After it, those people would come and take away either Su Ming or Ugly Little Thing. Then they would send the chosen child to the Sect Elder Zhao.
When morning arrive , the rain stopped. Su Ming went to the osmanthus forest he frequented throughout the year, wiped away the water that had gathered on the leaves, then sat down and looked up.
The sky was clear. There were no clouds. It was completely different compared to the previous day.
Even though it was morning, the light from the sun was still gentle. When it fell on his body, it felt as if it could chase away the humidity that had gathered during these past few days, and it gave him a warm feeling in his heart.
However, the osmanthus in this forest had mostly turned into embellishments on the mud, causing even the mud to possess the fragrance of the flowers. It fused with the sweet smell of the mud after rain, stirring a special emotion in people who smelled it.
Su Ming continued staring at the sky just like that. No one knew what he was thinking about, and neither did he himself. His eyes were trained towards the sky, but his heart had become quiet. He started circulating his Qi that had lain dormant in his body for a long time, causing the one tenth of his recovered cultivation base to slowly start flowing.
The recovery of his cultivation base was even more difficult than he imagined it to be. The injuries he had suffered in the past were simply to grave, and he was also stuck in Destiny's form. Su Ming had thought about this, and after some analysis, he gained an answer as to why Di Tian had not managed to find him.
Perhaps it was precisely because he was in this form that the clone was still unable to find him.
As for why he was in this form and why he managed to escape from the disaster brought to him by Di Tian… Su Ming only remembered a song from a xun before he fell unconscious, but he could guess from this that the person who saved him was the old xun maker.
"Berserker Soul… Once my cultivation base is restored, the most important thing for me to do is to reach the Berserker Soul Realm," Su Ming mumbled. In his hands he held a blade of grass. He tied a knot, then another, and yet another, until he eventually created a doll.
'If pa can gather up such power in his mind and turn it into a blessing even though he is just a mortal… then the strength of this power would be much greater if a person with the power of cultivation made the records with the knots!
'Grass knot records should be a unique Art. It… should be related to Curses!' This was the first thing that appeared in Su Ming's head when Ugly Little Thing's father was talking about the grass knots.
If he focused a Curse towards a person on one grass knot, and then another Curse on another person, then once he had placed many Curses on many knots and turned them all into one single straw doll, then… would he be able to create a different type of Curse?!
'It's said that some Soul Catchers use other people's hair to perform the Curse, but most of these are just rumors. Even if they do exist, the strength of those Curses isn't strong. Those who are truly strong, they can ignore them.
'But if I combine the Curse with these grass knots…' A glint appeared in Su Ming's eyes. He dipped his head down and looked at the grass knots in his hand in silence.
The morning passed by just like that. When noon arrived, the sun became scorching hot, and the light from the sun slipped through the leaves to fall on Su Ming. The sounds of footsteps traveled into the forest from the area outside. Su Ming averted his gaze from the sky and looked over.
It was Ugly Little Thing. She walked over quietly and stopped before him.
"Big brother, you can't go," she said softly, looking straight at Su Ming.
"You'll die if you go. This is our family's problem. I must be the one who goes…" Ugly Little Thing bit her bottom lip. Her voice rang with her determination.
"Come, sit beside me." Su Ming smiled. He moved slightly to make some space beside him. The leaves there were clean. He looked towards Ugly Little Thing.
The little girl scrunched up her nose. Once she sat down beside Su Ming, she opened her mouth, looking as if she wanted to say something. Su Ming simply smiled and looked at her.
"If I will die if I go, then isn't it the same for you?"
"That's different, I… I'm smarter than you! If I go, I might not die, big brother, please listen to me this time, please…"
"Let's not talk about that anymore. Stay by my side for a while." Su Ming patted Ugly Little Thing's head and leaned against the tree behind him, then turned his gaze towards the sky. He no longer spoke.
Ugly Little Thing hesitated for a moment, then she leaned against the tree as well. She, too, looked at the sky. As she continued looking at the blue up ahead, she began to feel as if she had flown up and was roaming in the air.
"Big brother, just how big is the sky…?"
"Then… how high is the sky?"
"Hmph, you're cheating. Then big brother, here is another question, what is behind the sky?"
Su Ming remained silent for a moment, his eyes still trained at the blue sky. Then he spoke softly.
"There is a vortex of fog behind the sky."
"Then what is behind the vortex?" Ugly Little Thing's curiosity was sparked. She blinked and immediately threw out another question.
"There is a galaxy behind that vortex, and there are many stars there, along with many floating continents…" Su Ming mumbled. These were all things that he had seen with his own eyes.
"What is that place?" It was clear that this was the first time Ugly Little Thing had heard about this. She was, after all, still a child, and once Su Ming started talking about these things, she forgot her entire reason for coming to him, instead becoming more interested in his words.
