Chapter 102: The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit
If you find yourself in some trouble, just call. The message was relayed to Zhou Qianlin via their soul caller gems. Lan Jue said nothing further, and pedaled away in to the distance.
Zhou Qianlin, meanwhile, felt the heat of the gem as she walked deeper in to the old people’s home. The rims of her eyes grew slightly red. She unconsciously pressed her hands to her chest, reminding herself that this was a means of communication only the two of them could hear. She shook her head and puckered her lips, squelching the train of thought running through her mind. That plastered smile reappeared, and she continued on her way.
“Hey! Qianlin’s here. Just off school, right? You really shouldn’t come so often. It has to affect your studies.”
“That’s right! Qianlin, come on over here and have a sip of water. We really are all fine here, you shouldn’t kill yourself coming all the time. We may be old but we can still take fine care of ourselves!”
“Ah ladies. I come so often because I miss you! Are you saying you don’t look forward to my visits?”
“Of course we do! You don’t know how much.”
“Good then. And what about our new friend, Bess? Is she still shut up in her room? Let me go look in on her.”
“Ah that stubborn old biddy! I don’t know if she’s got some sort of problem, always appearing and disappearing mysteriously. And always with that lascivious air. You see her and you know you’re in for bad times!” A particularly prickly old woman muttered unkindly towards Qianlin.
Another at her side chortled. “Alright, Flores. We all know you’re jealous because Bess is prettier – stealing your title of ‘prettiest granny in the old folk’s home.’”
“Hmph, is that so,” Flores huffed scornfully.
“Mrs. Flores, I brought your favorite for you today. Smoked plums! But you must remember to only eat one a day.” Zhou Qianlin artfully steered them away from the topic, laughing prettily.
“Oh, thank you so much! You really are the dearest girl.”
“Ugh, this thing really is slow, huh.” Lan Jue muttered helplessly to no one as he pedaled the antique bicycle.
He glanced at the time displayed on his communicator. With some effort he should still be fine, he thought. His destination was the public air hangars, where anyone wishing to cross the planet had to dock. The guy he was meeting there certainly wasn’t using public transportation, but he’d be there nonetheless.
“General, how long before you plan to return to An Lun?”
“Seventy-two hours,” Lan Qing flatly replied. “Roughly two jumps still ahead.”
“Very well, general.”
“Before I return prepare all the information we have on the Pontiff’s Castle of the Western Alliance. Have it ready for me by the time I get back. Be as detailed as possible, especially concerning their highest-grade members.”
“The Pontiff’s Castle?” The voice that came across the communicator seemed taken aback by the request.
“Do I have to repeat myself?” Lan Qing glowered dangerously at the space in front of him.
“We’ll have it ready for your arrival.”
He broke the call, just in time to let a couple light coughs escape his chest. “When they say smoking’s harmful to your health, they aren’t kidding. But I haven’t been as relaxed as I was last night in longer than I can remember. A-Jue… the Castle!”
Prometheus, the God of Wisdom stared out in to space, murder in his dark eyes.
Western Alliance. Capital Planet.
It was a gorgeous world, similar to the Earth they originated from. Discovered a hundred and eight years ago and settled by the Western Alliance. It had taken immense resources and manpower, but once they verified the rich resources the planet had to offer, they wasted no time in establishing their capital here.
Capital Planet was more locally known as Eurmania. Seas comprised eighty percent of it’s surface. Only twenty percent was habitable. Strangely, though, in contrast to the Earth it mimicked, the water here was all fresh. The fauna were also markedly different, but despite these discrepancies the place was still a perfect place for human habitation. Other than it’s lack of salt, that is. But that was an issue easily fixed through interstellar shipping.
Several notable cities graced the surface of Eurmania. The most impressive of these was located on the planet’s eastern hemisphere, Spiritus Sanctus. It’s opposite, though no less awe-inspiring, lay in the west; Gomorrah.
Part of it’s mythos was that when the planet was discovered, God and Satan carved it to their liking and founded the two cities. Of course only a very few people actually believed in the stories, but the truth of it was it brought the ancient culture of humanity to bear here on their Capital Planet.
Human interstellar travel and planetary terraforming were still relatively young. Still, it was an advancement that has seen incredible progress in a short period. Eurmania is proof of that fact. It was comparable to the East’s own Planet Skyfire, though perhaps even more integral to the West.
