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I Won't Let Him

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It was nighttime already, wasn't it?

MARI sighed as she idly pressed the same musical key on her toy piano over and over again.

She had been doing this for hours now. The piano key was eventually going to wear out if she kept going like this...

Sitting in the living room with nothing to do, MARI had spent the whole day finding excuses to keep herself busy. She had already swept the house and dusted the corners numerous times today to keep the place looking spotless for SUNNY.

When that eventually bored her, she had an idea pop up in her head to perhaps prepare some activities to do with her little brother once he got back.

Back when they were kids, SUNNY would always look forward to spending time with her by playing whatever they had on hand together. MARI thought it would be a good idea to have something prepared so that they could both play together, just like in the old days.

Excited by the idea of being able to make up for lost time with her little brother, she rummaged around the closet to search for every single toy she could find.

It's certainly no picnic, but… Well, this would have to do for the time being.

She didn't know which he'd want to play first, so she decided to play it safe and just grabbed anything that looked remotely fun.

It had been so long since the two of them ever spent any time playing games with each other. Even before the incident, she had always been…

She had always been too busy to play with him…

She won't make that same mistake ever again.

Eventually, she found herself surrounded by a fortress made out of toys, board games, and all other knick-knacks from her childhood as she waited for her little brother to come back.

It would be comical if it wasn't so depressing.

Still, she was excited to surprise him with all of this once he got back home. Hopefully, SUNNY will be thrilled at the idea of being able to play games with her again.

They can finally be together again.

So… Yeah.

SUNNY should be back any minute now.

Just gotta keep waiting...

Waiting for something to-

*KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK*

The gentle knocking on her front door made her perk up instantly. MARI didn't waste any time setting her toy piano aside on the couch and rushing to the front door as fast as she could.

OMORI didn't have to wait long after knocking before he heard someone sprinting all the way over to the door.

The door flew open, revealing an ecstatic MARI on the other side.

"SUNNY! You're home!" MARI's eyes practically lit up in pure joy before she went ahead to hug the daylights out of her little brother.

OMORI wasn't expecting the energetic greeting, almost nearly losing his balance from getting tackled out of nowhere.

After enjoying the brief hug, MARI pulled herself back and asked, "How was my favorite little brother's day? Did you have fun spending time with KEL?"

Caught off-guard by her enthusiastic behavior, OMORI awkwardly replied back, "Uh… Yeah. I did."

"That's great to hear!" MARI cheered happily as she ushered him in, "Come on inside! We don't want you to get cold now!"

OMORI was gently pulled inside by the arm as MARI closed the door behind him.

Looking around, he was slightly confused by the sight of all these old toys and board games lying around in the middle of the living room. They almost nearly filled the room to the brim, surrounding the couch and table like the pillars of Stonehenge.

Seeing her little brother's confused face, she hopped right in front of him and gave him a huge smile, "While you were gone, I thought I might as well prepare some games for us to play when you came back! We can play as many things as we want together! Doesn't that sound fun?"

OMORI blinked at her a few times before slowly looking over the entire collection of their old toys.

It had been a while since he even touched some of these things. Ever since MARI died, he never found the motivation to go through all the old stuff he had. The only time he ever remembered pulling them out for any reason was so that he could either throw away the stuff he didn't like anymore or pack up for when the movers arrived.

He never really thought that he'd…

OMORI had to admit, the idea was tempting. MARI had always been so busy with her studies and piano practice back then to spend time with him anymore. Being able to play together again would be…

He… He had always been so selfish, hadn't he? Badgering her to always spend time with him, even when he knew she was busy… He just couldn't accept the fact that she was going to live her own life one day and kept forcing her to waste time entertaining him as much as possible.

He just had to get involved with her in any shape or form… He just had to bother her about letting him join her recital. A recital he was never even interested in…

Only to kill her.

MARI felt her smile falter when she saw her little brother stare sadly at the toys in front of him. Instead of being excited at the opportunity like she thought he would be, he seemed so depressed at the idea.

Did he… not want to spend any time with her anymore?

Don't force him. He didn't do anything wrong, so don't force him.

It's your fault he's like this.

"If… if you don't want to play, then that's fine too. You don't have to if you're too tired." MARI offered with a reassuring smile.

OMORI turned back to her, noticing the sad smile etched on her face, and thoughtfully studied it.

Even though OMORI knew he didn't deserve to have any fun with his sister… She had gone through all this trouble to prepare everything for him.

The MARI in this reality had no school anymore. She had no college prep studies or piano practice to attend to. She had nothing to keep herself busy.

She must've been waiting for him the entire day… Waiting for him to come back.

