"You know, you have been out and about these past few days, Alta´r," said Malik just as I sat down in a nearby chair almost lazily, which happened to be very out character even for me.
I shut my eyes for a moment, inhaling deeply before sighing. My mind was racing with many different thoughts, but I did not want him to notice just yet.
"I enjoy exploring the city sometimes, Malik," I responded, reopening my eyes to stare up at the ceiling. "You should know how difficult it is to be an Assassin, so it is only a means of...resting, for lack of a better term."
Malik seemed to sense something was up, since he knew very well that I was never one for resting until a job was done. Even then, I would have made my way to Masyaf for the next target. He knew that well, so it was no surprise to find he was rather suspicious.
"I do remember what it is like, but due to certain...circumstances," I sensed him glare at me harshly before returning to his work, "I can do no longer do that."
A sigh escaped my lips, feeling a stab at my side at the thought of the past.
"I would tell you not to dwell on the past," I spoke, closing my eyes once again, "but I would much rather live a little longer."
A growl sounded from Malik's direction.
"Moving on to something more interesting than your demise," he spoke through clenched teeth. I opened my eyes and glanced over at him as he continued, "I have also noticed you have been around Jerusalem for over two weeks now." He paused for a moment. "I know the Master has sent you here to eliminate Majd Adin, but you claim he is in hiding and will not be able to kill him until he comes out." He looked at me this time. "Why is it that you are out and about instead of trying to find coax him out of hiding?"
"There are some things I need to do before trying to make a move, Malik." I said, looking over at him. "I wish to complete them first before making any serious moves."
Once again, Malik glanced at me, only this time his gaze held confusion.
"And what exactly would that be?" he asked with a suspicious tone.
I remained silent for a long moment, recalling Cynthia's words to me before I left, before slowly turning my head away from him. Alta´r, I do not want him wondering why you have been around after two long weeks without returning to your Master. I think it is time you tell him the reason why you are still here. She wanted me to tell him the truth, no more secrets. Cynthia wanted me to tell Malik the truth of her being alive and I going against the Master's orders to have her killed two weeks ago. She did not want me to lie to a friend who may be able to help me, or us, in the coming future. However, it was Malik, of all people, who I had to tell. He had grown a strong hatred toward me after Solomon's Temple, which resulted in both the death of Kadar and the loss of his arm. Why would he wish to help me after all that had happened back then? With that in mind, how would he react to the fact that Cynthia was still alive? That was what worried me the most. Most likely, he would lecture me about how I, once again, disobeyed the master's orders, only doing what I wished to do, thereby resulting in the breaking of the third tenant. That, or he would send word to Al Mualim, who would most likely send someone else to kill Cynthia once and for all. My eyes narrowed slightly at the thought. I could not let that happen, I thought. Cynthia was an innocent woman who did not deserve to die. If questioned, I would say Al Mualim was defying the Creed by sending me to kill an innocent human being. Still, I made a promise to Cynthia to tell Malik the truth instead of keeping it from him.
Another sigh escaped my lips before looking back at him.
"I cannot say what it is that I am doing just yet..."
Malik raised an eyebrow with more confusion and a hint of frustration.
"What do you mean 'just yet'," he questioned. He did not like being confused, especially when it was I who had confused him. "What is going on that is causing you to stay in Jerusalem for two whole weeks? Al Mualim is most likely wondering where you are!"
I slowly stood up from my seat and walked over to him.
"Because there is something I need to tell you first beforehand," I spoke.
He glared at me lightly, his suspicion increasing greatly.
"And what would that be, if I may so kindly ask?" He questioned as he looked back down at the map he was working on when I arrived.
I sighed just as I stopped in front of the desk and took in a deep breath. This was it, I thought. I had to tell him now, or he would never let it go. Now that he was suspicious, there was no way I could possibly avoid it. Besides, I made a promise to Cynthia that I would tell him everything, the truth behind my disappearing act. There was no turning back. It may not have been something he wanted to hear, but he had to know and hear me out, hear my reason behind it all. It was now…or never.
"Cynthia Richard is not dead," I spoke in a low tone.
At that moment, he abruptly stopped what he was doing with one of the maps, allowing a tense silence to take over between the both of us. I made no sudden movements or sounds, and it felt as if all breathing had ceased entirely as I waited for his response (which I believed would not be good). A few more minutes went by, and both the silence and the tension between us continued to build. I had a strong feeling in the pit of my stomach that he was not happy about the news, but it did not matter anymore. I had my reasons for not killing her and sticking with the first tenant of the Creed just happened to be one of them.
