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A story from 2ch of second chances.
This is a story that may run contrary to your expectations.
After all, you would probably believe that, were one sent back to the age of ten with their memories up to twenty, they would make good use of that knowledge, yes?
With all the lessons and reflection of the first go, it should be that the second would go much better.
But when it came to my experience, well, it was quite the opposite.
Thinking on it now, I did a truly foolish thing. I really did.
When I realized that my life had been rewinded a decade, I thought, "I don't need this!"
The truth is, I was satisfied with my life.
I had a cute girlfriend, was blessed with many friends, made it into a decent university, and had a good future ahead of me.
I felt like the chance to start life over should have been granted to someone who was a bit more despairing about their life.
And so I thought of it as nothing but an inconvenience.
So my idea was to exactly replicate everything I had done in my first life in the second.
Even though I knew the mistakes I'd make, I decided I'd just repeat them in the exact same way.
Truly, then, I would make the ten-year rewind meaningless.
I knew in my mind all the accidents and calamities, the crises and changes to come, but I kept my mouth shut.
I would perfectly imitate the first time through my life.
My second shot at life began right at Christmas when I was ten.
After realizing that I'd been sent back, I noticed a paper bag with a Super Nintendo by my bedside.
I had desperately wanted one at the time.
The bag had a game in it as well.
To borrow a term from said game, my life had been given a New Game Plus.
I wiped the condensation off the foggy window with a pajama sleeve.
It was still dim outside, but I had an unbroken view of the snow-covered town.
It should have been rather cold, but my young body was warm.
As I rummaged through the paper bag, it woke up my little sister sleeping on the bottom bunk.
She drowsily turned to a teddy bear beside the bed and shouted "Yaaay!" with a slight delay.
I climbed down the ladder and sat down on my sister's bunk.
As she sat entranced by her teddy bear, I said to her "Hey."
"Your brother's come back from ten years in the future."
Still sleepy, she laughed "Welcome back!"
I liked that response and said "It's good to be back," patting her head.
She looked at me with a face full of wonder.
A time traveler, huh?
Wanting to open my heart to someone about the plan I'd devised, I said this to the seven-year-old sister before me.
"I know the mistakes I'm going to make, and I know what it is I should really do.
Starting right now, I could be a prodigy or a prophet.
But I don't want to change a thing.
It'll be fine by me if I can just live the same life as before."
She stared absent-mindedly at me, holding her teddy bear.
"I don't get it," she replied honestly.
I made no compromises in my recreation of the first time 'round.
Resisting the urge to mock the people around me, I intentionally met them and let the same events unfold.
I did a very good job, if I do say so myself.
But as they say, something as small as the flapping of a butterfly's wings can bring drastic changes.
Five years into the second round, my life began to veer off from the path of the first significantly.
I'm not sure where to begin explaining it, but every little thing ended up different.
In a word, I was ruined. Far worse off than one would believe given my first life.
I'll explain the reason for this later, but to give some examples:
I was bullied by my best friend from my first life.
I was rejected by my girlfriend from my first life.
And I failed the exam for the high school I attended in my first life.
A vicious cycle had created itself seemingly out of thin air.
The butterfly effect is to be feared.
For reasons such as these, I became a very gloomy individual in high school.
Failing to enter my choice of high school and having to pick a rubbish one instead, my misanthropy accelerated.
I was the epitome of a loner.
As such, I barely even remember my second high school years. I even tossed out the yearbook.
It was a painful time. Even field trips were agonizing.
But I do have one memory that's not so bad.
In the winter of my second year, there was a terrible snowstorm.
I was freezing and waiting for the bus.
Just then, I noticed a girl standing not too far away, also waiting for the bus, who had a familiar face.
Indeed, it was a face I couldn't forget.
She was the girl who had been my girlfriend in my first life.
We started dating at fifteen and were together ever since.
But she had readily rejected me the second time.
In fact, I have a feeling that began the vicious cycle.
She didn't seem to notice me.
Or perhaps more likely, she'd forgotten about me long ago.
Even so, the girl shivering in the cold seemed so lonely - like she needed someone warm beside her.
