The boundaries the child had set up were short-lived.
Despite him tensing at every shift of the bed, he quickly fell asleep in the embrace of a cozy blanket and warm house.
However, the uneasiness of the child showed through his strained, alert sleeping posture, as if enduring some sort of punishment.
At first, Yuria was worried that he was in pain laying stiff as a dead body, but later realized she had yet to see the child sleep when she was with him and was able to relieve her worries.
That day having not rested properly, the child slept deeply and soundly for a full 24 hours.
Yuria, on the other hand, was unable to sleep, lost deep in thought.
It was already hard for an adult to be on their own, so how painful had it been for this little kid?
How difficult was it trembling alone in the cold just waiting?
Fortunately, the child wasn’t hurt anywhere or feverish, so Yuria let the child sleep comfortably, thinking that he simply lacked rest.
She had noticed the child twitching with every move she made.
Thus Yuria, who was lying on the bed with the child, came down to the floor so his rest wouldn’t be disturbed.
The floor was cold, and uncomfortable, but Yuria didn’t really care as long as the child could sleep.
He had already suffered enough, she wanted to make it as comfortable as possible.
Barely having fallen asleep, Yuria heard a small, delicate murmuring voice, wondering if the child was ill, Yuria jumped up and checked his condition.
The child, who hadn’t shown any emotions earlier, had tears welling up in his eyes.
The color returned to the child’s face, lightly smacking his chapped lips.
Although his voice was muted and muffled, Yuria clearly understood the child’s calls as he scratched his body with trembling hands.
The child was calling for his mother.
(T/N: The child said the first syllable of ‘’mom’ in Korean which is ‘eo’ in ‘eomma.
“It’s okay, you’re okay now,” Yuria spoke in a soft voice, unable to say more.
The child had been all alone until now, likely abandoned by his own mother, or his mother crossed a river and wasn’t able to come back.
She wasn’t the child’s real mother, but would be happy to fulfill the duties of a mother, although there was still a long way to go till she could confidently take on such a role.
She approached him cautiously and tenderly and offered her hand.
The child hesitated before placing his quivering hand on Yuria’s outspread one.
It was such a pathetic act.
Yuria’s tears welled up at the sight of the fragile and powerless child that could fall apart at any moment.
How hard has it been? How painful are those scars?
Yuria also lost her parents at a young age.
Of course, they weren’t the greatest parents, her father was an alcoholic with an anger control disorder, he was easily irritable and raised his hand without hesitation.
At the other end, her mother was full of motherly love but didn’t know how to give it.
Her motherly love suffocated Yuria, making her sicker and pushing her closer to the edge of a cliff.
Nevertheless, she still grieved their deaths.
She was nauseous at the sight of the empty seats her parents had occupied, and had nightmares every night for a while.
Her face wet in tears every time she opened her eyes, missing their presence despite their unhealthy influence.
Recalling that time, Yuria held the child’s hand tightly.
Gradually the sobs of the child ceased, as if Yuria’s sincerity was transmitted to the child.
Still, Yuria couldn’t let go of her heart so she grasped the child’s hand, falling asleep beside the child.
A small smile graced Yuria’s face as she awoke.
The child, already awake, was sitting on the bedside and looking at her with a blank expression.
Yuria smiled and asked the child, “Did you have a good sleep?”
The child nodded slightly.
“That’s a relief.”
She was wondering what she would do if the child wasn’t able to sleep properly since it was his first time sleeping in a bed.
Having slept inside a warm house, the child’s complexion had improved, but his appearance was still grimy with filth.
When they’d arrived she’d only thought of having him rest, so she had yet to give him a bath.
Yuria realized it late, but decided to give him a proper bath now.
“If it’s okay with you baby, I want to give you a bath….
Would that be okay?” At Yuria’s careful expression, the child grinned and nodded quickly.
He didn’t know what bathing was, but it didn’t seem like she would do anything bad to him.
He still couldn’t fully trust her, but she didn’t look like a bad person.
After a while, Yuria had finished preparing the water for bathing.
For a child who didn’t even know what bathing was, everything was new and strange to him.
He stared intently at the water, his eyes shining with wonder.
It was only water, but the child was curious seeing the water sway against the edges of the bathtub.
What will happen if I touch it?
The child suddenly wondered but didn’t know if he could.
For him, the world was full of restrictions: talking, eating, anything he wished to do, were all things he wasn’t allowed.
Though Yuria was different from those people he still didn’t know what about her was so different.
However, once a challenge arose, the child could not easily escape from it.
His fingers twitched and wiggled, wanting to touch the water in the bathtub, just as he was on the verge of exploding with curiosity, he glanced at Yuria.
