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I Won't Let Him

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"HEY, GUYS! OVER HERE!"

BASIL stood by nervously as he saw AUBREY shout and wave at a group of kids who were just arriving at the park.

When the group finally noticed the pink-bowed girl, they all started happily waving back to let her know they saw her.

BASIL couldn't help but feel a bit intimidated at the size of the group. Four kids, and two of them seemed much taller and older than he was…

"Come on, BASIL! Let's go meet them! I wanna introduce you!" AUBREY giggled excitedly as she pointed at them.

BASIL nervously fiddled with his hands, "A-Are you sure, AUBREY? I mean… I don't think this is a good idea. I don't want to intrude or do anything to embarrass you. I'm not exactly a social-"

AUBREY quickly interrupted him by pulling on his arm, insisting as she said, "Don't be like that! I promise you that they're all really awesome and friendly! You'll get along great with them! Don't you trust me?"

Trust her? Of course! BASIL felt he could trust AUBREY to do anything!

Trust himself, though? That was what he was having trouble with. There was no way such a large group like that would welcome a weird kid like him. He always tended to keep to himself, and people always considered him weird because of that.

Honestly, he'd prefer just being AUBREY's friend in secret instead. That way, they could still hang out together and he wouldn't do anything to hurt AUBREY's reputation…

AUBREY seemed adamant about introducing him to her group of friends, though… BASIL had no choice but to follow along with her.

As she led him closer to the group, she cheerfully waved out, "Guys! Guys! I want you to meet my new friend, BASIL! I met him in school! He's really smart and cool!"

Smart and cool? Agh, jeez… AUBREY shouldn't need to lie like that. If she went ahead and set up expectations like that, how was he supposed to live up to them?

Still, he did his best to give a friendly smile as he nervously rubbed the back of his neck.

Agh, jeez, he was sweating so much! He really hoped nobody noticed.

The small tan boy of the group greeted him first, "Hi there, BASIL! My name is KELSEY, but everyone calls me KEL! Nice to meet you!"

"Oh, uh… Nice to meet you too." BASIL respectfully nodded back as he reached out for a handshake.

KEL seemingly mistook this as a sign for a high five and gave it a big slap instead, "Aw yeah! New friend acquired! And it's a boy too! Finally, we can outweigh the girls in our group!"

BASIL did his best not to show pain as he pulled his hand behind him and rubbed it soothingly. "Uh… Thanks?"

The next person to introduce themself was a tall boy who seemed to exude charm and confidence, "Hello, BASIL! Nice to meet you! AUBREY likes to talk about you a lot whenever we hang out. I'm HENRY, KEL's older brother."

BASIL felt himself blush when HENRY mentioned that AUBREY apparently talked about him a lot to the others. He didn't realize that AUBREY had been bragging about him before.

Nobody ever brags about knowing BASIL before… This was a first…

"H-Hi. I-I'm not that special, but thank you." BASIL felt the need to downplay himself as he waved at the tall boy.

Agh, jeez… Looking over him once more, BASIL felt incredibly inadequate. HENRY looked so tall and handsome, like he was someone you would expect to be really popular with people. Compared to him, BASIL was just a skinny-looking weirdo…

"Just so you know, we all usually call him HERO!" KEL told him, "So don't get too confused if you hear us call him that instead of HENRY!"

"HERO?" BASIL repeated curiously.

Heh, what a nice nickname. Yeah, he could totally see HENRY being some kind of hero. Wonder what he did to get that nickname in the first place?

After him, a girl who looked slightly older than him bent down to his level and cheerfully greeted, "Hi, BASIL! I love your name! It's so adorable! Thanks so much for being friends with AUBREY, I really appreciate it! My name is MARI, and it's a pleasure to meet you!"

Thanks for being friends with AUBREY? If anything, BASIL should be thankful to AUBREY for being friends with him…

If it wasn't for her reaching out to him first, BASIL honestly would've been stuck all alone…

"I-It's no trouble. AUBREY is a nice girl. I like being friends with her." BASIL responded back politely.

Looking over MARI again, he couldn't help but blush a bit from the sight of her. The older girl seemed to radiate an aura of elegance and maturity. Not only that, but she was really pretty! Maybe not as pretty as AUBREY, in his humble opinion, but he wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that MARI was really popular with boys in her grade.

The last person in the group that BASIL hadn't greeted yet was this small boy his age that was standing from afar.

Instead of greeting him like everyone else, he chose to stand back and give a small awkward wave. No hellos, no introduction, not even bothering to put up a friendly smile.

BASIL felt himself growing nervous again as he went to greet this strange boy. "Uh… Hi. I'm BASIL."

The boy nodded stoically but didn't bother responding with anything else.

"Uh…" BASIL anxiously kept continuing on as he did his best to smile, "Are you AUBREY's friend too? I-It's nice to meet you!"

Once again, the only thing the boy was willing to respond with was a small tiny nod of acknowledgment.

Did… Did BASIL do something wrong to offend this boy? Why was he acting so strange compared to everyone else?

