Su Ming stared at the two cold figures walking towards him from the distance. They got closer to the house in the now dark world that would usually only be dusk at this point of time. As they closed in, a chilling air spread outwards, making the cold rain become even colder.
The lightning in the sky disappeared at that moment, as if it had retreated from this cold and had hidden itself in the darkness, refusing to come out.
Only the sounds of rain falling and squelching of feet walking on mud could be heard, the latter gradually growing clearer. It slowly reached the father's ears, causing the middle-aged man to instinctively lift his head.
He saw the two lean figures walking over to the house in the rain, arriving right before Su Ming and himself.
"You are…" Ugly Little Thing's father shuddered. When he wanted to stand up, his body shivered, and Su Ming quickly stood up to support him, all while looking at the two people coldly.
He could tell that they did not harbor any killing intent, or else destroying this village would be as easy as breathing to them.
"Kneel and receive the announcement!" the person on the left said with a shrill voice.
As he spoke, the temperature around them turned even colder, and because Ugly Little Thing's father was simply a mortal, he was stunned by the voice and his face immediately turned pale. He suddenly remembered that his eldest had been brought away by people dressed in these clothes eight years ago on a rainy night just like this.
Perhaps it was because the person's shrill voice was rather sharp as well, it also traveled into the house, causing the sleeping Ugly Little Thing and her mother to be shocked awake from their dreams.
A barely noticeable glint appeared in Su Ming's eyes. These two Immortals could be killed with just one finger if he was at the pinnacle of his strength, but his cultivation base was still in its recovering stage at the moment, and he had no idea when he would reach his peak. Yet even so, even with the one tenth of power he had recovered at that moment, he could still kill these people with ease.
"Junior brother Zuo!" The person standing to the right spoke with a low voice. He cast a glance at his companion, as if he was slightly displeased with what he had just said.
"Old man, is Chen Da Xi your son?" The black-robed person standing to the right turned his head around and cast a glance towards Ugly Little Thing's father, who was currently being supported by Su Ming. He had also caught sight of Su Ming at the corner of his eyes, but he paid no attention to him.
As he spoke, he pulled down the black hood covering his head, revealing a pale face that showed that he was about forty-something of age. He looked normal, and only the blue light in his eyes stood out, shining faintly and indistinctly.
Ugly Little Thing's father shuddered. If Su Ming had not been supporting him, he might have fallen to the ground due to the cold, biting chill, but the moment he heard that name, he seemed to have gained strength.
"Yes… Xi Er is my eldest, he… he…" Ugly Little Thing's father stammered. He did not know what had happened, but from the tone of this person's voice, he felt a stab of pain in his heart that he could not describe.
"Chen Da Xi has died!"
The person who answered Ugly Little Thing's father was the person standing to the left, the one speaking in a shrill voice. At the instant these words left his mouth and fell into the ears of Ugly Little Thing's father, the middle-aged man was stunned to his feet, and he felt as if his life had just left his body, causing him to look much older. Two trails of tears fell down from his eyes and into the ripples on the ground. They could no longer be differentiated clearly down there.
At that moment, the sound of something crashing to the floor came from the house, and that was Ugly Little Thing's mother, who had heard those words while walking out of her room. She fainted.
Ugly Little Thing was by the side and was looking at the two lean figures standing outside her house. The stranger's voice was still echoing in her ears at that moment, but soon her frail body seemed to have lost its soul, for her face turned pale, and she looked as if everything in her world had turned white as well.
"Old man, junior brother Chen had great potential and was well-liked by our Sect Elder Zhao, who took him in as his disciple, but a few days ago, junior brother Chen died of an accident, and the both of us have come on orders by Sect Elder Zhao to tell you, since we were close to junior brother Chen." The person to the right spoke in a low voice, and once he finished speaking, he brought out a bag and placed it under the eaves.
"This is the money junior Chen gathered over the past few years. We cultivators have no use for it, but to you mortals, it should be able to improve your standard of living."
The person to the right might have been speaking in a cool voice, but there was an expression of regret on his face. When he looked at Ugly Little Thing's family, pity flashed quickly past his eyes. On the other hand, the person to the left remained as cold and aloof as ever.
"Thank you… Thank you, Immortals. This is Xi Er's fate…" Ugly Little Thing's father cried, and he was just about to kneel towards the two cultivators, but was lifted up by the person to the right.
Su Ming looked at everything happening before his eyes. There might be no expression on his face giving away his thoughts, but he knew clearly in his heart that it was incredibly rare for a sect to send someone specifically to tell his or her family of the death.
This sort of thing was nigh impossible, unless… the person died of unusual causes.
Su Ming supported Ugly Little Thing's father and turned his head around to cast a glance at the little girl, who was standing in the house with a dumbfounded expression. He also looked at his mother, who had fallen unconscious. The warmth that had existed previously in this family had shattered because of this nightmare.
