Chapter 22: At the Aquarium
Mio mentally replays Taki giving her the dolphin keychain, thinking that he presented it to her with a carefree smile, like he'd found a treasure. She compares how he brought it to her to a dog bringing a toy or a cat presenting a bug it caught. That was what it felt like. Mio becomes aware of her surroundings again when Shii tells her that was quite a surprise; he was just checking to see if Mio had a fever? Yuni adds that, from their viewpoint, it looked like they were kissing. Mio turns even redder, and apologizes. She was flustered... They ask about what Taki gave her, and Mio explains that it's what they were looking at before the show. She hooks it onto her bag, and Shii says it's cute. Where's the store he bought it from? Mio explains that the souvenir shop is by the exit, and Yuni tells them that's great, but they still need to choose events to watch for class. Mio takes out her guide, and tells them that if they hurry, they can make the sea lion show. Yuni agrees, and says she wants to see the penguins after that. Mio checks her guide, and finds that the sea lion show overlaps with the penguins. She suggests they could try the dolphins, and then they overhear some girls talking about the “Blue Fantasia” show. One of them explains that they say couples who hold hands and watch that show together will never break up. Another girl says that her sister got engaged to her boyfriend after seeing that show, and Mio looks up the show times. Yuni and Shii come to look over Mio's shoulders, and Yuni points out that the show only happens once per day. Shii suggests that it would be nice if Mio could see it with Taki, and Mio is embarrassed. She's going to see the penguins and dolphins... Shii points out that they don't overlap, and Mio decides to send Taki a message, asking if he can join her for the Blue Fantasia show. After ten minutes, Taki hasn't responded, and Shii wonders if he forgot his phone. Mio figures that the phone is in his bag, and he just didn't notice her message. Shii points out that, if he was hurrying to get to a show earlier, then he's probably at whatever event is happening now. Yuni remembers that Mio mentioned the sea lion show was about to start, and Mio announces she's going. She hurries off, confirming that they'll be going to see the penguins. She's gone before they can say good bye, and Yuni and Shii are both thinking, “She's really serious about this.” Shii notices that, in her hurry to find Taki, Mio forgot her guide. Checking the guide again, Yuni notices that the sea lion show isn't the only thing going on at the moment...
Mio stops to watch some of the sea lion show (finding the sea lion's “special smile” charmingly cute), then remembers that she isn't there for the sea lions. She's supposed to be looking through the crowd. Not seeing Taki, she wonders if he may be at a different event. Questioning if there might be something else happening, Mio reaches into her bag for the guide book, and realizes she doesn't have it. Elsewhere, Taki spots a girl from behind, and approaches her. When he realizes it's a stranger, he awkwardly hurries away. One of Taki's friends (a note below them says they went to the same elementary and middle schools) asks why he's suddenly acting like a flirt. Does he even know that girl? Taki isn't sure what he means, and his other friend points that he wasn't flirting; he thought that was his girlfriend, right? (Meanwhile, the girl is still wondering what that was.) Taki says that's right, and the first guy responds that now that they mention it, they do look alike. Taki tells them he felt like he heard Mio's voice, and looks around again. His friend makes a comment about how they say people with similar builds have similar voices, and the other guy (with the glasses) tells him that that's just unsubstantiated talk. As they talk, Taki considers pulling his phone out, but his friend comments that it's rare to see Taki like this – worrying so much over his girlfriend. It wasn't like that when he was with his last girlfriend. The guy with glasses adds that [Miwa] was always very clear about what she wanted, whether pushing him away or being clingy, while [Mio] is a little harder to read. Getting uncomfortable as they continue talking about Mio, Taki interrupts and tells them not to offer a weird analysis of a someone's girlfriend. His friends tell him they were just kidding around; but, Taki agrees, right? Taki turns away and, after a pause, replies, “... I don't.”
Elsewhere, Mio is still running around, thinking that the penguin show must have started. She messages Shii, telling her that she seems to have lost her guide when she was searching for Taki. Shii tells her that she left the guide behind; for now, she shouldn't be searching without her guide. Yuni suggests they meet at the dolphin show – Mio shouldn't miss the Blue Fantasia! Mio thinks that, since she missed the penguin show, the Blue Fantasia will have to be something she uses for her assignment rather than just part of her free time. She hears a familiar voice saying, “Here?” and turns to find Marui with a little boy on his shoulders. Marui tells him to take a good look from up there, and the kid responds, “Papa, I'd rather have strawberry! I don't like the blue!” Marui asks if, by “Papa,” he means him, and then sees Mio watching, having overheard what the kid called him. (She's thinking: “Illegitimate child...”) Looking a bit panicked, he asks what she saw, and the kid yells, “Mama!” and lunges at Mio. The chapter flashes forward, with the three of them sitting on a bench with shaved ice. Marui explains that the kid was underfoot when he went to buy shaved ice, and he figured that a parent was nearby, but... Laughing, Mio figures out that's why he was on Marui's shoulders. For a second, she really thought he might be Marui's son. Mio asks the little boy (who is now eating the strawberry shaved ice he wanted) if it's good, and he says yes. She then asks him what his mother is like, and he points at Mio and says, “Mama!” Mio backs away, telling him, “Huh!? No, I'm not...” then realizes that he probably means that she resembles his mother. She sees Marui laughing, and asks him what's so funny. He tells her that it's funny that, even though the kid is lost, they're the ones who are worked up about it. Mio responds that she can't help it; she doesn't know anything about kids. Looking surprised, Marui tells her that he didn't expect that. He pictured her as someone who would say something like, “I love kids! I can't wait to have my own!” Mio scrunches up her face and asks him where he got that idea. She doesn't have any siblings, and she's never been around small children. So she worries about interacting with them... If she'll make them cry, or get them hurt... Marui waves off her concern, telling her it's nothing to worry about. His younger brother is constantly crying and getting hurt. Mio tells Marui that she didn't know he had a younger brother, and he tells her that his brother is four years younger. When he was little, he would follow Marui around, but Marui always wanted to play with his friends. (The brief flashback shows his brother running after him, yelling, “Brother!” as Marui throws things at his head and says, “Go away! You're annoying!” Mio thinks: “What a mean brother....”) Marui says he was fine; he couldn't be discouraged, and it strengthened his forehead for soccer. Mio tells him that's impressive (and wonders how much hitting it took to make his head stronger). Marui sums it up, “So, that's why I say it'll be fine, even though it's a somewhat violent way to handle things.” Mio laughs; he says that, but he was letting the kid sit on his shoulders earlier. Mio gets up, saying they should go. There should be a center for lost children; since his mother isn't around, she may have gone there. Marui stops Mio and asks her what she was on her way to do when she ran into him. She can go; he can take the kid himself, since he's the one who picked him up. Mio tells him that she was on her way toward the entrance, so she can come. She'll go with him to see the kid's mother.