Spiritus Sanctus was home to a particularly unique location, where sunlight shined thirty-six hours a day. On this planet, when a day lasted forty-eight hours, the result was only twelve hours of darkness in the area. In the center, often bathed in golden sunlight, was the crown jewel of the Holy City; The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
It was a gorgeous building done in the renaissance style of Old Earth. It was a classical structure with a Romanesque dome and Grecian Corinthian pillars. The building was constructed to look like a giant crucifix when viewed from above in accordance with holy tradition. It was the largest cathedral in all the Three Alliances. The interior was nothing short of resplendent; both bright and dim in places, mysterious, and composed of beautiful marble. The walls sported countless murals, painstakingly created by chips of colored marble. The project had been strikingly vast.
The archway which lead to the dome was situated on the right hand side of the structure. Although there was an elevator to help lift travelers part of the way, the route to the rooftop gardens near the done still required three hundred and thirty steps to access. It was common knowledge that watching the sunset over the Sanctus Plaza from the Cathedral rooftops was the most beautiful sight in the city.
The central dome was the brainchild of a master architect. The interior of the dual-structure was always brilliantly lit. Beneath it rested the Pontiff’s Altar, over which hung a bronze baldachin designed by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini himself. The twisting column drew every eye that fell upon it. Further below, in the church proper, sat St. Peter’s tomb with a giant marble sculpture of Pope Pius VI done by Antonio Canova kneeling before it. The windows were stained glass, and featured prominently was a massive piece depicting a dove surrounded by an aureole. The inscription below it read Bernini’s Dove of the Holy Spirit. The entrance to the Secret Archives was to the left, within which was housed the holy relics that displayed the wealth and power of the Pontiff’s Castle.
A plaza stretched in front of the cathedral, capable of accommodating over three hundred and fifty thousand city residents. It was three hundred and forty meters long, two hundred forty meters wide and encircled long two long half-moon covered walkways. Each bore a massive two hundred and eighty-four meter tall columns that kept it’s towering ceilings aloft. Said ceiling was adorned with one hundred and forty-two statues, holy men and women of the Castle who watched you as you passed beneath them. Every one was exceptionally life-like.
The Cathedral had taken a total of forty years to construct. The pious believed worshiping here was the greatest of pilgrimages, the highest honor they could achieve in their lifetimes.
Today it was host to an uninvited guest. He wasn’t a tall man, and in fact stooped unflatteringly. A white coat encircled him, as though he were an old doctor fresh from the local hospital. A pair of glasses sat perched on his nose, with lenses thicker than the bottom of a wine bottle. Slowly he proceeded through the Cathedral – a few steps, then stopping, then on again.
Raising his head, the old man quietly admired the murals and frescoes lining the walls. “They really are incredible! Such a pity…”
He continued further in.
“Forgive me sir, but proceed no farther. Within is the assembly chamber for the Curia. I’m afraid tourists aren’t permitted to enter.” The old man had arrived before a set of large doors. Two guards barred further passage.
“Oh? I can’t go in?” The elderly traveler give them a despondent look.
“Do forgive me,” the cassock-clad sentinel repeated, as polite as before. Despite his words, however, he was intractable in his resolve.
“Oh… here then.” The man had thus stopped his trek there, turning his face to look at the majestic pontiff’s altar behind.
“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to vacate the premises,” the priestly guard continued. A suspicion had grown within him, and he stepped forward to help hasten the man from the area.
“I’m not going anywhere,” the man engaged calmly. “Call that stodgy Pontiff out here. I’ll wait, but you only have ten minutes. Otherwise I’ll turn this grand cathedral of yours in to a quarry.”
The priest was stupefied. He looked at the old man like he was a lunatic, unable to believe he’d heard such talk from someone with one foot in the grave. The gall, sitting here attempting to threaten the Pontiff’s Castle!
The Castle was, after all, the balance of power in the West. It was large, and famously popular among believers. Even the Dark Castle wouldn’t be so brazen as to waltz in and make demands. They were locked, socially opposed and unable to overcome the other.
“Are you crazy, huh? Get out of here, I said!” The priest reached out to shove the man’s frail shoulder. But before he could, strange wisps of light emanated from the old man’s body. As the lights washed over the guard, he froze solid as rock like the statues he protected.
“Get out here, Pontiff!” The old man’s voice was no louder than a pleasant conversational volume. The sound was frail, hoarse, almost lethargic. A minute later that same lethargic voice was ringing like thunder through every corner of the Cathedral.
Every ear perked up at the sound. Every worshiper, priest, cleric and meditating patron couldn’t help but sit in stunned silence. At this moment, the whole of the Pontiff’s Castle held it’s breath.