visiting him these past four years. She didn't seem to sound resentful towards him at all.

Why would she be avoiding him too if she didn't have any reasons to hate him?

Was it because… BASIL knew what happened that day?

Hm.

Yeah, going out to look for BASIL was definitely gonna be next on the priority list for OMORI…

Back to recapping the events so far.

So, AUBREY left the group as she began to form her own gang, presumably. MARI begins resenting her.

BASIL never stopped coming to visit him, so MARI still regarded him positively. KEL said she was avoiding him too though? Not enough information to go off about this.

HERO came back to visit and got worried about MARI. They must have gotten into an argument before they broke up. MARI begins resenting HERO.

At some point near his birthday, KEL, AUBREY, and BASIL reunited together to celebrate. They didn't seem to be on bad terms with each other if they're able to get together like that, so MARI was the only outlier here.

Okay…

Yeah, things were clearing up now.

A game plan was starting to form in his mind as he thought about how to help MARI overcome her guilt from this. It wasn't quite finalized, but the foundation was there for him to get started. He just needed to fit more pieces into the puzzle.

At least he was partially caught up with the timeline of events in this reality now. Enough to give him a basic idea of what was going on.


Eventually, the sun began to set as nighttime hit.

The stars lit up brightly as they adorned the sky.

No matter how many times he had seen this before, the image still took his breath away.

So beautiful…

Both KEL and OMORI enjoyed themselves as they laid out in front of KEL's grassy yard.

KEL gave a small giggle as he shivered, presumably because of a gust of cool chilly wind passing by.

OMORI could only watch with mild jealousy as his friend enjoyed the weather since his body was still too numb to feel anything.

Still, he couldn't complain. This had been a very productive day for him.

After a while, KEL's mom came out to remind the two of them, "Oh boys! It's getting late! I'm about to finish dinner soon."

At the sound of dinner, KEL immediately hopped up to his feet with inhumane speed, "Aw yeah, din-din time!"

OMORI slowly pulled himself up and wiped the grass away from his pants.

"SUNNY, would you like to stay over for dinner? We have enough room for one more!" KEL's mom invited him in with a warm smile.

OMORI shook his head apologetically, "Sorry, but I can't. My sister's waiting for me back home."

"Oh, that's too bad." KEL's mom smiled understandingly, "In that case, give her our regards! Hope to see you soon, dearie."

"Thanks for your hospitality, ma'am." OMORI nodded.

"Oh, can I actually walk SUNNY back home, Mom?" KEL piped up with an energetic bounce.

"Sure! Just don't stay out too long, okay? I'll be waiting." KEL's mother smiled encouragingly before stepping back inside and closing the door.

Turning to the tanned boy, OMORI told him, "You don't have to, you know. I literally live a house next to you."

"I know that!" KEL chuckled obviously, "I just want to spend as much time with you as I can before you have to go!"

"Oh." OMORI mumbled.

KEL gave him a wide grin before hopping over to the sidewalk and gesturing for OMORI to follow him, "C'mon! Let's get going before MARI tries to kill me for taking too long!"

With a quick nod, OMORI trailed after the athletic boy, calmly walking next to him even as his friend proceeded to do small mini frog jumps over every crack in the sidewalk.

Making their way to the front door of his house, KEL turned around to face OMORI with a huge smile, "SUNNY, this has been one of the greatest days I've ever had! I seriously haven't had this much fun in a long while! Thanks for hanging out with me today."

OMORI awkwardly rubbed his neck, feeling lost as to how to respond with such earnest words. Instead, he ended up going with a small, "No problem."

"Dude, we should seriously hang out again soon! I can't wait for the next time!" KEL suggested excitedly, hopping side to side.

"Sure. Same here." OMORI nodded.

Seeing KEL being happy-go-lucky like this was honestly a bit of a relief for him. OMORI could always rely on him to have a positive attitude in his life, despite whatever gets thrown at him. Even in this reality with its own sets of problems, KEL managed to do his best to get by unscathed.

KEL was weird, but he was a force of nature not to be reckoned with.

He was glad to have known such a good friend.

Hopefully, someday, KEL would end up meeting a better friend than OMORI to take his place.

"I guess I'll be seeing you then." OMORI waved softly before turning to the front door.

Before he could begin to knock, KEL actually stopped bouncing in place as the tanned boy held an arm to stop him.

"KEL?" OMORI turned back, wondering what was wrong.

He was a bit surprised to see KEL giving him a tear-stained smile.

KEL moved faster than he expected, already coming in for another hug before OMORI could react.

"SUNNY… I really am happy to have you back." KEL managed to choke out, his voice becoming hoarse as he continued, "I'm… I'm so seriously happy to a point beyond where you won't even believe it."

OMORI widened his eyes, unable to react properly.

KEL's lips began quivering as he began hugging OMORI tighter, his hands balled up into fists.

"For the longest time, I thought for sure that you'd never come back again. I was ready to call it quits and leave you to whatever you might've ended up becoming. If it wasn't for BASIL opening my eyes, I probably would have never even considered going back to visit you again." KEL cried softly, "I'm so glad he was right about everything… I can't wait for things to go back to how they used to be now that you're back… I missed you so much, buddy…"

Sigh…

OMORI truly never deserved to have such loyal friends looking after him. All this goodwill, all this kindness and love, all wasted on someone like him…

Still, OMORI hugged KEL back in appreciation for everything he's ever done for the stoic boy. Both in this reality and the old one.

If it wasn't for KEL encouraging him, OMORI probably wouldn't have ever stepped outside his front door. He was the catalyst that led him to face the truth to begin with.

OMORI owed KEL everything.

Closing his eye, he allowed himself to enjoy the hug with one of his best friends as KEL softly cried into his shoulder.

After a while, KEL managed to grab ahold of himself and pull back with an optimistic smile.

Hopping back and forth again like nothing ever happened, KEL chuckled embarrassingly as he wiped his tears, "Sorry about that! Don't know what came over me. I guess I've been holding myself back this whole day."

"It's not a problem." OMORI flashed a thumbs up.

Flashing a thumbs up back, KEL grinned widely, "Hey, tell MARI that I'm sorry for everything. I want us to get back together so that we could all become friends again. I don't care how long it takes or what I need to do. Even if she doesn't think so, I still consider her to be one of my closest friends too!"

Yeah. OMORI will do his best to get MARI to open herself back up to everyone else again. It might even be one of the steps to help get her to face the truth.

"Of course." OMORI nodded.

Happily hopping away from him as if he was a human pogo-stick on steroids, KEL cheered out with a giant wave, "Thanks again for hanging out with me today!"

OMORI waved back, "Anytime."

With that, the night ended on a cheerful note as OMORI prepared to reenter his house again.

Now… Time to see what he could do for MARI tonight.