THE FALLEN MASTER
IT IS NEVER too wrong to ever lay down what one knows for others to know. For some, it may be of utter uselessness, but for those who know better, such an action may save thousands of lives.
I do not wish to put together a story, a narration, or maybe even a fiction. I cannot give any form or sorts of guarantee, or ensure to you, that all you will read below is anywhere near my imaginations. But let me assure you from within the deepest corners of my sincere heart, God help me, these are real.
And by real, I mean real.
I need not to mention my name. You may call me the Observer; that is, if you even need to address me at all.
I will relay here the results of my observations, my pickpocketing, my stealing, my far-distance watching, some freerunning from angry mobs and some of the even worse -- I don't need to mention who -- and, of course, the knowledge that I will relay here is a result of a very thorough examination.
I have no need to relay to you how and by what means I finally decided upon Jakarta for my observation. I have been following the files in the Order's Online Archives and took a particular interest in this one, single Assassin. Fresh. Talented, in many ways. Almost like all the talents are embodied within his blood...
Just lately -- again, from my observation -- apparently what I just mentioned is true.
But I have not the need to hold you longer, do I? I can only wish these would only land in the right hands. I do not wish to expose such a fragile, yet resourceful country as Indonesia to the greedy hands of our...enemies. Of the Cross.
There will be no more delay. Let me take a short sigh.
Now here we go.
MUST I mention to you that one of my favorite foods around -- nasi goreng, which roughly translates as fried rice, a big portion of rice, fried and given several spices that for me is pretty heavenly -- is apparently one of the diets I must avoid? Hell no. Why, on Heaven's name, would I have to avoid my favorite food?
What the Hell, man? I mean, come on. That's just simply paranoid. But as I sit here in silence, in a warung -- some sort of a simple food-corner tent in what usually is unused spaces on streetsides that sells mostly traditional foods -- waiting for my food order of a simple instant noodle to arrive, I realize that not a single second today I have taken my hoodies off.
I'm hiding my identity. Maybe that's why I prefer to go to this warung for my dinner instead of the bigger restaurants there in malls and the central corners of the city -- such an atmosphere found here: the simplicity, the vehicles on the road whooshing from outside, the underdog people's chatters...they are simply perfect for what I'm currently on.
The darkness of the night in this streetside isn't too bad, the lights are on, and there are lots of vehicles outside. Typically Jakarta. Actually, this hoodie jacket starts to make me sweat, but I don't care. Not a single second.
The warm sweat can't come out. Why? Because I already cold sweat. Fear is overwhelming. In Jakarta, you don't know who you meet. And with such an underground wars like the eternal battle between the Assassins and the Templars, you'll never know if there's any Templar in disguise out here.
No, though. Usually the Templars prefer moving around in plain sight, but not blended in -- rather noticed. Many of the people in higher ranks all over the world are Templars. For instance, several relatives of the current Vice President. Which, I should admit, one of them I have shed the blood myself.
Now that is precisely why I'm here in fear, trying my best to hide. I killed a relative of the Vice President.
It was an easy task, I tell you. Very easy, even. Some of the Templars' bad habit was arrogance. It was the key to topple many of them. But apparently the Templars in the higher ranks are a lot more cunning and clever -- too clever to be arrogant. The arrogant Templars are nothing but disposables, but the higher ones, the clever ones, I admit to you that they're far greater challenges.
However, the Templars' tradition to take over the bigger ranks does not mean there won't be Templars in the underdog societies. Such as the society that is currently dining here in the same warung as I. Actually, my choice over this place is strengthened by the argument that one of my contacts -- a fellow Assassin -- is going to meet me here.
That can be a pretty convincing argument.
And no, I don't doubt the source of the information. It came right from the headquarters. I will write down how I killed the relative of the Vice President sometime later on, but let's just say today it was an easy task with drop-dead hard consequences. Drop dead, literally. One wrong move that I make now, and I'll 'drop dead' for real. This fellow Assassin that's going to meet me here is going to take me into hiding and protect me until the case is legally dropped -- that is, commonly, somewhere around thirty years in courts. But since the victim was someone of pretty important deal, it's probably gonna take a Hell longer than that.
A girl came with a boy, looking like a pair of lovers, and they left their bike parked on the other corner of this streetside. I notice their movements. The girl, especially.
No, I do not have a crush on this stranger.
But I'm into details. I see several things on her apparel. Something silvery was hidden in her semi-open handbag. Her simple appearance of a deep blue jacket and cargo shorts can't fool me easily -- the look of the jacket of that material is a little too thick on someone of her body posture.
She and her boyfriend share a laugh, probably from a joke the boyfriend cracked. I try not to look at them, but my eye pupils say differently. I used my old skills to notice my surroundings silently...
...and I finally find what bugs me.
My order of instant noodles came, the cook put a bowl of it on the table in front of me. I take a fork and a spoon and start eating it.
But my mind is still focused on the newly coming pair.
The girl looked at me. We shared a split-second eye contact. But I can see precisely what's going to happen next.
She and her boyfriend sat on the dining bench right next to me. I keep eating, my face constantly under the shadows of my hoodies, my eyes looking at nowhere else but her hand.
It is in her jacket pocket. It slightly moves. Very slightly...
My instincts take in and I jumped away almost immediately, and while everyone else in the warung turned in surprise, I know that I just dodged a fatal stab with a small poisoned knife.
Poisoning. What the Hell is with poisoning lately?
The girl stands up, the boyfriend behind her backing her up. Then I realize that they may be not a pair of lovers at all -- they're assigned agents.
I noticed the grip of the knife the boy is about to take from his bag. Okay, Templar agents.
They don't take any weapon out, and so won't I. The other customers and the warung owners look at us in some sort of mixture between slight anger, shock, sympathy, or simply blank look. I don't bother looking at them -- my left ring finger is ready to flinch to pull out my favorite weapon. The weapon that took most lives from all the weapons I've handled.
We slowly step outside the warung, and as soon as the tent walls are off us, the boy pulled the knife out and tried slashing at me with an incredible speed. I barely dodged it, but soon as I realize that shit just got serious, I flinch my whole left hand and let out a glittery powerful steel out of below my wrist.
My classic Hidden Blade.
The boy tries his luck again, but with my Assassin instincts in control, I have better reflexes. I dodge this attack and hit his face with my right palm. The girl tries throwing a knife at me, but I dodge that one and -- to my horror -- the knife goes through the tent walls of the warung and it may seem that it hits someone inside. An innocent.
My anger is nearly triggered now. But before I can unleash anything, any sort of wrath, two shadowy figures suddenly come out of the darkness from above me and land on the two Templars. Hidden blades are soon in the Templars' throats.
"What on Earth took you so long?" I ask in protest.
"Perhaps you would want to thank us first," one of my contacts, a male, says, breathing hard. "I hate rooftop running in this part of Jakarta."
"It doesn't matter," the other one says, this one a girl. I recognize the voice. "You okay?"
"Seems like so," I say, and I have to hold myself from barrelling them with my protests about poisoning. "Thanks, Alysha."
"No probs," the girl says.
"What about me?" the boy contact protests. I let out a sigh.
"You too, Satrio."
"We'll get you to the nearest hiding spot, okay?" Alysha says, holding my wrist gently. "We'll go underground for a couple weeks. Wait, you'll go underground for a couple weeks."
I let out a small smile. "No fair. You guys get all the fun."