All alone.

He always hated being alone.

Even though he didn't deserve to make new memories with her, he felt it would be cruel to deny her after she went through all this trouble just for him…

"I'm not tired." OMORI told her, "Let's play something."

OMORI saw his sister immediately became ecstatic once she heard that, giving him a big excited grin.

"Yeah! Of course!" MARI cheered, clapping her hands together and bringing them next to her cheek. Swiveling her hips happily, she told him, "Go ahead and pick any game in the pile! Choose what you want to play with the most!"

The sight of seeing his sister so excited to spend time with him almost made him smirk.

She always did that pose whenever she was happy like this. Unlike him, she was never any good at hiding her emotions. Spend time with her long enough, and you'll eventually learn that she could never contain herself. She always made her feelings quite clear and obvious for anyone to see.

Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to speak with her about some stuff he's been meaning to bring up in the meantime.

Ask her for more details about why she hated their friends. Ask her about what happened between her and HERO. Maybe even some other stuff if it comes up.

Get more information before he tracked down the next person for details about the past six years here in this reality. If he's lucky, he could find AUBREY or BASIL tomorrow. HERO would be hard to get a hold of, but he could wait.

Hm.

Carefully looking through the pile of toys around then, his eyes began to settle on one before he pointed it out to her.

"Maybe chess?"

A simple game like chess would give him enough time to think about what to ask her in between turns. He also picked out chess because he knew that it was MARI's favorite out of the bunch.

"Sure!" MARI quickly went over to the boxed board game and grabbed it out from the pile. Turning back to him and holding it up with a smile, she said, "Let's play some chess!"


"Aaaand check!" MARI announced, taking a white knight piece away with her black rook.

"Already? Wow." OMORI hummed.

MARI chuckled as she toyed around with her recently captured piece, "You should know by now that I am and forever will be the goddess of all things strategy, little brother!"

Her little brother was never any good at these sorts of things, so it was always easy for her to beat him. The trade-off was in her favor though. If SUNNY was good at video games, MARI was a master at the board games.

Chess, checkers, mahjong, Clue, Monopoly, Dominoes, UNO- You name it, she was already perfect at it.

OMORI looked at the chessboard with a contemplative stare as he wondered exactly what play he should utilize here.

He was really out of practice. He hasn't even touched a chess piece in years.

He was definitely in for a bad time if he was going against his own sister at these types of games.

In the end, OMORI decided to just move his king away, figuring that was the safest option.

Judging by the tactical glint in her eye, OMORI figured he must have chosen poorly.

The game continued on like this for a few moments, the two of them trading pieces as each of their strategies were soon laid bare. MARI was proving to be the winning side, as always.

OMORI wasn't exactly putting his heart into the game though, too busy stuck in his own mind as he organized all the questions in his head and figured out which was more important to ask first. Only a partial amount of his attention was spent on the board game, at best.

Noticing the intense look of concentration on her little brother's face, MARI smiled appreciatively as she thought her little SUNNY was taking the game seriously and giving it his all. It had been years since she ever saw him so lively, she couldn't help but stare at his cute adorable concentrating little face.

Although he wasn't really all that good at the game, it didn't matter. Her little brother was perfect just the way he was. All that mattered was if the two of them were having fun.

Nothing else mattered.

"Checkmate!" MARI officially declared, locking down her brother's white king into a corner.

"Nice." OMORI nodded impressively. He saw this coming a mile away. MARI was just too good at this game.

MARI giggled proudly, before offering, "Wanna play another round? I'll go easy next time to give you a shot!"

"Sure." OMORI shrugged before moving to reset the pieces.

Round two began shortly, with OMORI with the black pieces this time.

Giving her little brother a handicap by only using fifty percent of her brainpower to play the game, the other fifty percent thought it would be fun to start a conversation with him.

"Soooooo? How was your day with KEL?" MARI asked innocently enough, starting off with a king's pawn to E4. "You said you two had fun together, right? What did you two do today?"

OMORI looked at the board with some thought before moving his pawn, mirroring MARI's move.

"We went to the park for a bit, I guess. Didn't do much there besides read some pamphlets." He answered simply. "After that, we went to the plaza to hang out there. I got the chance to check out HOBBEEZ with him."

"Oh, did you? That's awesome! You always loved that place!" MARI giggled, moving a knight to F3 before asking, "And then?"

OMORI almost considered telling her about the flowers and the trip to the cemetery, only to realize that it might not be the best idea. All that would accomplish was get MARI confused, as well as open a line of questioning that he'd rather not spend answering.