Did this boy think BASIL wasn't worth even speaking to?

It was as if he was already giving BASIL judgment before BASIL had the chance to do anything wrong…

Noticing the awkward tension in the air, MARI was quick to swoop in from behind and push the boy closer, "This is my little brother, SUNNY! Sorry if he doesn't talk much, he's just a bit shy. He has a hard time talking to strangers, but I'm sure once he gets to know you, you'll hear him speak more often!"

As if embarrassed or ashamed of this fact, SUNNY glanced away to the ground.

Oh… SUNNY was shy just like him then? In that case, this made a lot more sense.

He could totally understand the feeling. BASIL has trouble talking to other people too!

"I-I see." BASIL smiled and offered back, "Well, I hope we can be friends then, SUNNY."

Even though the silent boy still refused to speak a word to him, SUNNY turned to look BASIL in the eye before giving a thumbs up in response.

"In SUNNY's language, that means I'm sure we will!" MARI reassured with a giggle.

SUNNY reaffirmed this by nodding.

Haha… Maybe SUNNY and BASIL had a lot more in common than he initially believed.

You know, this might not be so bad. The entire group seemed friendly enough. At least they're actually giving him a chance to hang out with them.

It would be nice to finally have some friends if this all ends up going well…

He was getting sick and tired of being alone. Having more than one friend would be nice.

"Thank you for welcoming me, SUNNY!" BASIL smiled back politely.

SUNNY nodded again.

Little did BASIL know, from here on out, these five would end up being his closest best friends in the whole wide world.

Little did BASIL know that SUNNY would end up becoming the person he would cherish most of all, above everyone else.

He thought so little of them at first. He was sure that such a friendship would end up becoming forgotten sooner than later. He was almost convinced that they would leave him eventually...

But they ended up being more like a family to him than even his own parents…

SUNNY…

It really was great to have you back again.

But…

Where did you go in the first place? What have you brought along with you?

You can see it too, can't you? SOMETHING behind you?

Why do you keep looking at me like that?


A dark room in the middle of the night.

The only light source coming from the moonlight shining through the window.

There was a heavy atmosphere in the air, threatening to suffocate me just from standing here.

In front of me, a young boy with blonde hair was staring back. His blue eyes glowed in the dark.

I wanted to leave. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide.

But when I turned around, SOMETHING was blocking the door behind me, leaving me trapped inside.

Don't worry… Everything is going to be okay… No matter what happens, promise me that we'll always be there for each other… Promise me…

"Where are you going?!" A rough hand pulled me back and forced me forward again.

Staring back at me was the crazed desperate eyes of a boy who could no longer find any sense in the world.

"Stop trying to LEAVE ME!" He shouted, before psychotically chanting, "Stopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopitstopit-"

Look at all of us… These are all of our memories together. They're a little sad now… but we should be happy that they happened at all. Let's make some new memories together, okay?

All of a sudden, he drops dead silent before turning around.

I could hear him sobbing to himself. Whispering something cryptic. Something crazy. Something nonsensical.

"...I don't want to be alone anymore…"

I understood every single word of it.

When… we… used to be friends… Do you remember how I used to take pictures of everyone? Well… AUBREY… She…

Before too long, he turns around again with a broken smile.

"No… You wouldn't leave me. That's not like you, SUNNY!" He told himself, trying so desperately to convince himself, "SUNNY is a good person… SUNNY would never leave me! It's SOMETHING behind you again, isn't it? When SOMETHING killed MARI… When SOMETHING ruined the photo album… I didn't say anything! I didn't want people to think it was you, SUNNY!"

It's hard to remember now, but… I think, at the time, I took photos of what I was most afraid to lose. Flipping through the album, you can still see the good times… Maybe one day, things can go back to how they were before.

The darkness formed around him, shadows rising up out of his feet. SOMETHING protrudes out into the floor as it swallows him halfway up to his waist.

He lets out a scream before pulling out a pair of garden shears, desperately stabbing away at the darkness.

"STAY AWAY! STAY AWAY FROM SUNNY!"

Once again, he suddenly drops dead silent as his arms limp to his sides before staring at me.

Resuming his smile, he reassured me, "I'll protect you no matter what, SUNNY. You can count on me!"

There's no way out of this, is there SUNNY?

I wanted to scream, but my lungs fought to breathe.

I wanted to run, but nausea overwhelmed me.

I wanted to cry, but I couldn't hold steady.

SOMETHING grabbed me with its dark tendrils, bringing me closer to him.

The garden shears shined brightly in the dark from the pale moonlight.

I felt terror coursing through me as his deranged blue eyes stared back at me.

"Don't be scared, SUNNY. I'll save you again!" He kept reassuring me, even as he cried through his broken smile, "I'm scared too… But this is for the best. I'll get rid of SOMETHING once and for all. Everything is going to be okay…!"

This was all my fault, wasn't it?

I'm… I'm so sorry… Will you forgive me? My best friend...

"EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE OKAY!"

BASIL raised the garden shears up in the sky.