"This must be your other son, and this girl…" The person to the right trained his eyes on Su Ming once again, his gaze like lightning. After looking at him for a single instant, he looked at Ugly Little Thing.
'They don't know the details of Ugly Little Thing's family. Looks like they didn't ask around, and Ugly Little Thing's brother didn't go about telling others,' Su Ming thought.
"By Sect Elder Zhao's orders, we permit you to give us another child from your family. The Sect Elder will personally receive him or her as his disciple and they will inherit the regrets left behind by junior brother Chen. Congratulations, old man, we will give you seven days to choose the person who will enter Evil Spirit Sect. Seven days later, when we are on the way back to the sect, we will bring the child away." The person to the right spoke slowly, and once he finished his speech, he no longer bothered himself with Ugly Little Thing's family and turned around to leave.
The other sect member gave Su Ming and Ugly Little Thing a deep and profound smile before he, too, left.
The rain poured even harder. The two people in black walked in the rain, and their bodies turned indistinct, then gradually disappeared. Only Su Ming could see them farther away turning into long arcs and moving to the sky.
Su Ming had seen the Evil Spirit Sect they spoke of during the year he stayed in the village. It was a sect built on a mountain surrounded by clouds, and only when the entire sky was clear could he vaguely see its buildings.
However, the two disciples from Evil Spirit Sect were flying towards the east. Clearly, they were not returning to their sect. From what they had said and Su Ming's own analysis, he could deduce that the two people had left the sect on some other important business. They had come here while they were at it to complete this Sect Elder Zhao's request.
That was why they gave them seven days instead of immediately asking to take that person away. Clearly, taking a child along would affect their other mission, so it would be better for them to take him or her when they came back. It was just as they said, when returning, they might as well take the child while they were at it.
To these two people, this was a simple message, but to Ugly Little Thing's family, this was a bolt out of the blue and a nightmare that they could not refuse.
It was especially so when the parents had just gone through the pain of losing their son, yet had to face the fate of having another child taken away from their hands. This sort of thing was a disaster to this honest and kind family.
Ugly Little Thing's father stopped weaving dolls. He looked old now, and with grief in every fiber of his being, he moved to his wife and began crying silently.
The mother was slowly waking up at that moment, and she looked at her husband standing before her blankly before she started weeping as well.
Su Ming stood quietly by the side with a complicated look on his face. He could sense the family's pain and their helplessness in the face of fate.
Ugly Little Thing did not cry. She bit her bottom lip and lowered her head.
"We can't let Ugly Little Thing leave with them… She's still a child, she's…" Ugly Little Thing's mother looked at her daughter, who was silent and did not seem to be capable of crying anymore. Her heart was in pain, as if there was a knife cutting into it, but… she could not fight back.
"Seven days… We'll leave this place and flee without stopping!" Ugly Little Thing's father gritted his teeth and looked at his wife, as well as daughter, before he spoke resolutely.
"It's useless, pa, I heard from others that Immortals are deities. No matter how far we run, it'll still be easy for them to find us… At that time, all of us will be punished because we angered them. I'll go. I'll enter the Immortals' sect," Ugly Little Thing whispered softly, and at that moment, she seemed to have grown up.
"If I live, then one day, I can be like the Immortals, and I'll be able to find the cause of big brother's death!" She clenched her fists and closed her eyes.
"I'll go." In the midst of the family's grief, Su Ming cast a glance at the rain outside. It looked as if the sky was crying.
When his voice reached the family's ears, Ugly Little Thing opened her eyes.
Her mother was momentarily stunned. When she looked at Su Ming, conflict and hesitation appeared on her face.
"This has nothing to do with you, my son. Leave as well, get out of this place…" Ugly Little Thing's father immediately said.
Su Ming looked at Ugly Little Thing, then at her father and mother. A smile appeared on his face. He took a few steps back and shifted his robes before he knelt down towards the two elderly folk.
"I, Su Ming, cannot repay your kindness for saving me and keeping me in your home. The care and warmth of a home I've felt this past year is something I've rarely encountered in my life… Pa, ma, my little sister is still young. I'll go.
"I never had any parents since I was young, only my grandpa  took care of me, but now… he is no longer around. You are the only ones who gave me this warmth… My Ugly Little Doll, when I leave, you have to be a sensible girl. You have to take good care of pa and ma. Don't worry, I'll come back and visit you."
"Big brother, I…" Ugly Little Thing opened her mouth, but she did not know what to say. She looked at Su Ming, and eventually, tears fell from her eyes.
"Pa, ma, this is settled. I'll go!" Su Ming cast a glance at the couple and engraved their image deep into his heart. One year was not long, but to Su Ming, it was an experience of warmth he had never felt before. It was wholly different from what he felt in the ninth summit or Dark Mountain.
1. About elder becoming grandpa here. It was mentioned a long time ago that Su Ming looked at the elder like his grandpa.