So instead, he skipped ahead a bit as he continued copying MARI's chess moves with his own knight, "After that, KEL took me back to his house so that we could spend some time together for the rest of the day. Play video games, spend time with HECTOR, meet his baby sister… Just talk about things."

"Aw~! That's nice!" MARI beamed as she studied the chessboard.

Hmm, looks like she could challenge his E5 pawn by breaking the center with a Scotch opening… There were a multitude of ways she could take advantage of this and try to lead the game to a win… she had a thirty-six percent chance of winning, with a thirty-three percent chance of the match ending in a stalemate...

Oh shoot, she was overthinking again, wasn't she? Didn't she just promise to give him a handicap?

Moving queen's pawn to D4, MARI began to relax her brain by resting her head on her hand as she smiled at her little brother. Continuing the conversation to unfocus her mind, she asked, "And what did you two get to talk about?"

"Well…" OMORI attacked her pawn with his own before answering, "He gave me a long recap of the last six years. Told me about how everyone reacted when they heard the news. How he and HERO dealt with it. Even told me how you dealt with it."

At this, MARI's smile twitched.

OMORI stared at her inquisitively, watching her movements becoming stiffer than usual as she grabbed her knight to take his pawn.

Despite the pleasant smile adorned on his sister's face, OMORI could easily tell that it was fake now. Her robotic movements didn't match it at all, almost as if she was desperately trying to hold herself back.

"Did he now?" MARI stated with a stilted edge in her tone, "I see."

MARI was feeling… rather ticked at the fact that KEL had to be the one who told him about the past six years.

Knowing KEL, if he had been the one to bring her little brother up to speed, no doubt that idiot would have fed a whole bunch of lies and nonsense to get himself to seem more innocent than he actually was.

What sort of crocodile tears did he shed just to convince SUNNY that his backstabbing friend had always been waiting for him this entire time? What sort of excuses and horseshit did he come up with to explain why he wasn't there for his friend?

The worst part of it all was that SUNNY would've believed anything he said without a second thought. Her innocent little brother would have no reason to doubt KEL.

Just thinking about it made her want to strangle something.

As her brother moved a bishop ahead, MARI sweetly (almost mockingly) asked him, "What did he tell you, exactly? Did he tell you the truth? That he left you four years ago? Did he admit that he abandoned you, leaving you to rot by yourself? Did he acknowledge the fact that he was a horrible friend who gave up on you like the selfish brat he is?"

OMORI shuffled around in his seat, feeling uncomfortable at the way his sister was acting. This was a side of her that he has never seen before. The MARI he knew would never hold a grudge against her friends like this…

OMORI knew she could be vitriol and scathing if pushed far enough, but… this was almost on another level.

With a small sigh, OMORI simply answered, "He did."

MARI's hand froze just as she was about to move her next piece on the board.

Looking up at her little brother, MARI blinked in shock before asking, "H-He… He did?"

OMORI nodded, "It was the first thing he mentioned. He wanted to apologize to me for not visiting me at the hospital all these years. He thought he was being a bad friend and wanted to make it up to me."

KEL said that?

He apologized for it?

Her hands fumbled with her next piece as she moved a random pawn ahead before she quickly asked, "W-What did you say back to him?"

OMORI shrugged, "I forgave him. Like I said, I was never bothered by it."

"Oh, right…" MARI mumbled, rubbing her face as she took in this information. Shaking her head clear, she then asked, "Did he say anything else?"

Her little brother nodded again, "He told me that the reason he felt he needed to apologize was because of you, actually."

B-… Because of her?

KEL wanted to apologize because of her?

OMORI moved his queen up diagonally, before continuing, "Right before he dropped me back home, he told me to tell you that he was sorry for everything. He wanted to make it clear that, even though you might not feel the same way anymore, he still considers you to be one of his closest friends."

She couldn't believe it.

It's just… None of this felt real at all.

She thought for sure that...

"Was he being sincere…?" MARI asked softly, a distracted hand mindlessly moving her knight over to take one of his pieces. "Did he truly mean any of it?"

OMORI looked up from the board to see his sister staring off in the distance. Unlike moments before, her attitude shifted from being bitter to disbelief and confusion.

"Is it that hard to believe?" OMORI asked back.

MARI closed her eyes in thought.

Was it really that hard to believe?

No, not really.

Was it that hard to accept it?

Well…

...

Within MARI was a wide range of emotions threatening to tear her apart again.

On the one hand, she was truly ecstatic. To think that KEL would be the one to pass the olive branch of peace by apologizing to them first. Remembering what he told her the last time they spoke, she realized that maybe KEL was telling the truth after all when he said that he still thought of her as his friend. Only a real friend would feel guilty and apologize like this.