Maybe one day, things will go back to the way they were before.

BASIL… My best friend… My closest friend. He was unlucky enough to witness the day I killed MARI. He couldn't handle the truth, and instead chose to do whatever he could to protect me. He thought he was preventing me from getting into trouble… but… he ended up ruining both of our lives instead.

If it hadn't been for me, maybe he would've…

...

I'll see you soon, BASIL.

BASIL loved her and you killed her.

Yeah.


There was a brief moment of shock shared between the two boys as they stared at each other.

BASIL couldn't believe his eyes, tearfully wiping through them with his sleeves as he did his best to wake himself up from this dream that he was surely in the middle of. He must have passed out in his bed after reading the note and was just living out his greatest wish, surely?

OMORI couldn't help but study the flower boy, noticing all the differences that this version of BASIL showed.

He looked… healthier? If that was the correct description to give.

The last time he saw BASIL, the boy used to have such bleak skin and a lanky body. Almost like a twig that could be broken from a simple breeze. His eyes would also give away his constant anxiety. He would often look too tired to even function.

This BASIL… he had none of those traits.

For one, BASIL seemed to have gotten himself a healthy glow. Not as tanned as someone like KEL, but the fact that he goes outside more often than most people was noticeable.

His body was no longer as skinny as it used to be either. While he didn't exactly acquire any obvious muscles, it was clear that this BASIL has been eating a healthy diet and lived an active lifestyle to keep himself in shape.

But most importantly, his eyes…

There was no guilt or paranoia behind them anymore. These weren't the eyes of a murderer. Just a friend who was in disbelief to have him back.

OMORI briefly looked over at MARI, seeing her watch the both of them with an anticipating smile.

In this reality, BASIL never helped him kill MARI by hanging her on the tree. The trauma of her death never affected him.

This was a BASIL who grew up entirely innocent. Untainted by the sins that OMORI committed in his original reality.

It was almost perfect.

With the initial shock finally wearing off, BASIL was able to confirm that everything was real and totally not a dream! The moment he realized this, he had already rushed up to his friend to give him a great big hug.

"SUNNY! I KNEW IT!" BASIL cried out happily, "IKNEWITIKNEWITIKNEWIT! I knew you'd wake up again! I told everyone that you would! I was right all along!"

In a way, it felt like OMORI was reuniting with an old friend he lost years ago. A friend he once had before the incident happened.

To think that he'd ever see BASIL like this… it never really crossed his mind until now.

Even though it wasn't entirely accurate to say this, he felt like it was the only appropriate thing to do.

Hugging his friend back, OMORI gently told him, "It's… it's good to see you again, BASIL."

"I can't believe this is finally happening! I've been waiting for this day for so long!" BASIL hiccupped, holding onto his best friend as tight as he could, "I never gave up hope that you'd come back to us one day… I told everyone that you'd wake up eventually! I knew you would! I- I knew you would…!"

BASIL couldn't do anything to hold back his emotions, crying into OMORI's shirt as the stoic boy calmly comforted him.

MARI stood by the sidelines as she watched on with a silent smile, enjoying the heartwarming reunion for all it was worth.

This was something she had been looking forward to for a long time. To think that she would finally get the chance to witness it first hand after waiting for all these years.

It was every bit as beautiful as she could possibly imagine it to be. The sight of her sweet little brother and his best friend BASIL, hugging the daylights out of each other after waiting for six years…

If only she had BASIL's camera right now. This would be such a wonderful picture to place in the photo album…

The hug looked so warm. She wanted to join them. Would they make space for her if she asked?

MARI quickly silenced that selfish thought, knowing how important it was for BASIL to have his moment alone with her little brother. She shouldn't try to ruin things by getting in between them already.

After a long while of their heartfelt reunion, OMORI finally patted BASIL on the back and awkwardly told him, "Uh, I think that's enough hugging. You're crying on the only shirt I have that fits me right now."

Everything else he owned in this reality was back when he was twelve. Too small to fit into anymore.

BASIL laughed at this, pulling away as he wiped his tears again.

"Sorry… I couldn't hold myself back…" BASIL sniffed, before chuckling, "I'm just… You have no idea how happy I am to see you right now!"

Finally grabbing a hold on himself and drying his dramatic tears away, BASIL quickly began circling around OMORI as he carefully observed his friend from all sides.

OMORI stood still, his eye curiously following BASIL around and around.

"Oh man, I just can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that you're really actually here!" BASIL marveled in joy.

He always figured that he would be the first to witness SUNNY regaining consciousness again during one of his hospital visits. It was all he could ever fantasize and mentally prepare about. No amount of preparation could ever have prepared him for this scenario though.

To think that he'd already be up and about…

If only he begged the manager to let him work regular hours these past two days instead of taking overtime.

Which actually begs the question.

Stopping right in front of his friend, BASIL suddenly asked out in confusion, "But how can this be? When did you even wake up?"

OMORI thought about it for a bit before answering, "The day after my eighteenth birthday, I guess."

