It grew hotter as the day progressed. Not only was it hot and sunny, it was also humid, and even though she was inside hidden from the sun, her body was covered by a layer of sweat. Citra was in the kitchen, helping prepare lunch, the steam of boiling water and the general stuffiness made it unbearably hotter inside. She propped open the window and left the door wide open to ventilate the temperature inside, and also in the hopes to catch an occasional cool breeze.
She stirred the corn in the bubbling pot, sprinkling sugar for it to absorb. A woman who has taken a fancy for her father was busy cutting and roasting slices of boar meat that Vaas had hunted earlier in the morning. Kalai sat at the table making coconut milk, sprinkling minced arrowroot and palani to give the drink a touch of ginger to boost energy, her little sister running around helping here and there.
The men were outside goofing around eagerly waiting for the food to be done. Citra would sneak glances at them through the window, a small part of her yearned to be one of the boys playing outside instead of being inside cooking. Once the food was done Kalai sent her little sister to let the boys know. They all rushed in, Tane and Anaru being served first since they were the elders, then Vaas and his friends. After everyone was served they all went outside to relax and enjoy a good meal.
Citra, Kalai and her sister went to sit with the boys who were sat in a circle under the shade of some trees. Vaas scooted over to make room for her to sit next to him. She ignored the invitation and went to sit next to Niko, smiling shyly at the boy.
They were a rowdy group, laughter and jokes being passed around. Citra sat quietly, listening to Niko talk to her about what he hunted today and sometimes he would lean in and whisper sweet nothings into her ear. She would duck her head and pretend to act like a blushing bride, all the while making sure to catch Vaas' eye. She didn't miss the way he would look away and force a grin for his friends.
After eating the boys got up and prepared to head out to find fun somewhere else. Niko took Citra's hands gently and whispered how he couldn't wait to see her tonight. Blushing, she slipped her hands away and went inside the house, glancing at Vaas when she passed him.
"Hold up guys. I'll be right back." She heard him say, and she couldn't stop the smile tugging at her lips. She didn't turn around to acknowledge him, just went straight to her room, not bothering to close the door. She plopped onto her bed, kicking her legs up to lean against the wall which scrunched her skirt upward, revealing a hint of the panties she wore underneath.
Vaas entered and closed the door behind him. When he looked at her he immediately looked away, shuffling awkwardly in place, his eyes trained everywhere but on her. She didn't like that one bit and sat up. "Come here." She ordered and was pleased when he did.
"What are you doing Citra?" She expected him to be jealous but he sounded concerned.
"What am I doing?" She echoed, mockingly innocent.
Vaas frowned, his lips thinning in a straight line. "You know what I'm talking about. Don't play with me, I'm being serious." She dropped her coy smile and simply stared, taking him in. Gently, she traced her finger along his eyebrow and down his curved nose. He was truly, truly beautiful. He took her hand and held it. "Are you doing this because of what happened?"
"What happened?" She asked, genuinely curious. Nothing came to mind.
"In the morning, when I was walking you to Auntie Mona. I said something and you got mad."
Citra blinked. She had completely forgotten about that. Why was he bringing that up now? "No," she said. "Why would you think that?"
"Because-" He bit his lip. She liked the way he did it. "I don't know. I don't know. You just tend to stay angry for a long time."
"No I don't." She snapped, irritated at his words. Vaas opened his mouth to say something, but paused and decided against it. There was a moment of silence, before Citra piped up asking, "Where are you guys going?" If she was somebody else, somebody who didn't know Vaas as well as she did, then she wouldn't have caught his sharp intake of air, or the way he would rub his thumbnail underneath the tip of his index finger whenever he was nervous or anxious about something.
"Um, probably go practice our spear throwing. Nothing too fun, you wouldn't like it." He couldn't even look her in the eyes.
Citra squinted at him and laid back. "Oh, ok. I don't feel so good anyways."
"Why, what's wrong?" She liked how worried he sounded. It reassured her that he cared.
"Auntie Mona gave me something weird to drink." It wasn't exactly a lie. Not really.
"Are you going to be ok?"