The moment he noticed that her attention was directed elsewhere, the child reached out and tapped the water at lightning speed.
Then the water, which had been swaying calmly, became loud waves, crashing against the sides of the bathtub.
It was bizarre to the child so he slapped the water again.
This time, water droplets flew out.
The child did not hide his surprise and opened his eyes wide, at the sight of the moving water.
It was nothing, but there was something wonderful about it.
What looked like a membrane changed shape when touched, and brought a strange feeling to his fingers.
The feeling was unfamiliar to the child, unable to hold back his curiosity anymore, he glanced at Yuria and dipped his hand in, this time more forcefully than before.
He repeated this several times, pounding the water until he was completely soaked.
It was so strange for him to see the water gushing out, and everytime he drew his hand back he created water droplets.
The child never thought that such a cool thing existed in the world.
He was just going to dip his hand in again, when Yuria’s gaze, which had been focused elsewhere, returned to him.
The child flinched and clasped his hands behind his back as if he had done something he shouldn’t have.
Keeping his mouth shut pretending to have done nothing.
“Huh? Why is the floor so wet?”
There was only about 2/3 of the water left in the bathtub.
Contemplating what to cloth the child in after washing him, Yuria was busy looking for clothes for him, and didn’t notice the splashing of a curious explorer behind her.
The boy, realizing he had been noticed, turned his head away, pretending not to know.
Nonetheless, his toes were constantly wiggling, and his eyes were staring intently at Yuria glistening with wonder of a new discovery.
Yuria couldn’t understand the current situation at first glance.
The child’s dirty hands were somewhat clean, while both his arms and feet were very wet.
Even when she understood, Yuria didn’t say anything.
She wasn’t a strict person, who would complain about a joke like this.
Since he was still a child, it was only natural to play small pranks; she could let him play as much as he wanted.
“Then shall we bathe now?” At Yuria’s words, the child unconsciously put his hands on his chest, letting out a small sigh in relief.
He tried to appear as unnoticeable as possible, even though everything was obvious.
Fearing that he would be found out, he only sighed involuntarily, wondering, ‘What did I do?’
With a friendly smile, Yuria carefully picked up the child and put him into the bathtub.
With a third of the water having been spilled, the water only came up to his chest area.
“Wow.” The child exclaimed in astonishment, experiencing being in water for the first time.
Besides, the water was clearly visible, yet also transparent.
When he wiggled his toes, the water visibly rippled.
When he pulled his hand in and out of the water, he felt the same strange sensation as earlier.
Yuria carefully washed the child; rinsing him clean, lathering in the soap, and finally spraying him again to remove the foam.
The child was amazed at each action, his eyes opened wide not wanting to miss a second.
He stared at the bubbles covering his body with a mix of wonder and bewilderment, then watched avidly as they disappeared at the touch of water.
It felt like a bubble monster.
The bubbles were interesting and pretty, but popped every time he moved.
It was a pity that they exploded when touched, but even so that in itself filled him with awe.
All of a sudden, the water in the bathtub turned a murky grey as the soap was washed off.
The child’s face darkened in realization.
The water, which had been so clear and glassy that you could see your reflection, had become a dark gray in which he could no longer see himself.
It certainly wasn’t dirty before he went in.
Just like they said, he was a dirty and terrible monster, so even the pretty water became filthy because of him.
The eyes of the child, twisted as if mourning, turned to Yuria, his head bowed.
If he stretches out his hand and touches Yuria, will she also become dirty like this water?
“Baby?” At the sudden darkening of the child’s mood, Yuria put on a puzzled expression.
The child couldn’t respond to Yuria’s words, he felt like he was about to burst into tears at this sudden fear.
He couldn’t even bear to look at her.
People were always like this – looking at me as if I’m dirty, like they’ll be cursed just by seeing me.
So, will Yuria also…
Apart from not wanting to open up to her, the child also didn’t want to hurt Yuria.
He hoped that Yuria wouldn’t turn into a muddy gray like this tainted water.
But there was nothing he could do to stop it.
The child only twisted his face and wiggled his fingers in frustration.
He started scratching the back of his hand with his fingernail in an attempt to hold in his helplessness.
“Baby, it’s okay.” Yuria, noticing something unusual, quickly reached out and embraced the child.
The child’s fear and anxiety were shown through his behavior.
For the first time, the child tried to push Yuria away; however, Yuria did not let go.
She had a feeling that if she let go now, the child would fall into an endless abyss, unable to ever return.
“I am dirty.
So dirty.” The child mumbled in a slurred tone.
“No, you’re not.” Yuria firmly shook her head.
“This is dirty.” The child said in a voice that seemed to be crying, motioning to himself.
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