After another moment or two of silence, I watched his head slowly moved up to me, his eyes filled with disbelief and a hint of shock at the words that were just spoken to him. Why was I not surprised?
"What...did you just say?" He questioned in a low tone of voice.
"She is not dead," I repeated, my voice remaining calm.
This time, he stood up straight, rage building up in his eyes out of the news just given to him.
"Why is she not dead, Alta´r?!" He snapped. "She was supposed to be killed weeks ago! How could she still be alive?!"
I kept my composure as I responded, "I could not kill her, Malik. She was, or is I should say, too innocent to kill off so easily."
Malik shook his head as he turned and walked to the other side of the desk, running his hand through his hair, before turning back to me.
"You could have gotten to Robert and killed him just as the Master wanted! De Sable would have sought out revenge against you, and you would have gotten the chance to finish him once and for all." He shouted. "But once again, you have ruined it simply because you did not want to kill some pathetic woman who has no meaning in this life!"
A glare filled my eyes as I followed suit from the other side of the desk.
"It is against the first tenant to kill an innocent person, remember? You scolded me of that back at Solomon's Temple. Or have you forgotten?" I retorted. "She has done nothing wrong that would cause any problems to society, problems that would bring the attention of the Assassins to come and eliminate her! If she were to do something that goes against peace, I would understand the Master's reasons for her death! But she has not, so I did what any other assassin would have done and followed the tenants!"
"Whether she has done nothing wrong or not, it was a direct order from the Master himself," he shouted back, placing his hand against the desk just as I stopped in my tracks to stand across from him. "You would have gotten to Robert de Sable and killed him. That was your only chance to grab his attention, Alta´r! But no! You decided to do what you wanted to do yet again. You allowed that girl to live, while you went off to go wander around the city like a fool, as if you had done nothing wrong! As if you had not disobeyed your orders at all!"
"I was not wandering around the city like a fool! I was busy searching for Majd Addin."
"Did you not just tell me that he has gone into hiding?" Malik pointed. "If that is the case, you should have been biding your time and finding out when you will be able to eliminate him. Yet, here you are telling me you have not even killed Cynthia yet!" He shook his head; he was becoming more and more frustrated. "Why is that you have not killed her, Alta´r?" He questioned. "Why have you not killed her just as the Master told you?"
"I already gave you a reason, Malik," I stated. "She is innocent, therefore I cannot kill her without defying the Creed."
Malik's glare hardened.
"And I already told you that the Master ordered you to kill her, whether she was innocent or not!"
"You would rather me defy our Creed instead? Just like at Solomon's Temple, where you lost both your arm and Kadar?"
It grew silent after I spoke those words to him. Malik stared at me, the glare in his eyes changing to one of surprised. I, on the other hand, kept a calm composure and allowed my head to hang low for a moment in thought.
The way I saw the situation, he did not seem to understand my reasons for why I chose against killing Cynthia. He had always been a stubborn man – even before Solomon's Temple – always following the Creed precisely. However, I could not blame him all that much when I thought about it. He assumed I was being as arrogant as ever, only choosing to do what wished, thus resulting in Cynthia's life being spared. It was not because I simply refused to kill her at the time, but it was against the first tenant of the Creed to kill the innocent. It was something he hounded me about back at the temple. Cynthia was, and still is, an innocent human being, not some Templar bent on gaining control of the people in order to bring their own idea of peace. She had not caused harm to her people, seeing that they are the ones who take more of the brute force of Templars than anyone else. Not only that, but she also did nothing to the Brotherhood nor did she have any intentions of doing so in the coming future. From what I saw and the way she spoke, she had nothing against the Assassins to begin with; she had no clear reason to hate us. She may have heard much about the Assassins getting in the way of the Templars' plans from people like Robert de Sable, but it did not give her much of an incentive to despise us as greatly as many of the Templars.
My gaze hardened a bit with thought. Not only did I believe she was innocent, but there was something about her that made her...stand out, for lack of a better term, from the others. Unlike the Templars she had grown up living with (even though her father does not know anything about them), she was more focused on protecting those less fortunate and keeping them safe from the wrath of the Templars. Also, she had some charismatic feature to her, one I could pinpoint clearly. I had not been so intrigued by anyone like her, not since...
I pushed the thought out of my mind. Now was not the time to be thinking of the past right now. Now, I had to worry about the future, a future I was not really looking forward to.
Malik looked away from me, his gaze still hard.