On the other hand, she was frustrated. It felt so disingenuous. Why did it take him this long to say sorry in the first place?! You can't just fix four years of continuous neglect and silence with a simple apology and expect everything to be kumbaya! You can't just go waltzing back into their life as if everything was normal, as if everything was okay- apologizing just so that it could all be conveniently swept under the rug! He didn't even have the decency to apologize to her face!

On the third hand… She felt remorseful. Maybe she had been too hard on the boy? The last time they spoke, all he wanted to do was make sure she was okay. Yet she couldn't help but shout in his face, mock him for insinuating that they were still friends, only to kick him out of her home straight after. It wasn't like it was his fault that SUNNY was stuck in a coma, and yet she acted so… Ugh, he probably couldn't even apologize to her properly because of that. He was scared of her, wasn't he? That's why he told her little brother to relay the message to her for him. If it wasn't for her, maybe he would've been able to apologize much earlier...

...

MARI…

She wanted to forgive him.

She wanted to tell him to screw off and leave her alone forever.

She wanted to be friends again.

She wanted to never see his face ever again.

She wanted KEL and SUNNY to get along together and make up for lost time.

She wanted KEL to stay as far away from her little brother as possible.

She wanted…

She… she wanted...

What the hell does she even want…?

God, nothing seemed to make any sense anymore… She wasn't prepared for any of this.

She just wanted to spend time with her little brother. Why did she have to be stuck in this mess? Why did she have to mention KEL at all?

Why couldn't she just pay attention to SUNNY?

"MARI?"

After her little brother called out to her, MARI quickly shook her head clear and blinked up at him.

"Oh right, sorry." MARI mumbled embarrassingly, "We were still in the middle of a game, weren't we? Did you make your move yet?"

OMORI nodded, "I have you in check."

MARI smiled politely as she looked down at the board again.

Alright then, let's see here… She moved a pawn to C3 to defend her knight from his bishop, then he went ahead and moved his queen to F6… and then after that, she moved...

Oh.

"SUNNY, this isn't a check." MARI pointed out, "You have me in checkmate."

Her little brother blinked confusedly as he looked down at the board again.

The queen that cornered her king at F2 was defended by one of his bishops diagonally at C5. She made the earlier mistake of attacking his knight instead of defending herself. She couldn't take his queen or make any other moves without being captured.

"Huh." He mumbled in surprise, "Wasn't paying attention to that."

Neither was she…

She lost against him in only six turns? Guess that was what she deserved for not paying enough attention to her little brother.

...

It… It was what she deserved…

Six years, because of her.

There was a brief period of silence as MARI stared blankly at the chessboard.

OMORI studied his sister's expression, trying to do his best to peer into her mind. What was she thinking about right now? How was she feeling?

It was almost as if she was so overwhelmed that she couldn't even properly function anymore. This wasn't the first time this has happened, he suddenly realized. She has been acting like this ever since he met her in this reality.

She looked so tired.

MARI felt so so so tired.

Usually almost always when they were talking about their old friends…

Maybe… if he could try something...

OMORI decided to break the silence as he told her, "I know that you have a problem with him because he couldn't visit me anymore, but it seems like he really wants to make up for it. I think you should give him a chance, at least. Won't you forgive him too?"

MARI looked back at him with a blank stare.

Of course!

Absolutely not.

Maybe?

She didn't know.

She really didn't know.

And because she didn't know, it made everything all the more frustrating for her.

So instead of answering the question, she forced herself to give a bright smile as she suddenly stood up and headed to the kitchen.

"I'm going to make us some dinner! Hope you're hungry!" MARI announced cheerfully, leaving the conversation abruptly.

OMORI blinked stupidly as he watched his sister flee to avoid his question.

She really just left the conversation like that? Before they were even done?

OMORI massaged his face with a frustrated sigh… He thought for sure that he was really close to breaking through to her for a moment. It would have been great if he could somehow convince her to forgive KEL then and there.

He knew this wasn't going to be easy, but…

Trying to help MARI was going to be harder than he thought if she was going to be like this.

Guess he might need to brainstorm a different approach to tackle this...


OMORI ate his tofu as his eye periodically glanced up to look at MARI.

She smiled back sweetly at him as she continued to stare at him while he ate.

Long since finished with her plate, MARI encouraged her little brother to take his time eating and not to rush. There would be plenty of time to keep playing after he finished, she told him.

"We can stay up as late as you want! Mom and Dad aren't here to get on our case for sleeping late and there's no need to go to school tomorrow! Isn't that great?" MARI told him happily.

