THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM
A smell of roasted chicken wafted many-a-man who passed by a small, wooden shack at the city’s outskirts. The shack was no different than those surrounding it, built out of pure wood and roofed with thick straw. It was but a two-rooms shack with a single window and several cracks spreading over its surface like spiderwebs.
Outside the door, a dog could be seen sprawled on all four, snoring lowly and occasionally whipping his tail up and down. Suddenly, dog’s eyes opened like sharp knives as he rose on all four and took a rather shoddy-looking battle stance, lowering his head somewhat and growling as drool cruised through his teeth.
Felix stared at the strange dog for a moment, sighing afterwards and wondering why his Master adopted this beast. Though it had somewhat above average intellect when compared to other ordinary dogs, it was filthy and loud and unbefitting of a great man such as his Master. Fearless, he stepped forward and only when he reached the three stairs leading up a barely elevated porch did the dog recognize his scent, lowering down yet again and falling back asleep before Felix even reached him.
He stopped by dog’s side for a moment wondering whether it would be a good idea to split him in half, holding back in the end because, for some strange reason, his Master seemed to enjoy dog’s presence. It has been nearly two weeks since the great battle for the throne, and he was quite busy wrapping up loose ends on Empress’ command, giving him no time to pay a visit to his Master.
And when he got some free time, he realized his Master was nowhere to be found, leading him to a search which lasted five whole days. To think his Master finally bought a house and was moving up in the world; even Felix couldn’t help but feel slightly emotional over such progress.
He respectfully knocked on the doors, ignoring rather inviting scent of the chicken coming from inside. It took a while before the doors finally opened, revealing behind the familiar, slightly filthy face of his Master, still dressed as though he was literally trying to be the worst-looking man possible. Felix’s expression softened as his eyes landed on the man before him, and he quickly bowed down respectfully.
“Greetings, Master!” he exclaimed with deep reverence. “I ask You forgive me for not visiting. I will receive any punishment necessary.”
“...” even after remaining bowed for nearly a minute, there was still no reply. Felix finally gained enough courage to look up.
“M-master?” he mumbled, noticing the strange gaze in his Master’s eyes.
“Eh..” his Master scratched his head for a moment before adding. “Who are you?”
“...” Felix suddenly fell on his knees as his eyes bulged like eggs. If one were to listen carefully, they could hear a young man’s heart crack quicker and more brutally than if a woman rejected him. “M-master... h-how... waaah...” right there, on a distant porch of a rundown shack, in the midst of cold winds, a man broke down in tears. That was not a nobody; in just a week’s time, he would become Empress’ Prime Counselor, a man who could command all but Empress herself. “Waaah... h-how can you not... not remember me....”
“... a-are... are you seriously crying?” even Lino was caught somewhat surprised as he stepped back. Naturally, he remembered Felix, just figured he’d joke around for a bit. He never expected a fully grown man to break down in tears just on the assumption he was forgotten. “Holy shit dude, get the hell up and get inside.” Lino pulled the still-kneeling Felix inside the shack and quickly closed the doors, preventing many-a-bystander from observing it any further. Even Lino, with his thick skin, felt somewhat embarrassed when he saw those curious gazed pointed toward his humble abode. “Geez dude, the hell are you crying for?” Lino sighed, shaking his head as he left crying Felix on the floor as he moved toward the small, improvised fireplace to look over the chicken.
“... w-wait... s-so, so you remember me?” Felix mumbled, wiping snot and tears off his face.
“Do I look like a goldfish to you?” Lino asked, rolling his eyes at the strange youth. “Besides, even if I didn’t remember you, how can you break down crying like that? Aren’t you supposed to be a bigshot now?”
“... aah, thank god. Thank god Master remembers me!!”
“Ah, forgive my bad manners,” Felix quickly got off the floor and bowed once again. “Greetings Master!”
“... you’ve grown strangely dependant on my validation. Ah, whatever. Greetings Disciple.” Lino replied nonchalantly, licking his lips as the beautiful, soul-stirring scent of chicken grew even more emphasized. “What brings you to my humble abode?”
“I wished to consult with the Master.”
“Aye, aye, get in freakin’ line,” Lino mumbled in a low voice, intentionally withholding it from Felix. “How goes being Queen’s first-hand man?”
“It’s difficult... but it’s worth it,” Felix said, seeming somewhat excited. “I got to learn a lot of new things in just two weeks. I can only imagine how much more I’ll learn through the years.”
