* 66 *

"That Christmas when we were twenty. That's today. It snowed terribly in our first lives, too. ...Do you remember? The same way Tokiwa and Tsugumi just did, we left the department store with plans to get dinner at a slightly fancier restaurant than usual, then go home and relax.

"But on the way back from the restaurant, that fierce blizzard not only made it hard to see, but caused a power outage for quite a ways around. Romantic, if you want to look at it that way. A Christmas blackout... who knows, maybe Santa tripped on a power wire. But the problem was, the roads we were driving along didn't even have working stoplights. It was a really large-scale outage.

"We were listening to the Lennon Legend CD in the car when it happened. You'd heard Starting Over on the radio earlier, so you told me you wanted to listen to the very best of John Lennon. It was a pretty Christmasy idea, I'd say. We heard the first song Imagine, the second Instant Karma, Mother, Jealous Guy, Power to the People, Cold Turkey, Love, Mind Games, Whatever Gets You thru the Night, #9 Dream. When Stand By Me ended, and the twelfth song Starting Over began... That's when it happened.

"With the blackout and the blizzard, we could hardly see anything but snow. I was trying to drive as carefully as I could. But all of a sudden - it was really instantaneous - I felt a huge impact like my body was being blown to pieces. At the same time, I felt like there was this blinding light. Maybe a truck or something collided with us. Maybe it was an intersection, but I thought it was a straight road. With no time to prepare, no time to regret, our lives immediately ended.

"...And yet the next time I woke up, I found time had been rewound ten years. No, to be exact, time had been rewound for both of us. ...Maybe we can call it a Christmas miracle. At any rate, we were given a second chance.

"But why was there any need to send us back a decade? Just a minute would have been enough for us to avoid the accident. And yet we went back ten years, with parts of our memories damaged on the trip. You could also consider that damaged memories are just what you get when you rewind that far.

"...Let's say there is a God, or a Santa Claus, or whatever you want to call it, some absolute entity like that, who decided to give us another chance. Why did they rewind us ten years? Well, this is the conclusion I came to. Maybe they can't just directly save people in trouble, like poof, you're saved. Maybe they can only give them a fair second shot at it. They can avert an irrational death, but that's about all they can do.

"So I don't know the specifics of how it happened. But looking at the situation, maybe our role is a supporting one. To support of our doubles. To give the seats we sat in during our first lives to other people in our second. To give it up to that picturesque happy young couple, and resign ourselves to second lives the polar opposite of our first. And naturally, we succeeded. We handed the parts of getting in the accident to Tokiwa and Tsugumi.

"...I honestly don't know if that's for the best. Because if we died that day, then it meant our lives were perfect from beginning to end. I feel like that's the far better choice than living an empty ten years.

"If we ignore them, the same accident will happen, and their lives will be lost. If I'm right, then in theory, that would be exactly what we'd want."

Hiiragi listened intently, not saying anything.
I again felt nostalgic seeing her nod in the corner of my vision.

"However," I said. "Today is too joyous a day to overlook such a tragedy. After all, it's Christmas Eve, and we're even dressed as Santa Claus. What would Santa Claus be if he didn't spread joy? ...Plus, just as I loved my first life, in way I have to love the couple that's reliving it. Much as I hate to admit it, Tokiwa is a dear other-self. And as mistaken as it may be, second-life me loves Tsugumi. I'm sure you feel the same way about those things.

"So I'd like us to show that we can take advantage of having a second try. With all the lessons and reflection of the first go, we'll make the second go much better."

Chapter 67

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