For some unknown reason, his own appearance had also not returned to that of an adult. He remained in Destiny's teenage form, and because his father was worried that others would not welcome him due to his hair, he had used grass juice to make a dye for Su Ming's hair. It was black now.
This warmth he experienced during the past year was something Su Ming could not forget. It had become a warm memory in his life. He loved this place, loved this younger sister of his called Ugly Little Thing, loved his father who weaved straw dolls, and loved his gentle mother.
But he had more important things to do. He had to search for his Master and his senior brothers. He had to make himself stronger, for only then could he turn this disaster that was so roughly shoved onto his person to become Di Tian's disaster when he eventually ran into him in the future!
He could not stay here for too long, because if he stayed here, then he could bring death upon this family, because Di Tian… could come at any moment.
The year might have gone by peacefully, but Su Ming could not… bask in this warmth forever.
As he ate that mountain herb, he looked at his younger sister and at his parents, and a thought bloomed in his head, one that had appeared multiple times in the past - If, one day, he managed to find his Master and his senior brothers, if they were still safe, if all of the problems disappeared, then he could stop searching for the future. As long as this place still existed, as long as he could still come back, he would return to this warmth and keep his mortal parents company through their entire lives. He would stay with his little sister through her life as well, and watch her grow into an adult, get married, have children, and grandchildren, and that… would be wonderful…
This was a beautiful life, and it made a smile appear on Su Ming's face.
"Big brother… big brother! Dog Leftovers! Why are you smiling?" Ugly Little Thing swallowed a large mouthful of mountain herbs and looked at Su Ming before she asked in her clear voice. Her eyes glowed, and it was a beautiful sight.
Dog Leftovers was the name this family had given to Su Ming. At that time, he had been gravely injured and had laid on the bed every single day, as if he would die at any moment.
If any child in his mother's hometown was sickly, the parents would usually give him or her a pet name. The name may be unpleasant to the ears, but it contained the family's gentle and familial love. They intentionally made the name sound demeaning so that the child could be healthy from then on.
Dog leftovers… food that even dogs were not willing to eat. By that notion, perhaps even the reapers would not take the child's soul away.
Su Ming patted Ugly Little Thing's hair and spoke softly. "I was thinking what sort of dowry I should prepare for you when you grow up and marry someone else in the future."
"Hmph, you're just older than me by a few years, why are you always talking like an old man? I'm also thinking what sort of present I should prepare for my future sister-in-law when you marry her in the future." Ugly Little Thing scrunched up her nose and imitated Su Ming's tone as she spoke.
Her parents looked at their children, then at each other, and they both saw the smile in each other's eyes, along with the warmth in their hearts.
This was a warmth that belonged to a family, it was a love that would not freeze over no matter how cold the weather turned, a love that repelled the chill from the rain that had chased away the heat in the world as it poured from the dark clouds that filled the sky, causing it to be unable to enter the house.
At some unknown point of time it had started pouring. It was now afternoon. The sky was dark, and the rushing sound of rain seemed to contain some sort of mysterious power that made all those who heard it for prolonged periods to time to be unable to help themselves but become drowsy.
Ugly Little Thing was affected precisely this way. She ate till she was full and patted her little belly, then flashed a brilliant grin at the parents and her elder brother. As she spoke, she gradually started nodding off. Eventually, her body fell into Su Ming's embrace, and she was asleep with a sweet smile on her lips.
Su Ming looked at his little sister in his arms with a gentle gaze. He lightly picked her up and brought her to the small bed in the room. Once he covered her with a blanket, he looked at the sleeping Ugly Little Thing and the distinct birthmark on her face. It wasn't hard to tell just how many times she had been mocked and ostracized as she grew up.
But she was a very sensible child. Even if no one played with her, she would play by herself. Even if she was bullied outside, she would wipe away her tears on the way back home and put on a smile so that her parents would not worry.
She was kind and did not hate any of her companions who mocked and teased her. She liked them and would help them, and would even choose to run away, dejected, when they repeatedly hurt her.
"Big brother…" Ugly Little Thing mumbled softly in her sleep, and the smile on her face became even more adorable, as if she was playing with Su Ming in her dreams. This was the happiest event in her heart besides being with her parents.
As Su Ming looked at Ugly Little Thing, he gently patted her back, and once he was sure she was fully asleep, he walked out of the room and looked at the increasingly heavier rain outside. When lightning crackled in the sky, thunder would travel forth in muffled rumbles. Ugly Little Thing's father was crouching down under the eaves, with grass of different colors and sizes placed beside him; he was weaving the grasses together as rain fell on him.