He placed the back of his hand on her forehead, checking her temperature. Citra gently pushed it away. "Go, your friends are waiting for you." And when he was reluctant to leave her side she added, "I'll be fine."
Vaas leaned in and connected their foreheads and departed. Citra waited for a bit, then sprang from the bed and ran to the kitchen, watching from the window Vaas and his friends leave. Once Vaas was out of sight, Citra went outside and walked with Kalai and her little sister to their house.
"Halo, Gramma," Kalai greeted an elderly lady relaxing on the patio, rocking back and forth on a rocking chair, a baby macaque clinging to the back of her head. They headed inside, going to Kalai's room. The older girl blocked the door, shooing away her little sister. The little girl whined but eventually wandered off.
"Little sisters are so annoying." Kalai grumbled. Her eyes widened, "I mean, not that you're annoying."
"It's fine," Citra said, sitting criss-crossed on the girl's bed. She bowed her head, picking at the blanket. "Sometimes I think I annoy Vaas."
"You?" Kalai said incredulously, laying on her stomach. "You don't annoy Vaas. Believe me, you're the last person he'd be annoyed with. He adores you." Citra remained unconvinced, but she kept that to herself. Kalai rolled of the bed and shuffled through her dresser. "Hey, why don't you go through my closet and look for something to wear while I do my make up first."
Kalai turned on the radio and music filled the room. They had bad reception here, so it came out staticky but the girls didn't mind. There weren't much clothes in the closet; there were more weapons and various other trinkets. "Is this fine?" Citra asked, holding up a faded v-strap baby pink dress with white flowers patterns on it.
Kalai looked away from a broken piece of mirror propped against the wall. "That's cute. Try it on."
Citra shrugged off her clothes and slipped the dress over her bikini. The dress was shorter and tighter than it looked, hugging her developing form nicely. She took the straps and tied a tight knot behind her neck.
"That's very pretty on you." Kalai complimented, "You can have it if you want. It doesn't fit me anymore."
"Thanks," Citra mumbled, tugging the edges of the dress down to cover more of her thighs.
Kalai waved her over. "Stay still." She ordered, and started applying make up to Citra's face. Like always, Citra resisted the urge to rub her eyes or blink repeatedly when cosmetic dust floated too close. "I think this is the first time we've actually hung out together, just you and I." Kalai dabbed her finger and rubbed it gently across Citra's eyelid. "I see you hanging around with Vaas all the time. Do you have any other friends? People that are not Vaas?"
"No," Citra replied, can't help but feeling a touch defensive. "Why would I hang out with other people when I can be with Vaas?" In truth, Citra wouldn't be socializing with other people if it weren't for Vaas. He was the friendly one, always cracking jokes and being the life of the party. People just tend to gravitate towards his free spirit nature. Vaas lived in the moment. Citra was the complete opposite. To acquaintances she was polite but closed-off. Quite, always observing more than participating. Some would even describe that her body was here, but her mind was always somewhere else.
But to those who knew her best (whom were Anaru, Tane, Vaas and maybe Auntie Mona) knew her to be sometimes adventurous like her brother. Unlike him though she made sure to step-back and weave a security net instead of jumping eyes closed into the deep end, something which Vaas seems to do and would often more than not get him seriously hurt or seriously in trouble. He was reckless, she was careful.
Citra could be extremely competitive and overtly determined on one side of the spectrum and on the other she could be a day dreamer and spend all day inside her room. She didn't mind having no close friends. Actually, she preferred it that way. All she needs is her brother, her father, her uncle, the wondrous magical legends of the Rakyat and the beautiful ocean and she'd be content. It was her perfect little world and she wouldn't have it any other way.
Without them... without Vaas... Citra didn't know who she would be.
It was a frightening thought. If one day they all leaved her, she would be alone and to her that was more scary than anything.
Who would she be without them?
Yes, sometimes she would hate their guts and think they were the worst people in the entire world but in the end she understood that she needed them. She needed them to feed her their love. Fill this emptiness inside her because she can't do it herself.
