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Hearing Hisakawa’s sound, ‘Menma’ slightly squinted its eyes.

It thought it wouldn’t be discovered, or at least it wouldn’t be caught up. Being so familiar to these woods, it thought no one in the Super Peace Busters could catch it.

It was just a way to let them smell the last fragrance of ‘Menma’.

Hisakawa and others had searched in a new direction.

‘Menma’ wasn’t discovered. It got out from the darkness so uneasily, yet it was covered in the thick night colour again.

Darkness could only give birth to a new darkness. ‘Menma’ couldn’t find this out.

“…”

Hid under the shadow of the trees, ‘Menma’ spied the dashing Jinta with his bare feet sunken deep into the bushes, but Jinta didn’t spot itself.

Yes. Jinta couldn’t see it. Never could he see ‘Menma’.

Enjoying Jinta’s ugly running pose, a funny feeling came over ‘Menma’, and thus ‘Menma’ raised the corner of his lips.

But, Chiriko then suddenly cried out.

“Eh, eh!!”

Everyone looked at Chiriko, including ‘Menma’.

Bearing all those eyes, Chiriko raised her head determinedly

“With such a huge figure, no matter how clean you shave your thigh hair, it still doesn’t work…Matsuyuki Atsumu!!”

“Eh!”

Hearing Chiriko’s words, ‘Menma’ was terribly shattered.

The waver in its heart wast put forth into an action—escape. Its legs started running by itself, making scuffing sounds. Its abrupt actions caused its slippers to cling to some bushes, making notable sounds.

“Ah…there it is!!”

“?!”

Following Naruko’s voice, ‘Menma’ flew away from there.

Run away! Run away, ‘Menma’! If it goes on like this, you will be trapped in darkness again. Everyone would forget you.

I couldn’t let you people forget, but definitely I wouldn’t let you catch me.

Run away. Stop focusing on your feet. Run away. How could I not focus on my feet when running in the woods at night?

It was almost placing my life at stake—Menma ran with an incredibly risky speed. And for this reason, when the tree roots that were sticking out tripped its feet, pulling ‘Menma’ down on the bed of the woods—there it fell.

Scuff, scuff, scuff, scuff!!”

“Hey, hey! It fell over?!”

With Tetsudo as the lead, the Super Peace Busters had arrived.

The light from the flashlight shone on the place where the person wearing the white dress fell down. The beam searched in the darkness for a while, and then, they found it out.

Everyone’s breathing was obstructed.

Appearing before their very eyes was a figure wearing a white dress—the true figure of the other Menma.

“Yukiatsu.”

Chiriko mumbled.

After such a long time—a really long time—Chiriko called his nickname.

He was in such a difficult condition.

His thick and solid arms grotesquely stretched out from the lace borders. There was a sky blue ribbon hung on the chest. It wasn’t a decoration of the dress itself but an extension he added to imitate Menma. The ribbon was hung very tight and was glimmering.

Then, the silver hair reflected under the moonlight showed the original hair colour when Atsumu tilted his head a bit.

It was a wig.


Jina looked lifelessly at Atsumu, and then he came back to his senses abruptly.

“Menma…”

Meiko was about to get down to the steep slope where Atsumu was. Jinta chased behind her in a hurry.

“Wait…Menma?!”

Scuff. Jinta was frozen as he looked below the slope.

Atsumu, who had been motionless with his head lowered, raised his head. A flashing light shone through his eyes.

“Ah…are you all right?” Jinta asked Atsumu with a feeble voice.

“All right…?”

Atsumu showed a sinister smile. With close examination, Jinta could see that his face was whiter than usual, his lips pale pink, as if he had did some makeup.

“Do you think I look all right?”

“Ah…”

“Come. Look clearer!”

Atsumu grasped Jinta’s lapel of his jacket, and then pushed him down, riding on him.

“Mmm..?!”

“Hey. Stop it already. Yukiatsu!”

When Tetsudo wanted to get down there, Chiriko put her hand on his shoulders.

