* 70 *

I arrived home at dawn, not sleepy at all. In fact, I felt reborn.
My body felt lighter than usual, and looking in the mirror, I noticed my face had changed overnight.
The preparations for my rebirth had long been in order. But had it not been today, I probably wouldn't have been able to notice.

In the middle of the room, I shook a present my girlfriend had given me, and I heard mumbling from my bed.
I looked and saw my sister starting to get herself up. It seemed she'd run away from home again.
I quietly placed a paper bag near the pillow, careful that she didn't notice.

She drowsily looked at me and said, "Big brother?", then buried her face in the pillow again.
But just afterward, she noticed the present by the pillow and went “Ooh..." with a slight delay, and not seeming entirely there. Then she sat up.

She took the present out of the bag, carefully tore the wrapping, and opened the case to find a harmonica.
She put it to her mouth and lightly blew. She pulled it away and went "Ooh..." again.
My sleepy sister felt like she temporarily lost her thorns, and a few traces of her first self showed through.

I sat down on the bed and said to her “Hey."

She had waited here for me. That wasn't just chance.
So there was one thing I had to say.

"Your brother came back from ten years in the future."

Still sleepy, she - naturally - laughed “Welcome back!"
I'd always kinda 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, given her lack of resistance.

"Your brother came back from ten years in the future," I said. "And so he got another shot at his life from age ten to twenty. ...When that second life started, 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 gotten super rich, or been a prophet, or a messiah. It might have even been possible to be happier than I was in my first life. 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."

My sister looked at me, blinking.

"However, I messed up in reliving my first life. Even though I knew what was going to happen, it was impossible to live my life all as I remembered it - and I only realized that when it was much too late. Before I knew it, my second self was miserable compared to the first time, and it didn't end there. Most of the people I was close to in my first life lived good-for-nothing lives the second time. It was a chain of negativity. I've come to see in these ten years how my carelessness made a mess of everything. I feel like a plague upon the earth.

"...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. You can't know where people are going to end up - but that's why there's no reason we can't be happy someday. We can stop thinking that, because things have always been this way in the past, it means anything for our future."

I closed my eyes, opened them again, and said,
"And so I want to start it all over again. I think it's time we start fighting back."

“I don't get it," my sister of course replied.

"I think you will," I said.

* Afterword *

I recognize that this is an unbelievably inappropriate start to the afterword of my first book, but when I was a child, I really didn't care much for novels.
That alone is nothing to write home about, but even as an adult, I haven't found that's changed much.

I don't mean to imply the very medium of the novel lacks any charm. When it comes to the creation of stories, I sense the most potential in novels, rather than movies or comics.
But most of the novels going around the world simply don't measure up to my artistic standards - no, just kidding, it's not that either.
There are countless writers whom I know I could never hope to live up to in my entire lifetime.

"So then why do you not like novels?" Actually, I wrote these sentences so as to make you ask me that question yourself.
Well, if you the reader fell for my scheme and have that question for me, I suppose I could answer it like this.
"There was someone who wrote about what I wanted. But they didn't write it in the way I wanted. There was someone who wrote in the way I wanted. But they didn't write about what I wanted."

I believe that I'm in the wrong. Honestly speaking, it's that my tastes have been warped. Perhaps in my infancy.
Anyhow, my reason is that, while I won't outright say there are hardly any books in this world that "stick" for me, it's a situation remarkably identical to it.
So that's why I came to think: "Rather than dig through a sea of books where only one out of every hundred is a warped one that I like, it would be a lot faster to just write my own."

After finishing my first book and looking back on it, I'm honestly suspect whether the story I wrote is a warped one that satisfies me or not. But given the time I put into it, I believe I did all that I could.
I would appreciate if you took notice of any trace of that effort. And meanwhile, if you simply enjoyed the story without thinking anything, well.
I think there could be no greater honor for an author.

- Sugaru Miaki

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