3 An Unconscious Girl

The next morning was so calm and peaceful, it was a completely different weather than yesterday's calamity. Flocks of birds soared in the sky, marking the day of a new beginning.

The sun rose tall and proud as it covered Hechen with its overwhelming light. The limitless sky stretched for as long as the eyes could see. Today, the clouds were extra fluffy and white, like masses of cotton candy. It was almost as if the storm never happened.

But on the grounds, it was chaotic. It was a disarray of scattered branches, ruined crops, and messy grasslands. Because Hechen was such a prosperous city, the people worked very quickly.

From the first hour that the sun had risen, the people immediately began to clean up their environment.

Only the servants and the lower class people were working. The rich and wealthy stayed in their expansive manors, enjoying their morning breakfast. It was the same in almost every family, except for the outstanding Li Family.

Duke Li Shanyang was preparing to step outside of his manor after enjoying a quick breakfast. He was in his room, getting clothed by his servants whose nimble fingers finished him up in no time.

His cold gaze softened when it trailed to his glum wife. She was sitting by the window and staring into the distance with a sullen shadow over her face.

Duke Li Shanyang sighed at the melancholic state of his wife. In a soft and gentle voice, he said, "It's not good for your body if you continue to wallow away in this room..." He strolled towards his wife and immediately wrapped a gentle arm over her frail shoulders, hoping to provide her with warmth.

It had been four months since the death of her only daughter, but Duchess Wang Qixing was still in a mourning state. There were times at night where she would slip out of bed just to weep by herself because she didn't want to disrupt her husband's sleep, but her melancholy broke his heart.

"Where are you going?" Her voice was hoarse and barely above a whisper. From crying all night long, her voice was bound to be broken.

Duke Li Shanyang gently said, "The people in the city have been working very hard to clean up the streets so that things are running smoothly yet again. Our servants are cleaning up our manor and the grounds around it. I am going to monitor their progress before joining you for breakfast."

Duchess Wang Qixing slowly nodded her head and continued to stare into the distance where the disarrayed forest could be seen. Oddly enough, she felt compelled to go in there, almost as if she was drawn to it.

Duke Li Shanyang felt his heart clenching tightly at the painful sight of his dazed wife. The two were extremely heartbroken when news of their daughter's death reached their ears. 

The Duke and Duchess were visiting the Capital with their sons, but their daughter, Li Minghua insisted on staying at home. The fire had covered half of their manor in Hechen. When the fire was extinguished, her body was nowhere to be found, but the family knew... she had perished in the fire.

Heartbroken and distraught beyond words, they could do nothing but mourn for their daughter. The house was restored to its former glory, but nothing could wipe the events that had occurred on that day.

Duke Li Shanyang was slowly recovering from grief, and he was coping better than his wife who was having an extremely hard time dealing with the truth.

Duchess Wang Qixing had tenderly raised her one and only daughter with her own hands.

When most noble ladies would pass their babies to a wet nurse or a nursemaid, she didn't. She kept her daughter close to her.

When the baby cried at night, she was the first to respond.

When the baby had wet or dirtied itself, she was the one to change her clothes.

When the baby was hungry, she breastfed it herself.

This was extremely rare for noble ladies of outstanding families and rank, but she didn't care.

Duchess Wang Qixing loved her daughter too much to let other women handle her. She had previously given birth to two sons before Minghua came along. They grew up to be healthy twins with stark appearances and behavior who brought happiness to her life.

Even so, a mother could never get over the death of her precious child, especially her first and only daughter. No mother could ever get over such a tragic death.

"I will come back very soon and then we can take a stroll along the streets of Hechen. How does that sound?" Duke Li Shanyang gently asked his wife.

After a few seconds of unresponsiveness, she slowly nodded her head.

He continued on, "After our sons finish their morning lessons, they will also be joining us."

At the mention of her sons, her eyes had lightened the slightest bit. She nodded her head again.

Seeing her small responses pained Duke Li Shanyang, but he had run out of options of cheering her up. It seemed like time would be the only way of healing her.

Just when Duke Li Shanyang bent down and was about to press a soft kiss to his wife's cheek, the thumping sound of a servant racing through the halls could be heard.

Duke Li Shanyang stopped his kiss and raised his head towards the door. "Open it," he told the guard on the other side of the room. The guard immediately nodded and slid the door open.

A servant stood panting outside of the door. She immediately bowed low at the sight of Duke Li and Duchess Wang. "This servant greets Duke Li and Duchess Wang."

"What is it?" Duke Li Shanyang cut to the chase. His tone was calm, but he was slightly irritated at being interrupted.

"A-at the edge of the forest, behind a tree, the body of an unconscious girl was found," the servant stuttered out between pants for air.

Duke Li Shanyang raised a curious brow at her words. A girl was found at the edge of the forest? Why would a girl wander into the forest, especially when it was muddy and there was a storm the night before?

She continued on, "She was found near the back of the manor." Her eyes were trained to the floor when addressing her Master.

Duke Li Shanyang sighed at the news. The girl was too close to the house for the matter to be ignored. Perhaps her body was already in the forest but due to the heavy rainfall, her body was moved. Glancing at his wife, he whispered, "I will be back, sweetheart."

Duchess Wang Qixing nodded her head before continuing to stare out the window.

Duke Li Shanyang cracked a dry smile and pressed a swift kiss on her cheek. He walked towards the servant and followed her out the door. 'It's going to be a tiring day ahead of us,' he thought to himself and indeed, just as he had predicted, the day would be long and full of surprises.

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