Sure, the doctors told her to make sure he gets plenty of sleep for his recovery process, but everything should be fine! She'll let him sleep in tomorrow morning to make up for it!

This means more time to spend together with her little brother! Everything should be perfect!

OMORI didn't share her excitement, unfortunately. While he might have liked the idea of playing late into the night with his sister back when he was a kid, he didn't want to waste time playing around when he could be helping MARI find the truth in her HEADSPACE instead.

Still, he silently nodded at MARI as he continued to finish eating his dinner.

"Is the tofu still okay?" MARI asked in concern, before apologetically saying, "I know this must be the third time you've eaten tofu by now. You must be getting bored of it, right?"

Without his sense of taste, OMORI really couldn't answer that.

So instead, he shook his head, "It's fine. It tastes good."

Despite his words, MARI still felt the need to offer him, "If you want, we can go out and buy some steak together in OTHERMART tomorrow! We can throw out some of the tofu to make room for it!"

"No, really. I'm fine." OMORI insisted, "I'd rather not go through the trouble."

It'd be a waste of time and money to buy him any steak anyway. He's not worth it.

"Oh. Okay…" MARI hesitantly relented.

OMORI kept taking small bites out of his tofu as MARI continued to watch over him.

Resuming her smile, MARI decided to scoot her chair over next to her little brother to get closer to him.

OMORI carefully glanced at his sister, wondering what she was up to.

With a small giggle, she went ahead and brought a hand up to pet his head.

OMORI had a dumbfounded look as he watched his sister rub her hand through his hair.

"You always liked it when I did this." MARI mentioned, stroking his hair in content. "I remember one time, both you and MEWO were laying next to my side on the floor, and all I would do was just stroke both of your heads over and over again." With a chuckle, she recalled, "Both of you purred so loudly, I almost didn't know which one was the cat and which one was my little brother!"

Yeah… OMORI could recall something like that a long time ago.

Back when MARI was still alive and MEWO was still around, OMORI would regularly play with the black cat by acting like a cat himself. MARI found it completely endearing and adorable, so he decided to keep acting like one just so that she could pay more attention to him.

MEWO… she ran away when MARI died. No one was properly taking care of her anymore, so she ran to live somewhere else.

He wondered where that cat was right now? Did she leave too in this reality? He hoped she was somewhere nice and comfortable at least.

I miss her.

MARI brought him out of his reminiscing thoughts, asking him, "Does it feel good, SUNNY?"

Awkwardly glancing away, OMORI coughed and said, "Um… I still can't feel anything."

"Oh." MARI blinked, remembering about his numbed senses. Slowly pulling her hand away, she mumbled apologetically, "I'm sorry. I completely forgot that you…"

OMORI shook his head, "It's okay. I appreciate the thought."

MARI gave a small sigh to herself.

Well, that was embarrassing.

Might be a good idea to change the subject before the moment lingered any longer than it has to.

What else did she want to talk about with him? She already asked how his day had been, so all that was left to talk about was…

Actually…

There was something important that she had been meaning to speak with him about.

Glancing at him as she curled her hair over her ear, she considered how to properly ask him.

"So, today has been a pretty productive day for you, huh?" MARI started off pleasantly enough.

OMORI shrugged as he finished his dinner. In a sense, yeah.

After spending the whole day gathering information from KEL's point of view of the previous six years in this reality, OMORI felt that he had a basic idea behind what was going on with MARI.

It wasn't enough to fill out the complete picture though. Hopefully, tonight's venture to HEADSPACE will grant him some further insight into MARI's mental state.

"So… Um…" MARI awkwardly shuffled in her seat a bit as she slowly grew nervous. With a bit of hesitation, MARI gulped before she timidly asked, "Um… So, now that you've spent the day outside with KEL… D-... Do you still think everything is a d-dream?"

OMORI blinked before looking up at her.

MARI gulped.

This was something that she had been worried about ever since yesterday.

To think that he had gone through such a horrible ordeal for the past six years in his mind. Dreaming of a life where he killed his own sister on that day on top of the stairs. The guilt that weighed on his mind must be devastating for such an innocent sweet boy like him.

She wanted to do anything she could to help him forget all about it. Make him understand that she was alive and well, ready to accept him with open arms. That there was nothing to be guilty of.

OMORI, meanwhile, stared back at his plate in silence.

This was… something OMORI didn't quite know how to answer properly.

For the most part, he's generally accepted that he was transferred to another reality. How he managed to do so, he still had no clue.

If the answer to how this came to be was that this whole thing was just some kind of hyper-realistic dream he subconsciously crafted just to punish himself, he'd suppose then that this answer would make the most sense.