She needs to feel wanted, to be understood and they provide her that. Citra knows she doesn't deserve it. Sometimes she would treat them so badly, especially to Vaas. It was a miracle they haven't left her yet or hate her. If she were them, Citra would hate herself.
And the worst thing of all: She doesn't know why she does it.
Hurt them repeatedly. Accuse them of being against her, wanting to hurt her.
Why don't you love me anymore? Why are you doing this? Don't leave me.
She knows- she knows they don't do that but at the time it was impossibly real and very, very true.
They should just leave her. She knows they will be fine without her. But she doesn't want them to. She's so selfish and she disgusts herself but she cannot bear losing them.
Not Vaas. Never Vaas.
It would break her. She would die without him.
"All done." Kalai said triumphantly. "Take a look."
Citra barely recognized herself. She appeared older, and the dark eyeshadow made her green eyes pop like underwater gems. It was pretty; pretty different. It was nice for tonight, but Citra couldn't imagine herself looking like this everyday.
Kalai admired her handy work, weaving tiny braids in Citra's long wavy hair, tucking a few strands behind her ear. "We should get going. Sunset Cove is a long walk from here." She went to change, putting on weathered capri jeans and leaving herself topless save for a bikini top. When she was ready, they left the house and walked down one of the main dirt roads. Along the way, Kalai spotted a few Tiare flowers and plucked two, putting them behind her and Citra's right ear.
Citra forced a smile and not so subtly moved it behind her left ear.
The sound of engines alerted them that a car was coming down the road. Citra moved to the far edges of the path to allow enough space for the vehicle to pass. Kalai had other plans. The older girl gave her most charming smile and flagged down the car.
Moments later, Citra was sitting in the back of a jeep surrounded by chickens. One began pecking her arm.
"Thank you!" Kalai yelled, waving goodbye to the farmers as they drove off. She laughed when she had to pull feathers from Citra's hair.
They walked down a downward slopped hill and stopped at a cliff's edge, getting a breathtaking view of Sunset Cove. True to its name, the cove's water was lit up by the sunset, casting light on the water's surface, lighting up like a thousand brilliant sparkling diamonds. Fishermen houses were built along the water's edge, long ago abandoned and now empty.
Citra could hear the music first, so loud it floated all the way up to where they were. There were many older kids too, some she recognized from her village and others who were complete strangers. She felt suddenly awkward and out of place. It was that bad that she felt relieved when they found Niko and the rest of the gang. No Vaas in sight, though.
Niko gave her a huge hug and instead of letting go he slung an arm around her, keeping her close. Citra internally grimaced and slipped out of his hold, wandering away from the group in search of her brother.
No matter where she went, Vaas was nowhere to be found. It didn't help that there were a lot of people she had to skillfully maneuver through to get anywhere. It was a good thing she was small and lithe.
Citra passed by an open doorway and peered inside. There were people she has never seen before. Older men bigger and buffer than she has ever seen and dressed in all black. There were young boys in there too, maybe around the same age as Vaas or younger. One of them snorted some white powder through a dollar bill while another signed a piece of paper. A chest blocked her view and she looked up into the face of a stranger.
"Hello there pretty." A man with long shaggy hair purred, reaching out to touch her. "Want to come inside? I got stuff to make you feel damn good."
Citra backed away faster than his fingers could come in contact with her skin. He laughed as she rushed along, noting the fact the man had a pistol strapped to his hip.
She was walking past the shacks on the side were the porch was elevated above the sea, ignoring passing glances from boys, when two people on a jet ski zoomed by almost splashing her.
She glared at them, a little annoyed at their carelessness. Her eyes widened when she realized it was Vaas who was riding the jet ski. He speed up dramatically, playfully scaring the girl hugging his back. The girl let out a squeal and hid her face into Vaas back, making him laugh. Citra could only watch them. Observe how happy he looked. It was fascinating to watch.
He came around again and this time they made eye contact.
It was only for a fraction of a second, barely enough time to discern anything. He couldn't have recognized her.
Vaas and the girl were thrown off the jet ski after he made a sudden right turn.
Citra smiled in amusement as everyone who witnessed the spectacle laughed. Serves him right. She receded from view when some kids pulled Vaas and the girl out of the water. She knew Vaas must have seen her or saw someone who looked like her. Either way, she knew he was going to look for her.