"I suppose you are right about that," he muttered, looking back at me after a moment. His tone still held frustration, but had decreased at the mentioning of Kadar. "Still, that does not explain what you have been doing these past two weeks other than hunting down Majd Addin." He paused for a moment. "Care to explain?"
I took in another deep breath.
"I made a promise...to a...friend," I repeated myself.
"And who is this...friend of yours, Alta´r?" He questioned. I hesitated a moment to speak not out of fear for his reaction but in an attempt to come up with a good enough argument in order to convince him of his ways. The silence, unfortunately, angered him even more. "Answer me!"
With those words spoken, I slowly looked back at him, my confidence building even more.
"I made a promise to Cynthia." He stared at me with a much greater shock as I continued, "Hear me out, Malik. I promised her that I would help her escape her wedding with Lord Abel of England. She, much like the civilians of the city, has suffered greatly at the hands of that man. He has lied to her people, but is treated like some god sent here to save them from their pain. It is something she would rather die than be a part of, to watch her people be played with like puppets. Even her own father has turned against her, forcing her into this betrothal. That is why I could not kill her when I had the chance. It was not only because she truly was innocent, but she was so willing to die by my hand all because of the suffering she had endured." I paused for a moment, eyes narrowing slightly. "That is why I chose not to kill her, Malik. Because not innocent person deserves pain. As much as I wished to complete the task at hand, her proven innocence and suffering prevented me from ending her life."
Malik stared at me for a long moment, staring at me with a gaze that made him appear as if he no longer knew who I was, yet I could tell he took in the words I spoken to him and tried to understand everything. Unfortunately, it was not clicking in his mind, and he was slowly becoming even more frustrated, as if I were forcing him to run around in circles trying to get him to find the answers himself.
"Why would you make a promise to an enemy?" He questioned after a long moment of silence. "You, of all people, who has always grown a strong hatred for the Templars, is helping one of them. Why?"
I stared at him for another moment before looking away, unsure of how to piece my words together without sounding...out of character.
"Because…I…" I trailed off and lowered my head.
"Because you what," Malik urged imp, drumming his fingers against the wood.
Staring at the ground for a few more seconds, I slowly looked back at him.
"Because I feel I have...grown attached to her…" I said, trying to piece together words that did not make me look strange, but at the same time help him understand. He simply stared at me with a blank expression, all emotion vanishing in an instant. However, although I had hesitated to speak at first, another burst of confidence filled my being as I took in another breath. "I am...not entirely sure if that is what I truly feel, but there is something about her that draws me to her." I navigated my eyes. "I do not know what it is, but it is something." I paused. "I wish to help her, Malik. She refuses to be married to Abel. By now, it has been forced onto her by her father, and she has no way out of it. She knows that he is not the man others think he is, and from what I saw, I have started to believe her, slowly but surely. I wish for her to be happy, not to be tortured for the rest of her life by a man who does not give the amount of a emotion that a husband should give to a wife."
Malik continued to stare at me with a blank expression, yet I noticed something...different about him.
"…And you think," he spoke slowly, "that she will be much happier with you…don't you?" I stared at him for a long moment, though it did not take me long to answer him.
"If it means bringing her happiness and giving her the freedom she greatly desires...and if that is what she wants," I responded, pausing briefly, "then yes… I do believe she would be better off...with someone like me."
Malik closed his eyes for a moment, taking in my words spoken to him and thinking it through, before opening them again. I was right when I said something had changed in Malik, but what that change was I could not say for myself.
"I have not seen you this way in a long time, Alta´r. Let alone with a Templar, of all people," he started, looking away from me and staring at something on the floor. "But I can see in your eyes and hear it in your voice that you truly care about the girl, even though she is the enemy, our enemy. As much as that...worries me, which is rather rare for to be worried about you of all people," He looked back at me, "I have no control as to who you choose to be with." A pause as he turned away from me. "I have to think this through, seeing as it is of...great importance to you. Go…wander around like the fool you are for a little while."
My head lowered a bit, but not out of shame, but out of respect for his decision to think it over.
"My apologies for keeping the truth from you for so long, Malik." I spoke, "I should have told you everything from the start, but feared you would send word to the Master immediately…"
He turned his head toward me, a dull look in eyes.
"We shall see of your apologies are worth accepting, Alta´r." He said before I left the room, leaving him to his thoughts.
Yes, I thought to myself as I climbed out of the bureau, we shall see.