"That's precisely why we pretend like we don't know there's an assignment to assassinate the Vice President's relative, alright?" Satrio adds simply. "Now let's go."
I sigh and disappear with them into the night. Time to unexist.
FOR someone on the run like me, doing this kind of thing can be pretty not energy-related. Fact is, I barely even finished my dinner of instant noodle back in the warung, and yet I can't feel any hunger. Usually, I'm hungry mostly when I'm nervous. This time, there's no such feeling.
There's just consuming fear.
As I rooftop-run along the...well, rooftops -- I can only think of following Satrio and Alysha's blurry shadows in front of me, running just precisely as agile and as fast as I am. We've trained to move in exact same speed when we need to keep each other intact. This training proves useful.
It doesn't feel like an eternity since my thoughts are flying elsewhere during the run, but soon enough, we reach the crowded part of Jakarta -- the metropolis of the town.
It takes me a split-second to realize that we are near Monas, short for Monumen Nasional, which literally means National Monument. A hundred-meter tall obelisk with a pure-gold flame sculpture on top, signifying its shape as a giant burning torch. It soon occurs to me just where Alysha and Satrio intended to take me to. The hiding just below the museums inside Monas.
When the shock of the Templar assaults finally leave me, I step along with my company of two to our Hide. There's no aftershocks to the assault anyway, I'm getting used to being struck by Templars hiding within the underdog society. But it's the fear of being seen by anyone who may noticed or suspected my involvement in the assassination of the relative of the Vice President that drives me still in my cold sweat. My adrenaline still pumping within my body, I must keep myself from moving too much. I've never assassinated someone of such importance.
This is my first royal kill. I know this time would come since I joined the Assassins a couple years ago, especially after they told me about the Templars. But still, I didn't expect it to come this soon.
But everyone here -- the fellow Assassins in the HQ, and even Alysha and Satrio -- seems to be too conscious, too organized, compared to the constantly vibrating resonation of fear inside me. I think I'm way too paranoid, but even so, I have a pretty good reason for that. Never have I, in my whole life, feel such great fear.
Dude...this ain't just fear. Something must be wrong.
Satrio looks around and makes sure no one notices as the three of us jump pass the hedge that seals the Monas. It's already late in the night and the museum is closed. But we're not here for the museum or the tourism -- we're here to protect a national vigilante.
Alysha looks all around the walls, searching for something. Satrio still keeps a lookout for anyone who may notice our presence here.
"Look out!" he suddenly hisses. Immediately, I, Alysha, and Satrio jump into the bushes nearest to us from the Monas. We're still within the borderlines of the Monas itself, but we're trying our best to keep ourselves concealed. Since Monas is the main attraction here, this thing can be tricky. If I have anything to say to future Assassins managing Jakarta, it'll be to make a back door from somewhere else to access this hiding spot. I don't want to expose the Assassins who are supposed to be hiding into the public instead. This is way too much in plain sight we're the center of attraction should anyone notice us.
As soon as Satrio signals that it's clear to go out of hiding, we run back to where Alysha was searching and she continues her search. Shortly after, she rubs something on the wall, and suddenly, a few tiles under us open up.
We look at each other. I know this hiding place, it's mapped in the Assassins' Jakarta map in the HQ. But I've never been here myself.
Well. I think we should just take a leap of faith and see if we'll land on our feet, don't we?
I shrug, and before anyone out there sees us and cause trouble, I jump into the open tiles into the neverending welcoming complete darkness below me.
After an eternity of whooshing winds on my face, I finally land on something soft, and I can hear two other shumps falling on the same soft object right next to me. It must be Alysha and Satrio. God help me, it has to be.
"How do we turn the lights on?" I ask to the echoes that repeat my line soon after. "What are the odds?"
"This way," I hear Alysha saying as I hear some noises that sound like someone getting out of bed.
"What way?" I ask. "Guys, come on. I can't see a single thing."
Too true to be a cynical critic, I see some flashes of light in all of the sudden and the next thing I know, Satrio is holding a flashlight. "Here you go."
He throws the flashlight to me, but I pass it on to Alysha instead. "Lead the way."
She nods and with no further hesitation, we're again on the move.
It's not quite a sewer system -- even I'm surprised that such a place like this exists just under the Monas. This is more of an empty hall, almost like it's meant to be a big crowded hall but up to now there's nothing put in it other than the pile of pillows we landed at back then.
It's the size of such an empty space under the ground of such a massive object that surprises me with the fact that Monas hasn't fallen into this space.
Alysha leads us through a tunnel. It's not quite straight, it takes turns here and there back and out here, but when she stops we finally reach a set of ladders. I sigh.
"After a fall? What the Hell?"
"Just go up," Alysha says, her eyes fiercely trying to convince me as fast as she can.
I look up hesitantly, and then finally reach a hand out, and another hand, and lift a leg up on the climb, and soon, I'm climbing up the ladders.
Yeah, it takes another eternity.
Soon enough, however (my watch says that the climb was a full five-minutes), we finally reach the up top and I realize we're in some sort of a warehouse. There are too many things here even I barely have a space to occupy standing here.
Alysha comes out of the trapdoor next, and Satrio comes out last. The three of us makes it nearly spaceless here in this warehouse.
"What now?" I ask. Alysha looks around with all the remaining space her head has left.
"That cube," she says while pointing to a small toy puzzle cube, "take it."
I try taking that cube. Got it. "And now?"
She's gotta be kidding me.
I solve it in a minute and fifteen seconds. As soon as I make the last slide, however, suddenly the cube lights up as if it was made of neons. One of the sides shows the Assassin insignia.
Good omen, I hope.
As if by magic, the things in this warehouse begins moving by themselves, opening up a way for us to go through. Then I realized that they've all had designated movement lines. The cube must be the switch to activating the mechanism.
We go along this newly made tunnel of warehouse things and reach a room with everything packed in: an internet modem, a wifi router, electric plugs here and there, tables, desks, chairs, cupboards of disguises and costumes, packs of food, boxes of drinks, a fridge -- this must be it.
This must be the Hide.
"There's no phone service here, so refrain yourself from trying to send texts out," Alysha says. She proves correct -- there's no signal reception on my phone. "Security procedures."
I sit down on one of the chairs while Alysha puts her bag down. My bag is already laying lazily on the ground. Satrio suits himself fine on the couch while eating a box of cereals. Alysha sits down next to the desk and activates her laptop.
"What's with working so soon?" I say, catching my breath for a while.
"I'm trying to prove my theory," she says.
"Come," is all the answer I get. I reluctantly leave my cozy seat and join her on her laptop.
"This is the pattern of assassinations our Mentor assigned to all of us," Alysha says as she opens a record of missions. All ended with success. "I'm just thinking...the news had it just lately that all the people here are taking a short break from work. And those who don't accidentally says to the reporters that they're currently searching for something and wishing that they'll find them. Some others are random, but that's precisely what I'm researching."
"For what?" Satrio asks as he joins the party. Alysha sighs.
"I'm looking for the wheel that moves these people's gears," she says. "The motives of their actions, and how similarity strikes them just before each assassination mission was being handed out. Oh -- look, I think I found something."
She's looking at a file of someone named Bambang Suherman. He's a target -- eliminated -- in the list of assassination missions Alysha showed me earlier.
"This guy isn't anyone of popularity. Not someone of high ranks. He's not in work break. But he did mention to his wife that he was going to go out for some pretty long while looking for something -- " Alysha's eyes flicker with burning interest she suddenly finds, " -- for one of the people in the Representatives. For this guy."