"That is another world." A freezing glare flashed in his eyes when he said that languidly.
"Another world… Are they the same as us?" With her age, it was inevitable that the girl would remain completely clueless as to what Su Ming was saying. She frowned.
"I, too, want to know that. That is why, someday, I will go and see what the other worlds look like, and I want to see how different they are from us…" Su Ming said calmly. The resolve on his face was something Ugly Little Thing could not understand. Perhaps she would remember this scene, and many years later, she would understand what it meant.
The sky gradually turned dark. When dusk arrived, the sky gained a crimson red shade, causing the ground to look as if it had been dyed in a layer of brilliant light. Only then did Ugly Little Thing remember her goal when coming to this place. She immediately stood up and stared at Su Ming.
Ugly Little Thing forced down her fears towards the future and spoke firmly. "Big brother, I'm officially telling you this - you can't go! This is my problem! The person who will be taken away tonight is me. You… You have to remember to take care of pa and ma…"
"If our elder brother didn't die, would you really want to go?" Su Ming stood up and looked at Ugly Little Thing before he asked softly. There was a strange rhythm to his voice, and when it fell into Ugly Little Thing's ears, a dazed look gradually appeared on her face.
"I… I don't want to go. I want to stay with pa and ma. I want to be with them for the rest of my life, but I don't want you to go either. I want our family to be together forever."
Su Ming stroked Ugly Little Thing's head lovingly, then held her hand and walked out of the forest.
Once they were out, the girl snapped out of her daze. She remained stunned for a moment before she broke free from Su Ming's hand and took a few steps, then placed her hands on her hips.
"Big brother, I might be mild mannered usually, but when I get angry, I'm really scary, you know?! You… you can't go!" Ugly Little Thing puffed up her cheeks. She looked like an adult, and when Su Ming saw it, it made him smile.
"Alright, alright, I won' go."
"Really?" When Ugly Little Thing heard those words, she immediately spoke.
"Truly," Su Ming answered with a smile.
When she heard his answer, the girl relaxed and went up to hold Su Ming's hand, then skipped all the way back home, but the terror and fear towards the future could not be hidden away from her face due to her age. The happiness she put in her actions was what she had learned since she was young, and it was showing up naturally.
It did not rain that night.
On that night, Ugly Little Thing's laughter could be heard ringing in the house as their family had dinner, but there was a light wobble to that laughter. Her father was silent, and there was grief on his face, and her mother would occasionally turn her head around to wipe away her tears.
"Dog Leftovers, have some more of these. Here…" mother added more food into Su Ming's bowl, and there was a complicated look in her eyes when she looked at him.
There was one particular dish which she and her husband did not touch, and which Ugly Little Thing was also avoiding. Only Su Ming alone was eating it.
He could not taste the dish, but he could tell that there was a herb in there that had tranquilizing properties; it could make people drowsy. If someone ate too much of that thing, they would fall asleep without realizing it themselves.
Su Ming sighed in his heart. How could he not know what the family was thinking about. In the end, they had decided not to have him replace Ugly Little Thing and have him face a fate in which he might die. Instead, they had chosen to let him have a good rest. When the next day arrived, Ugly Little Thing would be gone.
Perhaps the couple had struggled and argued about this decision, but in the end, they had chosen to do this. Even if they would feel pain, even if they would end up regretting their decision, at this moment, this was what they chose.
Once Su Ming's final dinner with the family was over, he stood up and kowtowed deeply towards them. There was not a single reaction to his actions, because at that moment Ugly Little Thing had already closed her eyes and fallen asleep. It was the same for her parents.
Su Ming might only have restored a tenth of his cultivation base, but it was enough to let this family fall asleep without their knowledge and allow himself to not be affected by that herb.
He carried his father and mother back to their rooms, and once he covered them with their blankets, he looked at the couple, whose hair was now flecked with white. His expression was incredibly gentle when he lifted his right hand and pointed at their foreheads, slowly giving them some of what little remained of his life force. This would allow the couple to be able to recover in the future. Soon, they would no longer be plagued by sickness.
Then Su Ming carried Ugly Little Thing and placed her gently in her room. As he looked at the sleeping child before him, he once again heard the words she had said in her weak voice when she had carried him down the mountain.
After a long, long time, Su Ming placed his right hand on Ugly Little Thing's birthmark. When he lifted his hand after a moment, the birthmark had become much lighter.
Su Ming covered her with her blanket and walked out of his room, then put away the dishes used during dinner. Once he cleaned them, he rolled up his sleeves and started cleaning up the rooms. As he looked at the house that had grown on him during this past year, a reluctance to part appeared on his face.