When it was safe to say that Alta´r had left the bureau, Malik slowly turned back around, staring at the spot where the assassin once stood. His mind was swimming with thoughts of Alta´r's words, how defensive he became over a Templar. A Templar! Of all the people in the world, he thought as he ran a hand through his hair and sighed, he just had to go chasing after the enemy, especially the daughter of Richard no less. Unfortunately, there was not much he could do to stop him from seeing her and assisting her in the escape, as he had most likely been doing for the past few weeks that he had been here. He was doing what he felt was the right thing to do, but he was also slowly growing attached to her, falling for her maybe. That was something that was never meant to happen to any Assassin. However, it was as mentioned before, there was nothing he could do to stop it. Falling for another was something he could not prevent – even if Alta´r was not entirely sure just yet – but he certainly did not expect him to be so...so calm and mellow about it. It was as if he wanted it to be a part of his life again, to feel it again. It was clear to Malik that, way before Cynthia came into the picture, the arrogant Assassin was never one to be so interested in romance, as the Master deemed it weakening to Assassins. It had been that way after the last woman whom he thought he had fallen in love with. Adha, he remembered. He had not heard Alta´r speak her name or feel any emotions about her in a rather long time, especially after what happened.
He shook the thoughts out of his mind. Now, was not the time to dwell on the past. He had to worry about what was going on at the present time, and how Alta´r was putting his life, as well as Cynthia's, at risk should the Master, or the even Templars, find out.
The Dai clenched his fist before he began pacing, his mind racing. When he thought about it, what would happen if Al Mualim did find out that Alta´r was busy seeing Cynthia Richard instead of killing her, just as he ordered weeks ago? How would the Master feel if he found out that the stoic Assassin was helping Richard's daughter escape a wedding she supposedly did not want, while at the same time falling for her? Malik would not be surprised if the Master sent off another Assassin to have Cynthia killed with so much as a single moment of hesitation, then bring Alta´r back to Masyaf by force. He would not be surprised to hear if said Assassin was killed off for disregarding orders, either.
Malik stopped walking in that instant, a thought crossing his mind. Come to think of it, he thought, Alta´r was following the Creed and staying his blade from the flesh of an innocent person, just as he should have. Yes, Cynthia may have been a Templar, and Templars were the mortal enemy of the Assassins, but according to Alta´r she was innocent as well. When he thought long and hard about it, what had Cynthia actually done to anyone – let alone the Assassins – that would cause any harm to society? Would Alta´r really be killed for following the Assassin's Creed despite having gone against the Master's orders? He shouldn't be, Malik thought, glancing down at the papers and maps on his desk. That would be unfair, to take the life of an Assassin simply because he was standing by the Creed like he should have. Whether it was an order or not, he was doing what he felt was the right thing to do. If Al Mualim were to find out that Alta´r had not killed Cynthia, Malik knew his friend would put up a reasonable argument against the Master, as he had done moments ago. However, he would have nothing to back himself if he brought up the fact that he had started growing feelings for the woman as well.
Not only was it forbidden to fall in love from what all Assassins understood – the Master claimed it would make the Assassins weaker – but it would be considered treason, a betrayal, to be falling for a Templar. Alta´r would have no way to get himself out of the grave he had already dug up for himself; Al Mualim would consider him traitorous, a Templar himself, and either exile him or execute him for his actions. Either way, Alta´r would be dealt with by Al Mualim immediately. That would only happen if the Master caught wind of his late night visitations and planned escape with Cynthia – now that he thought about it, he would probably deal with her shortly after he is through with Alta´r. It seems cruel, Malik thought, to be taken away from someone you thought you loved dearly despite only trying to help them. Yet, it was considered treason within the Order, and any Assassin would be killed for it. Added with the fact that it was someone that was ordered to be killed, not just any other Templar that got in the way, that just made matters that much worse than before.
Sighing, Malik pinched the bridge of his nose, a futile attempt at calming his forming headache due to pondering the situation for far too long and much too hard. He was never one for choosing any sides of arguments, especially if it was Alta´r's side of the situation. However, the stoic Assassin did just as he was told, as he had mentioned before. In a manner of speaking, yes, but he did it. He followed the first tenant of the Assassin's Creed and spared Cynthia's supposedly innocent life. Unfortunately, it was at the cost of defying an order from Al Mualim himself, therefore cause problems for both him and Cynthia.
"Why must you cause so many problems with the Assassins, Alta´r...?" He muttered, running his hand through his dark colored hair. "The only thing you are doing is bringing your own death that much closer to you...simply because you could not help sparing a Templar."