"What?! But that was literally just yesterday!" BASIL cried out in shock, "I visited you on your birthday, and you were still in your coma! Actually, hold on-"

BASIL quickly reorganized his brain as he deeply thought about it, hands massaging the temple of his head.

"Let me get this straight, you woke the day after your birthday and got discharged from the hospital… on the same day?!" BASIL asked in pure confusion.

OMORI shrugged.

"But how?! Why?! You suffered through a six-year coma! You weren't even able to lift so much as a finger during that time! You should be going through six years worth of massive muscle atrophy! There's no way the doctors would ever let you leave that early! How are you even walking?! How are you even standing?!" BASIL gestured wildly at OMORI, "You shouldn't even be able to talk right now, and yet here you are standing here in front of my face while holding a conversation with me!"

OMORI slowly blinked as he awkwardly looked side to side.

Unable to come up with a real answer to that, he simply gave another shrug, "I dunno."

MARI quickly stepped in as she explained, "The doctors haven't figured it out either. It made them just as confused as you were. The only thing SUNNY's going through right now is that his entire body is too numb to feel anything anymore. Other than that, there really doesn't seem to be anything wrong with him." Looking towards her little brother with a soft smile, she continued, "And since the doctors couldn't find anything else wrong with him, we both insisted on being let out early to go home. So that's why he's here."

BASIL looked over OMORI with a stupefied expression, still trying to digest the information in his mind.

Eventually, BASIL brought his hands up in surrender, "You know what? I'm not even going to bother questioning this anymore. This is a miracle that doesn't need to be answered! I'm just happy that you're alive and awake again!"

Surely, whatever being that was out there was finally kind enough to give back his best friend after BASIL spent his life dedicated to waiting for him for so long. That was all he needed to know.

Stepping up and gently laying his hands on his best friend's shoulders, BASIL asked, "Just… let me get a good look at your face for a moment."

Goodness, just look at him…

Those six years sleeping in the hospital did not do any wonders for his complexion and body frame.

His skin was so pale… his body looked so lithe and frail…

SUNNY was never exactly the epitome of health and vigor, even before the incident. Being the youngest out of all of them, he had always been treated as the baby of the group. That comes with the overprotectiveness of all of the others watching out for him.

Yet he couldn't deny that despite all this, there was still a beauty at seeing his best friend opening his eyes again.

Er, well… Eye. One eye now.

"How's your eye? Have you adjusted to it yet?" BASIL asked in concern.

He couldn't imagine what it must feel like to suddenly wake up with a missing eye… Hopefully SUNNY didn't freak out when he first realized it was gone.

"Doesn't really bother me anymore, so yeah." OMORI shrugged.

Actually, thinking about it again, OMORI was never bothered by it at all in the first place. Despite the lack of depth perception that came with it, he was rather quick towards adapting to it. Much quicker than he expected.

BASIL carefully observed his friend, pulling a hand up to gently touch the side of his head with the missing eye.

Poor SUNNY… If only that night never happened… If only MARI had just…

No, this wasn't the time to think about that anymore. His best friend was finally back! He should be focused on celebrating right now!

After a while, he pulled away with a wide smile.

"This honestly feels like the greatest day of my life," BASIL stated. Holding one of OMORI's hands, BASIL brought it up as he excitedly told his friend, "I've dreamed about this day for years now! I've practically visited you every day at the hospital because I knew this day would come! And I was completely right! Oh, SUNNY! There are so many things I've wanted to say to you! There are so many things I need to tell you! Oh god, we can finally be together again and spend our lives just like the good old days!"

OMORI watched on as BASIL was practically giddy with joy, bouncing on his feet as he continued rambling on.

"I have to get you caught up on the last six years you've missed out on! I have to tell you everything that's happened! I made so many new friends by myself that you have to get to know! There are so many places I've always wanted to take you to! So much has changed since the last time you were awake and I can't wait to see your first time reactions after I show you every single-"

BASIL then proceeded to snore as he fell to sleep on the spot, mid-sentence.

OMORI blinked confusedly, watching BASIL seemingly pass out on his feet in front of him and snoring like an Olympic runner going through sudden narcolepsy during a world record run.

"Uh…" he mumbled, before giving a questioning look over at MARI.

MARI could only offer her own surprised expression with a confused shrug.

After a while, MARI gently whispered, "Should we wake him or set him down on the couch or something? I don't want him to fall over…"

It was honestly impressive to see BASIL somehow maintaining balance while asleep like this. A part of OMORI was curious to let it play out just to see how long BASIL would last upright.

Deciding to take the matter into his own hands though, OMORI went to poke the sleeping flower boy on the cheek, "BASIL? Hello?"

BASIL did not respond.

Raising an eyebrow, OMORI proceeded to choose a rougher approach by grabbing onto BASIL's cheeks and slowly smushing his face until he did respond.

Eventually, the flower boy was startled awake as he blearily opened his eyes in surprise.

Slowly realizing his surroundings, BASIL curiously stared at OMORI as his smushed face asked, "Whth thare you thoing?"

