Everyday since beginning, Vaas would walk with her halfway to priestess Monatula's hut before leaving to go to class. This continued for over a year and even though she still felt a longing in her heart to go with the Vaas and train with him, it grew easier to deal with overtime and eventually it wouldn't bother her, although she still did yearn from time to time to feel the weight of a blade in her palm or spar until her skin bruised. Feel that rush of adrenaline she got when fighting.
It wasn't so bad, practicing magic with auntie Monatula, or so the old lady insists to be called. The old priestess taught a mixture of magic combined with healing techniques. It was interesting to learn but learning about the Rakyat's history was what truly got Citra excited. Hearing about their myths and legends, ancient battles and their heroes; she ate it all up with eager fascination. She shared the Rakyat's history with Vaas, thinking he would be equally as intrigued as she was but he was more interested in jumping off cliffs into the ocean and free climbing mountains with his friends. Vaas seemed to be doing that a lot nowadays.
After what happened that night, Vaas had been staying outside for longer periods of time, preferring to hang out with his friends than stay at home. It wouldn't bother Citra, since she would tag along where ever he went anyways. But she did miss the old times. They were closer back then and now it seems they had this... space between them. It bothered her a lot when she would think of it.
Everything changed when they grew older. Suddenly, all the boys Vaas' age were more interested in chasing girls, and all the older girls would bat their eyelashes and string them along. The only exception to this sudden heat wave was Kalai. Unlike the other older girls she shrugged of any attempts of flirtation, especially from her long time guy friends. Citra would sit next to Vaas, quietly listening to his friend's complain how Kalai was so strong and pretty but she would just ignore them. They warned Kalai her beauty won't last forever and if she doesn't snatch a boy now then she'll grow old and lonely.
In response, Kalai promptly told them that if she can still kick all their butts in combat when she's old and lonely, then she'll be old and lonely, but really, really happy.
Citra respected that. In a way, she admired Kalai's strength and how different she was from all the other girls. But that's where admiration stopped and dislike began. Vaas was the only one who continued to treat Kalai as a friend, and thus Kalai was more closer to him than the rest of the boys in the gang. Something Citra did not like at all. She had her suspicions that Kalai held feelings for Vaas that were more than friends, but if she did she kept it to herself. It wouldn't matter anyways; Vaas belonged to Citra and no one else.
It wasn't until Citra's hips became wider, her waist growing smaller, and her chest becoming more pronounced that the boy's began paying attention to her. They wouldn't dare approach her with Vaas around, but when he left they would flock to her like bees to honey. Some would even wait until Vaas left and then accompany her the rest of the way to Monatula's hut, offering to carry her things or present flowers to her. She would always give them a sly smile and decline every time.
Citra thought it stupid when she would hear gossip claiming she was the "beauty of the village". And unlike Kalai who was pestered because she didn't want to be with any of the boys, Citra was treated as if her abstinence of any relationship was an honorable campaign to remain pure and innocent. Like a blooming flower never to be fertilized, waiting for the best and only the best to come along. Little did they know the best has already arrived for a long time now.
It didn't help that everyone knew she was to become the new elder priestess. Now not only was she beautiful but she was also mysterious; the girl who danced with the waves to appease the gods or practice voodoo magic to become more attune to the spiritual world of the island. It was something that drove the boys wild with desire. They all wanted to have her, but none wanted to know her. Truly know her. Not like Vaas did.
It began a day like any other. Citra woke up early and prepared the morning meal. After, she and Vaas walked along the same route, Citra subtly brushing her fingers against his periodically. When they came to the spot where they usually parted, Citra spotted one of the boys who would regularly walk her the rest of the way. He smiled at her, clutching a batch of flowers. She had every intention to ignore him like usual but her mischievous side got the better of her.
Citra sent a flirtatious little smile, waving at the boy. He looked away when Vaas turned to see who she was waving to. Citra blinked in surprise when Vaas tugged her along.
She frowned, "What are you doing? You are going to be late for class."