It was his turn to try and find her.
Citra made sure to leave hints for him like a glimpse of her dress going around the corner only to disappear when he got there, or a passing face in the crowd. This was fun. It was like playing hide and seek again. She was always a good hider.
She didn't have a specific plan in mind, she just wanted to lead him somewhere, where they can be alone. The cove's cave was ideal but it turned out that others had the same idea. She passed many couples hidden in the dark, lost in their own little worlds.
Deeper and deeper she went. Deeper and deeper he followed.
She turned a corner and light blinded her. It seems the cave did have an ending. It lead to the other side of the hill, merging with the ocean. Citra glanced back to make sure Vaas was behind her still. He was.
He could only make out the shadowy form of her body, hands running along the cavern walls. When he exited the cave, she was gone.
Citra snuck up from behind him and rubbed the back of his arms, placing a soft kiss on his strong tanned shoulder-blade, tasting the salt of the sea on his skin. Vaas sprang away from her touch.
"Citra!" He gasped, gripping her shoulders. "What are you doing here? I thought you were sick."
"I got better," She mumbled, snaking her hands up his chest, making his breath shake. He inhaled sharply and grabbed her wrists.
"Stop it." He hissed, "We are not alone here. Anyone can see us."
"So? I don't care, let them see." Citra leaned forward to kiss him but he turned his head away.
"And what do you think would happen if Dad finds out? You saw what happened when he caught us kissing, and we were just little kids back then!"
A dark look passed over Citra's face. "He doesn't understand. He doesn't care."
"He made us read and re-read that stupid book over and over again." Vaas growled, "He kept us apart for weeks. He punished us when we didn't even know any better."
Citra jerked herself from his grip, "And now we do, is that it? You know better and now you don't want to be with me. Does it disgust you? Do I disgust you? Are you ashamed of me?" She felt her eyes burn, a lump forming in her throat.
"No. No, don't say that-" Vaas moved closer to her but she backed away from him, her face twisted in anger and sadness.
"Is that why you're here alone? Is that why you lied to me? To be with that- that whore." Her whole body trembled and she leaned against the boulder, no longer trusting her legs to hold her. She smashed her hands against her face, nails digging into her skin and slid down onto the floor, sobs escaping from her lips. "You're leaving me. You are replacing me with her and you are leaving me."
How could this happen? What has she done wrong? Why doesn't he love her anymore?
Doesn't he know how much she needs him?
Why is he doing this to her?
"No. No, no, no, no, no I can never replace you. I can never replace you." Vaas said, his voice shaking, tears springing to his eyes.
Citra squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head, "You don't love me anymore. You don't love me!"
"I do!" He gasped, taking her head in his hands almost painfully and pressing their foreheads together. "I do, I do, I love you so much it hurts. It kills me."
"Don't leave me," She pleaded, grasping onto him as if he would disappear any moment. "Don't leave me."
He held her back just as tight, scared of what would happen if he didn't. "I won't," He promised, "I'll never leave you. I promise. I promise."
They stayed like that until the demons inside her head quieted and the only thing she felt inside was a strange numbness. Her only anchor to reality was the steady grip of his hand around hers, reminding her she was loved and wanted.
The tears dried on her cheeks, and she remembered she was wearing make up. Laughing, she rubbed it off, no longer caring how she would look like.
Vaas picked something from the floor and held up the white flower. It must have fallen off, some of its petals destroyed in the process. Citra stared glumly, sad she had ruined something so pretty even if it was unintentional.
She gasped when Vaas popped it in his mouth and made a show of chewing it, swallowing dramatically. He smacked his lips and grinned, giving her a thumbs up.
Citra opened and closed her mouth. "You're so weird!" She finally said, pushing his arm playfully.
"Yeah but I'm your weirdo right?" He pulled her close and played with her hair absentmindedly, wrapping it around his finger and letting it fall loose. "I love you. You know that right?"
She didn't answer, too lost at the sight of his beauty. How could someone so perfect love her?