"Making BASIL pancakes for breakfast." OMORI told him casually, "Good morning, by the way. Did you sleep well last night?"

Pulling OMORI's hands off of him, BASIL took a moment to blink his eyes clear and rub his face, "Sorry about that… Did I seriously just fall asleep while I was in the middle of talking?"

"On your feet with perfect balance too," OMORI mentioned.

Giving a quick yawn and shaking his head clear, BASIL gave an embarrassing smile, "Haha, I'm so sorry for that! Today has been a long day, and I haven't had the chance to rest at all. I was actually about to hit the hay before I got that note from KEL telling me that you were back! I've been running on fumes up until now."

"Think you'll be alright?" OMORI asked.

"I should be fine, I think. Just on the brink of passing out at any moment. No big deal." BASIL answered cheerfully.

That was certainly not a typical BASIL response.

Giving a glance up at the clock, OMORI noted, "It is getting late. If you're tired, you should head home to rest."

BASIL quickly shook his head at this as he asked, "Are you kidding me?! There's no way I can go home now, not after knowing my best friend is back again! You've been in that coma for six years, SUNNY! I want to spend time together with you as much as I can!"

"It's not like I'm going anywhere." OMORI reminded him, "Besides, you'll end in an eight-hour coma yourself if we talk any longer."

BASIL made a face similar to that of a kicked puppy whining in pain, clearly disappointed at the prospects of leaving so soon right after reuniting with him. It was almost comical to look at.

It went as soon as it came though, as BASIL practically lit up with what he must've thought was the most brilliant idea in the history books.

"How about I stay here for the night?! Like a sleepover!" BASIL suggested with a grin.

"W-Wait, what?" MARI spoke up with a surprised look, "A s-sleepover?"

"Yeah! A sleepover!" BASIL turned to her excitedly, "Just like the ones we always used to have back when we were kids! I can bring over my old sleeping bag and we can all hang out in the living room, just like the good old days!"

"You… You w-want to sleep over? H-Here? T-Tonight?" MARI asked politely, even as her hair began to fray and her fingers became twitchy as she became nervous at the idea.

"OH!" BASIL slapped himself as another seemingly amazing idea popped into his head, "We can go invite everyone else to join us! It's still not too late, I can go out and grab KEL and AUBREY! Let everyone know that you're back if they didn't know already and we can all spend time together as a group again! It'll be amazing!"

If MARI was able to somehow grow paler than she already was, she definitely would have done so right then and there.

"I-Invite everyone? KEL? AUBREY? H-Here?!" MARI squeaked out in silent horror.

MARI couldn't possibly handle something like that! It was way too soon! She never agreed to anything like this!

How can she face KEL and AUBREY like this? She still hasn't gotten over what they did to her little brother, and now she was expected to just sit still and stay silent as BASIL brought everyone over to her house?!

What could she even say to stop this? BASIL looks so happy and excited, there was no possible way MARI could say no to him while he's like this!

Does she even get the right to have a say in this…?

What did SUNNY think? Did he want to have a sleepover too? If… If he agrees with BASIL, then there's no way she would be able to stop both of them…

She'd… She'd have to…

She can't… SHE CAN'T!

But… She can't say no either!

MARI was starting to become AFRAID.

BASIL kept rambling on about his sleepover idea, completely oblivious to the mental breakdown happening inside MARI's mind.

Although MARI did her best to keep up her happy appearance, OMORI was able to notice the way his sister was slowly starting to grow uncomfortable as the conversation continued on. She was practically shaking at this point, almost to the point of getting stressed out.

Sigh.

OMORI calmly walked up to BASIL before steadily shaking the overexcited yet also sleep-deprived flower boy until OMORI caught his attention.

Noticing his best friend shaking him by the shoulder, BASIL quickly stopped himself before turning to him, "SUNNY? What is it?"

"BASIL, I'm too tired tonight. I don't think I can handle a sleepover with everyone right now." OMORI made up a believable excuse, hoping that BASIL would get the hint. "Can we put that idea on hold for later?"

The idea of a sleepover seemed efficient if he was being honest. Having everyone in the same room would allow OMORI the chance to talk to each of them while also giving him a chance to learn more about this reality.

But not at the expense of his sister. She was clearly not going to be willing, not yet. OMORI would need to warm her up to the idea on his own time after he finally learns the big picture. Any earlier will be a waste of time.

The flower boy gave him a look of surprise as his eyes looked him up and down.

Before too long, BASIL was able to get a grip on his emotions as he calmed down considerably. Rubbing his neck with an embarrassed blush, he told his friend, "Oh, r-right! I'm sorry, I was getting ahead of myself for a minute there, wasn't I?"

"Admittedly." OMORI nodded stoically, "I get that you're happy to see me again, but reign yourself back a bit."

"Right, right!" BASIL laughed, feeling a bit shameful of his recent behavior. "Sorry again!"

MARI stared at her little brother in shock, somehow already coming in to save the day even though she didn't say or do anything.

Did he somehow notice that she was freaking out? Has he always been this attentive?