"Tane can wait," He grumbled, sending a nasty look at the boy that made him scamper off. "I don't like it."
"Don't like what?" She asked, cocking her head innocently.
Vaas frowned, "Him. Them. I can't leave you alone for a second without a boy trying to talk to you."
She bit her lip, holding back a grin. She skipped ahead of him and walked backwards in front of him. "Are you jealous?" She asked, no longer hiding her smile. Vaas stopped in place and so did she.
"No," He said, casting his eyes downward. "I just don't like them hanging around you. I'm your brother. I'm supposed to protect you and I know what they want."
"But you're a boy too." She said softly, brushing her fingers at the spot in the middle between his pectoral muscles. "Are you going to protect me from yourself?"
"Stop it." Vaas swatted her hand away, glancing around quickly to see if anyone saw them which no one did. "And don't say things like that. You know I won't-" He cut himself off, grimacing. Citra drew back, her good mood suddenly gone. She glared at him, her chest beginning to tighten like something was squeezing it. She didn't say anything when she turned on her heels and strode off to get away from him.
"Citra. Citra!" Vaas called after her but she ignored him. He jogged up to catch her and caught her arm, making her stop and look at him. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. Please, don't be mad at me." Citra wanted to stay furious, but he looked at her with those green eyes and how could she be mad at him? "I'm sorry," He repeated, taking a strand of her hair and playing with it, a boyish smile creeping on his face. She puckered her lips and swat his hand away, shaking her head. How is it he always has a way of making her forgive him so easily? It wouldn't be the case with anyone else.
"Ok," She said reluctantly.
He grinned in delight and crushed her to him. "Onward!"
Monatula's hut was located a little ways from the village, down the road and off a stray path leading into the jungle. There was a clearing at the end of the trail where a straw shack resided, bamboo poles with skulls of animals hanging off them punctured into the ground, creating a sort of walkway. They passed through the entrance, moving aside thick bead curtains that made a clattering noise.
The smell of incense was strong inside but after spending long hours everyday in the hut it didn't bother her anymore. Vaas on the other hand scrunched up his face and rubbed his nose. The hut was clustered with various things, mostly ancient artifacts, religious equipment, a prayer shine, and dried flowers hanging from the ceiling.
"Hey, look at this," Vaas clutched one of the hanging shrunken heads and held it next to his own head, sticking out his tongue and making a ridiculous face. Citra crossed her arms unamused.
"That was my grandmother. She died from chocking on the heart of her greatest enemy." An elderly voice said as an old lady emerged from another room, startling Vaas. He pushed the shrunken head away only for it to swing back and hit him. The old lady, Monatula, chuckled heartily. "I supposed they both got what they wanted in the end. They always did say they were going to kill one another." The priestess sat down in the middle of the room, sprinkling dust into a stone bowl crafted from chunks of volcanic rock.
"Sorry," Vaas mumbled, scratching the back of his head sheepishly. He jumped back when a long black snake slithered by their feet, heading towards the elder priestess. It climbed up her outstretched arm and rested on her shoulders, hissing as the old lady petted it.
"Vaas, come to bother my animals again have you?" Monatula said, talking about the time when they were younger, Vaas and Citra, along with his friends, went to explore the scary witch hut. There was a strong black boar tied up, and he and his friends thought it funny to toy with it. They were having a good time until the rope tying the boar snapped and everyone ran for their lives, climbing faster than a monkey up trees. The boar eventually lost interest and ran off into the jungle.
Monatula was none to pleased and told their parents. As punishment, they were forced to find and return the boar back to her hut. Unfortunately, when they managed to locate the boar it was being chewed on by a couple of komodo dragons. Monatula was going to perform a special ritual that needed only that specific breed of boar. It seems she hasn't forgotten that little incident.
Vaas grinned charmingly, "Aw Auntie Mona, don't tell me you're still mad about that. I told you I'm sorry,"
Monatula rolled her eyes and shooed at him, "Go away child. Your sister and I have things to do."
Vaas smiled cheekily and snaked an arm around Citra giving her a hug. "See you later my little citrus."
