This is the fifty-fifth chapter of DARLING in the FRANXX (manga).
In a flashback, Zero Two recalls how she had been in a dark and cold room for as long as she could remember. Someone, whom she considered as the closest thing she had for a mother, would bring her food. Then, one day, the woman gave her a picture book called The Beast and the Prince, which Zero Two referred to as the first pretty thing she had ever seen. After that, the woman never showed up again.
Shortly after, Zero Two recalls Hiro’s sparkling blue eyes, which she considered the second prettiest things, looking at her as he asked her to escape with him. She was captivated by his eyes and she took his hand. Upon escaping, Zero Two says that was her first experience of the outside world, how it was white and cold. She tried to eat a mouse but Hiro stopped her and he realized she didn’t understand him. He introduced himself as Code: 016 and Hiro, and noticed her code number was 002, which surprised him because he had never heard of anyone with a code in the single digits. He tried to think of a name, starting with Oni but decided against it and suggested Zero Two but he thought that didn’t sound good. She tried saying her name and the two began walking together.
Zero Two said she didn’t understand his words but his voice called to her, he looked around with her, and she walked with him. It all made her very happy. She later showed him her picture book. The story was about a beast princess who lived in the middle of a dark forest but one night, she got lost in the land of humans and fell in love with a prince. The princess could not live in the daylight and made a deal with a witch to trade her wings in order to become a human. She then married the prince, who said on their wedding day Never leave me, darling. But there was a price to pay for the deal; after spending many happy days with the prince, one night, the princess felt intense pain with her and transformed into a monster. She had two options: break the spell by killing the prince or leave and live as a monster.
Hiro was sad as he read the story and wondered if the princess being a beast was why she and the prince couldn’t get married. He then explained marriage was when two people who love each other promise to be together forever. Zero Two smiled and he suggested the keep walking. He noticed her knee was bleeding but her blood was blue. He remembered reading a book about animals licking their wounds and he licked Zero Two’s injured knee. Zero Two tried pronouncing “marry” and Hiro, having noticed it was opened to the wedding page, said once they got out of there, they would be together and he would be her darling. This deeply touched Zero Two, who began crying. She didn’t know why she cried other than it was because she was happy at being able to experience something as beautiful as the picture book with Hiro. However, as they were found and Hiro was knocked unconscious by the APE SP and Zero Two was grabbed, she realized that would never be allowed. She wondered why she failed to see that his blood was a different color than hers and he was a different being while she was a monster.
APE ordered their memories to be erased or it would cause trouble. Dr. FRANXX found out Hiro ingested Zero Two’s blood, which would make him useless but he would still be an important specimen and ordered Hiro to be returned to the Garden. Zero Two didn’t want to forget, so she fought to keep her memories by licking her knee, ripping the picture book and eating the pages but she couldn’t remember his face and name; all she remembered were the words he taught her: me, Zero Two, and darling.
Zero Two breaks free from 001’s control and her horns break. Shedding tears, Hiro says he remembers it all and she was the girl with the picture book. Zero Two turns to look at him and starts crying. 001/Delta is surprised her link with Zero Two has been broken. Hachi is alerted that Hiro’s Saurification has accelerated to dangerous levels. Zero Two asks Hiro if he is her darling from back then and he assures her that it isn’t her fault before he loses consciousness.