MARI felt herself give a small sigh of relief, no longer worried about having to deal with KEL and AUBREY invading her home anymore.

Still… A part of her felt just a bit sad for some reason.

Maybe she just felt ashamed for making SUNNY step in and try to protect her at the expense of turning away all of his friends. He didn't have to worry about her like that.

She felt so worthless right now. All she ever does is make SUNNY worry about her. What kind of reliable big sister does that to her own brother?

A monster.

She hissed a bit from the return of the sudden ringing in her ears, followed by a huge spike of pain in her head.

Before she could make a big deal about it, it was already gone before her brother and BASIL could notice.

This has been happening way too often, recently. Was something wrong with her? Maybe she should get that checked out? Something to remind herself later.

Although BASIL was apprehensive, he still didn't want to give up so easily. His dearest best friend was in his grasp for the first time in six long years! There was no way BASIL was going to lose out on the chance to spend time with him as soon as possible! So instead, he decided to suggest a compromise.

"In that case, let's hang out tomorrow!" BASIL told him cheerfully, "This is perfect timing actually! I just so happen to have a day off from work tomorrow, meaning I'll have plenty of time to spend the whole day with you!"

MARI looked up at BASIL again in surprise.

"Wait… tomorrow?"

But… But that was so soon!

She was barely able to spend any time with her brother today…

Now BASIL wanted to take him away from her for another day…?

"We can go all over the town! I can show you everything that's changed since the last time you were here!" BASIL began listing off, "They finally finished construction on the town a few years ago, so FARAWAY is a whole lot bigger than it used to be! There are tons of different shops that have opened up since then! We can even try to get KEL and AUBREY to join us and hang out as a group!" Then he suddenly gasped out before squealing in excitement, "I know that KEL already knows since he left me that note, but AUBREY doesn't know you're back yet! We literally just had a conversation tonight talking about you, wondering if you were ever going to wake up again! Oh my goodness, I can't wait to see her reaction when she finally sees you again- THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING!"

OMORI couldn't help but stare in awe at how jovial and cheerful his old friend was. This bundle of energy was practically nothing like the BASIL he knew back in his original reality.

Without the mental scars of that night holding him back, it seemed as if the BASIL here managed to grow up just fine to be a healthy young functioning member of society.

It was mind-blowing to think about, to be honest. The last time he saw his version of BASIL, that boy was a walking bomb of anxiety that was always close to exploding the moment his limit was broken. Having a pair of garden shears stabbed into his right eye was the result of that bomb exploding in his face.

Seeing him in this new alternate light, where his life was never ruined because of OMORI…

It was interesting, to say the least.

The offer to join him and hang out tomorrow was tantalizing. Both in the sense that it coincided with his plans to learn more about this reality, and to also get to know this new BASIL to see just how much different he was.

But…

Looking over at MARI once more while BASIL was busy talking, he could see her staring off in the distance with a depressed frown.

If he had to hazard a guess… MARI was disappointed at the fact that OMORI might have to leave her alone again for another day.

She had already spent the entirety of this day waiting for him to come back home after going off to adventure with KEL. She spent all that time picking out toys and games for them to play with, and they weren't even able to spend enough time to play more than one.

OMORI had mixed opinions on this right now… The decision was clearly laid out on the table for him, and it was up to him to choose.

Does he leave MARI to wait another day by herself so that he could go out and spend time with BASIL, learning more about her condition and this reality from BASIL's perspective? Or does he decline the offer in order to stay at home with MARI so that she could be happy with his company?

Both outcomes have their own flaws and benefits. Going out with BASIL, he could ask him questions as to how he spent the last six years in this reality ever since the incident on the stairs. He could learn more as to how he was like without the death of MARI hanging over him, as well as understand what BASIL's impressions on MARI's condition were. There was also the chance of encountering AUBREY as well, if she was going to be in town. It seemed like BASIL and AUBREY had been keeping contact with each other on friendly terms, something completely different from the original reality. He could kill two birds with one stone and learn both of their perspectives in a single day.

However, he could also choose to stay at home with MARI. Having more time to spend with MARI would make her happy, and she should hopefully be willing to share information about the past six years herself. Learning about her perspective of the last six years couldn't hurt, even if most of those memories end up being repressed for one reason or another. With him here, he could even try to coax them all to come out, bit by bit, in order to help her learn and accept the truth and try to get her to forgive herself. And if not that, maybe he could even somehow convince her to open up more to leave the house and reconnect with all their old friends again.

Not only that, but… She won't have to suffer another day alone. If anyone could understand her, it would be him.

It was a hard choice to make, however. OMORI didn't know which was more worth his time…

MARI… She looked so sad.

Real or not… Dead or alive… She was still his sister. He couldn't bear the thought of hurting her.

Maybe it would be better to change his plans for now and decline BASIL's offer. If only to give her some temporary peace of mind.

OMORI went ahead to try to give his answer, only to have MARI beat him to the punch.

"I think that's a great idea, BASIL." MARI exclaimed with a fake smile.

