It was the first time Yuria had received such a sincere favour from anyone.
The feeling was absolutely priceless and so precious that she thought that no one would ever be able to give her such favour again.
Fren’s actions and her inadequacy, causing her to get sick, weighed heavily on her consciousness.
She felt suffocated and squeezed Fren’s hand, trying to hate herself for her own incompetence.

“…Thanks, Fren.”

My gratitude is equal to my remorse. She thought about how alone Fren was and the agony he must’ve been in while crying.
There were still many things he didn’t know, and many more he hadn’t experienced.
He was a child who didn’t know how to get help when he was hurt.
Despite this, that child struggled hard to help her, causing her heart to suddenly feel like it was being swept away by a tsunami leaving only Fren amongst the wreckage.

“Now… is Yuri fine? It doesn’t hurt anymore?” Fren asked, with eyes full of anxiety, his expression betrayed how worried he still was.

Fortunately, Yuria had opened her eyes, but she looked like she might close her eyes again at any time and leave him all alone.
Fren didn’t know Yuria was so weak and fragile, he’d just been happy with whatever Yuria gave him.
She always hugged him warmly, and became a strong protective shield for him, making Fren feel like he was playing on clouds.
So, he didn’t know, Yuria was a person who was fragile, she would break if he pinched her too hard, like a sandcastle collapsing from a single wave.
It was Yuri who was in pain after going through something that was normal for him, so Fren realised again that he had to protect Yuria, and treat her preciously from now on.

“Yeah, I don’t feel any pain now.” Yuria spoke while gazing at Fren affectionately.
In fact, she now felt refreshed, and light that it was hard to believe she’d been in immense pain just minutes ago.

While dreaming Yuria heard a voice calling out to her.

—I’ll give you a blessing.
It’s a small gift for you.

Yuria didn’t know what had changed, maybe it was due to her current physical condition, nonetheless the fact that she woke up safely gave Yuria peace of mind.
She couldn’t leave Fren alone so much, and although late she was now awake to comfort him.

Fren still glanced uneasily at Yuria, not relieved by her words in the slightest.
It wasn’t that he couldn’t believe her, but Fren, who just experienced a great sense of loss and despair never known to him before, couldn’t easily escape those feelings.
I guess, I became a precious person for you too… Yuria thought.
Although feeling happy at the sight of the child crying felt utterly selfish of her, Yuria couldn’t stop the rush of emotions inside.
Just as that child had become precious to her, it seemed that she had become precious to him.
Contrary to her initial idea that he wouldn’t open his heart easily, Fren was now slowly opening up to her.
The fact that she had a place in Fren’s heart brought such a warm sensation that she almost melted on the spot.
So, again, she felt guilty for leaving him.
She wanted Fren to experience only good and happy things, and never have to go through such anxiety, worry, despair, and sadness.
All the bad things she wanted him to avoid he’d already gotten used to, it would’ve been easier for her to handle them, than a small, frail child could.
Fren had lived surrounded by too many misfortunes from a very young age.
He went through things he shouldn’t have had to, and he suffered so much that Yuria wondered how he survived till today.
She never wanted Fren to learn about such things again.

“From now on I will never get sick or leave you behind.”

I won’t let you be scared and anxious about losing someone precious ever again. It was a promise to Fren, commitment to herself, and resolution for her future.

Once, was enough. Yuria couldn’t rewrite the past, but she could prevent the future even if things didn’t go as planned, she would make things happen.
Yuria wished to never get sick around Fren ever again, she never wanted to see Fren’s tears again.
It was too painful, being thrown into a pit of fire would be better.
He was a child she would cherish, he didn’t need to be just cute, Fren was a kid she would embrace with all her heart.
Although not her biological child, Yuria loved him as if he came from her own womb, to the point she wondered how it was possible for her to harbour such motherly feelings.

Yuria was an infinitely affectionate person.
She wanted to love, and be loved yet, until now, Yuria hadn’t met someone whom she could truly give and receive affection from, even her parents did not understand Yuria, only giving her affection closer to violence.
She didn’t know love; however, after meeting Fren, she was finally able to give all the affection she had been storing.
To give as much kindness as her loneliness, as much as her despair, and to the same depth.

Feeling her emotions flowing from her heart to Fren, Yuria slowly got up pushing through the pile of cloth stacked on her body.
Though heavy, she was able to remove it from her body more easily than she thought.
Yuria emerged from the pile of cloth, reaching out to Fren, who naturally fell into her arms.