Ugly Little Thing's mother was putting away the dishes. Once Su Ming walked back into the room, she smiled with kindness and love at him.
"Is your little sister asleep?"
Su Ming nodded and helped put away the dishes.
"Oh, you… There's no need for that. Go and sleep as well. The rain might continue for an entire night, judging by the weather."
"It's fine, ma, I'm not tired." Su Ming smiled and shook his head.
The woman looked at him and sighed softly in her heart. When her daughter had carried the boy back a year ago, she had wondered which parent could bear to abandon such a beautiful child.
During the past year, his diligence and the attachment in his eyes when he looked at them had made her treat him as if he was her own son.
When the rain outside started pouring even heavier and the water had practically connected the sky and the earth, Ugly Little Thing was shocked awake by a clap of thunder. Her mother quickly went up to her and comforted her. With the patting, Ugly Little Thing slowly fell asleep again.
Su Ming walked over to the middle-aged man quietly and sat down beside him. He looked at the rain outside and felt the chill on his face. After a long time, he turned his head around and looked at this man who had been his father for the past year. He was completely absorbed in his task, and looked as if he did not know that Su Ming was by his side. The grass in his hands seemed to have gained life, and as he continued weaving it in his hands, it started gaining the form of a doll.
The different colored grasses were placed into the doll, causing it to look alive. However, many of the grasses had sharp edges. It was nothing usually, but the middle-aged man's concentration and actions made him ignore the pain brought by the grasses cutting into his hands.
The scar-ridden hands was a mark of his life of creating dolls.
Su Ming watched. At that moment, Ugly Little Thing's father was giving off a presence that he did not understand. He was still a mortal, but the dolls he created seemed to have been given life.
This wasn't the first time Su Ming watched his father, he'd been doing so over the past year. Ever since he woke up and became part of the family, he fell in love with his father's creations.
Every single completed doll seemed to possess signs of life, fascinating him, and he seemed to have gained an epiphany just by watching the process of their creation. As time passed, his understanding grew more, but there was always a veil covering his sight, causing everything to seem as if it was still shrouded in fog.
"What is Life…?" The words contained within the black wooden block emerged in Su Ming's head.
"How are your skills now?"
As Su Ming continued watching, he did not notice that the sky had turned slightly darker. Usually, at this point of time, it should only be dusk, but the dark clouds and the rain had brought the night earlier.
The middle-aged man finally lifted his head and looked at Su Ming sitting beside him. There was a smile on his face when he placed the straw doll in his hand on the ground and asked Su Ming that question.
Su Ming hesitate for a moment before he brought out the small doll he had created that afternoon in the osmanthus forest and passed it to Ugly Little Thing's father.
"I… always feel that it's lacking something." Su Ming frowned.
"It lacks life." Ugly Little Thing's father took the doll in his hand and smiled kindly.
"As long as it exists, everything in the world possesses life, especially plants. They have even more of it than us. The dolls that are created using grass also need life. I don't know how to expression this life, it's just a feeling. I've been making dolls my whole life, after all.
"This one you created doesn't have any life," Ugly Little Thing's father told Su Ming.
"How do I give it life?" he asked softly.
"Use your heart to create it. Think of how you want to create it, and think about the form on which you're basing its creation… I only know how to make two dolls, and they are both in the form of children. The girl is Ugly Little Thing, and the boy… ha… it's Ugly Little Thing's elder brother."
Ugly Little Thing had an elder brother. Su Ming had heard about him from her before. He was older than her by ten years, and eight years ago… he was taken away as a disciple by Evil Spirit Sect, which was located not too far away from this place.
In the blink of an eye, three years had passed by, and there was no news from him…
Su Ming fell silent. After a long time, he lifted the grass by his side, but just as he was about to begin weaving, suddenly, a barely noticeable glint appeared in his eyes, and he lifted his head. There was a chill in his eyes, but it was hidden.
Ugly Little Thing's father clearly did not notice anything. Swathed in his sentiment, he continued weaving dolls, but after a moment, the rain outside the house exuded an even colder chill, and two indistinct figures walked slowly towards the village from the distance.
As the two people came, the rain that fell on their bodies immediately turned into ice that toppled to the ground. The ice was black, and if anyone saw it during the day, they would surely be frightened.
'Immortals…' Su Ming calmly watched the two people walking in the rain, noticing how they were heading straight towards Ugly Little Thing's house!