She hands out another file in a new tab, and I recognize the face. He's been on TV. Another target. Another eliminated target.
"This is the guy saying that he's looking for something. I'm speculating here, all the random people that we think commoners may be not Templars. But they're working for these Templars. They're looking for something with great rewards. Maybe you can guess what this something is our targets are looking for?"
Sudden realization comes to me through a long explanation I had after my third assassination mission. "A Piece of Eden."
Pieces of Eden, shards of ancient modern technologies left behind by the race who preceded us, the First Civilization. Those who we deem gods, those who we deem all-powerful by magic in ancient times. Those with the sixth sense of Knowledge.
"Exactly," Alysha says with satisfaction. "The Mentor knows they're after a Piece of Eden. That's why he hands out orders to assassinate these people."
"But now what?" Satrio asks. "So they're after a Piece of Eden somewhere around. Do we have to find it?"
"I'd like to," I say quickly. I don't want to go undergroud for a couple weeks. That's torture. Where's the fun?
"But you can't go out of this Hide until our Mentor flips a green light," Alysha counters.
"What about we trace this hypothetical Piece?" I suggest. "We can help with the search with that. And I can also help."
"But where exactly would we start tracing it from?" Satrio asks. "We don't even know what Piece this is."
But Alysha is already rapidly typing something into her laptop. A blink of an eye later, she clicks her mouse.
"What was that?" I ask.
"An email," she says simply.
"Can we know about what and to whom?"
Alysha turns back and looks sharply at both Satrio and I. "To our fellow Assassin in the US, Rebecca Crane. She's in the possession of a machine called Animus. It can access genetic memories. I asked her to send me the blueprint and list of materials needed to build it, also the source code of the program used to monitor the genetic memories accessed. What if we can find someone within the Brotherhood that may be related to an ancient Assassin in Indonesian lands that can lead us to the location of the Piece?"
"That's briliant!" I exclaim. "Let's do this!"
"I can research the genealogy of our Brotherhood while waiting for Rebecca's reply," Alysha says as she returns to her laptop and starts doing a research.
But before she can access anyone else's genealogy but of us three's, however, she suddenly stops.
"Juna," she calls. "Come here. Quickly!"
"What?" I ask. "Found anything?"
"No," she says. "Found everything."
On the laptop screen was a list of names. I recognize some of them -- they're well-known ancient Indonesian Assassins. "Yeah?"
"Duh?" Alysha says as she scrolls down the screen. The names are connected with lines, and they all finally come down to one big line which points one name at the bottom most of the screen:
I stare. What?
Alysha and Satrio both look at me. "It's you, Juna. The descendant of the legends!"
I look again at the screen to make sure it's me. It could be another Arjuna Wijaya...
But the picture above the name -- which appears as soon as Alysha hovers the cursor over the label that says my name -- was clearly mine.
I'm shocked. What else can I be?
Watching my fellow going all awe-eyed and my sister in a positive state of shock isn't so much an interesting view, but to know that this fellow actually descended from legendary figures in our Brotherhood...that's another story.
I keep crunching my cereals to the extent where all the sweetness of the snack eventually fades away. But I keep crunching and crunching more -- just to channel the extra energy that's always been there inside me. And having this sudden explosion of information where a friend of mine is apparently, as my sister points it out, the descendant of the legends...that gets me secretly pretty agitated.
I need to move. I urgently need to.
I leave my couch and join them, watching the genealogy tree of Juna that Alysha was checking out. Staying down, motionless, and watching something silently can kill me in this state.
I need to move.
Perhaps this is why I'm appointed to most of the quick-kill missions. My agitation isn't something so easy to handle. Most of the times, I'm sent to a mission where the guards are little and the assassinations have to be quick. So that I can move a lot. Stealth kill missions are killing me slowly -- in the state where my adrenaline is pumping either with fear or thrill, I always have the unbearable need to constantly stay in the move.
I need to move.
The family lines did end with Arjuna Wijaya. Actually it's just because Alysha was checking Juna's files, and she would only need to check hers if she wants to check mine too. Like, how could, anyway, a blood brother and sister have different genetic histories?
"So now what?" Juna says, interrupting the silence of awe. "So we know that I descended from these guys. Now what?"
"Now," Alysha says, "we wait for Rebecca's reply. This time here should be something around the afternoon there in NYC."
We wait in a torturous silence again. And we wait longer. And so on.
Juna strolls around the Hide, occasionaly stopping to sip a bottle of water. Alysha keeps spinning round on her rotatable seat. I keep eating the cereals and aimlessly checking my phone only to remember there's no signal reception here.
God, please give us a reason to move. Give us something to do.
My steady stroll was interrupted by a yelp coming from Alysha.
"Got it!" she says. "It's partially in the Order's Archives. I'm downloading it."
As the downloading bar crawls painfully slowly reaching the end, I continue my stroll. Not so much of something to do, but at least I can keep myself from bore while thinking.
I descended from several prominent figures in the Indonesian Assassins history. I recognize the names Jaka Atmajaya, Rajawali Putrabayu, Tara Kalya, Eka Lestaricitra...the walls of the Assassins HQ in Nusakambangan Prison -- that's an island better known with the nickname Indonesian Alcatraz -- is all full of these people's historical records. There are many more, but these four I read in my genealogy, they're included in the ten greatest Assassins whose statues are made as the Meeting Hall decorations. Is it real that I descended from them?
An extremely distant relative, I must be. Jaka Atmajaya and Rajawali Putrabayu I won't question -- Jaka is Rajawali's father. Or was it godfather? If it was godfather then okay, my lineage gets even wider. But Eka Lestaricitra and Tara Kalya are barely relatives to one another, let alone to Rajawali and Jaka. Is it really true I descended from them?
"Alysha," I call. "Even if we manage to build this Animus...which of my ancestors have the connection to the Piece of Eden?"
"According to the data written here, I can simply find the reading of the memory genes set and try to detect those with most exposure to the currently-of-unknown-type radiation of the Piece," Alysha says while reading the Archives.
"Is the download done yet?" Satrio asks, a weird mix between agitation and bore is clearly etched on his face.
"Almost," Alysha says simply.
Again, we wait in a torturous silence.
The lifelessness of waiting is probably why one of the basics we were taught is patience. During stealth missions, if we're not patient enough, we're going to expose ourselves to our enemies indirectly. Back in the compound, there's this training part where a stealth assassination mission is simulated. The new Recruit is the test subject. This is the test that has to be passed before ranking up, and each time, it's getting more and more difficult. The Recruit must pass this test thrice before finally being accepted into a higher rank.
The simulation is simple. The target is a dummy sitting on a desk somewhere in the simulated building. There's no commoners there: just the Assassins playing the role of guards who would immediately call the other guards on first sight of the Recruit who roleplays as the Assassin. The mission operative isn't mainly stealth killing the guards. The guards are stealth-killed when the ribbon on their shoulder is pulled off without the Assassin being noticed by the guard, and when it's being pulled, the guard -- although he will immediately notice the Assassin -- may not alert the others if and only if the Assassin shuts his mouth while pulling the ribbon off (like the done position while doing a stealth kill). The guards will then lay on where they were 'assassinated', except if the Assassin chooses to hide the 'body'. The main focus of the game is the dummy target -- the Assassin may not enter through the dummy's fore area. It must either be top or back so as to not being 'seen' by the target. If the target is 'assassinated', the game is over and the Assassin wins. The Assassin is given three chances to try. If the guards caught notice of him three times, the game is over and the Assassin fails the test.