…I like it, so I never wanted to lose it. Yuria’s arms were more comfortable and warm than anywhere else.
Her clothes were wet, and her exposed skin was covered in ointment, but Fren was just happy to be in her arms.
Within her arms, he felt like he knew what happiness was.
All the bad emotions vanished, leaving the good possibilities for his future.
It was a precious emotion that he didn’t know he had until he thought he had lost her embrace, but now Fren knew it; how comforting and peaceful was being in Yuria’s slender arms and how weak and fragile he would be without Yuri.

So, protect Yuri.
Never go through something like this again. Fren never wanted Yuria to leave the safety of his arms.
Less than a day had felt like an eternity to him.
If Yuria had opened her eyes any later, Fren, who had lost all his will, would have killed himself.
That’s how precious Yuria was to him.
He himself was unaware of it, but he had already given Yuria his heart.
How could he not? Yuria created a whole new world just for him; eating, sleeping, washing, hugging, and healing.
She did all of that for him, filling Fren’s world, which was empty and devastating, with all the gifts Yuria gave him.

Fren, who had been quietly savouring the warmth of Yuria’s arms, rubbed his face against her stomach as if acting cute.
A small purr left his throat.
Yuria gently patted him and carefully wiped away the tear marks on his face, the tears became thorns on her fingertips.
Fren shed such a waterfall that Yuria wondered how his small body had even contained that much water, simply thinking to herself, That must be the depth of his feelings.

“Yuri.” Fren called out to her with a sweet voice, continuing to act cute.

“Yes, Fren.” At Yuria’s response, a smile blossomed on Fren’s face.
At last, there was someone to answer his call.

Then, the child lifted his head slightly to see Yuria’s face before once again, rubbing his cheek on Yuri, acting all cute.
A contented purr filled his throat.


* * *


The next day, Yuria, who had spent the whole day yesterday with Fren, decided to do the work she’d previously put off.
She didn’t mind procrastinating a little bit, but she couldn’t do that with the firewood.
If they ran out the stove would be cold, and they’d shiver in the frigid weather.
If she was alone, she would just let it go, telling herself it was the result of her own laziness, but it was unacceptable for Fren to be cold.

What if Fren gets sick?

“Yuri out?” Seeing Yuria getting ready to go outside, Fren asked, trembling with anxiety.

“I’ll be back soon.” Yuria said while gently stroking Fren’s hair; however, her actions did nothing to ease Fren’s nerves.
He wanted her to always be in his sight only when he could confirm that Yuria was with him, would his mind be eased.
He worried that Yuria would get hurt again somewhere that he couldn’t see and thus couldn’t protect her, and if he never saw her again, it would be more painful than having his heart pulled out.

“Fren too.
Together.” Fren declared, clinging to Yuria’s hand.
She gave him a slightly troubled look.
She wanted to listen to anything Fren had to say, and do anything Fren wanted.
However, the road to get firewood was very steep and dangerous.
If she took Fren with her for no reason, he could end up in a dangerous situation or get hurt.

“Sorry, Fren.
I’ll be right back.”


Fren kept his mouth shut and stared at Yuria.

“I promise.” Yuria held out her pinky finger, seeing Fren’s anxious expression.
He tilted his head not understanding what the meaning behind her actions were.

Yuri, who recognized this, said in a friendly voice, “Here, lock your little finger with mine, any promise I make with my pinky I have to keep.
If you don’t keep your promises… you’re going to be a very bad person.”

“Promise? Bad people?”

“That’s right.
I don’t want to be a bad person, so I’ll never break my promise.”

It was not known whether these words would alleviate Fren’s anxiety, but there wasn’t any other way.
She was going to cut wood for firewood, so it was dangerous to take Fren.

Yuri good.
Yuri good person. So Yuria couldn’t be a bad person.
At that thought, Fren hooked his pinky finger around Yuria’s.

“I love you, Fren.” To relieve Fren’s anxiety even a little, Yuria tenderly hugged him as she spoke.
In her arms, Fren wiggled his fingers nervously but didn’t return her hug.
Nonetheless, he believed her words and her promises.


* * *


Eventually, Yuria went out alone to cut wood, and there, she met a strange and unfamiliar man.
He was a man with dark black hair and black eyes, just like Fren.

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