The three days of rain washed the earth and beat down the osmanthus, causing the land to be wet and all the houses to be filled with humidity. Even after the people wiped the blankets they used at night to sleep, they would still be wet.
This was how it was during this season.
During the three days, very few people left their houses except to hunt. Only when it occasionally stopped raining would a few children run out barefooted to play in the mud. Their happy laughter rang in the air.
Usually, at this moment, Ugly Little Thing would bug Su Ming and pick up a handful of mud not too far away from her house to mould it into an unidentifiable animal.
Every single time, Su Ming would play with her with a smile on his face. As he looked at this kind and adorable girl, he remembered his childhood.
Yet now, what surrounded Ugly Little Thing's family was grief and silence. Su Ming's request had caused them to struggle greatly. They did not know what to choose.
This was also why Su Ming was gentle to this family, because if it was anyone else, then this would not even be a choice. After all, how difficult would it be to choose between a child they picked off the streets compared to their own daughter?
Ugly Little Thing's father was silent. His wife was also silent. Their gazes would always move between Su Ming and Ugly Little Thing. They would look at the birthmark on Ugly Little Thing's face and her thin body, and their hearts would clench in pain.
But when their gazes fell on Su Ming's body, that pale face, that frail body, and the understanding gaze, as well as the expression on his face that treated them as parents, the couple's hearts would clench in pain once again.
There were four days left, then it would be time for them to make their choice…
"Pa, you said that we have to give life to dolls when we create them, but just what sort of thoughts do you need to be able to give life to dolls?" Su Ming looked at Ugly Little Thing's father and asked softly.
On the fourth day since the people from Evil Spirit Sect left, Su Ming placed some blades of grass before his father and started weaving the grass with his head bent downwards.
"Everyone needs to be moved… Only when they feel touched in their hearts would they be able to create dolls with life," Ugly Little Thing's father answered gently, looking at Su Ming, but the complicated gaze in his eyes could not be hidden away.
"The dolls your pa once made did not have any life. It was only when your brother Xi Er was born and I heard his cries that I managed to create the first doll with life. I was standing outside his room back then." For the first time, Ugly Little Thing's father called himself 'pa' before Su Ming. The word came out naturally, and there was not a hint of artificialness or intentional acting there. When he said that word, he picked up a blade of grass.
First, he made a single knot, and then made many more on that blade of grass. When there were a dozen something knots, he looked towards Su Ming.
"Before I married your ma, I was a tribe member of Grain Support Tribe. It's a small tribe, and there were only about a hundred of us, but we had a long history...
"I never had the constitution to practice the ways of the Berserker when I was young. I could only be a mortal, but my father and grandfather were the tribe's eternal historians." A smile appeared on Ugly Little Thing's father's lips, and there was a nostalgic expression on his face.
"You know as well that only those who cannot practice the ways of the Berserkers can become eternal historians. They only have one job, and that is to record the tribe's history using the methods unique to each tribe.
"The legacy of Grain Support Tribe is very old, and no one knows precisely when it started. But we know that it is all real from eternal historian records in the tribe.
"The recording method we use is called the grass knot record. We use different grasses and different knots to record history. No one can tell their meanings, only the people who have mastered the method.
"I was my generation's eternal historian, but… the disaster that fell on our tribe brought death and separation to my tribe, causing all of these things to no longer exist. I met your ma and came to this place to stay… I'm just a mortal and I don't have any other skills. Trying to survive is hard.
"But I know how to knot grass, I know how to use these limitless knots of grass to weave dolls…" Ugly Little Thing's father looked at Su Ming. When he spoke, his hands never stopped. He continued weaving, and when he finished speaking, a small human doll appeared in his hand.
That doll was incredibly similar to Su Ming!
"This doll is made of twenty nine knots. I've recorded all twenty nine of my blessings for you in these knots. It's also a doll. I gave your older brother one when he was born, and also another one for your little sister when she was born. Now, I'll give this to you." Ugly Little Thing's father handed the doll in his hand to Su Ming.
"Grass knot records…"
This was the first time Su Ming had heard of this method to record history. It did not matter whether it was when he was in the Alliance of the Western Region or when he was in South Morning, all the tribes he saw did not have this sort of scribe, much less the title of eternal historian.
But he could tell that it was a position similar to the Head of the Guards and the chief of hunters in a tribe.
Su Ming received the doll, but the instant his hand touched it, a sharp, focused glint appeared in his eyes. He could clearly tell that there was a wave of life force contained within it. That life force was very faint, and if his divine sense hadn't slightly recovered, it would have been incredibly difficult for him to notice its existence.
That life force contained a blessing, and there was even a wave of warmth that spread through Su Ming's entire body.