He searched into her eyes and rested his forehead against hers, bumping their nose together. He kissed her softly, holding onto her hair as if it were his life line. When they parted, there were no words to describe the way he looked at her and there were no words to describe the way she felt when he looked at her like that.
Vaas was right here beside her and he loves her and that's all she could ever ask for.
They left the cave, returning to civilization. They let their wrapped hands slip away when they were in sight of people.
"There you two are! Where'd you guys go?" Kalai greeted when she spotted them.
"Citra wanted a ride on the jet ski." Vaas muttered, accepting a bottle Kalai offered him and taking a big swig.
"Hey, you ok?" She heard Kalai ask, the girl placing a hand on his arm.
"Yeah, it's nothing." He said, shrugging her hand off.
A loud commotion drew their attention. There was a crowd forming at the far right side of the cove, hiding from view somebody shouting. Vaas and Kalai immediately set off, Citra trailing behind wondering what was going on.
The crowd parted for Vaas, letting them reach the front easily.
"Fuck you man!" Niko yelled from the floor, hunched over clutching his bleeding nose. Kalai went and helped him up.
"What the hell is going on here?" Vaas barked, looking from his fallen friend to a group of young odd looking men. Citra examined them with apt interest, taking in their tribal looking attire and the many tatau's littered all over their bodies, even on their faces. With a start, Citra realized they must be the natives. The mysterious warriors who lived in the great ancient temple. Tane had told stories of his time when he used to live in the temple, walked among these people as one of them. That is... until the great divide.
Citra always wanted to see what the temple looked like but Tane told her these people were very secretive, especially after half of their tribe left with him and her parents. Now, they call themselves the true Rakyat. It was rare to see one of them out in the open. They mostly kept to themselves deep in the jungle.
"Jalang hit me!" Niko growled, pointing at one of the tribals. He was tall, taller than the rest, and appeared a little older than Vaas. Like the others he had tataus covering his arms, chest and legs and ones that looked like sharp tendril knives running down his pronounced cheekbones.
"You struck first." The young man stated calmly, the perfect example of stoicism.
Kalai stepped forward, unsheathing her knife but stopped when Vaas raised a hand.
"Why'd you hit my friend?" Vaas asked, keeping his voice level to keep the situation calm.
"He said we were disgracing our ancestors." Niko piped up, spitting blood on the floor. "I couldn't let him say that without doing anything, Vaas. I won't let them. I won't."
"It is the truth." The tribal said, and gestured around them, at the empty bottles laying around and litters of miscellaneous trash. "You trash our lands and you disrespect our gods by not worshiping them at this celebration. How much have you forgotten of our ways to become this? You act like foreigners."
Citra could literally feel the tension in the air snap and whatever calmness Vaas tried to maintain was gone. He was angry, she can see it in the way his fists clenched, his body ready to spring into action, his friends and a few others close behind. He gave a deadly stare at the tribal and marched right up to him coming chest to chest. Vaas was a little bit shorter than the tribal but he was more physically intimidating and he gave off this aura that screamed dangerous.
It was rare sight to see this side of him. He was always friendly and making jokes that people forget that Vaas can be scary when he wanted to be. Not her though, she never forgets. And secretly, a part of her enjoys seeing this side of him.
You know, brother," And he says brother in a mocking tone, "That's a lotta bullshit coming from you jungle fucking monkey freaks. Acting all high and mighty while you roll around in your own shit-"
"Vaas," Citra cut in using a strict voice. She had enough of this petty rivalry. She didn't want things to escalate any more than it needed to or for Vaas to get into any trouble.
There was a tense period when the two males continued to stare each other down, waiting for the other to make the first move. Finally, she saw the tension leave her brother's shoulders. He rolled his neck and sniggered. "Fuck it." He stepped back and the tension evaporated, his friends standing down but remained on guard as did the tribal men. "Sorry for the mess, brother. I'll make sure we clean up after ourselves."
The tribal man stared at Vaas and then went past him without saying a word, the rest of the tribals following him. The crowd parted to let the strangers pass, including Citra. She became on edge when the tribal man stopped and faced her.