"Don't call me that. I hate when you call me that." Citra grumbled, but smiled when he kissed her on the cheek and left.
Monatula shook her head, "Oi, that boy. He's trouble that's what he is." Citra sat down across from her, stretching out her arm to let the snake slither onto her. "He be charmin' all the girls in the village. Breakin' their hearts. He don't have no mama to set him straight." Citra listened passively, a secretive smile on her lips. If only she knew how wrong she was.
The priestess got up and went to get something from her chest, coming back with a wooden box. She opened it and laid out its contents. Citra played with the snake while Monatula fixed herself a herbal joint, taking some experimental puffs before blowing heaps of smoke that mixed with the air.
"Auntie Mona, why do people not like snakes?" Citra asked, remembering Tane's reaction when he found her playing with one.
Monatula coughed and waved away the smoke, "Snakes were never a friend of the Rakyat. Many believe they are a creation of the giant. That's why they have venom, it comes from the blood of the giant when the warrior spilt it. But..." She took the snake back, running a finger down its underbelly. "People are afraid of what they don't understand. Snakes are like any other creature. You respect them and they respect you back."
"Did my Mother like snakes?"
Monatula hummed, setting down the snake for it to slither away. "She did." A far away look glazed over the priestess' eyes. "You're Mother was something else. She understood the jungle like no other; had a special connection with the island. She was one of our greatest priestess, our Warrior Goddess."
"What happened? Why did she leave that all behind."
The elder priestess threw her head back and cackled, "Your father that's what happen. Love can make people do crazy things my child." Citra frowned. Why would her mother leave it all just for a man? She was the Warrior Goddess. How could she ever give that up? "You got something to say?" Monatula asked, noticing how troubled Citra looked.
"I wouldn't. I wouldn't change for any man." She said confidently. It was stupid and Citra liked to think she was smarter than that. She was put off by the softening of the elder priestess' eyes.
"You are still young, Citra. You haven't met the one yet."
"What if I have already?" She countered, Vaas flashing in her mind.
"Mmmh," The old lady sat back, a thoughtful look on her face. "Many men and woman come to me asking if they'll ever find their one. I do as they ask, and I show them. Would you like to see too?"
Citra hesitated to say yes. There was no doubt in her mind that Vaas was her one and only. But what if Monatula somehow finds out? "How?" she asked.
"Give me some of your blood, some of your eyelash hair, and an object you treasure."
"Will you be able to see who it is?" Citra didn't care if she sounded suspicious. She had to ask.
"What you see and who you see is only for you to know." Monatula said seriously, and then cracked a grin, "Unless you'd like to indulge an old woman's romantic heart." Citra shook her head and the old lady laughed. "Alright dear, give me the items and I will prepare the drink."
She did so, taking a knife and slicing her palm, letting the blood drip into the bowl, then some of her eyelashes and lastly, a long necklace with a shark tooth. She was given that by her father at a very young age. It had once belonged to her mother.
Monatula returned and poured an unknown liquid into the bowl, mixing it with a wooden spoon. She then blessed the necklace and told Citra to hold it. The priestess grabbed a handful of powder, rubbed it and blew it onto the bowl. When she was done, she handed the bowl for Citra to drink. Citra took it and placed it on her lips but before she could even taste a drop, Monatula seized her wrist.
"A warning, child. There are other things you may see. Visions of the past and present and even things that haven't come to pass yet." The priestess eyeballed her, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
It sounded ominous, but it didn't deter Citra. She nodded.
It's sweet, Citra remembered thinking before the world began to tip diagonally and she was falling... falling... falling...
A bright light blinded her. It faded away as quick as it came, revealing she was in some kind of room but it looked different. It looked like some of the ancient temples she and Vaas explored.
A child's crying caught her attention. It was coming from outside, where ever outside was. There was only one hallway that lead to who knows where. She decided to follow it. While she walked, she could hear this low thrumming sound that seemed to reverberate from the walls itself. As if the temple was alive.