The tactic here is patience. The Assassin must observe, predict, hide, and wait in order to be able to do a stealth kill. The wait is usually the part where most Recruits fail their tests at. They would predict a route of a guard they deem a possible threat so they can assassinate him. However, after they predict the guard's route and hide, they're too nervous they usually choose to peek out. This is where most of them are noticed.
The wait may be the most torturous part, but it is equally the most important piece of the job.
This is the first field-operation virtue there is to learn for the Recruit: patience. Without patience, an Assassin will never be able to accomplish his work. If it wasn't for patience, Altair ibn La'Ahad wouldn't have been able to keep the Assassins living until now. His patience guided the Masyaf Assassins to go underground. Again, going underground requires patience.
Without this virtue, we may as well be nothing.
"It's done," Alysha says. "But this is only the data sheet of the machine and the first part of the Animus source code. This code is used to build the program that can see the genetic memory accessed from outside the Animus, some sort of the realtime viewer."
"When do we get to build this?"
"As soon as Rebecca's email arrives," Alysha says. "But I think she may be a bit busy there. Perhaps a mission. But as soon as the email arrives, I'll request the materials to the HQ so we can build an Animus of ours here."
"Okay," I say. "Let's see the datasheet first so we'll have an idea of what this Animus is."
The picture on Alysha's computer is more like a comfy seat with a CPU on its side:
"That's the Animus?" I ask. Alysha nods.
"Roughly," she says. "See that screen next to the headrest pic? That's where you put your arm in. It'll scan your DNA and the program on the computer will automatically select the parts in the gene that contains the genetic memories."
I look at that picture again. Seems pretty high tech for my levels. I mean, I did read of genetic memories once in Wikipedia and...well, until today, it's nothing more but parapsychology. However, this machine depicted in Alysha's laptop proves otherwise. The labels say Animus 2.0 and the smaller pics on the side says Animus 1.0...so the logic is, if it's been upgraded (and even, from the looks of it, revamped), it probably had worked in the first place, but it can be fixed and have some extras added. Isn't it so?
I sigh. This seat looks comfortable, but I don't know how it feels to relive a genetic memory. Maybe, as soon as this Rebecca replies Alysha's email, I will find something to do during my couple weeks underground.
Or, at least, so I hope.
THE HEAVIEST cost of trying to reveal those that may not be revealed is not one's own death, but the death of others trying to keep the revelations revealed.
It didn't cost me anything but personal safety. No one else is involved in this: I'm on my own. As I've noticed, the next record of my obervation is where Juna finally enters the Animus and meets one of his ancestors.
I also know everything he relives through the Animus -- as I have said, all the information I reveal here are results of my observation, pickpocketing, and stealing. It's a luck of the draw I managed to steal these records from the Animus program in that girl's laptop. The whole thing was too tricky.
If there's one thing that all these times had taught me, is that Fate exists. Predestination isn't the way it seems. I studied several viewpoints of people about Fate and predestination, and got that most people conceive the idea of Fate and predestination as being a linear timeline object. Like there's a line with points here and there, points where events happen. That's how most people imagine Fate to be. But there's one line of belief in the Islam religion that states that the predestination of Fate is not a timeline stream, instead it is simply the probability of events to happen -- in other words, this line of Islam belief states that Fate resembles Schrodinger's Multi World Interpretation theory. The theory states that the universe is an object, moved by time, along branching tunnels of probabilities. When something happens, the universe took one of the tunnel branches. This signifies an event, and the branches depicts probabilities. All these didn't only become branching lines, but instead a net. This is where Fate is a little different from MWI: MWI only states that there are many tunnels that would go forward along time and eventually form a line, but Fate is relative to the subject. The different the person, then the different the 'universe' that is moving in the tunnels. This causes the tunnels of Fate to have a form not of a linear branching tunnels heading forward, but instead a whole network of interwined probabilities. And those whose web points meet each other were simply meant to meet. The predestination in this concept are the dots that the lines connect in the web: these dots are events, the probable events to occur. These are what's predestined. The results of choices, the possibilities. That's also why Islam encourages prayers and ikhtiar, meaning tries or attempts. So eventhough everything is predestined, one can change his own line of Fate. One can choose his own actions. All because Fate is a full network of infinite probabilities, not a stream of line made up of points of events.
It appears that my Fate states that all my ikhtiar will be fruitful, as proved now. If it wasn't for my ikhtiar and luck, I won't be here sharing this information with you.
I'm here speaking to you again because just recently, someone figured out my existence and assaulted me immediately. The problem's taken care of, but this threatens my position: should his assault warn anyone of my being here, the danger is both mine and yours -- who knew the secrets I'm currently revealing. So I escape ASAP and found myself here, in another hiding. I am out of contact reach here, but if there's anything else I would tell you in this short chance of encounter, is that I'm a step closer to what I'm out for. To my target.
Remember, always value knowledge and information. You never know how important they might one day grow to be.
Let me carry on.
THE datasheet of the Animus lays meaninglessly on my laptop's monitor, while Juna finally sits down and seems to try to think of something. I can almost tell what (it's a gift I was born with), and I have to admit I feel kind of sympathetic towards him.
Satrio takes the role of the strolling guy after Juna sits down and leaving the position absent. But unlike Juna's steady contemplative strolls, Satrio's is filled with movements it's almost like he needs to move to stay alive. I spin around my chair again, feeling the wind blowing my hair and whooshing gently on my face. Rebecca's reply still hasn't arrived.
I download the next parts of the Animus source program simultaneously, and although I have enough resource to compile these into an application and enough knowledge of working concepts, but I'm not a skilled programmer myself. I'm not that good with numbers -- Juna is, and Satrio is even better. I'm better at practical work on the field, realizing theories and living life. So if we are going to build an Animus, my hands will surely be on the job -- I can't stand not being busy while there are business for me to do.
Or maybe it's just because being busy distracts me long enough from personal problems I hate thinking deeper about.
However, not being good at numbers does not necessarily means I'm not good at deductive logic. Expanding knowledge by learning people's perspectives had opened my horizon of view. I can think far enough ahead, and yet not forget to look right and left. Juna, on the other hand, stays so focused to what's ahead of him. He makes sure he won't trip on the way, so he goes into details. Even the unnecessary ones. His memory succeeds mine: usually, he is able to recall an event with greater amount of details mentioned that I don't even know were there in the first place. He's also better at words, so he can describe the details of the events and how he felt during the time with astounding accuracy and touch. It's almost he provides his eyes for us to borrow, to see and feel what he did during the event he described. But I tend to go into only the important details: the unnecessary ones can be overlooked. So when I'm asked to describe an event, I do so the simplest way.
But my horizon of view is, in a way, wider than Juna's. This enables me to give an argument Juna may never have seen coming.
Wait. Why do I suddenly compare myself with him so much?
"Hey, any tiramisu-flavored wafers there?" I ask, trying to get rid of the killing bore. Juna glances once at the food drawer and reaches a hand out. He takes a plastic full of small square wafers and tosses it off to me. I catch it rather a bit lazily.
I start chewing. After I finished a wafer, I proceed with another. And another. And another. Until this little snack becomes a light side-routine. And another. And another. And I finally start to feel that my eyelids are growing heavy.
"I'ma take a short nap, arright," I announce to the others for some reason I don't even understand. Then I lay back on my chair and let myself drift away. Just like that.