"You should not step aside for anyone, Citra Talugmai. They should move for you." With that he continued on his way, his words leaving her puzzled. Vaas called out her name when she jogged to catch up to the tribal men.
"Wait!" She said and was surprised when they actually halted and waited for her. "You can stay if you'd like. We have plenty of food and drinks..." She suddenly felt foolish. She had no idea what she was doing asking these people to stay. She just knew she was curious of them and had questions she needed to ask, such as how did they know her name and why did they use her mother's last name instead of her father's, Montenegro.
"Thank you for honoring us with your invitation but we cannot." He said, standing straighter when Vaas, Kalai and Niko arrived behind her. "We must complete our journey and return home."
"Where are you going?" She couldn't help but ask. She knew she was pushing it but something inside her burned to know. To learn.
Again, she was surprised when he answered her. "We are on our way to give blessings and prayers to the sea god." He pointed East, "Over there, on an island not too far from land."
"The shark," She whispered, remembering the ancient relics of old Monatula taught her.
The tribal man looked impressed and he said while looking at Vaas, "It seems not everyone has forgotten our gods."
Vaas snorted, "Yeah, it's great to know we used to worship animals."
Citra sent him a dirty look and he gave her a "so what" look in return. It was at times like these that she wished Vaas was more interested in the Rakyat's culture and legends. Or at least show some respect for them.
"You can come with us if you desire." The tribal man said. Citra would have jumped at the offer if Vaas didn't stop her.
He placed a hand on her shoulder and said, "My sister's not going anywhere without me." He glanced back at his friends. "And I'm not going anywhere without my friends."
The tribal man frowned and turned to Citra with a solemn face. "Forgive me but we are not allowed to bring along outsiders to our ceremonies."
"I understand." Citra mumbled, disappointed at the lost opportunity while Vaas on the other hand looked confused.
"Outsiders?" He repeated, "Wouldn't my sister be considered an outsider. Why does she get to go and we don't?"
"You could have come with, son of Talugmai. Your friends cannot."
Vaas glowered at the man. "Well, what I said still stands."
"Then perhaps another time." The man said, "Farewell, Citra."
"Wait, what is your name?" She asked.
Citra repeated his name in her head and gave a small smile. "Until next time."
He nodded and placed a fist over his heart, bowing his head. With that, the tribal men took their leave.
Citra turned around and gave her brother a look.
"What?" Vaas said, "I don't trust those guys."
The four headed back to the party only to find that everyone was standing at the shore, staring at something.
"What the hell?" Citra heard Niko mutter under his breath as they went to see what everyone was looking at.
What Citra saw, she understood why everyone was silent. In the distance, the Southern Island lit up the night sky in hues of fiery orange.
"Vaas," Kalai whispered and pointed towards the direction of their home. Citra felt her stomach drop when she saw what looked to be the sunrise peaking over the mountain. The four ran up the hill to get a better view.
Their island, their jungle...
It was all on fire.
When they reached the village, everything was bundled in chaos. There were many people bustling around, getting armed and boarding onto jeeps that drove off to who knows where. Families were locking themselves inside, peering out the window in fear of their men. They spotted Tane urgently talking to a man from another village, both their expressions serious.
"Uncle! What's going on?" Vaas asked as they approached him.
Tane looked at them bewilderingly. "Vaas? Citra? What are you doing out here? You should be inside the house. Go now, your father is waiting for you." Before they can ask him anything more Tane was called away.
With nothing left to do, they headed to their home in hopes that their father would have the answers to their questions. Kalai and Niko departed halfway to check on their own families. A group of warriors jogging past them carrying guns alarmed Citra. She's never seen them taken out of storage before, they had no use for it. What could be happening that it required them to resort to using guns?
"Stay close to me," Vaas chastised when she wandered a bit too far out of his reach to see where the warriors were heading.
Their house came into view. They entered to the sight of their father pacing back and forth, a gun strapped over his back. He went straight to them when they entered.
"Vaas. Citra. Are you two ok? Are you hurt anywhere?" He said while checking their bodies for any injury.
"We're fine. What's going on?" Vaas demanded, shrugging of his father's hand.