Of course, this was just me fantasizing.
But it made me happy to think that I might be needed by someone.
I made the mistake of believing that this girl needed me after all.
I had lost a lot of enthusiasm for life, but I wanted to get my happy days back.
So I studied hard to go to the same university as her.
Stretching the limits of my knowledge, I was able to enter the univeristy I went to in my first life.
It didn't feel bad. It felt like a miracle, in fact.
That's good. Going good so far.
I looked around for her after the entrance ceremony and eventually spotted her.
But this is where the problems began.
I felt my temperature plummet.
My former girlfriend was walking, arms linked, with a man I didn't know.
And if it were only that, perhaps I would have been able to handle it.
But when I say I didn't know him, perhaps that gives the wrong idea.
Because he was the spitting image of myself from my first life.
The man walking with my former girlfriend was identical to the first me in every way I could see.
His height, his actions, his voice, his speech, his expressions. Every single thing.
"Doppelganger" came to mind.
Comparing the second me with the first, I was about four centimeters shorter, ten kilograms lighter, and - no contest - much gloomier-looking.
And I felt that, had been I able to exactly recreate my first life, I would have become the man before my eyes.
It was now no wonder why I hadn't been able to date her.
Because the second time, I had a replacement.
This is gonna be a good thread.
I hadn't felt such animosity for someone in a long time.
"Hey, that's not right! That's MY role!"
I was thinking thoughts that most would find crazy.
The months to follow were full of surprises.
For my other self was having the exact same college life as I had.
When autumn came, something snapped in my head.
By this time, I had become quite a shut-in.
I rarely went to university, drank all the day, didn't eat well, and slept a lot.
I figured I'd go mad at this rate.
In everything, I was comparing myself to my doppelganger.
In this way, I became unable to stand even things that were perfectly ordinary before.
Strangely enough, I was calm.
I consented to the fact that I wasn't the right man for her, and that I couldn't beat my clone.
But the thoughts I had to reach this conclusion were not entirely sane.
In short, I considered murdering the man who served as my double.
Then, of course, she would be lonely again and move toward me.
Those driven into a corner really don't tend to have good thoughts. Their outlook is too narrow.
So my plan to take back my girlfriend began.
Or to put it more bluntly, my plan to murder my doppelganger.
I would periodically stalk the man, which actually helped make me less of a shut-in.
Ironically, my personality brightened after getting the idea to murder him.
My sister pointed out how I had changed, but...
...Ah, I completely forgot to talk about my sister.
And how she'd undergone changes as drastic as my own.
If he meets the doppelganger, will he die...?
Originally, my sister was a lively girl who loved exercise and sunlight, and would sunbathe all year.
But the second time around, perhaps with my influence, she became a pale girl with glasses who preferred reading and shade.
It would have seemed like a joke to anyone who knew about the first time.
With both brother and sister gloomy, we would be up late every night.
Our parents, perhaps losing confidence, became quite disagreeable people too.
The influence of a single person is certainly not to be sneezed at.
My sister and I used to be amazingly friendly, and we went everywhere together until I met my girlfriend.
But the second time, we wouldn't really talk or even look at each other.
I wondered if my sister hated me.
On the rare occasion she did open her mouth, it was usually an insult.
Like "Your face looks like crap." Well, that's rude.
It really was a saddening thing.
I imagine a father hated by her daughter might feel the same way.
However, my sister came to my apartment alone one night, as I was gleefully plotting for my doppelganger murder project.
That shouldn't have to be so surprising, I lamented. She loved me.
The first snow of the season was falling and it was quite cold, so I reluctantly turned on the heater.
As the room was filled with a nostalgic smell of lamp oil, the doorbell rang.
My sister, in only a uniform with a cardigan over it, let out a white breath and spoke, not looking at me.
"Let me stay here for a little while."
She never put it this way herself, but she was running away from home.
"Come on, that's not what I'd expect from you," I thought.
Even if things weren't happy at home, she didn't seem the kind to do something as pointless as running away.
"How did you get here, anyway?", I asked.
She replied typically, "Does that matter?"
"Dirty room," she said. "And your taste sucks."