As soon as Alysha shut her eyes, I suddenly realized that this may be the wisest of actions and took a nap too, letting go of all the burdening thoughts in my head. When I finally woke up, I find that the Hide is currently lifeless. Satrio took a nap on the couch, and Alysha is still in her chair.
Something got into me and from a place I don't know where in my mind, I got the idea to try and read Alysha's email. Just to check if Rebecca's reply has arrived.
I enter the Hephaestus email network and finds that there are only two email addresses on the local list: Alysha's and Satrio's. Two parts of the Animus program downloads had finished, so in total, we have three parts in our possession. Five other parts to go.
I find a laptop on one of the desks' keep and boots it up. It runs on a pretty new OS I'm thinking if this Hide is either routinely updated or if it's been used lately. From there, I access my Hephaestus email. There's a new email.
It's from...Erudito? Who...?
I click it open.
To: Arjuna Wijaya
Cc: address hidden
So it's you. I see. Lookout. You're still on the news. You're not hidden. You're precisely on their line of sight. Trust no one.
ps. The code is surya. The number is in everything.
Surya? What is this Erudito guy talking about?
I click on the From link. The address is encrypted. It's almost like a spam mail that managed to enter my inbox instead. But most of my thoughts lands on the extra note this guy puts on the end: the code is surya. The number is in everything.
What code? What number? Which surya does this guy mean? Is it surya as in sun? Surya is an old Sanskrit for sun. Maybe if I can figure out the code this person is talking about, then I'd be able to understand the surya that he meant.
But still, what number? This makes no sense at all. Yet there's something inside me saying that this email is meant for me. It's not random. Just an intuitive sense, but still, it's irresistible. So I just lay back and wait again.
Eventually, I fall asleep once again in bore. This Hide's still lifeless.
When I wake up again, it was because of a squeal by Alysha.
"Wha -- what's up?" I ask, still dizzy from my sudden wake up.
"It's here!" Alysha shouts. "Rebecca's reply!"
The news immediately jolts me into action. I stand up right away and dashes like an arrow to her laptop.
On it was an email from Rebecca.
Sorry for the very late reply. Desmond is in comatose here and it's been a mess. Luckily our design of the Animus has a fail-safe system. That should help him regain consciousness.
Here's the list of materials you requested, it's attached. The blueprint too. I'm sure there's a Technician in your region? Just ask their help to build the machine. Although the functions are drop-dead complicated, the assembly itself shouldn't be that difficult.
However, there is a piece of the machine you need that you can't buy in an electronic store: a Memory Disc. It's an ancient artifact from the First Civilization that has the ability to encode memories into it. This is the 'road' we use to access the genetic memories. The machinery are simply utilizing the already-embedded ability of the artifact. I'm sending one to you through an underground mailing, I hope your Mentor would contact you soon about the package. We here have just enough to share one to another Assassins in need for it.
In the meantime, attached on the list of materials is the link to the source codes of the Animus program for you laptop. It can be used to see how your friend accesses his genetic memory and watch his progress through the long, rough path of synchronization.
I guess that's all for now. Cheers, and good luck! (we could really use some too, honestly._.)
Alysha squeals again. "I've downloaded the attachments," Alysha says. "The link to the source codes is precisely the link I downloaded these codes from. One more part to go. Meanwhile, I've contacted our Mentor about my request for a package from the US Assassins and asked him for a technician to come here and help us build this Animus. So now we just wait for the technician and the Memory Disc to come and we're good to go."
I can only crack a smile. Perhaps my adventure will come so soon, anyway.
I really hate timewarping in personal records. Really. I'm making a log of events, and I hate to skip all that happened here: how, in the dark of the night, Satrio somehow could clap his hands to the annoying mosquitos and found that he killed three at once (I'm serious), how Alysha panicked she almost shed a tear that her laptop broke (it's fixed as soon as the Technician came), and everything else. Every little detail is what's important -- that is, especially, if there's a point of interest to that. But apparently, the whole thing was too boring that I'd rather skip to the fun.
To cut things short, let's put it this way: two days later, our Technician came, and about an hour or so after that, a Messenger brought us a packet. We immediately unpacked it and found a dusty metal-rock-something disc that looked kinda like a cartooney Flintstone-ish neolithic money or something. Becca did mention that the Memory Disc is an artifact, so it soon made sense for me. Anyway, the Technician came with all the materials in Rebecca's list Alysha requested from the HQ, so he brought a lot (and I do mean a lot) of things.
Satrio, Alysha, and the Technician started building the Animus at once. I'm not good with practical stuffs like that, so I worked with sychronizing the program and the hardware instead -- doing IT stuff is my favorite. My main subject in college is IT. I also did try to make a computer game a couple times. I think this really is what I'm built for.
So, after we shed sweat and blood and tears (no, really. We did shed blood and tears. Ask the Technician when his hand was stuck, or Alysha's sliced fingers, or when I -- let's skip it) the Animus is finally there. Not precisely what the datasheet depicted, but as I try sitting on it, I know I'll get used to it in no time.
"So now what do we do?" I ask.
"Now," Alysha says, "we thank our Technician here and let him go home."
The Technician nods and blushes a bit, and leaves our Hide through the tunnels of warehouse object to the ladder. I feel sorry for him to have to go through that nightmare passage twice (in and out).
"Then," Satrio says, "we let you relive the life of an old man."
"No kidding," I snort.
Alysha frowns. "Seriously. Come, Juna."
I come with her to the laptop (now fixed, thanks to our genius Technician). "Here says we'll need to activate the DNA scanner first," Alysha says.
"And which one is that?" I ask.
"Duh? That piece on the armrest? The one that looked like a gauntlet with a tablet? That one. It'll take a digital scan of your DNA strand and locate where the genetic memories are. From there, we can use the computer program to decode the owner of the memory and decide on whose memory we can start synchronizing you with."
"Why would we need to synchronize?"
Satrio rolls his eyeballs. "Dude, these codes in your genes? They're ancient. They've been there as long as we know. And they can't be accessed naturally in literal mode, can they? The only part in the brain that accesses it translates it into an abstract lesson, and not a memory by whole. This Animus thing allows you to do otherwise -- to access it as a memory and not a genetic lesson. But since it's not meant to naturally be accessed, you'll have to try to relive it the way it actually was lived. Like doing a movie right on the screen. And since we don't know how it was, it's up to you to do it. If you do it right, that is what we call synchronization."
I nod. "So how does the program locate the memories in my genes?"
Both siblings sigh. "That's just how it worked, alright? Ask these -- wait, I'll open the dev code window."
Soon, both the monitor on the DNA scanner and on Alysha's laptop show these:
Coded by Patrice Desilets, Corey May. Built by Jade Raymond, Alex Hutchinson, Inara Cross. Project Animus supervised by
Warren Vidic, Lucy Stillman. Copyrighted by Abstergo Industries.
Upgraded to twice as awesome by Rebecca Crane, Shaun Hashtings.
I can't help but smile. This Rebecca sounds cool.
"Okay," I say as I sit down on our Animus. "So when do I get to become an ancient guy?"
"We scan your DNA first," Alysha says. "Brace yourself. I don't know how the scanning works."
I raise both eyebrows. "Damn you."
"Damn you right back." Alysha's backs are on me, she's already busy doing the program. "Here goes nothing."
