Chapter 3: Rituals of the kingdom
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When Daren reached ‘the kingdom,’ he noticed pretty quickly that it seemed to be separated into sections. They were really not divided by anything that appeared to be income or function though, it was a lot more like each section was a city onto itself. The major dividing factor between each section was architecture. Most of the buildings he could see from the overlook Haraiel had created shortly before their arrival appeared to be either palaces, or situated on land that was quite large compared to the building siting on it implying the resident just liked space and the outdoors over fine architecture.

Really, the main difference that separated each segment of the kingdom was architectural style. Each section was made up in the style of a different culture and era. There were huge white plaster and marble square-looking palaces built up on prominent hills in the Roman region, the same only brownish stone-colored in some more middle-eastern seeming regions. Other middle-eastern seeming regions that had palaces that looked like the Taj Mahal.

Of course, there were also far more regions that had European castles. Staring down at the amazing level of varied styles among European castles alone had shown Daren just how little he knew about European stone castles.

The interesting and extremely eye-catching part though was the sky-scraper region of the kingdom. It was comprised stone and glass towers that stretched high into the sky, likely allowing their residents to live in the penthouse suites of those towering monoliths like the uber-wealthy of the big western cities.

Haraiel had explained that each person would be given a plot of land. With that land, they could do anything they wanted. The kingdom was also located within the spiritual realm, so their own thoughts and imagination would be all that it would take in order to create whatever dream home they might want. It didn’t matter whether it was a castle or a little house on the hill. If that’s what they wanted, a mere thought and a wish is all it would take. They could even re-make their own house if they got tired of it.

The only real issue was that you had to move to neighborhoods that agreed with your preferred architectural style. Apparently it had to do with the expectations and thoughts of others interfering. If you made something that was too different from the rest, the mere act of others looking at it would start to dissolve the integrity of your home.

Moving for disagreeing architectural style reasons was not that hard, he was told. Land and physical space could even be created or destroyed here, so they would just create a plot of land in the place you wanted to move to and destroy the plot you were moving away from.

It sounded like it was a true paradise created not by any extra effort by the big G, but simply because being a post-scarcity society was a fact of life in this world saturated with this spirit energy stuff.

“So, this place does seem pretty nice.” Daren said. “I guess there’s no need for money here, and even land is free. So, is there any kind of resource people actually compete over here?”

“Hmhmm…” Haraiel did something between a chuckle and a knowing hum. “You are asking if there is any struggle in the kingdom of heaven by which people try and strive to be above one another?” She asked. “I suppose there is some among the civilians. However, most of the hierarchy is among the military, and it’s mostly based on personal combat power. How much force one can bring to bare against the enemies of heaven. That is a bit of a simplified explanation, but know that it is mostly based on merit.”

“I take it you are a part of the military then, considering the way you fought off those demons for me.” Daren said, getting a nod in response from Haraiel. “So, how does it work among the civilians?”

“That is mostly the social value attached to various things. Intangible things such as social capital, honor, and good will. You gain these things the same way you would down on Earth, through social interaction with others. It primarily gains you things like obtaining the aid of creative architects to make your house more visually appealing using tricks you might not have considered yourself. Honor though is one of the intangible things that actually affects the sort of actions that are permissible to you when you begin to approach the temple of the lord.

“Anyone can approach the temple and address the lord, of course. However, for those with greater honer there are certain symbolic actions we are allowed to take. There is also one particular honor bestowed only to members of the twelve tribes such as myself. We can wash our hands in the fountain of our tribe, or wash the feet of another who we wish to bestow an honor upon. Actually, I would very much like to wash your feet in the fountain of my tribe in apology for my tardiness in arriving to defend you.”

“Ahh… that…” Daren stammered and then nodded to agree to the offer. If there was so much meaning in symbolism here, he suspected this actually was something significant. Also, among heavily honor-based cultures, refusing an offer like the one she just gave would be considered very insulting. It might even be viewed as a personal attack.

