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Volume 04
Chapters 35 - 46
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Yuuichi finishes his tale that ends in a bloody mess and a runaway girl. He returns to the place of his trauma, his old pottery class, for the first time in five years and is informed that all the characters of his tale turned out just fine. Troubled by such an outcome, he realizes guilt and redemption were the only things giving him meaning and becomes suicidal. At Yaguchi's tournament, Aiko and Punpun have an intimate moment, and she again asks him to run away to Kagoshima with her.

Chapter 35 Edit

A sudden rainstorm hurries Yuuichi's decision. He takes Yagi to his home and makes her tea before a power outage hits. In the dark, Yagi kisses and humps him, which he responds to at first, but when she goes for his belt, he pushes her away. She asks him what he's afraid of; if he's so dissatisfied with his current life, they ought to run away together, start new lives with only each other. Yuuichi says he cannot save her. His girlfriend knocks at the front door.

Aren't you dissatisfied with your life, Mr. Onodera? As for me, you're all I have anymore.

-Yagi


Chapter 36 Edit

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Yuuichi's girlfriend walks into the apartment and begins stripping out of her rainsoaked clothes. She walks into the bedroom, where Yagi has hidden away in the closet. They were supposed to meet her parents today and talk about marriage, but the weather stopped the trains. After five years of dating and a promise of marriage, she's upset to be 29 and still a bachelorette, not understanding Yuuichi's hesitation. Yuuichi can barely hear her, still shocked and overstimulated. She cries and asks him to at least tell her he loves her. They have rough sex, Yagi still hidden away in the room, and as he climaxes, Yuuichi thinks he must've dreamed Yagi up in his crazy imagination. In the morning, he opens the closet, where Yagi still sits, and knows there is no god.

As her words fell dead on my ears, I became aware of the fact that I was becoming aroused at being watched by the young girl hidden behind the sliding door.


Chapter 37 Edit

While Yuuichi's girlfriend is still asleep, Yagi puts on her shoes. He asks her to please not tell anyone. Yagi wordlessly walks out the door. Yuuichi takes a two-week break from work and again wonders how much of Yagi really existed. When he returns to his class, Washio is in the middle of a magazine interview about his pottery. Mrs. Yagi chats with Yuuichi, and he interrupts to ask about her daughter. She says she came to class last week and is actually here today but wandered off somewhere. Yuuichi asks if she really ties her up in ropes, but she starts babbling about a restaraunt they should visit together. He asks again, but she keeps babbling. Then, Washio approaches with a raised hammer and slams her in the head. In the screams and frenzy, their boss yells at Yuuichi to call the police, and when Yuuichi runs out, he passes by Yagi. Yagi sees the blood on him and smiles, asks, "Is she dead?" Yuuichi asks if she put Washio up to this. She says Washio's head over heels, and after a simple blowjob, he agreed to the task. "What a fool he is," she laughs.

Chapter 38 Edit

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Washio opens the burning furnace and drags out a vase, since they are most beautiful under heat, scalding his own body. Yagi tells Yuuichi she will leave now. When he asks where, she tells him not to worry because God is always watching over her. Ultimately, two others are injured, and Yuuichi quits his job in the chaos, breaks up with girlfriend, and eventually returns to his parents' home. Yuuichi tells Midori that he despises humans, himself most of all. Midori offers to bring him by his old workplace. Mama worries that Yuuichi is not back from grocery shopping yet and drowns her anxiety in alcohol while Punpun drowns his own anxieties about Yaguchi and Aiko by practicing badmitton in the living room.

I finally realized it. That from the moment we had met, I had fallen in love with her. I felt that if I called out her name then, that she would turn around and come back to me... But I didn't even know her given name.


Chapter 39 Edit

Midori and Yuuichi visit the pottery school, and Yuuichi's old boss fills him in that Mrs. Yagi never received any serious injuries, but her daughter desperately stopped her from filing a lawsuit and now attends an art college, and even Washio is okay and finally started making art again recently. He tells Yuuichi he can drop in anytime or even start teaching again. Midori notes that everything turned out okay after all, but Yuuichi says that even if his fears did not come true, his nature remains the same and he risks committing the same sins against someone else. Midori apologizes for forcing him into several things today, but Yuuichi thanks her for listening and says he feels better with these issues off his chest. He says he's going to visit his parents since he's in town, and Midori goes her way. He walks awhile, then lets his grocery bags fall and sits down on the railroad track, train headlights approaching from the distance. With the sense of guilt he clung to for five years forcibly taken away from him, what is left to hold onto? His grocery bag hits him in the back, thrown by a crying, yelling Midori.

The only god I had believed in was... my sense of guilt?