"Leave if you don't like it," I replied just as typically.
My first sister would have cleaned it up with a bitter smile and cooked up some tasty food for us both.
My sister didn't really want to come to my place.
But she didn't have many friends, so this was her only option.
Winter vacation hadn't started yet, so I figured she wouldn't stay long.
Even so, I wondered if I could get her to leave sooner.
But I didn't have the guts to be harsh with her.
The second time around, I was an utter coward.
And my second-time sister was pretty scary to boot.
And so we began living together, in a very strained kind of way.
At about eight the next morning, my sister shook me awake.
I was startled. She told me "Take me to the library."
After a brief pause, she added "Right now."
I slept much more in my second life, so if I didn't get ten hours of sleep, I was a mess.
Perhaps it's because my time awake was so harsh.
Even so, and even though she was a runaway and skipping school, I wasn't feeling so bad being woken up by a girl.
I guess that's rather human.
My sister's first words once in the car were "Stinks like tobacco."
Looking in the back seat, her fourth was "Dirty."
"Tells you a lot about the owner" was the implication. She was something, alright.
The sky was cloudy and everything was foggy.
My sister continued to complain on the way to the library.
Saying that my coat she'd borrowed smelled like cigarettes too, and that wasn't I going to play some music or something?
I continued to ignore her, and she hit me with a tissue box.
"Listen to what people say," she said. You're right about that.
Once at the library, she spent long periods deliberating over what books to choose.
I'd ask "Done yet?" and she'd hit me with a book. "No talking in the library!"
So that was my second-time sister in a nutshell, I suppose.
My sister seemed set to spend the whole day reading in my room.
When I went to leave, she looked up and asked "You're going to school, big bro?"
I couldn't very well say "I'm going to stalk this guy I want to murder so I can learn his habits," so I said "Yeah, that. I'll be back at seven."
I wanted to settle this problem within the year.
I didn't even want to imagine my doppelganger spending Christmas and New Year's with my old girlfriend.
By then, I'd already decided on how I would murder my doppelganger.
Knowing his behavior rather well, I was ready even for a significant change in his actions.
But I continued to sluggishly tail him, perhaps because I was unable to make up my mind.
In short, I was waiting for him to show me his faults.
I wanted to convince myself that he was someone who deserved to die.
I needed just the slightest reason to kill him.
Worryingly for me, after months of watching, he showed nothing of the sort.
Really, I was probably the one who deserved to die.
According to a book I took out from the library when I went with my sister, doppelgangers have the following characteristics.
- They don't talk to anyone around them.
- They appear in similar places as to the original.
- If the original meets the doppelganger, they will die, and the doppelganger will become the original.
As you can tell from a little bit of thinking, these all applied not to him, but to me.
I had no friends and rarely talked to anyone.
We went to the same university, so we appeared in similar places.
If one of us had to die, it'd be him (because I'd kill him).
And he appeared in every way like me from my first life.
Given this, was I the copy?
Speaking of having no friends, in my first life, I had - as a humble estimate - about two hundred people I could have a friendly chat with.
At the time, I saw them all as having their varying good parts.
But now, looking at them from a bit of a distance, they all seemed like good-for-nothings.
You see those whom you have relationships with as good people, and those you don't as bad people.
Strangely enough, that idea comforted me.
Hah. So the first me wasn't so blessed in everything after all, I thought.
Miserable as it was, I found joy in that.
I was very intrigued by how differently my former friends would look at me this time.
People I used to think of as kind were a big ball of ego.
People I used to think of as humble were attention-seekers.
However, I'm just speculating, but I don't think it was necessarily wrong of me to feel that they were good people in my first life.
I wonder, if you put someone in front of a truly superb person, can they temporarily become better people by unconscious influence?
Perhaps when they stood before me in my first life, they were truly good people.
But in front of people like me now, they'd feel less pressure and revert to trash.
I'm not too sure what point I'm trying to make.
Perhaps that if you feel someone isn't a good person, you carry some degree of responsibility for that.
Of course, even if you can't form relationships yourself, there are those who seem to acquire more and more charm.