If everything happened to be real though, then it would mean that the universe was truly giving him this last task as punishment before he could finally move on to die in peace.

But if he had to question whether this was real or a dream though… He'd… He'd probably hope that it was…

No.

Whether it was real or not didn't matter.

He needed to help MARI to forgive herself. To make sure that she doesn't go down the same route he did.

Nothing else mattered.

"Not anymore, I guess." OMORI eventually answered, hoping that it would be enough to satisfy her.

"You guess…" MARI whispered softly to herself as she looked away in thought.

MARI… Honestly, she didn't know what to do. She had no idea how to tackle this sort of situation.

Hearing him say that he didn't think he was dreaming anymore, it almost made her feel relieved.

But there was something about his response that just… tickled her gut the wrong way.

Like… Like he was just saying that so that she wouldn't have to worry about him anymore.

He was always such a considerate little brother...

Maybe she was paranoid… Maybe SUNNY was truly going to be fine after all.

But after seeing him point a knife at himself firsthand, MARI did not want to take any chances.

"Hey, SUNNY?" MARI began softly.

"Yeah?" OMORI turned to her curiously.

"Can you tell me about… about the stuff you experienced? While you were in your coma?" MARI asked, carefully holding onto his hand, "The things you had to deal with… The things you went through… I want to know more about it."

OMORI widened his eyes at this.

"W-... Why?" He stuttered.

Why would she want to know something like that? It wasn't like he could tell her anything that would be important or interesting…

MARI felt like she had to do something though.

"I just… I just want to make sure you realize that everything you see now is absolutely real." MARI explained with a soft smile, "Maybe if you told me all the things that happened to you, I can point out the differences and prove your memories are wrong. I can prove that nothing in your head actually happened."

Carefully bringing his hand up, she moved his fingers to caress her neck.

"Like for example, you told me that you and BASIL hung me to fake a suicide and cover up my death, right? Well, I can already tell you multiple reasons why that would never make any sense!" MARI exclaimed cheerfully, "For one, I'm still alive and kicking! Can a dead person tell you that she still loves you? SUNNY, I love you!"

Yes, all the time. Cruel words to make him feel more guilty for taking the life of someone who cared so much for him. One of the many words that haunted him wherever he goes.

"Another thing, why would BASIL try to help you fake my suicide in the first place? He's a responsible and smart boy, he'd never do something crazy like that! The first thing he'd do would be to get someone to help! Just like how he helped you when… when you fell down the stairs that day…" MARI felt herself falter a bit at the memory but shook herself out of it as she kept her smile up.

BASIL just wanted to protect him. He wanted to make sure his best friend didn't get in trouble for killing his own sister. Even if it meant at any cost. Trusting him was the worst mistake OMORI could have ever made.

"Third of all, didn't you say that I was the one who fell down the stairs? Wouldn't that mean that there'd be bruises and marks and stuff to show how I died?" MARI pointed out, "Even if you did try to fake it as a suicide, the police autopsy report would disprove it for sure! No one would have believed it was a suicide from the beginning!"

Mom and Dad knew. They knew and they protected him by keeping it all a secret. Mom didn't want to lose the only child she had left, not after losing her daughter. Dad disowned him because of that. Dad was the only one who could see his son as the monster he truly was.

"So you see?" MARI reassured him, "As long as I can explain why it doesn't make any sense, then that means for sure that none of it was real!"

OMORI silently stared at his big sister.

"So won't you please tell me what you've been through?" MARI pleaded, rubbing her face against his hand, "I just want to help…"

Please… Please accept her help. Please let her be the reliable older sister she was supposed to be…

She had to do something to protect him…

She had to do something to make up for the fact that this was all her fault to begin with.

Please, SUNNY… Open your heart and mind for her. It won't even cost your love if you don't want it to...

OMORI frowned as he brought his hand up to pet her head.

She softly smiled back and leaned in against his touch.

He still couldn't feel it. He still couldn't feel anything.

His sister was right here, and he still couldn't even properly feel her. Not her warmth, not her hair… not anything.

It was so frustrating...

It was the cruelest punishment he could think of. Worst than anything else he could imagine. At least he would've been able to feel something in any other punishment… but this...

He knew that he deserved this.

And yet...

...

"The last four years…" OMORI began miserably, "They… they were…"

MARI looked at him expectantly, patiently waiting for him to finish his thought. Her attention was completely on him, and nothing was going to distract her.

"They…" OMORI struggled to get the words out.

Before he could utter another word, someone began loudly knocking on the door.

Both he and MARI turned to look at the noise in bewilderment.

Without even pausing for a single moment, whoever was at the door kept insistently knocking on the door over and over again. The loud banging reverberated throughout the entire house without rest.

