We pick up where the last chapter left off: Yamato, Mei, hotel, undisturbed. Mei sits in the room, waiting for Yamato and Nagi to come back, thinking she'd like to take Nagi to the hotel's onsen once she returns.
Yamato enters the room, and Mei asks him where Nagi's got to. Playing it cool, Yamato observes the drinks available, black tea, green tea and coffee, while casually telling Mei that Nagi went home with his brother.
"HUH?! Ho-ho-home?! No one told me!" (Hello, he just did.) Yamato closes his eyes, all, I knew she'd freak out, and says he didn't foresee it either.
Mei goes pale as the fact that she's all alone in a hotel room with Yamato sinks in, though Yamato points out that they've just gone back to the original plan, wondering if she's unhappy about it. She says no, not really... Thinking that she's just kind of scared (as in nervous to the point of terrified, I guess), because this time's different from their trip together a year ago...
"Hey, Mei. Green tea, black tea, coffee... or an all-you-can-eat buffet. Which is better?"
Well obviously! So Mei's attention is successfully diverted, and they go eat. Yamato comments on Mei's tendency to eat a lot and how he finds it cute (so much so that he got so caught up in watching her eat her lunch earlier that he forgot to eat anything himself). Awkwardly ignoring this compliment, Mei grumbles that it pisses her off that the way Yamato's arranged his food on his plate is prettier than hers, and Yamato laughs. Then we tells her she's got rice stuck to her face, reaching over to brush it off her, asking how she managed to have that much sticking to her and not notice. Mei blushes and squeezes her eyes shut, thinking, "Stop looking at me like that...!", and Yamato goes, "Don't look like that in a place like this. Makes me want to pull you over and kiss you." Mei is all D: ...and then she stuffs some food into his mouth. He apologizes. Haha.
Back in the room, Yamato shows off how much his stomach is bulging out because he ate so much, but Mei mostly just notices the brim of his underwear showing, haha. Though she thinks to herself that seeing that much of a guys underwear is pretty normal... (Yuuuup... it is.)
They talk a bit about the day they've had, Yamato saying he's kinda tired, complaining that he feels like they got pulled around by Nagi all day, and Mei saying it's all right since they still had a good time, and Nagi seemed to enjoy herself a lot. Mei also says that she managed to take some of the scarier rides, so she had fun. Yamato figures Nagi probably looked at his tickets and came all this way just so she could talk to Mei... aaand right about now, she's probably making a huge fuss in the car. Mei smiles, saying that if that's the case, she's really happy. She says that while she never thought it possible before, she now has a lot of people around her that makes her think, "I want to see them", or, "I want to talk to them", and they too like being with her and smile when they're with her and such. "I'm truly happy. I think that every day lately."
Yamato's lying on the bed with his eyes closed, and as he doesn't say anything, Mei goes to lean over him, thinking he's asleep, and tells him, "Thank you, Yamato, for making me feel this way, and for helping me meet so many great people." Yamato opens his eyes and looks straight at her, making her stutter, "Wh, what, weren't you aslee--"Yamato pulls her down next to him, saying, "There no way I'd fall asleep while alone together with the girl I like." Then he comments that her hair's grown longer, while Mei freaks out about how to react to the situation. (Thinking:) Right now it's just Yamato and I, with no one around to interfere. His scent and body temperature should feel nice, but... I'm scared.
"...Huh? Mei, didn't you bring 'THAT' today?"
"Yeah, you know, the buzzer thing."
"Ahh... Right. I didn't bring it."
"Uh...HUH...?! How come?! Why not?! I mean, I'm surprised... I was sure you'd pull something out... Like, it's just THE TWO OF US. In a HOTEL ROOM, you know?!"
"...Yeah but... I know that you're not someone who'd force me to do anything, so..."
Yamato goes quiet, looking at her (downcast eyes, blushing, tearing up just a bit), then excuses himself to go take a shower. "I sweated a lot today, so I don't want to you smell me and think I stink... but perhaps you'd like to shower together?"
"NO! Nope! No thank you!!"
...And so Yamato goes to shower alone. He figures Mei must still be trying very hard by herself in a lot of ways without him noticing, and concludes that it'll be fine this way. If taking it slow rather than hurrying things allows him to meet Mei halfway, then he much prefers that.
When he's done with his shower, he finds Mei alseep. He pretty much figured as much, having spent an hour in the bath (probably on purpose to avoid the difficulties of the situation). He laughs at her sleeping face, then thinks, "Sorry... You were scared, weren't you..." and leans down to kiss her cheek, going, "Thank you, Mei..."