As soon as she says that, the Animus whirls to life. I can't shake the feeling that I'm kind of nervous. The DNA scanner beeps and beeps like some sort of a psychopath future robot or something, but while so, a line of light goes along my arm from my wrist to near my elbow. Soon, the while psychobot stuff stops and the screen displays a strand of white snaky thing.
"That my DNA?" I ask. Alysha gives a dismissive nod.
"There," she says finally. "Found the memory thread."
The display of DNA on my DNA scanner zooms in into a specific part in the strand. Most of them are blackened.
"Why are they black?"
"I've told you, they can't be accessed as a literal memory," Satrio says. "You know deja vu? It means a part of the genetic memory was accidentally accessed by the brain as a full memory and not an abstract lesson. Those parts are failed syncs because the deja vu goes just right away. But at least it's been accessed. Meanwhile, the unaccessed ones are marked with black."
"So these are what I must relive?"
"No," Alysha says. "You will relive from the point where we can synchronize you the easiest. Slowly, we're going to open access to all the memories."
"All the memories?"
"Alright, to where you see the Piece the last in the person's available memory."
I grin. "This should be fun."
"Tell me 'bout it."
"So what are we waiting for?"
"I'm scanning the memories' exposure to the Piece of Eden radiation. It's still an unknown radiation today, but this program makes sure the rad is read. I'm going to select a few with the most amount of exposure. Not this one...this, pass...this...oh, there's one. But it's a female..." Alysha looks at me. "You don't want your first experience to be a girl, do you?"
"Not the first, not ever," I say.
"Yeah, the report did say that an attempted synchronization with an opposite sex will go awry. Okay, not this one...not this one...wait, what is this guy doing here? Not this one...this...gotcha."
The DNA scanner display shows a picture of a...some sort of an Old Javan civil?
"His name is Panji," Alysha says. "I can't find any record of him in the Assassins data of the period, but his level of exposure is unbelievably high compared to most others. There are only four with such amount of exposure, and this guy has the most. And he's not even an Assassin..."
"What period is he from?"
"The Majapahit age, I'd say," Alysha says. "Around the 1300s."
"The other three?"
"Let's see. An unnamed guy -- I can't find the part of the strand that speaks the identity -- somewhere in 1600s. Jaka Atmajaya, 1800s. Rajawali Putrabayu...1900s. There's also Tara Kalya of 1900s along with Rajawali, but well -- Tara's a girl."
"I know her." I've mentioned that her records are all over the walls of the Nusakambangan HQ, haven't I? "So let's go with this Majapahit guy."
"Panji?" Alysha says. "Okay. But let me warn you -- I don't know what you'll find there. I can send you the interface for your forms of interaction and program some stuffs into the memory, but I myself can't do much. How you'll synchronize with this person -- and in turn, show us the actual happenings back then -- depends on you. You sure you're ready?"
"Not quite," I admit. "Let me go to the toilet first."
"Just go," Alysha says as she puts a palm over her face.
So I go to the toilet and release what I need to. As soon as I'm ready, I'm back on the Animus. "How will this feel?"
"How the heck am I supposed to know? Just brace yourself for the worst!"
"Let me submit the code, alright. Close your eyes and relax. Make sure those points on the headrest can touch your head."
I lay back. "Now what?"
"Now," Alysha says, "this."
I can hear her pressing something on her keyboard, and suddenly, the darkness of my shut eyes becomes so bright in white. Then, as if my eyes just turned into a computer monitor, I can see the DNA strand I saw early on very clearly.
Then I realize that on this interface, I'm on control. I choose the first white strand section presented and imagine my head saying yes. Soon, my eyesight is blinded again. And when the white flash dims, I can see that I'm not who I am -- suddenly, the body I'm living in isn't mine. I can still remember my well-being as Arjuna, but I can also feel that although my psyche is still mine, my physical form isn't. I'm standing in an empty room, a corridor of illusions where lights make up cages, where semi-transparent DNA strands and blood veins are lurking all around me like holograms. Then, as suddenly as it came, there is another blinding flash. I can feel myself being pulled off this memory corridor, and finally, as the flash weakens, I find myself among people of the same costume as I -- traditional Javanese. They all speak traditional Javanese.
All traditional Javanese.
I look at myself. I'm not me, although there are (very few) resemblance.
Then, without further questioning, I knew it: the Animus worked. I'm now not Arjuna. I'm Panji, reliving his memories embedded so deep in his blood within the genes.
Time to do some synchronization.
THE man with a keris -- a traditional Javan weapon that looks like a combat blade shaped in waving curves -- on his side and a full set of ancient Javan armor -- which, strictly speaking, was barely anything at all in some ways -- stood still right there, watching every people's move very distinctively. His eyes examined each and every single person in that crowded alun-alun -- crowded area where people meet to either shop in the markets, make rendezvous, see the King's announcements, or simply going out to find something to do -- of Bubat, keeping very close thorough observation of all.
He listened to all the chatters he could hear: three women next to him was bargaining with the veggie seller for a decent price, five kids were running from one corner of his sight to another, laughing, chasing each other, playing kejar-kejaran -- Indonesian for the game 'catch me if you can' -- two men were next to the far darker corner of the alun-alun, talking somewhat nervously, discussing of some of the King's new decrees.
He noticed that far there in the opposite position of his in this alun-alun was a man doing the same -- watching, waiting, observing. But from the shine of his eyes, the man knew that this other man wasn't like him. This other man was waiting for something -- maybe a moment. That shine resembles a snake's when it stalked a prey; the kind of shine that said patience. The time will come. Watch your surroundings first.
The man shook his head gently, thinking about how such hunting men could still existed under the new reign. The King Hayam Wuruk -- the current King of the kingdom, Majapahit -- was a very wise man. His mother, the previous ruler of the Kingdom -- Queen Tribuana Wijayatunggadewi -- must have taught him well. The observing man was a very good calculator, and his predictions were often correct. He personally thought that if the King keeps on his current pace, Majapahit would reach its glory under his rule. It's not that Majapahit wasn't glorious already -- most of the Nusantara archipelago -- nusantara was formed of two words, nusa meaning lands and antara meaning in between. This refers to the vast archipelago (of what one day would become Indonesia, Singapore, and Philippines) outside the actual capital of Majapahit that had culture practices different with the one they held, the Javanese culture -- were already under the Majapahit rule. The Prime Minister, Mahapatih Gajah Mada, was also a very good tactician. Back in 1258 Saka (which was about 1336 AD), the Mahapatih made an oath in front of the Queen. It was personal, but the man knew about it. The oath stated that before Majapahit rules all over the Nusantaran archipelago, then he would not dare taste joyous elements in life such as spices in his food (and, on the man's interpretation, all else). It seemed today that he had kept his oath very well.
The man's name was Panji, a soldier of the Kingdom, and -- secretly -- a man with an underground inside access to the royal lines. He had gained Gajah Mada's trust after such long ways, and now they're more than just simply Mahapatih-soldier. They had shared a lot, and while Panji admired Gajah Mada's logic and courage, Gajah Mada himself admired more of Panji's intuition and watchful eyes. Panji had observed everything he could observe as long as he knew it, and from those, he grew his own points of view. He was plain honest, and Gajah Mada had to keep his breath when Panji regarded some of the rules he disagreed with. But again, that was just an opinion. This opinion, however, was based on many factual surveys. Many of them reached King Hayam Wuruk on Gajah Mada's account. And the King usually approves the slight modifications to his rules -- Gajah Mada, anyway, was a trusted man of his mother's and Gajah Mada himself trusted Panji. And so that was that.