-

The temple, the dwelling place of the lord within the kingdom, was their first destination upon entering the boundless metropolis of cities within cities. They were either moving surprisingly fast, or it was possibly just easy to loose track of time in this place without physical exhaustion, a need for sleep, or even a day-night cycle. It could quite easily be both even. Whatever the case though, they arrived in front of the temple after what felt like a pretty middle-of-the-road reasonable amount of time traveling down the main street that lead from the gate.

There was a square in front of the temple lined by six pillars on either side, and right in the middle of the square was a grand fountain from which Daren saw people washing their face, hands, or even drinking from. One person had even jumped into it and was soaked from head to toe, and was currently T-posing under the spray of the water that was cascading down their head.

As Daren was beginning to wonder about whether this had anything to do with the fountain of Haraiel’s Asher tribe, she quickly disabused him of that notion by softly beckoning him off to the side of the square and toward one of the twelve pillars surrounding the grand fountain. It was only then that he realized this stone pillar also had a fountain surrounding the base of it, and that was when it clicked in his head. Twelve pillars for twelve tribes, and each one with a fountain at the base. These small fountains were little more than a basin of water at the base of the pillar, and it was fed by a small trickle of water that came out of a hole low on the stone structure. It was not even decorated, it just came straight out of a hole in the stone work.

“The central fountain is the fountain of the lord.” Haraiel explained. “Any person may use that fountain as they please, and drink of it’s waters freely. This is the pillar of the Asher tribe.” She said, and then dipped her hands into the water and rubbed them together. A moment later, she nodded to Daren and summoned a chair from thin air. Daren quickly grasped what was expected of him and had a seat. He reached to remove his shoes, but Haraiel stopped him with a gesture and then got on her knees in front of him.

Daren suddenly realized just what kind of gesture this was. The physical actions involved with washing another person’s feet require them to humble themselves before that person to a rather extreme degree, taking a lot of subservient positions and gestures along the way. She said she wanted to do this by way of apology, and her kneeling in front of him to remove his shoes definitely felt like an expression of apology that would be used in an honor-based culture.

After this, she pulled his feet up onto the lip of the fountain which was positioned at just about the perfect height, and began pulling water out of the fountain in cupped hands in order to drizzle it over his feet. The gesture finished with her rubbing her hands over the tops of his feet, before rubbing her thumbs repeatedly over every last inch of the souls of his feet in what somehow became one of the best foot massages Daren had ever received. He wanted to moan out in pleasure from it, but didn’t know how that would be received. As such, he put up a vicious effort to keep his voice contained.

Finally, Haraiel produced a towel and dried his feet off and then, once again, dropped to her knees in order to put his shoes back on for him.

He stood and felt a little strange about the whole experience. His feet had not been sore in the least before receiving that massage, but something about them just felt refreshed after all of that. He really wasn’t certain what to think about it.

Haraiel simply smiled down at him from her Goliath height and then stepped to the side.

“Well then, shall we?” She said. “I shall also bring you before the lord himself. This is also a part of my duties as an angel of death due to your condition, I will help you in the rituals necessary to present yourself.”

There were rituals involved in approaching the God as well. Of course there were. Well, guess it’s nice to have a guide if that’s the case.

“Ah… alright then, lead the way.” Daren stammered.

The temple itself seemed somehow small. Far smaller than Daren had been expecting considering the gradure of the rest of the place. It looked almost as if he was approaching the top of a completely undecorated Myan pyramid, if the rest of it was buried under the flagstone-adorned ground. It was not tiny, but it was certainly a lot smaller than he would have imagined. It was kinda bizarre even how it completely lost to the opulence of the grand fountain in the center of the square. The dwelling was not normally supposed to be outshined by the decoration.

The pillars of the twelve tribes looked rather humble in appearance as well. Daren was beginning to sense a little bit of a pattern here. The fountain and the temple were, themselves, a lesson. This place allows for opulence, but it is humility that is valued. Even the lord himself is keeping his dwelling simple.

Now then, let’s go see what the face of God looks like.

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