-Yuuichi


Chapter 40 Edit

Midori watches the train speed past, and Yuuichi clings to her legs sobbing. She clings back. He asks her to kill him if he ever hurts her deeply, and she promises and tells him to never leave her. At the prefectural badminton tournament, Komatsu leaves opponent after opponent in the dust, and Punpun's friends note that even if Yaguchi makes it the final round, there's no way he can win against a demon like Komatsu. Punpun is excited for Yaguchi to lose their bet for Aiko's heart. Yaguchi tends to his foot, and their teacher tells him not to push himself now that he's made it to the final match; he can still come in second. Yaguchi spots Punpun and smirks. Punpun sees Aiko in the lobby, and their eyes lock right as the final match begins.

Chapter 41 Edit

Aiko stares at Punpun intensely until his friends drag him to watch the match, along with Aiko and her own friend. Surprisingly, Yaguchi is in the lead. Punpun's hopes crash. He's sure Yaguchi and Aiko will walk home together after his victory and have sex, then laugh as a married couple about a silly bet Yaguchi once made in middle school. He is ripped from his thoughts by Aiko, who muses aloud about why happy people fall in love. Yaguchi has many people and things to keep him happy outside of her, who has no one and would rather throw everything else away for whomever she loves. She holds Punpun's hand gently and asks if he understands.

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Chapter 42 Edit

Aiko says that of course Punpun couldn't throw his life away for love because he is a coward. She, on the other hand, could. She describes a recurring nightmare of waiting for someone for years in front of a waterpark, when she sees her birth mother and runs to her, only to realize it is her own reflection in the water. She always wakes up feeling lonely and fears dying that lonely. But if she could be understood completely by one other person, a person she loves, she wouldn't mind dying then and there. The heated match between Komatsu and Yaguchi continues, and their teacher again reminds Yaguchi not to overexert himself, that even if he throws the match he will advance to the next tournament. Aiko said that Yaguchi called her yesterday and asked her to come to the tournament, but when she suggested they run away together instead, he laughed, and she knew that they are two different types of people. But surely Punpun understands. He squeezes her hand, a moment before Yaguchi twists his ankle and collapses.

Punpun, can you throw away your family, your dreams, and all things important to you for the sake of the one you love? Ha... Of course not. You're just a coward. But I can.

-Aiko


Chapter 43 Edit

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The boys rush downstairs from the bleachers to check on Yaguchi. Their teacher chides him for not mentioning his bad achilles tendon. If his tendon is now torn, he'll be out for two months. His season is over. Yaguchi sees Punpun and tells him it's Punpun's win, before breaking down in tears. Punpun feels overwhelming guilt as he walks into the lobby. He apologizes to Aiko for not taking her to Kagohima, and she finally smiles and asks if they can go to Kagoshima right now, then. Punpun musters his courage and tells her to go to Yaguchi, who needs her now. Aiko is crestfallen. Punpun continues outside, past where his friends are making a snowman, and lies down in the snow to cry. "Goodbye... Aiko."

Chapter 44 Edit

Yuuichi brings Midori home for dinner. Mama gushes over her, telling her she can live with them instead of her parents, and insisting she stay the night. Midori introduces herself to a sullen Punpun, who simply leaves for a quieter space. Punpun can't sleep with his head still full of memories of the tournament. He ignores the suggestive noises emitting from Yuuichi and Midori's room and goes on a walk to the vending machine. At school, his friends attempt to bring Punpun on their end of semester trip, but Punpun lays gloomy and unresponsive at his desk. Elsewhere, a roughed-up Seki tells his teacher for the nth time that he has no intention of applying to high school but is happy to hear that Shimizu will. The two pass Punpun, who is also waiting for a meeting with his homeroom teacher, which goes rather blandly with his very average transcript and no big dreams. Since Punpun quit badmitton, he joins the tiny, quiet Go boardgame club.

Chapter 45 Edit

Yuuichi and Midori bring Punpun to an amusement park, where Midori tells Yuuichi that the owner of the cafe she works at is moving away to live with his sick mother. Since he hadn't decided what to do with the shop, she asked him to rent it to her as-is, so she could maintain it for now. And since Yuuichi might start teaching pottery again, she could use the cups and plates made in his classes. Yuuichi suggests they get married once they both settle down at their jobs. Punpun begins to cry on the ferris wheel, although he doesn't understand why. At dinner, Mama and Midori, who's been living with them for one month, have a chat, and Mama gushes that their little family feels so happy and complete now. Punpun thinks that's stupid. He doesn't read this month's pointless letter from his father. He decides to study just to calm himself down. Later, he goes on a walk to the vending machine and struggles to convince himself that this too shall pass. "Goodnight Punpun."

Chapter 46 Edit

Two years later. Mama drives a hard bargain with the movers and assures Midori that she's sure about selling the house. They discuss that Punpun's high school entrance exams must've gone well, since he's done nothing but study for the past two years. Midori can think about little else besides Yuuichi, who hasn't come home in a week. He has no friends anymore and nowhere to go. Mama suggests that perhaps he went to... the afterlife? Scene cuts to a weeping Yuuichi standing on the railroad tracks.

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