If she listened closely, she could also hear chanting coming from somewhere deeper in the temple. It sent a chill down her spine.
Finally, after going through many twists and turns, she made it outside. It was night time, and the sky held many stars more than usual and the moon! The moon was three times as big! She stopped and stared, amazed at the ethereal sight before her.
The child's crying, no, a baby's began again. The light from the moon grew dimmer as it changed from luminescent blue to an angry blood red orange. Directly underneath the moon she spotted two figures. There was what looked to be a small boy no older than two standing at the riverbank. The other was a woman, knee deep in the river, cradling a baby in her arms. Then, the woman bowed and dunked the baby underwater.
The world vanished under Citra's feet as she plunged deep in water. She began to panic at first, clawing for the surface but she sunk like a rock. Her fear of drowning faded when she realized she could still breath. It was a weird sensation, to walk on the ocean floor. In a way, it was peaceful. But that feeling didn't last for long. The sandy ground shook underneath her, and huge spiderweb cracks appeared.
The ocean floor cracked open, lava seeping out as a terrible scream erupted from down below. The land began to change. It rose, faster and faster it went, taking her along for the ride. The ocean drained away and she was once again on the island but it did not stop there. In an earth-shattering cataclysm, a volcano erected from the ground like a blade piercing a body. The sky darkened by huge stormy clouds.
To her horror, the volcano erupted violently, lava oozing out from its peak and from within, a monstrous lava giant emerged. It roared tremendously, reaching to grab something. She turned around to see what it was and saw eight fire balls falling from the sky.
Citra looked down when she felt something trickling down her legs. It was blood, lots of it, and gods! A sharp unbearable pain exploded in her stomach. She cried out, clutching her stomach and dropping to her knees.
The chanting began again. It was almost deafening. This time, it was a warning. Warning her that someone- something was coming for her.
Through the pain she saw the tip of the horizon turn a sickly yellow, the sun morphing into a black orb, becoming an impossibly huge yellow eye glaring at her with uncontrollable rage.
From the darkness a demon appeared. It pointed a gun at her and pulled the trigger.
The sound of a gunshot rang in her ears as everything bled white.
Pain never came, just blissful numbness.
White faded away to a baby blue sky. She was laying on her back, immobilized. The sound of seagulls cawing reached her ears. She registered the splashing of the ocean and knew she was at the beach.
Someone laid beside her, their fingers intertwined.
"I know, Citra." The mysterious person said. "It's ok."
For some unexplainable reason, pure happiness filled her.
She turned to see who it was but she was falling again.
Falling... falling... falling...
Citra awoke to a monkey picking at her hair. It screeched at her and darted away when she sat up. She took in her surroundings and recognized it as Monatula's room. The priestess must have moved her here when she lost consciousness.
The vision she had... It was all so chaotic she couldn't make any sense of it. The only thing she took from it was the aching desire to see who it was that was laying with her at the beach. When she closed her eyes and focused, she could almost feel their palm pressed against her own, fingers wrapped around hers. It left her hand tingling.
Citra wandered out of the room and saw Monatula tending to a shivering man. "You are awake. I ran out of aloe vera, hibiscus and honey. Fetch me some. You can get honey from the village but the aloe and hibiscus you must find in the jungle." Citra had a thousand burning questions she wanted to ask of her vision but she simply nodded and left to get the things.
With a basket in hand she decided to find some aloe and hibiscus first. As she wandered the jungle, her thoughts began to drift back to her vision. She thought of her original purpose to taking the strange concoction. She didn't see Vaas, but she didn't see anyone else either. She didn't think her one was the volcanic monster, nor the demon that shot her. It would be morbid if that were the case.
She could only think of that mysterious person and how it seemed their hand was crafted to mold perfectly against hers. The only time she felt that way was with Vaas. Citra could not imagine loving anyone else other than him. Even thinking about it was weird to her. Vaas was her constant. When the world tipped diagonally he was her balancing point. She knew it was the same for him. They loved each other. Plain and simple.