Naturally, I'm thinking of the situation with my former girlfriend.
The more unattainable some things are, the more you want them.
I believe that in my second life, I came to love her more than I had the first time.
Yes, it wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to call it worshipping.
This time - THIS time, I wanted a chance to start my life over.
That's what I thought. This time I would do it right.
I sank into my bed, closed my eyes, and prayed another night.
Prayed that when I woke up, I'd get my third chance.
Now then. My sister and I spent five days together after she fled home.
As expected, she was started to become a bother, so I worked up the courage to ask "When are you going to get out of here?"
She replied, "You get out, big bro." Geez, my bad.
That same day, I got a call from our mother.
She asked if my sister had come by, and I told the truth about her staying over for five days.
When I told my sister about the call, she just said "Huh."
Before long, she started getting her things together.
She seemed unusually understanding in this regard.
I saw her off to the bus terminal.
The snow was really bad, and the road wasn't well-lit, so I was worried about my sister going alone.
We walked at a very strange distance from each other that I'd be hesitant to call "together."
As ever, we said nothing to each other.
Were this my first life, we would have been holding hands.
My sister seemed very bitter toward me.
But I guess I could understand her hating me so much.
Besides, as someone who was planning to kill a man, I couldn't be worrying about what every single person thought of me.
The bus terminal was wholly decrepit.
The walls and floors were blackening in spots, the lights were yellowed, the cushions were torn open, and drab shutters were pulled down on all the shops.
The few people waiting for the bus were dead silent.
With all the gloom about, it almost felt like everyone here was trudging back home after having run away.
"Dirty place," my sister said. "Like your room."
My sister and I sat about 40 centimeters apart and drank cocoa from a vending machine as we waited.
It was a terrible place. I wondered if a ride on the buses here would take you into the 1980s or something.
Well, if they really did, I probably would have gotten on.
When I was done with my cocoa, my sister reached over to grab it, stacked my cup with hers, and went to throw them away.
I watched her briskly walk from behind.
She seemed a lot less dependable than my first sister.
Suddenly, I felt like I'd done something absolutely terrible to my sister.
Had I even considered that she was a sixteen-year-old girl who ran away from home?
Should I, in fact, have lied to our mother?
She didn't seem like the kind to run away from home in the first place.
And she had come to me, after all.
Perhaps I should have at least sheltered her until she was ready to go back?
Just as my sister was boarding the bus, I said "Hey."
"If you want to run away again, feel free to come over."
Even this took a lot of courage for me to say.
I was a coward even in front of my family the second time around.
My sister turned around, and for once, opened her eyes wide.
She stood still and looked at me for a second.
"I'll do that," she smiled, and got on the bus.
The bus left, and I set on my way home, again warming myself with cocoa.
I was all too relieved just to see my sister smile.
Man, somehow just her smiling makes her seem so cute...
My sister seemed to count on my word, as three days later, she visited me again.
As for what she did at my place, it was a laundry list of insults, concluded with "You're hopeless, big bro."
Then she enjoyed my dinner, occupied my bed, and snoozed away.
The next day, our father came and took my sister home.
This only made me more certain that she'd come right back.
What do you suppose made her come here?
I can really feel for parts of this... It's just so human.
The ideas are interesting enough, but I really like how easy to read this is.
Incidentally, while I was clearly inferior to the first me in many ways, there were places where I did excel.
The second me, compared to the first, read about a hundred times more.
This was naturally a cause of going to the library to distract myself from loneliness.
In the event that follows, this hobby of mine ended up becoming somewhat helpful.
I had in my first life felt that I knew my girlfriend perfectly.
After all, we'd been together for five years and talked about so much.
However, there was surprisingly a side to her I didn't know.
I woke up from being stepped on by my sister.
"Gotta give back library books," she said. "It's a citizen's duty."
Well, I suppose I was at fault for sleeping in to four in the afternoon.
At the library, my sister carried a bundle of books.
It was already getting dark, and the streetlights came on.
I went to the corner of the parking lot and lit up a cigarette.
It looked like there was some sort of storage room there, with lots of junk scattered about.