They arrive at the lost children's center, and promptly find the little boy's mother. She asks him where he was, then notices Mio and Marui. She thanks them – they must have found him. The kid waves, saying, “Bye-bye, Papa! Mama!” As they walk away, she scolds him for calling just anyone “Papa” and “Mama.” Did he get strangers to buy him something again? The little boy denies it, as Marui realizes that yes, he did extort them for shaved ice. Did she hear that just now? He was calling his actual mother “Mom!” Mio laughs awkwardly; still, she's glad he's back with his mother... She notices the time, and shouts, “Ahh! The Fantasia!” Marui asks her if that's for her assignment, and she tells him yes; she still hasn't seen even one show. Marui realizes that he hasn't, either, and goes along with Mio. When they arrive, Mio thinks that while it is for her assignment, that isn't the only reason... Marui notes that they seem to have made it in time, and Mio looks around. She made it on time, but... it's just her. Marui notices that there are a lot of couples there, and they're holding hands. He sees Mio looking sadly at her phone, and seems to realize what's going on. There's an announcement that the show is starting, and Mio sighs. She won't be watching with Taki... Seeing a dolphin keychain on a girl's bag in front of her, Mio remembers her own, and thinks that it is like seeing it with him. The show starts, and she fumbles for her keychain. Maybe it will have some effect if she holds it... Rather than the keychain, Mio ends up holding Marui's hand. She starts to say, “Maru-...” and he cuts her off. “For now, just listen quietly,” he starts. “...All this time, I've been thinking I should keep quiet, if it's just going to complicate things. But still, I can't. I like you.” Mio reacts with stunned silence, then starts to process what she heard. Did he just say he liked her!? With all the girls who are constantly after him, he likes her!? Did she hear that wrong!? Wait!! Apparently thinking this might be a dream, Mio slaps herself (Marui seems pretty surprised by that). From there, Mio starts to consider what he means by “like.” Maybe he means he likes her as a friend... Marui sees her confusion, and says, “Ootaka, so as to avoid a misunderstanding, I'll say it again. I... like... you. Not as a friend. Like it's a serious illness.” Mio pulls away, unable to form a coherent response, and Marui laughs at her stammering. The end of the show is announced, and Mio yanks her hand away and steps back. Marui smiles, then tells her, “Well, that's all, for now,” and leaves. Mio watches him, still in a daze.
The chapter switches to Taki, who's running to find Mio. (It seems he did read her message, just not in time to get to the show.) He stops when he overhears someone saying that the other person is late – the Blue Fantasia just ended. The male companion apologizes, saying they'll see the next one, and the female tells him that it only happens once a day. Hasn't he heard that couples who watch it together and hold hands will have eternal happiness? Taki looks at the message from Mio again, and the scene switches back to Mio. She's still where she was before, wondering what to do. She was too shaken, and missed her chance to turn him down (or really, to say anything). She pictures herself backing off, saying, “I'm with Taki!” As she mulls over how it could have gone, Taki arrives, and sees her with her head down on the rails. He looks at her sadly (probably thinking she's upset he didn't make it). He calls out her name, telling her he got her email earlier. Hearing that, Mio starts to worry, questioning if Taki might have seen her holding hands with Marui. He didn't, did he!? Taki comes up beside her, and apologizes for missing the show. Mio nervously tells him not to worry, since it was something she thought of suddenly. She starts to try to shift the subject to what Taki and his friends went to see, but Taki reaches over and takes her hand. She starts to panic that he did see her with Marui, and will say something like, “This is what you were doing with Marui earlier, right?” She prepares to explain herself, but sees that Taki is calmly looking into the tank. She settles down, happy that he seems not to have seen Marui. She asks him what he's doing, and he responds, “Image training.” Mio isn't sure what he means, and he explains. For example, if you want to strengthen your abdominal muscles, you imagine yourself doing sit-ups. Your brain will consider it as if you really were moving your muscles, and strength improves. Mio brightens, and says she has heard of that (the mind is amazing). But, why is he suddenly bringing that up...? He was considering that more than the method (in this case, holding hands during that specific event), what's important might be having a strong desire that something become true. The show is over, but... Taki tells her he was thinking, “I always want to be with Mio.” Hearing that, Mio concludes he must have heard that rumor about the show. He tells that he did, on the way there, and Mio explains she heard it at lunch. Looking at Taki as he gazes into the tank, Mio decides to try it, and squeezes his hand. They do that together for a bit, then settle and watch the fish. Hoping they can always be together...
Next chapter: Mio has to face Marui at school, and Akane finally gets her chance to yell at him. (Also, that kid with his crush on Akane finally gets a name.)