Just like this morning.

KEL.

...

MARI grit her teeth as she suddenly stood up from her seat.

Each loud bang against the front door only served to piss her off more and more.

KEL… That idiotic, selfish, attention-seeking little brat!

Why couldn't he just give her a single moment alone with her little brother?!

Was it not enough that he had to take SUNNY away from her this entire day?! Was it that hard to just give them a moment of peace and quiet, to just leave her alone so that she could spend some time with him herself?!

And he had to gall to knock on her house in the middle of this hour at night?! WHY?! WHY DID HE HAVE TO BARGE IN JUST WHEN SHE WAS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT WITH SUNNY?!

WHY COULDN'T HE JUST LEAVE THEM ALONE IN PEACE?!

AAAAAARGH! SHE HATED HIM SO MUCH!

OMORI leaned back in his seat with a startled expression as MARI stomped past him with the cruelest glare adorned on her face.

MARI was about to give that inconsiderate brat a piece of her mind!

Selfish, stupid, lousy, rude, noisy, nosey, inconsiderate BASTARD.

Her unending rage never once lessened as she stomped her way to the door. Each loud knock further accentuated and amplified her anger by the millions.

How dare he steal her time away from her SUNNY?! How dare he intrude on her when all she wanted was to spend some time with her little brother?! Why couldn't he just leave her ALONE?!

She hated him.

SHE HATED HIM.

SHE HATES HATES HATES HATES HATES HIM!


It wasn't KEL who was knocking on their door.

It was BASIL. The town's resident plant efficianando and well-known flower boy.

He breathed heavily as he did his best to catch his breath, his hand already knocking down the door with all his might.

His body was practically running on pure adrenaline at this point.

BASIL had to know. He had to know for sure whether or not the note he read was telling the truth.

With it being after visiting hours, he knew that there would be no way for him to check up on SUNNY at the hospital at this hour of the night.

That left him with only one other option.

MARI would be the only one to know for sure. As the sister of his best friend, she was the only one besides him to visit SUNNY as often as he does. These past few days where BASIL was too busy to visit, he was sure MARI was still able to maintain her visiting schedule.

If SUNNY really was back, MARI would know for sure. He had to ask her, even if it meant knocking on her front door for the entire night until she finally woke up.

Thankfully, it wouldn't come to that.

The door was wrenched open in front of him faster than he was expecting, as a livid MARI came out to glare at him with all the hatred in her heart.

"DAMN IT! I ALREADY LET YOU SPEND THE WHOLE DAY WITH HIM! WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME, YOU MISERABLE BACKSTABBING SUBHUMAN PIECE OF GARBAGE-"

The moment MARI's eyes realized the person in front of her wasn't the recognizable tanned boy she was expecting, her anger halted as she grew confused.

But when she saw a familiar pair of blue eyes glaring back at her, she felt she made a horrible mistake.

The flower boy was unimpressed.

"B-... BASIL…" MARI immediately withered back in fear.

His eyes were practically glowing in the middle of the night, his stare piercing through her soul with silent disapproving judgment.

Barely even startled by her initial screaming, BASIL bitterly muttered back, "MARI."

The older girl felt a pit in her stomach open. A pit filled with nothing but dread, embarrassment, shock, and unadulterated shame.

She couldn't believe she ended up screaming in BASIL's face…

"I'm… I'm so sorry…" MARI whimpered nervously, "I-I thought you were someone else. I didn't mean to…"

Despite being taller than him, MARI couldn't help but feel so small whenever he looked down at her like this.

"I'm so sorry… I'm so sorry... I swear, I didn't mean to shout at you, I'm so so so sorry…" MARI kept whimpering out apologies after apologies.

She curled her arms up against her chest as she looked away to the floor, unable to handle his glare.

"Whatever. I don't care." BASIL said dismissively as he entered the house.

MARI's legs instinctively paced backward to avoid getting close to him.

"I'm sorry… I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry-" MARI couldn't help but continue whimpering.

"Stop mumbling already! I told you that it was fine." BASIL irritatedly commanded her.

MARI recoiled back and felt her mouth immediately close itself shut out of fear.

BASIL briefly looked over MARI before giving an annoyed sigh out of frustration.

She certainly hasn't changed in the slightest since the last six years.

If it was for anything else, BASIL would've preferred not needing to come here to speak with her. Seeing her always tended to bring the worst side out of him.

BASIL slowly allowed his eyes to wander around the house, taking in the atmosphere.

It's been a really long time since he last stepped foot in here… Since the day of the incident, to be precise.