Rusty bicycles, poles, fences, that kind of stuff.
A lone outdoor unit breathed laboriously amid the garbage.
I sat on a fence and smoked.
For some reason, there was an ashtray right there.
The second me had become much more at ease from coming to these lonely places.
I suddenly noticed someone coming this way.
Much like me, she was carrying a cigarette...
...Yes, it was my old girlfriend.
She was always a very polite girl, so as unpleasant as I looked, she greeted me.
She'd always greet anyone and everyone with a smile.
I greeted her in return, but I was bewildered inside.
I had no idea she was a smoker.
I didn't even know she came to this library.
I wanted desperately to talk to her about it, but I couldn't get anything out.
I was just panicking to myself, "Gotta say something," but saying nothing.
"Come to check out some books?", she asked me.
"Not me, my sister," I replied.
"Huh, your sister. ...Don't you read?"
"A little," I said, and she looked pleased. She must not have known many readers.
We spent about ten minutes talking about books.
It was a trifling conversation. No big deal at all.
My first self would have forgotten it even happened in two seconds.
But for me, it made my chest burst with joy.
I prayed that it could last just a little longer.
"So you smoke? I'm surprised," I said.
My former lover smiled with a little bit of worry.
"I'm keeping it secret from him, too. Right now, only you know."
Those words stuck out in my mind.
"Only you know." It had a nice ring to it.
It was getting very dark, and so she left.
I reflected on our conversation for a little while.
I was so happy, I wasn't sure if it was the cold or otherwise that made me unable to stop shaking.
But I had still not noticed the fatal mistake I was making.
My sister was already at the car, and when I arrived, she said "Five minutes late!" and whacked me in the head five times.
Wouldn't want to see an hour late, I suppose.
A while after we left the library, she said:
"Big bro, are you friends with that girl?"
"Nah. She was just kind enough to talk to me."
"Hmph. Well, I'm kind too. So talk to me!"
"It's different. The two of us are just on good terms."
"Huh? Really?", she said, perplexed.
Christmas was no doubt drawing near.
All the trees and store fronts were lit up, Christmas songs played everywhere, and there was a huge fir tree at the train station.
After my sister regretfully went home after her fourth escape, I had coffee at a cafe at the station.
I could get a good view of the plaza from there.
My old girlfriend would often use the plaza as a place to meet up.
So I watched to see if she would meet her boyfriend.
Today, in fact, was somewhat special.
I forgot to mention it, but my birthday is December 24th, Christmas Eve.
Since my girlfriend disliked the overlap of Christmas and my birthday, she celebrated it a week earlier.
My doppelganger seemed to have the same birthday and the same practice.
He met my girlfriend under the Christmas tree and received a beautifully-wrapped present.
Were I in any other position, it would be a charming scene, but I just held my head in my hands seeing it.
Looking to my side, I noticed something odd.
There was someone else with her head in her hands like me.
I realized it was a familiar face.
I had gone to the same school as her since elementary, and we were even in the same department at university.
I'm no good at remembering faces, but I had no trouble remembering her.
I'd not talked to her much, however.
I wouldn't say it to her face, but she was a difficult girl to talk to.
Her gaze went out over the plaza just as mine did.
There wasn't much else to look at, but while looking at her, I was somehow captivated.
When people spend a long time together, don't they tend to speak and act similarly to each other?
In my first life, my girlfriend and I had a number of "habits" we shared.
I saw the girl beside me brushing the back of her hair with her left hand.
This happened to be a habit my girlfriend had gotten from me.
It made me feel very nostalgic.
Don't tell me...
She looked up, and we met eyes.
In that instant, I immediately understood several things.
First: She was in love with my stand-in.
Since it was such a similar feeling to what I knew, I recognized it with just a glance.
Second: She was jealous of my former girlfriend.
Indeed, that's exactly what happens when you see another so intimate with the one you long for.
Third: She remembered "the first time."
As a specialist in "how to screw up a redo," I can say that there's a unique feeling of screwing up the second attempt.
And I certainly sensed it from the girl sitting beside me.
So then... Well, perhaps I should have explained this from the beginning.