Citra jumped when an arrow zoomed past her and embedded into the tree she stood by. A familiar laughter filled the air.
"Hello Citra," Niko greeted, lowering his bow. He went and wiggled the arrow out, grinning at her. "I'm sorry, did I scare you?" She didn't grace him with an answer and walked around him to continue her search. She ignored him when he joined her. Niko was one of Vaas' long time friend. He was ok but that's all she thought of him. Actually, she didn't think of him at all. "So... it's weird we've been friends since childhood but this is the only time I remember talking to you one on one. I'd really like to get to know you better."
She rolled her eyes, plucking some hibiscus flowers and dropping them in the basket.
"There's a party at sunset today," He said, "You should come. I mean, I know Vaas must have told you about it already but I wanted to ask you to come. With me..."
His voice faded as she registered the new information. There was a party tonight that she didn't know about, and Vaas was going. Why didn't he tell her? Was he planning on going alone? Behind her back? Why was he going without her? A sickening feeling pooled at the bottom of her gut, hot chills traveling throughout her body.
What was happening?
"Are you feeling alright? Citra?" Niko said, waving a hand in front of her face. She blinked and relaxed her hands. They were balled into fists so hard her nails left imprints on her palm.
"He didn't tell me. Where is it at?" She asked, already planning on heading straight to Vaas and demanding he explain himself.
Did he not tell her for a reason? Why would he do that? She thought they were close. Why would he keep secrets from her? How can he do this to her? Didn't he know what he was putting her through? Did he not love her anymore? Was that it?
She could feel tears welling in her eyes but she closed them and willed it away.
He hated her. Vaas doesn't love her anymore.
"It's at Sunset Cove... does that mean you have accepted my offer?..."
"Is he bothering you?" A new voice said. Kalai appeared from the jungle, slinging her bow over her shoulder. "Niko, why don't you focus on what we're supposed to be doing instead of getting distracted."
"I am hunting... just not your usual prey that's all." He yelped when Kalai slapped the back of is head hard. He rubbed his sore head, hissing. "Agh! What about you!?" In response Kalai unlatched and raised a dead rabbit hanging from her belt. He groaned and faced Citra. "Will I... see you later tonight?"
Citra barely registered him talking. She gave him a once-over and said, "We will see."
Niko grinned in delight, "Aha, being all mysterious. I like that."
"Get out of here, Niko." Kalai warned. Niko raised his hands up in defense and jogged off. "You know you don't have to go with him. It's ok to say no."
"I know," Citra replied, bending down and harvesting more hibiscus flowers.
Kalai shuffled and clipped the rabbit back on her belt and walked alongside Citra in a steady pace. "I don't know why he's even bothering. You are already going with Vaas."
"He didn't tell me," Citra informed her.
The older girl blinked in surprise. "Oh. I thought he did. You guys are, you know..." Alarm bells rang in Citra's head and she snapped her attention towards Kalai. "...close." She finished. "Like this close," She wrapped her index finger under her middle finger, emphasizing her point. "You two come in a pair. Where ever one goes the other follows. I wish I had a sibling relationship like that."
Citra inwardly sighed in relief and kept her cool facade. "I suppose so."
"Even though Vaas didn't invite you, you should come anyways. It'll be fun." Kalai stopped, forcing Citra to as well. "You can come over to my place later. We can get ready together. I think I have a few clothes that can fit you."
Citra mulled it over in her head. She was planning on marching straight to Vaas... but maybe this could work out too. Why not surprise him? It would be fun to see the look on his face when he sees her there. "Ok," She accepted with a shy smile.
"Great. Just come over to my house after lunch anytime." Kalai said. She said goodbye and jogged off, disappearing into the jungle. Citra stared at the spot she left to. Sudden, explosive anger overtook her. Without thinking, Citra flung the basket away, hibiscus flowers flying everywhere. It felt good to throw something, but that feeling was fleeting. There was still a burning feeling in her chest, and her arms tingled to hit something.
Breathing deeply, Citra got to work picking up the mess she made, Vaas not too far from her mind.