How to Survive as the Wife of the Monster Duke - Chapter 174
“Greetings to the Grand Master!” voices called seemingly from nowhere. Ilyin looked around, but there was nothing that resembled the ruins from the dream. Nothing but the flat ground spreading out around them . . . almost nothing. Just off to one side, the ground seemed a bit uneven. Soon she made out the regular lines of stairs leading down into a dark passage of some kind. It was from here that two knights walked up.
“Greetings to Madam!” they called again. Delrose knights, faces that were familiar to her, though she couldn’t quite place names.
She blinked in momentary confusion. Den had told her they would have the ruins to themselves, but here were Delrose knights greeting them from the ruin’s entrance. Knights who had clearly been waiting for them.
“Were the scouts not told to go back?” she asked Den, cocking her head back toward him as she half-whispered.
“They’d already returned to the mansion before we left!” he responded. As he, like Ilyin, regarded the knights curiously as they saluted.
“We’ve been stationed here to help you with the examination of the Milton ruins,” they said.
“Idith,” Aden said bluntly, and the knights made no denial.
“Our orders were to see to ma’am’s safety!” they said. That didn’t mean to ignore Aden’s safety, of course – that was always their priority. It just meant that Idith was clever.
It seemed he felt there weren’t enough guards for their excursion. So, he used Ilyin’s safety as an excuse to send more.
“What an exceptional aide,” Ilyin said, suppressing a laugh.
Aden could say nothing. Idith was using the only loophole he had, the only one the Duke of Winter would allow – the safety of Ilyin. He had no argument against it.
Idith knew him too well.
“Everyone, wait outside,” he said, holding up a hand to the assembled knights. There was nothing he could say against their being here, so he would simply have them stay out of their way.
“Idith seems worried,” Ilyin said, unable to stop giggling. “We should finish as quickly as we can.”
The two of them dismounted, and – with a last wave of acknowledgment from Aden to the knights, the two of them disappeared down the stairs.
“Wow,” Ilyin said. The underground ruins were surprisingly warm. Ilyin was surprised – her winter clothes felt a bit heavy for the first time she could remember in the winter region. Was it simply because there was no wind down here? Or something else?
“An icicle,” Aden said curiously looking at the corner where a long icicle hung in a narrow space where light came in from outside. More precisely, it was a pillar of ice, reaching all the way to the floor.
Icicles were not usual in the winter region – they meant that at some point the snow had melted into water. Snow . . . melting? Here, in the winter region? Aden noted the pillar was quite thick – snow must have melted here repeatedly to build something like that.
Aden took note of the place as they moved. Used to battlefields, he was a keen observer by nature, and even though the knights had already been through it, he still kept a watchful eye.
“Be careful,” he said, then flinched slightly as he realized he was repeating the dream.
“Thank you,” Ilyin laughed, her voice hushed in the quiet and closeness of the ruin.
The hallways of this place were wider than they’d expected, almost rooms in their own right. At the far end stood a massive door.
“There’s no doorknob,” Ilyin said, walking forward.
Aden scanned the hallway. There were fresh footprints, but they were all from the Delrose knights.
“I believe it’s designed to open when we approach,” he said. He was alert, but not on edge. His instincts seemed satisfied that there was no danger lurking here, though he didn’t lower his guard as he escorted Ilyin to the door.
Suddenly there was light in front of them. Ilyin shut her eyes quickly. Aden clenched her hand and, with his free hand, drew his sword on reflex.
But after the initial shock, the light wasn’t threatening. There was a fireplace in the wall on one side of the hallway, and the sudden light had been a fire springing up as they neared it.
Suspicious, Aden thought. Experienced with divine power, he was familiar with flames that reacted to people. There had surely been contact between the Miltons and the Mollys, so this could be Mollys’ magic.
But why had it not reacted to the knights? Surely the icicle would have melted slightly if the fire had sprung up before. He put his hand out to the fire, felt the warmth of it as he expected. No, this had definitely not happened when the knights had come through here.
The door in front of them began to open slowly, revealing the space they’d seen in their dream. It was an odd feeling for Aden, to already know an unfamiliar place.
Was this how it was to see the future?
“This is . . .” he said.
“It’s the Miltons’ ruins,” she responded, and they exchanged a knowing look. We’re speaking the words we’ve already heard. Unlike him, she had complete faith in the foresight that had shown no danger here, so she walked casually but quickly toward the wall, forcing Aden to quickly step to stay beside her.
They walked first to the great tree they’d seen in the dream, and the detailed figures below it – four humans and five monsters, and one monster that looked very much like a human. There was a small purple jewel embedded in that figure.
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