“Please, Hisakawa. Just look.”

“Heh? B-But…”

“This is a chance. If we miss this, I’m sure we won’t have it again…”

They were within Chiriko’s view—everyon’e view.

Atsumu, who pretended to be Meiko, was now pressing on Jinta.

“Hey. Do I look like Meiko?”

“Mmm…”

“Didn’t you see Meiko? Do I look like Meiko…do I?!”

“Yukiatsu…Mmm?!”

Atsumu pulled Jinta by the lapel and stuck his face into it. They were so close they could almost feel each other’s breathing.

“It’s my fault.”

“!!”

“On that day, Menma would die was all my fault.”

“W-What are you saying? It wasn’t your fault! It looked more like mine…Mmm?!”

“It’s my fault! I said it’s my fault!!”

Atsumu violently shook Jinta.

Right, Jinta could feel something trickling down his face—they were tears.

“Eh…?”

“If I didn’t say something like to Menma, Menma wouldn’t die…it’s I who caused Menma’s death!!”

Showers of tears affluently streamed from Atsumu’s eyes.

“If Menma really appear, she should appear before me…if she had to be a curse as a resentful spirit, she should also appear before me!!”

If Menma really appeared…

Jinta rolled his eyes and looked at Menma. Menma was staring at them seriously with straightforward eyes.

“But Menma didn’t appear! She didn't appear before me!!”

Yet, Meiko was now standing beside Atsumu.

“So, Menma isn’t here…isn’t in this world now!!”

She was just beside him. He wanted to hold her last face, the face that belonged to a person he couldn’t embrace anymore; and hence he prayed to become one body with her. Yet, she was just beside him, though Atsumu was totally unaware of this fact.

Even if he cry out loudly…even if his heart hurts so badly…

“Yukiatsu…Men-Menma?”

Atsumu’s eyebrows jumped to Jinta’s reaction.

“…eh?”

Meiko approached Atsumu and softly wiped his tears for him.

“What?!”

Atsumu was aware now. Something warm and soft softly touched his cheeks.

“Menma…is touching you.”

“Ah…ah.”

Atsumu’s whole body was trembling.

“No…this isn’t it…this isn’t it…”

He could feel it.

Before his mind could make it up, his body did. He made up the memoriable warmth of Meiko.

He was confused. He wanted to deny it, yet he wanted to accept it.

The person he longed for so long, Meiko...

Meiko looked at Jinta and said something in his ear. Jinta accepted Meko’s feelings and nodded his head solemnly.

“Menma wants me to tell something to you.”

“Eh…”

“Thanks for the hair clip. She also said, sorry…”

“!!”

Atsumu’s body shivered greatly. Then, he jumped off of Jinta’s body as if escaping.

“Yukiatsu!!”

He dashed up the slope.

“Hey, hey! Yukiatsu!”

His heart was quaking. Atsumu neglected Tetsudo and Naruko and passed through Chiriko without even turning his head around.

“…”

Chiriko heaved a long sigh. Chiriko, who usually feared cold, was now covered with a shirt immersed in sweat.

Atsumu’s memory of that day was a memory he could never forget.

On that day, Meiko rushed out of the sercret base, chasing Jinta. And Atsumu was chasing behind Meiko.

“Wait, Menma!”

“I can’t wait! If I don’t run faster, Jintan would get away.”

“You don’t need to care for that guy!”

Hearing Atsumu’s shouts, Meiko stopped running unconsciously.

“Menma isn’t any ugly girl…”

Atsumu stretched his hand into his short pants and took out a hair clip. A small pink flower was imprinted on it.

“For you.”

“Eh…”

“I think this hair clip is very suitable for you, Menma.”

He had bought it a month ago, but he couldn’t find a chance to give her. Nevertheless, it was the time now.

Atsumu’s face turned red, and he didn’t dare to look at Meiko’s face. Then, he cried,”it’s for my favourite Menma!”

