He could not find that feeling, could not find the vague sensation that Ugly Little Thing's father had spoken about. Like this, he had a feeling that if he forcefully tied the eighth knot, he would come face to face with utter failure, which would result in complete demolition of whatever he had done previously.
That was why Su Ming chose to put away that strand of hair for the first time since he started working on it two months ago, no longer choosing to try and force himself to finish his work. Instead, he chose to let himself calm down.
'I need to find someone on whom I cold test the complete doll formed by the grass knot records. Only then will I be able to be certain that nothing will go wrong with the eighth knot.' Su Ming let his eyelids fall slightly. It was now the coldest month of the year, and it was close to the first day of a new year.
By the tradition in the village, the first day of each year was the most important day in a year. It was the time when the entire family gathered together, and their house would be filled with joy and warmth.
Su Ming still remembered himself recovering in Ugly Little Thing's house during the first day of last year. That was the first time he had experienced what could only be constituted as true warmth after he left Dark Mountain. This warmth was different from the ninth summit, but it was similarly precious to him.
It was the warmth of having a mother, the warmth of a father's protection, and the warmth born from the joyful laughter of his little sister.
"It's about time for Ugly Little Thing's family… to gather together…" Su Ming mumbled softly. Chen Da Xi's soul had completely fused with his physical body a few days ago, and he was about to wake up sometime soon, but he had Su Ming had not yet brought him back to Ugly Little Thing's home. He had chosen to wait, because he had been observing Evil Spirit Sect watching over him after Zhao Chong died.
After the two months, he could put his mind at ease, because he was certain that Evil Spirit Sect would no longer be paying any attention to this matter.
As he continued thinking, he lifted his head and cast a glance into the distance. He then closed his eyes and started meditating in silence. Before long, several people came from the plain of snow in the distance. The person leading the group was Qian Chen, and his face was dark. There was a bag in his hand, and as he stepped on the snow, he approached Su Ming, stopping a hundred feet away from him. There was a hesitant look on his face, but after a moment, a cold sneer appeared on his lips.
"Junior brother Chen, this isn't a bad place, no? The spiritual aura here is abundant, and the view of the snow here is also incredibly pretty. More importantly, this place is quiet and secluded, a perfect place to practice your cultivation and cleanse your spirit!"
Su Ming remained calm, as if he did not hear any of it. This Qian Chen had been incredibly hospitable to him during the first month, but when the second month arrived, he gradually cut down on the times he came here, and every single time he came, he would size up Su Ming with an incredibly dubious eye.
"Hey, not talking, are we? Junior brother Chen, you should have told me the truth that you were banished from the Outer Sect, and I wouldn't have made things hard for you. I would have given you a job, and from then on, you would have done your thing and I would have done mine, and we wouldn't have been stepping on each other's tail!
"But you! You lied to me! If I hadn't sent someone to investigate you in the Outer Sect, I would have continued being deceived by you. It's been less than a year since you entered the sect, and your Master went missing two months ago. It's because of you, isn't it?! That's why you were chased out of the Outer Sect!
"Aren't you the sly one? You came here, putting on airs, but is this a place where you can come as you please?! I'm telling you, Chen, you…"
Qian Chen became angrier with each passing moment. He was most angry with himself though, for actually misjudging a person, for actually thinking that this person had a huge background, because this person had, in truth, nothing. This was a huge blow to his ego. It made him think that there was something wrong with his ability to judge people, which he had honed over the past twenty something years.
This was something he could not forgive, especially since he was kept completely in the dark about it. He had only begun growing suspicious because he had seen no effort by this person to contact the Outer Sect and because the Outer Sect seemed to have forgotten about him. If it had been any other time, he would have not been surprised about this, but they were nearing the end of the year at the moment. At this point of time, the Outer Sect would be hosting their annual end of the year competition, and all the powerful aces in terms of power or background would show up there.
In the past, most of the Outer Sect disciples who had been sent to this place as a punishment would be summoned back during this time, but no matter how much he waited, he did not see anyone making contact with Su Ming. Worried, he used his power and the laborers he had sent outside the laborers' lodge previously to search for news.
Yet all the information that was sent back to him made Qian Chen suffer continuous blows to his ego. He was stunned for a long time before he stomped his feet viciously in anger. The information he had obtained had told him everything about Su Ming's origins.
"Chen, how could you be so sly even though you're so young?! No matter what, I will make you learn that you can't lie as you please!" Qian Chen was furious. He rolled up his sleeves, and the other people behind him did the same thing. All of them looked murderous.
"How dare you offend me when you're in my territory?! Not only am I going to teach you a lesson today, I'll also send you elsewhere! This isn't a place where you can stay!"
Qian Chen stormed towards Su Ming, but just as he was about to close in, Su Ming opened his eyes and cast him a calm glance.
That glance did not contain any sort of power, but the calm look in his eyes caused Qian Chen's footsteps to freeze. He even spread his arms wide open to block the people who were about to rush forward from behind him.