To be honest, the memories I had of my first life had a few significant problems.
The issue was that I was limited in how I could remember things.
I could only remember for sure that I had such and such relationship with a person who had certain qualities.
But I couldn't distinctly remember any concrete information like names, faces, or voices.
I could only remember things like "expressive" or "sunbathes" or "a mature name" or "gloomy eyes."
But my second self overlooked this fact.
I had tried to recreate my first life in the second, and though my memories were limited, I didn't notice any major obstacles.
It's likely because memories are such indefinite things in the first place.
Now, I probably don't have to say it at this point, but I derived a single conclusion from the above information.
The girl sitting beside me was my former girlfriend, who had also "failed" in her redo of life.
And it wasn't just me who had their place taken away from them.
The girl I confessed to in middle school, the girl for whom I would have killed to have back, was the wrong person.
She and the man who I was always watching were both stand-ins.
And my real girlfriend had always been right there beside me.
What a twist...
You're, like... that Fafoo guy, aren't you?
When I realized my former girlfriend had gone through similar situations, and experienced the same anguish... on the contrary, I wasn't happy.
In fact, it only seemed to deepen my despair.
Why? Well, even if the girl sitting next to me was my real girlfriend, the one I loved more was the "fake," the one who resembled her from my first life.
I wasn't concerned as much with "original or copy" as with "who will love me the same way as the first time?"
The original had changed, so who knew if I had any interest in her anymore.
I was dejected knowing that the "fake" I sought was effectively a complete stranger.
There was no reason for her and I to get together now, was there?
The eternal bond I believed in wasn't with the girl on the plaza, but with the girl with head in hands beside me.
And the more I looked at her, the more surprised I was to see how my real girlfriend had changed like I had.
It wasn't a very good feeling.
For these reasons, it was not a fateful reunion.
As my real girlfriend looked lonesomely over the plaza, I felt that she needed someone warm beside her.
And yes, this time, I knew I wasn't mistaken.
But I didn't speak to her, and left the shop.
Because it wasn't me who she needed.
It was, as always, my double.
I wandered town aimlessly. That's what I was in the mood for.
The Christmas spirit everywhere I turned made me feel empty, but in a way, I wanted to soak myself in it.
Thinking over it, I had done a lot of foolish things.
I had wanted to kill my stand-in, but would I have really been able to do it?
And if I had miraculously succeeded, did I honestly believe that girl would then love me instead?
If I did, I really must have been crazy.
In the end, I gave up on my plans to kill my doppelganger.
But, irritatingly enough, wishes are always granted just when you stop wishing.
I wanted to empty out my head.
I wanted to just forget all the things that had happened.
With no reason to keep stalking, I had a lot more time on my hands.
So I signed up for a part-time job.
My sister ran away from home for the fifth time.
Seeing me exhausted from working late every night, she asked:
"Big bro, did you get a girlfriend or something?"
It was the last thing I ever wanted to hear.
Since I had no plans, I decided I'd work my job up to the end of the year.
Unfortunately, as I hadn't really paid much attention to the job description, I was stuck running a raffle on Christmas Day in a department store full of couples.
But another person who seemed out of place amid all the couples came to work that day.
Yes, it was my former girlfriend, the real one.
I felt more than a little awkward.
So we'd decided to do the same thing, huh.
She saw me and bowed her head slightly.
I did the same, but this seemed to indicate she didn't know who I really was.
We were paired up and donned sweltering Santa costumes, talking to festive couples.
Before, we would have been among them.
Once we got a break, I left my former girlfriend and went outside to smoke.
I found myself thinking too much when I was with her.
I casually looked over the parking lot and saw a familiar blue car parked there.
I had seen it often in my stalking days; it was the car the two stand-ins rode in.
Being a fairly rare model, I knew it immediately.
Come to think of it, we had come here on Christmas night when I was 20.
Our break ended and we returned to the hall.
You can probably guess what happened next. It was the first time all four of us had met in one place.
The couple seemed even happier than usual.
And they hardly thought of their joy as being a Christmas present from the two dull Santa Clauses that stood before them.
Looking toward my real girlfriend, she was looking at my stand-in, distressed.