OMORI turned to her in surprise.

"It seems to me that you've had this whole thing planned out for a long time while you were waiting for SUNNY to come back." MARI giggled, "Just goes to show how much SUNNY means to you."

MARI wanted SUNNY to stay with her. She didn't want him to go again, not so soon. She wasn't even able to spend any time with him today as it is.

But she knew that holding him back from reuniting with BASIL would be selfish of her. BASIL spent just as much time waiting for SUNNY to come back as she did. He had every right to want to spend time with her little brother.

Besides… If it hadn't been for her, SUNNY would have never been in a coma to begin with. BASIL had more of a right to be with SUNNY than… than she ever could.

She knew that SUNNY wanted to spend time with BASIL too. SUNNY would never say no to a sleepover, not when it meant having all of his friends over. SUNNY loved all of his friends so much, after all. He always wanted to spend as much time as possible with them back before. The only reason why he said no now was probably because he was worried about her. If not for her, she was sure SUNNY would be all in for a sleepover party just like the old times.

He should never have to do anything he doesn't want to do because of her. Never.

Never ever ever.

Waiting for another day wouldn't hurt.

She waited all this time, anyway. Six entire years.

She could wait for just... another day.

For the sake of her little brother and his friends.

Turning to her little brother, she gave him a pleasant smile that he could tell didn't reach her eyes, "How about it, SUNNY? Don't you want to play with BASIL tomorrow? He hasn't seen you in a long time. It'll be a great way to catch up with him."

"Oh please! Please please please!" BASIL pleaded, "I promise I'll go home to bed if you promise we can hang out tomorrow! I won't be able to sleep comfortably otherwise!"

OMORI looked between the two of them in bewilderment. MARI was giving him an encouraging smile, while BASIL was practically begging him with puppy dog eyes.

After a while, OMORI gave a small sigh as he gave in to the peer pressure and responded back, "Alright. Sure."

He wasn't quite sure what MARI was trying to do here. It seemed to almost go against what she wanted...

If MARI was going to insist though, OMORI won't go against it. If MARI suggests he spend time with BASIL instead, then that means she has to be okay with the idea. Right?

With a clap of his hands, BASIL gave a hearty cheer, "YES! I can't wait for tomorrow morning!"

BASIL has been waiting for this day his whole life! Finally, a chance to be with SUNNY again! Tomorrow was going to be the greatest day ever!

All the things he's ever wanted to do with SUNNY, all the places he wanted to visit, all the people he had wanted SUNNY to meet-

It was going to be so much fun!

With him back in all of their lives again, pretty soon the entire friend group will reunite and be back again too! All six of them, hanging out together, having picnics just like the good old days!

It almost feels like everything was going back to the way they were before!

He knew this would happen once SUNNY came back! He knew it, he absolutely knew it!

Elated at the new plans to spend time with his dear best friend again, BASIL couldn't help but glomp the stoic boy into another hug.

"SUNNY… It's so good to see you again!" BASIL squeaked out as he held back another round of tears, "I've missed you so much!"

OMORI patted the flower boy's back, "I know."


The two siblings watched together as BASIL left the house by slowly walking backward into the front yard, waving excitedly all the while.

"I promise I'll come by to pick you up tomorrow morning! I'll see you then, okay?" BASIL called out.

OMORI nodded back with a small thumbs up.

Satisfied with the gesture, BASIL began walking back to his own home with a spring in his step and humming a dainty tune.

When the excitement was all over, MARI let loose a massive sigh of relief as she closed the door shut.

Well, that was certainly intense. She was honestly glad that it was finally done with.

Turning around to face her little brother with a smile, she asked, "Seeing BASIL again must have been fun, wasn't it? I didn't expect to see him showing up tonight all of a sudden."

But her little brother didn't respond, seemingly lost in his own thoughts again with the same serious expression as before.

She's not sure if she'll ever get used to that. It always seems like SUNNY has been a lot more serious lately.

Whatever happened to the cute dazed-off look he always did whenever he was busy daydreaming? What was going on through his mind to make him have such a concentrated face nowadays?

"SUNNY?" MARI gently called out in concern, gently laying an arm on his shoulder, "Is something wrong?"

Noticing his sister trying to get his attention, OMORI quickly cleared his head before turning to her, "Sorry. I was just thinking about something."

Tilting her head, she asked curiously, "Penny for your thoughts? You were making a really intense face for a second there."

Was he?

Huh. OMORI never really noticed, to be honest.

Glancing at his sister, OMORI decided to ask something that was on his mind ever since BASIL arrived, "You treat BASIL a lot different than everyone else. When KEL came over this morning, it was almost like you couldn't stand the thought of him coming over to our house." Looking at the door, he brought up, "But with BASIL, you were still friendly towards him."

MARI blinked in surprise at this.

"Well… Of course." MARI answered simply, "KEL and the others all abandoned you. BASIL was the only one who ever still kept visiting you. Waiting for you. He's… He's our friend."