His heart suddenly started racing. As he looked into Su Ming's eyes, his expression gradually turned increasingly more solemn. With his experience and knowledge, he knew that anyone else in Su Ming's place would definitely be panicking, but the person before him was far too calm.
This sort of calmness made him gradually made his skin crawl, and he started having second thoughts.
'Could I be wrong…? No way, this brat is just putting up a farce. It's precisely because of this that I thought he was one of those aces earlier! Ace, my foot!'
Qian Chen narrowed his eyes into a glare. Once he thought about this, a ferocious grin curled up on his lips and he took a couple more steps forward, then lifted his fist into the air. Just as he was about to hurl it forward, he suddenly saw a flash of something in Su Ming's eyes that made goosebumps appear all over his skin.
His action froze, and he even took a few steps back, staring at Su Ming for some time. A murderous glare shone in his eyes, and he let out a cold harrumph.
"Fine, since you're just a child, I won't take this to heart, but this is no longer a place you can stay. I'll give you three days… er, seven days! In seven days, I'm confiscating this place!
"At that time, if you refuse to comply… Heh heh…"
Qian Chen laughed coldly, and left in a hurry with the people beside him. When he was far away from the place, he turned his head back with fear lingering in his heart. He started mumbling in his heart.
'There's still something off about this. This person might seem like he doesn't have any background or support, but he should have some abilities and skills with him. But that's useless, once the end of the year competition ends seven days later, I'll bring some people here and teach him a lesson.'
As Qian Chen laughed coldly, a shudder suddenly ran through his body, as if he was cold. He quickly wrapped his fur-lined jacket tighter around his body and cursed under his breath before bringing the people behind him to the servant girls' quarters…
"Better that I find a few women to warm up my body. Ah... This is how you should live life. Isn't it great to sit by the fire and have a woman in your arms during winter? Isn't it just great? My life isn't too bad, I'd say." Qian Chen hummed and forgot about the sudden shudder that had wrecked his body just moments ago, as he quickly walked forward.
Su Ming looked at Qian Chen leaving. With his power, he only needed to send a little of his Qi outwards, and it would be enough to send Qian Chen into a shock before killing him. No one would be able to notice it either.
But he did not do it. Instead, at that moment, a black strand of hair had appeared in Su Ming's hand. It belonged to Qian Chen.
'The boy came at the right time. I can use him to figure out all the various uses for the puppets created using these grass knot recording skills!' Without any expression on his face, Su Ming started tying knots on that strand of hair.
The end of the year was slowly approaching. After several months of preparation, the Outer Sect of Evil Spirit Sect held a competition among all its disciples. This competition was held only among their own people, and it had nothing to do with the other Evil Sects. Evil Spirit Sect did this every single year because the Evil Immortal Sect that was held at the highest esteem among all the other Evil Sects would host a large scale competition among all Evil Sects once every decade.
Evil Spirit Sect, Evil Dust Sect, and Evil Lust Sect would prepare for this festival in secret. Moreover, once the Outer Sect disciples finished with the end-of-year competition each year, besides taking the winner from this competition as an Inner Sect disciple, the sect would also host another competition among Inner Sect disciples, and they would reward the champion greatly.
However, this had nothing to do with Su Ming. It was still snowing on the night the Outer Sect disciples started competing against each other, and on that day, near the end of the year, Su Ming stood up and took a step forward.
When his foot landed, his body immediately turned indistinct, and he disappeared without a trace.
When he reappeared, he was already at the foot of Evil Spirit Mountain. He walked into the distance with an indifferent look on his face. The Protection Rune on Evil Spirit Mountain seemed to have no effect on him. No one even noticed him leaving.
In truth, no one in the sect paid much attention to Su Ming. After all, he had the appearance of a twelve or thirteen year old teenager.
It was snowing heavily. Su Ming walked in midair with the wind and snow blowing against his face as he moved calmly across the snow covered mountains, snow plains, and ice covered forests beneath him. He continued walking until he reached a forest.
It was all white because the earth and tree branches were covered by a thick layer of snow, which pressed down on the latter so heavily they bent downwards, making it seem as if they were welcoming Su Ming's arrival.
Once the snow and ice melted here and spring made the flowers bloom, this forest would be filled with the fragrance of osmanthus. This… was an osmanthus forest…
Su Ming could see the village he was so incredibly familiar with through the gaps between the trees in the forest. There were lights in each of the houses, and their color would make a warm feeling rise in the hearts of all those who saw them in this dark and snowing night.
A smile appeared on Su Ming's lips. He stepped on the snow, and with crunching sounds coming from under his feet, he started walking forward. There was an incredibly normal house before him, and the light from a lamp could be seen shining through its paper window. He could also see the shadow of a little girl combing her pigtails.
It had been almost a year… almost been a year since Su Ming left. At that moment, as all the families in the village held their own reunions, he stood outside this house and looked at the lamp and the shadows reflected on the window before mubling softly, "Ugly Little Thing, your big brother Dog Leftovers is back."