It was the first confession experienced to either Atsumu or Meiko.

“Ah…Sor-Sorry!”

However, Meiko ran away in panic.

“Eh…”

“Um…Jinta is about to run away! Um, sorry…let’s talk about this next time!”

Bang and pop. Meiko had run afar.

Atsumu could only see her off.

“Rats!” He cried, throwing the hair clip in his hand into the bushes.

The same hair clip was worn by the ‘Menma’ Atsumu was holding in his hands.

It wasn’t ‘Menma’ anymore but just the scraps of Atsumu’s persistence. It was just a Meiko shell with a wig and a hair clip.

Atsumu leaned on the fence of the bridge, gazing steadily at the wig. The dress was put at his feet’s side. He was wearing a ridiculous costume composed of a sleevless garment and a short pants with a jacket covering him.

It looked as if Atsumu could easily discard the appearance as ‘Menma’, but in his heart…if he could really discard it like taking off clothes, perhaps he would have been saved early on.

“You look devastated.”

He lifted is head.

Chiriko was standing there. She must have chased him here.

“Are you satisfied now?”

“…”

“You knew everything from the very start…

“Don’t you wish I knew it?”

Chiriko knew where Atsumu bought the dress.

This is because she bought it with him after school. Not only was the dress but also the hair clip was bought. She was just shocked that he even had a wig.

Chiriko didn’t ask what Atsumu bought them for. Atsumu didn’t have the intention to explain to her.

Both of them remained silent. They had their own ‘Meiko trauma’. It was their new connection, unlike the one they had when they were small.

The connection should be like this originally.

But Chiriko…

“Why did you betray me?”

“…”

“What do you want to do?

(What do I want to do?)

Even Chiriko was unclear of what she felt.

Nevertheless, Chiriko wanted to save Atsumu. She wanted to pull him out from the ‘Menma’ darkness.

She had known this wouldn’t work. This would only pour salt on Atsumu’s wound, but Chiriko had prepared for this.

(I would suffer the pain with you.)

“Give it to me.”

“Ah…”

Chiriko picked up the dress beside Atsumu’s feet.

Scuff…

She covered the wide dress on herself.

Then, she snatched the wig from Chiriko’s hand and wore it on herself. Quickly, she had silver hair. Chiriko became the same as ‘Meiko’.

“Menma!”

Atsumu looked at the Menma in front of him, weeping.

Then, as if he had lost his strength, he fell down and embraced the same thing as ‘Menma’, Chiriko at her waist.

Chiriko stroked Atsumu’s hair lightly. It was a light brown, soft hair with a fragrance of summer grass.

“Menma…please don’t leave me again. Please don’t leave me…”

Atsumu repeated brushing against Chiriko’s waist. Chiriko gently smiled and solemnly nodded her head.

“I know…I would stay with you forever, Yukiatsu.”

To stay with you forever…

Chiriko was also hurt.

It wasn’t something that actually happened but just an imagination. With the dress in her hands, all she could do to it was to stare at it silently.

(Never could I become like Menma.)

Atsumu slowly stood up.

“Where are you going?”

“Where could I go apart from going back?”

“Where’s the dress? Give it back to me.”

“…”

Chiriko handed him the dress. Atsumu snatched it violently, turned away, and left.”

Seeing him off, Chiriko wondered what she could do to bring an end to this endless night. Chiriko didn’t know what to do.

It really hurt—Chiriko was hurt.

But, she couldn’t cry, for Atsumu upon her eyes was hurt more seriously than her.

Atsumu’s ‘Menma’ had vanished.

But it was only what it seemed. ‘Menma’ was still here: here, over there…there was sign of her existence everywhere.

No one could escape from ‘Menma’. Everyone was caught by ‘Menma’s’ face.

The river flowed slowly under the illumination of the moonlight. The trickling, cold water-flowing sound was telling them that they could never be forgiven.

Previous: Chapter 15 - The Wild Beast of Summer Next: Chapter 17 - Menma and I

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