“Hm, you really don’t give a shit you’re pretty much commanding the entire Empire, don’t you?” Lino asked, glancing at Felix.
“Eh? I mean... I suppose it’s quite an honor?” Felix replied, tilting his head slightly sideways in confusion.
“You really will either bring the Empire to new heights or lead it to utter collapse. Even I can’t predict that. So, what did you want to consult me about?”
“... has... has Master even heard of the Forgotten Kingdom?” Felix now spoke with some caution and in lowered voice, as though afraid ghosts might hear him. Lino’s ears suddenly perked up as he turned around and looked deeply into Felix’s eyes.
“... that’s a dangerous knowledge to have.” he said.
“... tell me about it. I came across it on pure accident, though,” Felix said. “Even I’m not quite certain as to what I’ve come across...”
“Do you really want to know?” Lino asked, turning back around and facing the chicken; somehow, he found himself less enthused over the upcoming meal.
“... does Master know?”
“Tell me what you’ve found out.” Lino said instead of replying to him.
“... uh, not much to be honest...” Felix said, stepping up and sitting down next to Lino, also focusing on the chicken which seemed almost ready. “I’ve learned it was the most developed Kingdom during the Cultivation Era, but that it collapsed some hundred thousand years before the Warring Era began. According to the records, their overall strength was equivalent to Holy Ground’s, perhaps slightly even stronger due to sheer amount of Artifacts in their possession - all their own, local product. I came across a few names as well, like Fardel the Bloody, Swor the Eternal Jailer and Syvelea, Daughter of Gods. Apparently, the three of them were last three generations of the Kingdom’s Chosen Guardian, and all could easily go head-to-head with the strongest members of Holy Grounds.”
“...” Lino listened in silence, as he actually wasn’t privy to this information. Anything to fill in the gaps was welcomed for him.
“... but, really, that’s about it. The reason I brought it up was because I read that, though majority of their Kingdom was destroyed by some unknown cause, a few remnant ruins remain scattered about the Western Continent, and that there are rumors about a few that have sprawled up in the Demonic Battlefield. I figured Master might be interested.”
“... do you know what the Kingdom’s Chosen were called in actuality?” Lino asked, glancing at Felix.
“Eh? Weren’t they just called Chosen?”
“... that’s what histories refer to them as,” Lino said. “In reality, they were called something else entirely, and Kingdom itself stood for something else entirely. Why do you think they were so powerful they could rival Holy Grounds at their absolute peak?”
“...” Felix remained silent, knowing his Master would continue sooner or later.
“It was exactly because of those Chosen,” Lino said. “Who, in reality, were Bearers.”
“... Bearers?” Felix mumbled in confusion for a moment before it dawned on him. “Y-you... you mean Bearers of Writ?!”
“... yeah,” Lino said, smiling faintly. “More specifically, Bearers of the Empyrean Writ. They were Empyreans.”
“...” Felix went from his squatting position straight on his butt, a look of complete befuddlement on his face. Though he perhaps didn’t know as much about Writs as the old monsters, he certainly knew a thing or two himself - especially when it came to the Empyrean Writ. Spoke of the most in the histories, it was clear that all the Bearers were nothing but manifestations of pure evil; slaughterers, murderers, madness-incarnate.
“In reality,” Lino continued, finally removing the chicken from the flames. “The reason the Kingdom fell was because four Holy Grounds banded together and invaded it. Most of the battle was led above the ocean, and as it was so long ago, there aren’t really any remnants lying around to be seen. Syvelea was almost captured in the last battle, but committed suicide shortly after. Kingdom fell, but not before its Emperor activated self-destructive formation, collapsing every one of the Empire’s treasuries. Still, the bloodline lived on, however thin. Members of the current Three Counties are its descendants.”
“...” Felix simply remained stunned, unable to utter a sound let alone a cohesive word.
Though he always prided himself on knowing more than most of his peers, he realized it was presumptuous of him to think so; just a week ago, he didn’t even know about the massive force which once inhabited his homeland, let alone the actually story behind their rise and fall.
“M-master... what was the Kingdom’s name? Surely... surely it couldn’t have been just the Forgotten Kingdom, right?” Felix came to only a few minutes later and immediately asked in a short-of-breath fashion.
“... its name?” Lino glanced at him, ripping apart the chicken’s wing and beginning to chew on it. “Oreb Kingdom.”