"It doesn't seem like BASIL hates everyone else though. It looks like he's still friends with KEL and the others." Turning back to her, he asked, "Didn't you say that he invited KEL and AUBREY together to visit me on my birthday?"

MARI was stunned into complete silence.

She… How was she supposed to respond to that?

"They were all together, right?" OMORI asked, "Did you not join them?"

MARI quickly glanced away to look up at the clock, she suddenly exclaimed, "Oh, look at that. Has it really gotten this late?" Turning back with a pleasant smile, she told him, "We should hurry and get to bed. Don't want to stay up too late. The doctors told me that you still need plenty of sleep to recover, after all."

With that, she hurriedly made her way to the kitchen to avoid the conversation.

OMORI was left behind with his thoughts once more.

Once again, she chose to run away. Every time OMORI tried to get into the heart of the matter about her problem with their friends, that always seemed to be her default response.

Does she even realize that she was doing it, or was it just some sort of defense mechanism that she wasn't even aware of?

Sigh…

Looks like they weren't going to stay up all night to play games like she promised after all. Pity.

Well, whatever. This goes in his favor anyway.

The sooner he gets back into HEADSPACE with MARI, then all the better.

OMORI could do a lot more in there to help figure out what was wrong with his sister than he ever could in the real world.

Real world? Hm.


After MARI finished cleaning up their dirty dishes, the two siblings went upstairs back to their rooms to prepare to end the night.

The White Egret Orchid remained in the same spot as it was last time, looking as healthy as ever.

There was a bit of relief at seeing his bed again. After spending the entire day hanging out with KEL, playing chess with MARI, and reuniting with BASIL... he was honestly pretty tired. Sleep will probably hit him like a truck the moment he laid down and closed his eyes, letting the comfort of the mattress envelop him.

With that in mind, OMORI brought his body over to his bed and plopped down, expecting for the mattress to work its magic.

Oh, right.

Realizing that his entire body was still too numb to feel anything, he let out a disappointed sigh.

That was pretty annoying. He'll never get used to that, will he?

Just as he readjusted himself to get comfortable (or as comfortable as he possibly could be in his state), OMORI felt the presence of someone else laying down right next to him.

Turning to his side, he saw MARI looking at him with an embarrassed smile again, just like the night before.

"You want to sleep together again?" OMORI asked.

"Y-Yeah…" MARI nodded awkwardly, "Is… Is it okay? I know I should probably sleep in my own bed, but… I don't know if I can sleep well without you in my arms."

OMORI could understand that.

It used to be hard for him to fall asleep too, back when MARI was gone. The nightmares and hallucinations sometimes made it unbearable for him. If it wasn't for WHITE SPACE, he would have never been able to function properly anymore.

Facing the ceiling, he scooched over to the side to allow his sister more space, "I don't mind. You don't even have to ask next time if you want to do it again."

Whatever helps makes her more comfortable.

MARI smiled appreciatively as she snuggled up closer to her little brother, hugging him tightly against her chest.

The sound of her heartbeat pulsed loudly next to his ear again.

It made such a beautiful rhythm. He could stay here and listen to it forever if he could help it.

They stayed like that together for a while, enjoying each other's presence.

Before OMORI had the chance to nod off though, MARI decided to call out to him, "Hey, SUNNY?"

"Yeah?" He glanced at her, keeping his eye open.

"Right before BASIL came in and interrupted us, we were still talking about something important." MARI brought up the earlier conversation in the dining room, "I… I asked you if you could tell me more about what you experienced in your coma. You were about to tell me something, weren't you?"

The last four years. Four years of living life without her. Four years of having to deal with the guilt and trauma of what he did to her. The four selfish years where he kept himself secluded in his room, unable to accept the truth and responsibility of it all as all of their friends suffered over what he did.

What exactly was he planning on telling her? How would he go about explaining everything that happened in his reality?

Would it even help her get over the guilt she had in this reality? Would anything he said even matter?

"The last four years…" OMORI continued where he left off before, "Honestly, they don't matter to me anymore."

He'd rather just focus everything he could on helping MARI forgive herself.

Nothing else mattered.

Especially not him.

"Oh…" MARI mumbled sadly.

MARI was only left with disappointment from that answer. She had hoped that she had finally been able to convince her SUNNY to open up a bit for her. She was completely ready to do everything she could to help make him realize that nothing he had experienced was real.

It doesn't seem like he was ready to talk about it yet...

She won't try to push him if he doesn't want to tell her yet. This was fine. Stuff like this took time.

However long it took, she was willing to be patient and wait for him to come to her.

Until then, she'll be right by his side to support him. No matter what.

Making sure that SUNNY was happy was all that mattered to her.

Nothing else mattered.

Especially not her.

Hugging her little brother tighter, she whispered out to him, "I'm right here, SUNNY. I'm alive. I'm alive and I still love you. I hope you remember that."

OMORI... didn't know how to respond to something like that.

"Good night, MARI."

"...Good night…"

It wasn't long before the two of them drifted off to sleep.

The White Egret Orchid bounced a bit in its vase as a draft of wind flew by.