Dying Young (薄命 Hakumei) is the fourth story in Flesh-Colored Horror. It was originally published in Monthly Halloween in 1991.
Ayako's friend Chizuru one day starts becoming pretty. Nobody, not even Chizuru herself, know how or why. Even though she becomes popular due to her newfound beauty, she drops dead of a heart attack a short time later. After the funeral, Ayako's friend Hiroko asks her if she thinks she'll become pretty too. Ayako is still disturbed by her friend's death and doesn't take the question lightly.
Over the next few days, Hiroko becomes beautiful as well. She becomes very popular with the other students, leaving Ayako by herself. While going home together, Hiroko tells Ayako that she should get pretty too, so that she can ask out the boy she likes. Ayako, however, is still worried about what's happening to her friend.
Eventually, the other girls in class start becoming more beautiful and start looking anemic. The other girls in school begin to surround and touch Hiroko, hoping that she will make them beautiful, too. As the amount of pretty girls begins to increase, Ayako, who remains the same, becomes even more concerned about what's happening to Hiroko.
While walking off with a boy, Hiroko runs into her sister, Kaori, who has also become beautiful. Kaori tells her that she doesn't feel well and then falls down, dead. More girls start dying rapidly, causing the remaining girls to panic. They start believing that it's a disease that makes you beautiful before you die. Hiroko, meanwhile, has become cynical and bitter. She tells Ayako that she would rather die young and beautiful than old and ugly, but still wants to stay alive. She then tells her of a rumor that if a beautiful girl kills an ugly one the third Friday of the month, than she will live longer. Ayako is disturbed by this statement, but believes Hiroko wouldn't kill anyone.
As time goes by, more girls keep dying and no proof that the beauty is a disease is found. People begin saying that it's the cause of the upcoming 21st century. Ayako's friends stop coming to school, including Hiroko. One night, Ayako hears noises outside of her house. It turns out Hiroko and some other girls are searching for an ugly girl to kill so that they can live longer. They find one girl, but Ayako distracts the girls long enough for the victim to get away. However, the girl is killed by another girl seconds later.
Hiroko, angry at Ayako for stopping her, attempts to attack her with a knife. However, Hiroko dies before she can hurt Ayako and her body falls into Ayako's lap.
- Junji ito may have been trying to convey a message about self acceptance. As shown in the story, beauty comes with a heavy price to pay, and those who had come to accept themselves seem to be untouched by the disease.