Panji carried on with his observation of the people in the alun-alun. A mother was trying to calm her crying four-year-old son, a young man was talking to another soldier taking post in the alun-alun, probably signing up to become a soldier himself. A soldier was a vital part back then. The Majapahit was known for its military strength in its conquests.
Panji sighed. Military conquests.
The aim was well -- to unite all into one, to introduce new elements, to introduce their elements to new people from far away, and most especially, to have the pride of living in such a glorious gigantic kingdom that spans an archipelago. But Panji didn't really like the military approach so far, although it also proved to be the wisest by then -- many other kingdoms were somewhat hostile. Or maybe that's because the first thing they saw coming was an army charging towards them.
Panji looked around one last time, and finally turned around to meet his post leader.
"Sir," Panji said, "I have something of urgency I must attend...may I leave the post for a short while?"
The post leader looked directly into Panji's eyes. "Make it quick."
Panji nodded and left his guard post in the alun-alun, a company of him took the place a second later.
Panji left the post in light steps -- despite being a soldier, he trained to do things stealthily. He likes blending in -- he had personally proved that blending in was the most effective way to hide. By blending in, the hiding was mobile: the person hiding needed not to fear that his movements were limited. They needed to be dynamic to stay hidden. Hiding in a spot, in another hand, would require the person hiding to stay still in a place that may block sights -- shortly speaking, it instilled fear and anxiety of being found rather easily.
Panji left the alun-alun to join a small party. He hid his keris into his sarung -- a piece of clothing wrapped around the waist down; the soldiers' sarung however ensures movement flexibility -- and while making sure the blade was safe, he joined the party and hid. As soon as the party went through an alley, he broke from the gang and turned into a passage no one would know was there.
He moved in an unbelievable agility through the terrain the passage hid -- he had ranged this area for years now. He found it back when he was a kid, and he tried mapping each and every inch of it into his mind over the course of the next years. Now, it's nearly a part of his second home.
As he made the last hop, he walked through another crowds who were unaware of where he materialized from. It was a trading area. Majapahit had built trade connections to many other countries such as China, India, and such. These lines also emphasized to the outer kingdoms on how powerful Majapahit was -- a secret showoff besides the need of trading for prosperity. The archipelago itself had lots of resources, and many outerlanders would trade many of their possessions just to obtain some of the riches of the archipelago; which was under the control of Majapahit. Again, a showoff of power.
Panji's eyes scanned the area carefully. Some of the Chinese passed through, all wearing golden necklaces that looked like a cross. Between them was a discreet chatter so softly spoken Panji's sensitive ears can't make out what they said. Then, a company of three men were behind them, staring at the group of Chinese with some sort of...curiosity? Hatred? Fear? Responsibility? Panji can't make out what. But before he could have further thoughts, he met the man he was looking for.
"Ah, Panji!" the man said, waving his hand lightly so Panji would notice him. A little of vain, since Panji actually noticed him first.
"Wisnu," Panji greeted back. "Quite a day for a trade?"
"The Mongols struck me a deal I can impossibly turn down!" Wisnu said with such spirit on his eyes. Panji knew it. Wisnu was an ambitious person, and he was pretty well in keeping his business intact. Expanded it, even. While Panji took the path as an observer of the world around him and as a soldier for his Kingdom, Wisnu became a businessman which -- indirectly -- helped increasing Majapahit's prosperity.
"Is Mada here yet?" Panji asked, now with his tone lower than ever.
Wisnu understood the situation quickly and lowered his tone as well. "Yes," he whispered. "Over there, the man trying on the hat."
Panji found him fast. It was unmistakably Mada. Yet Panji was impressed by the man's ability to blend in and disguise despite his obvious features. Another thing he should learn.
The disguising man, Mada, noticed Panji's eyes and flashed a smile. Panji smiled back.
Mada left the stand, paying for the hat, and ran lightly to Wisnu and Panji.
"You finally came, Panji!" he greeted Panji with an enthusiasm and charisma Panji had always seen.
"It's nice that you seek to see me again, Your Highness," Panji said, the reference term on the end with a little pressure of mockery. Mada grinned.
"Please," he said. "You don't want to ruin my disguise, do you?"
"Never thought of that," Panji promised. His eyes calculated. Mada's ability, charisma, trust...he must not lose him.
Because Mada was the birthname of none other than Mahapatih Gajah Mada, the Prime Minister of Majapahit, Panji's links to the royal circle.
PANJI quickly dove through the soldier's arm and stabbed him with his keris.
The soldier fell down, but Panji had to dodge another attack and kill another soldier before he could pay any tributary measure to the fallen soldier.
"General!" he yelled to Gajah Mada, only a few feet ahead of him, swinging his keris with such agility too impossible for a man. "We're outnumbered!"
"No we're not!" Gajah Mada answered quickly, then -- Panji couldn't tell how -- his Gauntlets suddenly became so bright, as if it reflected the sun right to Panji's eyes. Panji shut his eyes. The next time he opened them, about fifty enemy soldiers were on their knees as if they'd all been stabbed from the back simultaneously.
"Surrender now!" Gajah Mada ignored Panji and shouted to the enemy general, who was showing none but fear. He quickly took his horse and rode off back to his kingdom.
"Guess that's not it?"
"No. Let's go home."
And he led his men on a march back home.
Panji arrived home and went off at once. Mada had granted him some time off duty to rest, but of course he knew better. Panji can't stay still for long.
He ran off to the woods surrounding Majapahit. He walked, enjoying the cool breeze and shades of the trees. No such feelings. He had been familiar with these forests, and he knew that if he had to lead a battle here, he would most likely win. Home-field advantage. He knew every single tree, every single branch, and nearly every single visible animal. He knew the perfect spots to set up a trap, the perfect spots to wait for an ambush, the perfect spots to bait enemies into the open, and the perfect spots to assassinate enemies quickly.
The best feeling, however, was of course the peace. These jungles may be home to the bandits seeking refuge off the kingdom, but here, Panji could almost feel no human around him. He didn't need to worry about the world. There was just him and the nature. No corruptions, no deceptions. No power that'll always try to tease him to lust for. Nothing. He just felt truly human -- just him and the nature.
There was a crack on the ground just behind him.
Panji quickly turned around. There was no one. Probably just a hare? He can't be sure. But then he climbed up a tree near him to see around. He needed a surveillance point.
Shadows were moving below him, and before long, two men were down there. Walking.
"It's in the Kingdom, I swear," one of the men said. The other one scoffed.
"Yeah right," he said. "And the Prime Minister has it."
"No, he doesn't."
"Look. How do you think is he so good in battles?"
"Taking down fifty soldiers around him who weren't even near him yet? Impossible."
Panji stayed silent. He suddenly remembered the scene back in the battlefield where Gajah Mada could somehow suddenly take down so many soldiers. He was famed for that reputation in battles, but Panji had never witnessed one like that. He sharpened his hearing.
"He has it. I swear. It's around his wrist the whole time!"
The gauntlets, Panji thought. He remembered the battle again -- Gajah Mada's Gauntlets glew then just before he took down the soldiers.
"I don't think so," his company said again. "It's never a pair of gauntlets. I would rather vote for his keris if he actually does have it."
Panji dared himself to look down. They were Chinese. He could almost remember them: it must be some time ago before the invasion. Trading area. Ah, golden cross necklaces.