He could remember with a nostalgic fondness all the times he came over here to play with his old friends… The sleepovers they would have together. The movie marathons they would watch at night. The morning cartoons on Saturdays. The treehouse they built and played in together further in the backyard…

If only things could go back to how they used to be...

There was a tense brief moment of silence as MARI snuck a nervous glance up at BASIL to see him studying the house in thought. After a while, she awkwardly offered, "D-Do you want some tea? Or tofu? I can… make something for you since you're here-"

"I'm not here to exchange pleasantries, MARI." BASIL interrupted.

MARI gave a small whimper again as she closed her mouth and eyes shut, keeping herself faced away from him.

Realizing that he was wasting time, BASIL turned to face MARI only to see her cower in fear in front of him.

Ugh… It was always like this, wasn't it? At this rate, this was going to go nowhere fast.

He needed to calm down and speak with her like a proper person. For SUNNY's sake, he needed to set his grudge against her aside for now.

BASIL took a deep breath as he softened his face, forcing himself to stop feeling unpleasant around her.

With a smooth and gentle voice, he looked over MARI again and began, "Look, let's set aside everything between us for now. I promise I didn't come here just to yell at you all night."

Despite his reassurance, MARI was still trembling as she refused to look up at him again.

Taking another deep breath, BASIL relaxed and gently told her, "Look, I'm sorry for intruding. I promise I'll leave as soon as I'm done. Can you please calm down and relax?"

...

It took a while before MARI was able to work up the courage to look up again.

Seeing him staring into her still made her feel anxious, but his softened expression and calm voice at least managed to make it easier to look him in the eye.

With a nervous gulp, she forced herself to give a welcoming smile, "Of course… What did you need from me, BASIL?"

Good start so far. Now it was time to ask what he came here for.

"I came because I wanted to ask…" BASIL began slowly, putting his thoughts into words as he asked her, "I heard that SUNNY was back. Is this true?"

When BASIL ran all the way over to MARI'S house, a part of him had been excited at the idea of learning his best friend was finally awake again. But another part of him still left room for doubt.

If the note ended up being a complete lie, then it would be a cruel prank to pull indeed. He would've come here for nothing and made MARI confused just for simply asking the question.

But the way MARI lit up with a smile in response to that question, the first pure genuine smile BASIL has ever seen her give in the last six years…

"SUNNY! Yes, of course! KEL must have told you!" MARI happily exclaimed.

KEL? Wait, does that mean that KEL was the one who broke into his house just to leave that undecipherable note on his bed?

Well, that certainly sounds like a KEL thing to do…

Wait…!

BASIL felt an excitement grow within him as he asked back, "So it's true then?! Is SUNNY really awake again?!"

MARI could see the look of pure hope and joy in his eyes as she confirmed the news to him. The look reminded her of a simpler time back when BASIL was still just an innocent sweet little kid.

Oh, the look on his face when he finally sees her little brother again will be priceless! BASIL had waited for him to wake up for so long now! He can finally see his best friend again, and MARI will get to watch it all happen with front-row seats!

BASIL… SUNNY's one and only true loyal friend, who never once gave up hope and abandoned him like all the others.

If anyone deserves to reunite with her little brother, it would be him.

"Wait right here! I'll go get him! He'll be so happy to see you again!" MARI told him as she prepared to leave.

At that, BASIL's eyes widened in shock.

"SUNNY is actually here in the house right now?!" He asked in surprise, "He's not at the hospital anymore?!"

"Absolutely! He was discharged just a few days ago!" MARI turned back to announce excitedly, "It's hard to believe, but it's really true! He's finally back with us again!"

With that said, MARI hurriedly left to get to the dining room to bring her little brother over.

BASIL was left in the living room, his mind still reeling over the fact that not only was his best friend awake again, but he was also physically here right now prepared to greet him.

This… This wasn't a dream, right? This was truly real and happening, right?

MARI wasn't going crazy, right? KEL wasn't lying just to pull a tasteless prank on him, right?

Right?!

"Guess whoooo~?" MARI finally called out after waiting for so long.

BASIL felt his breath hitch as he saw MARI pulling his best friend by the arm into the living room.

Although his eye was covered in a white eyepatch, that was the only difference he could see.

Other than that, there was absolutely no mistaking the person in front of him.

With a calm stoic expression, his best friend gave him a small wave.

"Hi, BASIL."

Oh god…

"I was right… I can't believe it…" BASIL muttered softly.

He knew it… He knew he was right.

SUNNY… His dear best friend…

He was finally back.

BASIL couldn't stop the tears from leaking out of his eyes as he smiled happily.

"SUNNY...!"