He lifted his head and cast a deep look towards Ugly Little Thing's father. If he was not completely certain that this person did not possess any form of cultivation base and that he was a very ordinary mortal, once Su Ming saw this doll, he would definitely think that this had come from a person who possessed the power of cultivation.
The man's ancient face was filled with wrinkles, and they showed all the trials life had thrown at him. The waist that would bend slightly unnaturally when he stood up looked like the helplessness he faced and the fate he had to deal with during his life had pressed down heavily on his body.
But it was a mortal like this, a normal person like this that had managed to create a doll that contained the power of life. Su Ming had seen many dolls created by Ugly Little Thing's father before, but the life contained within each of them was very weak. It was not enough to cause his shock, but the one in his hand right then had made the scattered power of cultivation within Su Ming's body… show a slight ripple.
'This is related to grass knot records, but more importantly… only when you reach the pinnacle of conveying your meaning through these knots can you surpass the limits of your hands. Because of this, he was able to give thoughts to these grass knots, causing those thoughts to turn into a blessing, despite him being completely unaware of it. These blessings contain his prayer, that is why as long as he is alive, these blessings will stay.'
Su Ming seemed to have come to a little bit of understanding. It was the same principle as when he drew, and how people would have the feeling of the words other people wrote possessing the might of horses charging in a battlefield.
This was all due to a person having reached the pinnacle in a certain craft. It had nothing to do with cultivation, neither did it have anything to do with anything else. It was only connected to the heart.
"The grass knots you make do not possess life, because you don't know how to make records with grass knots. How about this? I'll teach you… Your big brother didn't manage to learn it, and your little sister isn't interested in this. You make your pa happy that you like this." Ugly Little Thing's father smiled kindly. He picked up a blade of grass and handed it to Su Ming before he picked another one for himself.
"Using grass knots to record history or thoughts is an ancient method. I don't know everything and can only make simple records. Each knot is different, and with each you make, you must think of the things you want to record.
"I remember my pa telling me this when he taught me…
"It doesn't matter whether it's grass knots or string knots, they will need you to use your eyes to see, your hands to touch, and your heart to feel them. The main point of this is that you need to touch it.
"You must touch and feel the sensation after you make every single knot. It's very strange and mysterious, and I'm not capable of describing the feeling to you, but before we had words, our ancestors used this method to record every single detail in their lives." As Ugly Little Thing's father spoke, he tied eight knots.
Time flowed just like this, and in the blink of an eye, several days had passed. Su Ming was continuously immersed in the grass knot records and continued learning from his father, but the man was clearly not a good teacher, because most of the time he made the knots based on feeling, and he could not express them in words.
When there were only two days left before Evil Spirit Sect came, Ugly Little Thing's father kept mostly silent. His gazes when he occasionally looked towards Su Ming were mostly filled with complicated emotions as well.
Ugly Little Thing's mother behaved in the same way.
After the rain stopped for a few days, it started pouring once more in the afternoon of next day. The rushing of rain echoed in the air even when midnight arrived.
Su Ming lay in his own room and looked at the rain outside through the window, as well as the occasionally flashing lightning, all while listening to the sound of thunder clapping. He could not sleep.
There were eight knots in his hands, and they were all given to him by his father before he went to sleep. Su Ming's knowledge about grass knot records was still vague, even if he had been learning them for the past few days. He did not have a really clear image in his head.
When Su Ming touched the knots on the grass, he started thinking about his own past.
Ugly Little Thing was in the same room as he was. It was difficult for a poor family like this to provide each of their children a room of their own.
Her even breathing had been following Su Ming for most of the year, leaving a deep memory in his mind that would be incredibly difficult for him to forget. He turned his head around and looked at her. As he watched the sleeping girl, a faint smile appeared on his face.
However, there were tears flowing down her eyes as she continued sleeping. The words she mumbled caused the faint smile on Su Ming's face to turn into a doting one.
"Big brother… big brother… Dog Leftovers... Don't go, I can do it… I'll beat them up…"
"Pa, ma… we'll be together, forever…"
In her world, the memory of her blood brother had become faint. After all, she had just been born at that time eight years go. She had only been told that she had an older brother who had entered an Immortals' sect.
Everything else about her big brother remained a blank. Su Ming's appearance had caused that blank to be gradually filled with his shadow. To Ugly Little Thing, her big brother was Su Ming.
Her greatest wish in this life was that her whole family, including her big brother Dog Leftovers, could live happily together.
Su Ming wiped away the tears at the corners of Ugly Little Thing's eyes, and a determined look appeared in his eyes. He did not want grief to take hold of this family. He wanted them to be eternally happy.
'Ugly Little Thing, I promise you, I will protect your family… up till the end!'