He listened more carefully. What did these men know?
"Maybe," the first man said, but with a doubt. "But I could swear it's the gauntlets. I asked some soldiers who just returned. The gauntlets was mystical."
"What about this? We'll goad him into speaking. I'm noticing his activities as a disguised commoners lately. See if it works."
Panji's heart sank. These people knew about Mada's disguise.
"Okay," his company said. "To the trades?"
Both men strolled off into the kingdom. Suddenly Panji saw some more shadows through the corner of his eyes: this one's moving quickly.
He knew he needed information from the two men down there. He knew just what he had to do.
He dashed off a quick jump to the tree next to him, to the one next to it, and so on in an incredible speed. He'd known these parts well enough for him to navigate through quickly. Soon enough, he was chasing the shadow. He can't help smiling to himself.
His moves were definitely faster.
He noticed the figure's movements. He was about to pounce.
Panji pounced first.
Both men fell from the treetops. Panji quickly clutched the figure's arm and held on to a branch, all nearly noiseless. He needed to make sure the two men didn't know he was spying on them.
"What on Batara Guru's name--?" the figure asked. Panji looked at him. He was a local, not a foreigner. He wore a black ramp shirt with a hoodie attached, a gold cap that resembled a head armor or a beak was on the front edge. Underneath the shirt, he wore no clothes. His belt bore a sign Panji was somehow familiar with -- again, the sign reminded him of the Chinese with the crosses. Maybe he saw the same sign the same time? The man wore a leather gauntlet on his left arm and had a keris on his belt's back, not so concealed but enough for movement comfort and quick-action.
"Who are you?" Panji asked. The man hesitated.
"Who are you?" he asked back.
"I am Panji, a soldier, a knowledge seeker. I know these parts well. Who are you and why do you hunt those men?"
"A soldier?" the man seemed surprised. "Not bad for a soldier. Hmm. They're our enemies."
"Put me down or pull us up and I'll speak."
Panji thought twice. That was strangely easy for someone moving as shadows. He decided to pull up onto a branch and dragged the man along. Both sat on the branch.
Then suddenly the man flicked his left wrist.
A blade materialized from there -- Panji realized it was from the leather gauntlet -- and the man struck to Panji at once.
Panji dodged quickly enough and stood up on the branch at once. He jumped over the man, made a leap to the tree's stem, and hopped back from it as if he pushed against a wall to give him an extra thrust. He thrusted himself to the man, who didn't expect the maneuver, and both men soon found themselves falling down the tree.
Amidst the air, the man grabbed Panji, who was below him. Panji struggled a bit and decided to take out his keris. He swung it to the man, who dodged it at the cost of letting Panji go. Panji used this for his own advantage -- he kicked a tree stem next to him and launched himself in another direction, effectively dodging the man's launch fall. The man missed Panji by an inch and Panji quickly grabbed his upper arm. Before the man could react, Panji aimed his keris to his throat.
They hit the ground.
Panji found himself immobilized to the shock, and he realized that the man was, too. They could barely take a breath. Then Panji sprung up to life first, his body all aching. He pointed his keris to the man.
If the man could speak, he probably would have. Panji decided to step on the man's chest, effectively forcing his lungs into action. The man coughed.
Panji didn't hesitate to keep pointing his keris. The man decided to give up.
"Kill me after this will ya? I'm an Assassin. Those men are Templars. They want magical things that they suspected was held by the Prime Minister Gajah Mada. Things that can bring bad people up into power and rule everything." His eyes flashed with something like a sharp mind-read. "We wouldn't want to be ruled by bad people, would we?"
"What's your point? How do I know I can trust you? What is an Assassin? What -- "
"Chill," the man said as he raised a hand. "We fight to make sure that free will exists. Those people? With those magical things -- the Keping Khayangan, Pieces of Eden -- they will create a unified world. Unified, yes. But people won't prevail. Power will only belong to them."
Power. Hearing such a word already caused Panji to shiver. "Then we fight for the same cause it seems."
The man smiled.
Panji knew that he had it all under control.
Kresna -- the mysterious man that Panji encountered exactly a year ago -- flicked his wrist. A shard of blade sprung out of hiding there, concealed by sheer shadows.
"About time," Kresna whispered.
During the span of a year, Panji had to admit that even he was not ready for the sudden growth of revelations. Kresna introduced him to a world full of intrigue and grey area, where the winner gets no territory or any sort of valuables -- the winner gets control of the world. Or at least, from Kresna's explanation, if Kresna's side win, the world wouldn't be under any unnecessary control.
"Indeed," Panji agreed. "I've spotted five already in the alun-alun. How many do you spot?"
"Six," Kresna replied. "That one buying the cabbage -- "
" -- that one looking around -- "
" -- that one behind the kid -- "
" -- that one talking to another one -- "
" -- and the sixth is the one talking to the guard right now."
Panji looked ahead to the line of guards surrounding the alun-alun. There was a young man applying for the sentries while there's another one that seemed to just casually chat with one of the guards. Panji gave a small nod.
"I see. Which one first?"
"The one furthest from the guards first. Then as guards gather there, we use the crowds and the too-focused location of the guards to our advantage."
The plan sounded good enough for Panji.
Panji had stayed neutral to the point where he didn't join the Assassins despite their roughly similar cause. Kresna introduced him to the Order, and although he got a pretty big mess going since he declined the offer to join, he still promised that he would keep order in Majapahit intact.
And, in turn, the order of the world.
Kresna had taught Panji about the Templars. Panji's initial guess was right -- those Chinese/Mongols were apparently after Gajah Mada's gauntlets. The Assassins had been proud about the fact that they knew what the Pieces of Eden the Templars wanted before the Templars themselves could identify the object. However, as soon as he came to realize this, Panji knew that when the Templars found out about the gauntlets, they would do practically anything in both acceptable and unacceptable sense to obtain it. And surely enough, Panji wouldn't let that happen.
"They have tactics, Panji," Kresna said suddenly, waking Panji up from his thoughts. He was looking right into Panji's eyes. "Be careful."
Panji grinned. "I will."
Despite his technically neutral affiliations, Panji was given a Hidden Blade as well. Apparently it was hidden well enough under his own soldier gauntlets.
Panji left his post and walked on slowly, towards the first Templar. This one wasn't an aristocrat, but he was pretty rich. He didn't seem to have taken much physical training.
Panji flicked his wrist. Five. Four.
He walked just behind the man, who just walked away off a stall. Good. He could scream as he would.
Panji moved to pat the Templar's back.
Panji quickly pulled his hand back and walked away still in the same pace. At least one possible threat was down. He kept walking and the Templar choked as he slowly fell down.
From the corner of his eyes, Panji could tell that Kresna had moved for the second kill.
As Panji had left the site of crime, the soldiers had mostly left their posts to check on Panji's kill. Panji grinned. It was almost too easy.
He kept moving around the crowds, identifying faces, finding targets. Kresna did the same from opposite direction, occasionally stabbing the targets he managed to identify. Then they met on the further corner of the alun-alun.
"How many?" Kresna asked.
"Three," Panji said as he grinned. "You?"
"Four," he said. "I found another one with a Templar cross, but I wasn't sure if he was since the Templars sold those now -- those tricky bastards -- so I only poisoned him."
Panji's grinned grew wider. "Which one?"
Panji looked at the direction Kresna pointed to. But then his heart sank.
The man was walking very slowly as if holding agony. Then he threw up blood.
It was Wisnu.