When she wakes up next morning, Mei finds Yamato watching TV and brushing his teeth like a boss. She apologizes for falling asleep on him, but he says it was only natural, having been pulled around all day. Then he adds that he of course took advantage of the situation to pull a few pranks on her. Mei is like, what did you do?! And he's like, nooothing~ and she's like, WHAT DID YOU DO?!?! And then Yamato hugs her waist (she sitting on the bed, he kneeling on the floor), saying, "Let's take it slow," and Mei blushes and says yeah. The narration goes: Whatever our surroundings say... as long as we like each other, there are no time restrictions or anything like that.
Once back home, Mei goes to give people their omiyage (souvenir). Aiko and Asami are amazed that Mei and Yamato once again did not "go all the way". (Aiko is annoyed, Asami thinks Yamato's amazing.) Mei continues her gift-giving journey, this time going to her workplace, where Kai happens to conveniently stop by (on his way to the hairdresser, oooh! Kai's getting rid of the mane), so Mei can give him his souvenir as well (his favourite white chocolate, apparently). Kai gushes a bit about Land before he heads off to his appointment, thinking that Mei's pretty special (weird?) for giving him a souvenir.
The hairdresser is of course Yamato's brother Daichi, hoho. Seeing the gift in Kai's hands, he's all, "OHH present for me? Yay!" But Kai informs him that he's wrong and that HE just received it. Daichi recognizes it as something bought at Land, and then he starts talking about how Yamato just went there with his girlfriend, returning the day after all super smiley and stuff. Kai tells him he knows, seeing as he received the gift from the girlfriend.
"Oh, I see. So you're friends with her too."
Daichi looks at him, thinking to himself like, oho... an unrequited love? And then considerately changes the subject by asking how Kai would like his hair cut. Kai says he'd just like it shorter. And NOT cut the way he cut it last time, 'cause he got stared at so bad in school, and that was all Daichi's fault! (the cut he had when he first appeared in the story, I guess). So Daichi's like, "I guess we can just as well take it all off then?" smiling big and holding up an electric razor. Kai screams. XD
We switch to Megumi. :( She's at work modelling, and there's a new kid called Isumi around who's apparently very popular online. A woman talks a bit about how there's lots of stuff written on the internet and it's a bit scary and I dunno, blahblah (sorry, skimming the uninteresting parts... forgive me). When asked to participate in the welcoming party for Isumi, Megumi declines and goes home, looking up the magazine blog on the net and finding that there indeed are a lot of comments. One is like, "Megu-tan is so cute! I also want to get that slim!", while another says s/he'd rather see more of Kae, 'cause she's sexy, and another goes on about how models must come to find themselves cute and blah blah, and while none of these leave much of an impression on her, she eventually comes to some comments from people from her school. For example, there's one who'd been disappointed to find that Megu's the type to talk ill of her friends and such, then others following suit with comments saying she's got a bad personality, that they've heard she sucks up to people to get jobs, that her face is hardly at a level worthy of being printed in a magazine, that's she's ugly and so on. Megumi's all, "this isn't right..." Then thinks back to the "the internet is scary" stuff, and how Isumi is an internet idol. She checks her phone, but has no texts. She starts listing out loud what groceries she needs to buy. Calorie bread and water and other healthy things, thinking about how she's worked really hard for 5 years, (flashbacks to the time she was bullied, and to crossing out her own face from a photograph, her mother asking her what she's doing) so that no one, not others nor herself, would ever look down on her again.
There's a more detailed flashback to a time after she'd had her cute-transformation, when she met the kid who'd bullied her the most again (they're now in middle school, I assume). He treats her like an old friend, asking if she remembers him, super thrilled when she says she remembers him best of all. Later on they're in an empty classroom, and he's going on about how cute she is (kissing her neck and such because she says she'll be embarrassed if he kisses her mouth (cause then he can see her face at the same time)). She comments that boys always tend to call girls cute during times like these. But then why did he always call her ugly back then? "You just want to do it. You don't actually think I'm cute. You'd be cool with anyone as long as there's a hole, right? Seriously, from way back, you never fail to make me sick."
Narration: I'm not cute yet. To stop being ugly, I'll have to put in double the effort of a normal person.
She's then scouted as a model, and chooses that as her way to cuteness. She lists out all the things she's done to get to where she is today, playing nice with people, getting along, trying new products, recommending them to friends, holding back from eating what she wants etc etc, so why the nasty comments (online)? Even though she's done so much for people... Why does she have to be made feel this low? While walking to the convenience store, she thinks, "And even though I'm supposed to be happy when someone calls me cute... I never feel even the slightest bit happy at all," and a tear runs down her cheek. "How do I become happy? What do I do?"
Kai is also out shopping (woy, new hair. An improvement, if nothing else XD), and witnesses Megumi as she fills her shopping cart with sweets. Megumi thinks: "Someone... teach me."
End of chapter 25 :)