Perhaps I had the very same look in my eyes.
The two stand-ins left, and I recalled how they spent the rest of the night.
My girlfriend beside me must have been remembering the same.
There could be nothing as sickening as this, I thought.
To distract myself, I watched a big-screen TV placed in a nearby electronics store.
Uneventful news clips played, sometimes they showed the decorations at the station —
...And then suddenly, I realized the couple we had seen was about to die.
If you look at a person's fortune in the long run, it tends to roughly balance out.
That perspective on life is usually adopted by luckless people as consolation.
But in this sole instance, one would look at it the opposite way.
Strangely, I didn't show much visible reaction to this realization.
Ah, right. Those two are going to die. That was all.
I suppose it should have been something to rejoice over.
After all, my hate for that man was unchanging, and that girl couldn't ever be mine anyway.
Indeed, when it comes to the unattainable, you're happier if you never had it to begin with.
Hottest thread on 2ch.
But in the next moment, I abandoned my job, took my former girlfriend's hand, and started running.
No, not even I knew what exactly I was doing.
But I had no other choice, really. I didn't know if I would be able to do it on my own.
And if there was anyone who would believe and help me, it was her.
Children pointed at the two Santas dashing through the store.
It really was a strange sight.
She didn't say anything and just followed along.
Perhaps she found something nostalgic about the hand that grabbed her.
After all, I felt much the same way.
Going outside, we were met with a fierce snowstorm.
I got in the car and started the engine.
My head was unusually clear.
Judging from the news I saw, I wasn't sure if we could make it in time.
It was a tense situation, but on the other hand, I couldn't help finding it funny.
Finding yourself doing things you wouldn't expect yourself to do is perhaps one of the best things in life.
This mainly afflicted me in my second life, but it feels good when you're able to do "unexpected" things.
"It snowed terribly on that Christmas when we were 20."
I spoke to my girlfriend in the passenger seat as I sped along.
"Do you remember? We traded presents, drank tea, and watched TV.
We left the heater off so we could cuddle up in a blanket.
Warming ourselves by the light of a candle... It was a lot of fun for us two."
Her eyes opened wide and she looked at me.
But before she could say anything, I continued.
"They were reporting it on the news. The snow was so bad, there was a power outage.
As a result, the stoplights were out in places, and it was hard to see.
So, sure enough, there was a tragic accident.
We were listening to Lennon Legend in the car when it happened.
It was just as "Stand By Me" ended, and "Starting Over" began.
I remember it clearly. I had the thought that some were unlucky enough to die on Christmas."
Did they make it to track 19?
"On the news, I saw a bunch of cars... and a certain blue car among them.
To be honest, I'm very familiar with that car. Because it belongs to the man who stole my part."
I stopped speaking to check the time.
"If we ignore it, the same accident will happen, and their lives will be lost.
In theory, that would be exactly what we'd hope for."
She listened intently, not saying anything.
I again felt nostalgic seeing her nod in the corner of my vision.
"However," I said.
"Today is too happy a day to overlook such a tragedy.
Plus, just as I loved my first life, I can't bring myself to hate the couple that's reliving it.
So I'd like to show that I can take advantage of having a second try.
With all the lessons and reflection of the first go, I'll make the second go much better."
We arrived at the scene of the accident and waited for the power outage.
She timidly tapped my shoulder and asked:
"Have you ever saved someone like this before?"
As ever, she was attentive to just the right things.
"No. This is my first time," I said.
"So I wouldn't say I'm doing such a good thing here.
I should have been someone who could save innumerable people's lives, but I'm only now choosing to save anyone."
"I see... It's my first time too," she said.
"Ever since the second time started, I never once thought to use my memories to do anything.
You can see how it turned out, but really, I just wished I could copy my past life -"
"So did I," I guiltily said.
"Um...", she mumbled.
"Before the power goes out and everything goes dark, I want to say one last thing."
"What?" Before I could finish saying it, she kissed me on the cheek.
"I'm sorry," she said. "That's it."
That was all it took to remind me of quite a few things.
I had always been rather focused on superficial things.