Anaru stepped back, looking grim. "We are under attack. We don't know who it is or why, but they've already bombed most of the Southern Island and have bombed our island to the west. The villagers over there are in danger. Your Uncle and I are going to help but I couldn't leave until I know you two are safe." He unclipped a smaller gun from his waist and handed it to Vaas. "You remember how to us this?" Vaas nodded dumbly, staring at the weapon in his hand. He looked up when Anaru gripped his shoulder. "Good. Stay here with your sister. Keep her safe until I return."
"Wait, no, Dad I'm coming with you." Vaas declared, holding the gun tightly and putting on a brave face.
"There's no time to argue!" Anaru said, raising his voice. "Stay with your sister and don't leave the house. That is an order, Vaas."
"But-" Vaas started but Anaru already left, slamming the door behind him, effectively silencing her brother.
Citra didn't know what to say or do or even think. Someone was attacking them and no one knows who or why. What if they come here? Attack their village? What would happen? She didn't want Vaas to have to fight. She was terrified of the thought! What if he gets hurt? What if-
No, no. Citra shouldn't think that. They were fine here. Safe for now. But for how long?
"Vaas!" Citra cried out in surprise when her brother threw open the door and ran outside. He stopped to look around, maybe to see where their father headed, giving Citra enough time to latch onto his arm. "What are you doing?" She demanded but her words fell on deaf ears.
"Vaas!" Niko called. They turned around to see Kalai, Niko and a group of young warriors all armed with bows and blades. "We're going to fight with our brothers. Forget what our elders say, our island is in trouble and we can't hide like cowards and do nothing!"
"We are warriors." Kalai added fiercely, "We have been training our whole lives for this moment. We will fight."
Citra looked back and forth from the group to her brother, holding onto him tighter. She wanted to tell them to go away, leave her brother alone. If they wanted to fight and die then that was their decision but don't they dare take her brother along for the ride too. He has to stay. He has to stay with her! She needs him, she needs him.
He won't leave her. He won't.
"Vaas," She whispered, as if saying his name will anchor him to the spot. Prevent him from leaving and doing something stupid. "Vaas!" She repeated, a little louder now when he made no sign that he heard her. She could see he was thinking... thinking whether or not to leave or stay. Citra wanted to hit him, wake him up and tell him he can't leave. It was too dangerous, he could get hurt. He could get hurt and he could die and she wasn't going to be there to protect him.
Citra could feel her heart breaking. He wasn't listening to her and there was nothing she could do about it. She was powerless, and the control she thought she had over her brother was fake. She was never in control and her brother was going to leave her. He was going to die.
She gasped weakly when he slipped out of her hold. She tried to hold on tighter but it was like her hands were turning into mush. "Don't go.." She tried to say but it came out as a whimper.
Helpless, she stood and watched him accept a bow given by Niko.
Citra wanted to cry or scream. Anything to make him hear her. Tears fell down her cheeks but she didn't register them.
Don't go. Don't leave.
Citra felt it happening again. This odd sensation. It was as if her soul was leaving her physical body to float around above. She was there but at the same time she wasn't there.
She snapped out of it when Vaas returned to her, the rest of the group except for Vaas' friends leaving.
"Don't go.." She whispered, grasping onto his shoulders either to prevent him from leaving or to support herself from collapsing. He held her up and connected their foreheads. When she looked into his eyes, she tried to give him all the fear he made her feel. To make him understand.
Vaas lowered his head, harsh shadows hiding his eyes.
"I'm staying." He squared his shoulders and faced his friends. "I'm staying with my sister."
Niko curled his lips in disgust. "Coward!" He spat and took off running. Kalai stayed behind. She looked like she wanted to say something but whatever it was she kept it to herself.
"Stay safe." She said instead.
"You too," Vaas replied grimly.
Kalai nodded curtly and left to catch up to Niko and the rest.
Citra exhaled deeply and it felt like a heavy weight was lifted from her chest. She reached for Vaas but he shifted away from her touch like it was fire and stalked past her back into the house.
Staring at the spot where he stood, she curled her fingers and smiled.