This is the fifty-fourth chapter of DARLING in the FRANXX (manga).
Hiro introduces himself as Code: 016 and Zero Two’s partner to 001. He realizes she is the one controlling Delta and making Zero Two suffer. 001/Delta recognizes that Hiro is undergoing saurification, which is why he is able to feel sympathy for Zero Two. Hiro demands for Zero Two to be released but he suddenly hears 001/Delta telepathically ask him to destroy Delta’s body and use his sympathy for Zero Two to break the connection by destroying Delta’s body but it won’t be easy. Frustrated, Hiro rushes past 001/Delta and towards Strelizia. Hiro retorts he will not let 001 have her way. Ichigo calls out to Hiro as Goro shouts out that Hito plans to use the training pod to get to the entrance of Strelizia. The training pod crashes into Strelizia’s face, much to the horror of Ichigo. Meanwhile, in the control room, Hachi notices that Strelizia has stopped moving.
Despite being injured, Hiro makes it into the cockpit, telling Zero Two, whose horns have grown all the way to the ceiling and appears to have lost sense of reality, that he is here and for her not to listen to 001’s voice. He attempts to connect with her but her consciousness, in the form of a red oni, attacks him and begins to strangle him. She tells him to give his life to her because his blood is her food, and by doing that, she will become human and find her darling from back then. Hiro then begins to connect with her consciousness and he feels someone’s old memories flowing through him. An image of a younger Hiro and Zero Two walking in the snow come into view, shocking Hiro, who compares it to a fog deep within his mind for years that has finally cleared.
Ever since he was a child, he was always in the Garden, where it snowed all year and that’s where he saw Zero Two for the first time. When he got lost in the laboratory, he witnessed Zero Two being subjected to torturous experiments, such as a laser burning a hole through her hand. Dr. FRANXX was impressed by her regeneration abilities despite Zero Two screaming in pain. Hiro was horrified and begged for an adult to help her when he was found but the adult told him it didn’t concern him and took him away from the lab. Hiro didn’t understand the meaning of the world; the daily tests, the injections, and the candy he got for doing well, and wondered what the meaning of all that was about. Hiro wondered why the children couldn’t have names, where did all the children who disappeared go to, and if Mitsuru would come back after receiving the Elixir Injection. Hiro began to wonder who that girl was and, while walking outside, he found her room as he saw her fighting with an adult from the window. The adult tried to take Zero Two’s picture book, which she kept with her all day, but the adult gave up when Zero Two fought back to keep the book. This impressed Hiro that Zero Two stood up against an adult despite being taken to the lab to be experimented on repeatedly and getting weaker. The lack of answers to his questions weighed heavily on his mind. Finally, Hiro decided to help Zero Two escape. He used a portable searchlight and scaled one of the trees near her room, and slings the searchlight at the window, breaking it. Hiro tearfully extended his hand out to her and asked her to run away with him.