It was a fault that affected my memory in my second life and even my way of thinking.
It led me to ignore feelings that I couldn't put into words.
Even the fact that I'd done this was hard for me to express.
"This is how close we were," she said, her eyes downcast.
Almost the same moment she turned to face me, the lights all went out.
It really was a ridiculous scene.
Two Santa Clauses dug into their sacks for brightly-glowing Christmas decorations, wielded them like traffic control sticks, and used them to indeed control traffic.
As couples drove by and saw our foolishness, we said "Merry Christmas!" to them many times.
I shouldn't have wanted to say it one bit, but the freezing cold must have done something to my head.
It really was an awful snowstorm, and just keeping our eyes open was difficult.
My jaw hurt and nearly my whole body was freezing, even with the outfit I had on.
I wasn't sure if I had decided upon the best method.
But in the end, there was not a single accident there.
We were almost run over many times, but we made it through, perhaps thanks to our distinctive outfits.
For one day, I was thankful to Santa Claus. If I were Jack Lantern, I'd have died for sure.
And as that blue car drove by, we saw them off.
We saw off the former us.
From beginning to end, they didn't know about any of it.
But perhaps that's for the best.
Personally, I found it thrilling to have helped them without them even noticing.
Once the power came back on, we were deathly cold, and had probably gotten colds or pneumonia or something.
We wanted to warm up somewhere, but all the stores were already closed.
No one from work had texted me, and the car tires were stuck in the snow.
But just then, the clock struck midnight.
Yes, that moment signified the end of the repeat.
Ahead of us lay a world we knew absolutely nothing about.
My real girlfriend, teeth chattering, smiled at me. "Sure is cold...", she said faintly.
It must have been quite an effort just to say that.
And indeed, I hadn't had anyone to share in the cold with those whole ten years.
I wonder why I felt so immediately happy then?
Our stand-ins would continue to take our spots. We had no friends.
And it seemed now like we were about to freeze to death - but I was happy.
Whatever happened from here on out, I felt like I could handle it.
I felt that together, we could make it well enough through anything.
It was a groundless belief, but beliefs don't always need ground to be powerful.
Maybe I was just thrown off by the chaos of the day, but I supposed I might have been happier then than I was on my first twentieth Christmas.
And that is a very, very impressive accomplishment.
It was a happy Christmas ten years in the making.
I arrived home in the morning.
I wasn't sleepy at all. In fact, I felt reborn.
As I opened the present from my girlfriend, it woke up my little sister sleeping in my bed.
She drowsily turned to my present for her beside the bed and went "Ooh..." with a slight delay.
I sat down on the bed and said to her "Hey."
"Your brother came back from ten years in the future."
Still sleepy, she - naturally - laughed "Welcome back!"
I'd always liked that response and said "It's good to be back," patting her head.
She looked at me disapprovingly, but inside, I figure she appreciated it.
"Your brother came back from ten years in the future.
And so he got another shot at his life from age ten to twenty.
I knew the mistakes I was going to make, and I knew what I should really have done.
Starting right then, I could have been a prodigy or a prophet.
But I didn't want to change a thing.
It would've been fine by me if I could just live the same life as before.
However, I messed up in reliving my first life.
And it had a bad influence on the people around me who should have been happy.
...But because of that, now I know.
I know that we should have been better off.
And I know that the most subtle differences can change people.
Just a little misalignment in the cogs led to things being this way.
But I don't think such a slight difference should have to mean we're not as happy as we'd like.
That's why we're going to get those days back. I'd say it's about time we start fighting for them."
My sister sat with her present. "I don't get it," she of course replied.
"I think you will," I said.
That's the end of the story.
Thanks to everyone who read it to the end.
Once again, a bit of advertisement... but several people have already noticed.
Yes, I'm the author from "Virgin Landscape."
Can I borrow the second-time sister for a little bit?
This Christmas... I'll try my best too.
I'd kind of like a story about the aftermath...
Dang, that's awesome how it links to Lennon Legend songs...
"Stand By Me," the two always being together.
"Starting Over," the beginning of the redo.
And "Happy Christmas," the Christmas even happier than the first.