Actions

Work Header

My Perfect Warrior

Chapter Text

Sticky hot jungle air clung to her open back, little beads of sweat slowly trailing down her skin. It was the beginning days of the warm season, coming right after the ruthless cold of winter. Streams of light shined down between the cracks of dense overgrowth high above their heads. A group of macaque monkeys passed by overhead jumping from one thick twisting tree vine to another. They paid no attention to a group of small children below on the jungle floor.

They were a gang of scrawny, sun-kissed children. All were barefoot and had peculiar shaved hairstyles which would make them appear wild to any foreigner visiting the island. Instead of playing and running around like the other kids their age, this group in particular were still and silent. They stood in a circle, surrounding a boy and a girl holding a snake. 

Because from down below on the jungle floor, a gang of small sun-kissed children stood in a circle, surrounding a boy and a girl.

"Tipene," The girl said, cradling a creamy white, yellow spotted snake in her hands. The reptile constantly slithered around like water in a disturbed pond, the young islander girl shifting her arms to match the rhythm of its flow. She moved closer to him, cocking her head. "It is said the great warrior who slayed the giant of the pond can withstand anything. He was invincible. Nothing could hurt him and the sound of his footsteps make even the most ferocious of tigers run away, afraid."

The beady eyes of the snake captured and held Tipene's gaze. Sweat not caused by the smoldering heat of the jungle trickled down his forehead but he dared not move. The girl smiled softly, stroking the top of the reptiles smooth scaly head with her index finger. Her eyes flashed up under thick dark eyelashes, shining bright green like emeralds in a forgotten cave.

"Only time was more powerful than him; it is more powerful than all of us." The snake wrapped its slender body around her arm, squeezing softly but she was far from concerned. "Will you be the warrior of legend? Are you the perfect warrior?"

Tipene swallowed thickly and nodded his head, "Yes." 

The girl stared blankly, a cold detached look glossing over her eyes. She motioned for him to raise his arm and he did so hesitantly.

"Prove you are. Feel the bite, take the poison. Only the warrior can survive."

All the other kids drew in closer, eyes wide waiting with bated breath. Apprehension filled the air around them as inch by inch the snake's head drew closer to the boy's tanned arm. The reptile was perfectly still. Only the flash of a thin tongue slipping out of it's lips moved, tasting the air. The snake tensed in her palms, muscles coiling.

"Do not be scared. The warrior shows no fear."

She extended her arms, and the snake hissed lowly, a warning. Ready to strike.

"Citra!"

They all jumped when an unexpected voice disturbed the trance they were all in. A tall rough man emerged from the foliage, a long machete held in his hand and a furious look upon his ragged face. Citra backed away, the snake hissing at the new arrival, its body now squeezing with intense pressure on her small arms. In long swift strides the man crossed the distance between them and in a flash grabbed the snake and ripped it away from her, flinging it into some bushes.

Citra's chest tightened in fear. She barely had time to raise her arms when the man smacked her good on the head. She cried out in pain, clutching the pounding of her skull. Another pained cry escaped her lips as the man pulled her hair tightly, making her head burn. The man didn't let go, but instead addressed the other kids.

"All of you! Get back to your homes before I feed you to the crocs!" He barked. They scrambled away, none daring to see if the man really would. They heard scary stories of the man, Tane, from older kids, and knew he was not to be trifled with. Tane huffed and marched back the way he came from pulling Citra along by her hair. She hissed but her hands stayed by her hips, curling and uncurling. Sometimes he would give it a harsh tug just to punish her more. It continued like that until they broke through the foliage of the jungle and into an open grassy field.

He finally let go and she skittered away rubbing her sore head.

"What were you doing with that snake?" He questioned, crossing his arms over his wide tattooed chest.

She bowed her head, adverting his stern gaze. "Nothing, Uncle."

He snorted and crouched down to be eye level with her, "Tell me child or your father will hear of this."

She frowned but remained stubbornly silent. After a few seconds he sighed and grabbed each of her wrists, forcing her palms up.

"You see this?" He said, shaking her hands, "Snakes are unclean. Dirty. They are bad creatures and should not be touched. They stain hands with wickedness. You are lucky they haven't stained yours. But you won't be next time. Do you understand, Citra?"

She lifted her head and nodded, "I understand."

"Don't play with snakes, Citra."

"Yes, Uncle."

He looked into her eyes as if searching for something. It made Citra feel uncomfortable. Her Uncle had a way of looking into a person's eyes and just knowing if they were keeping secrets or were lying or if they were guilty of something. He could single someone out and strip them clean like a boar's skin. It was no wonder he was one of the most intimidating warrior in their tribe and the best teacher.

Tane was a warrior with tough skin, yet when she looked at him with wide innocent eyes, the eyes of a child who didn't no any better, he sighed and swatted her head. "Come. Your father and brother returns from Chinu today. You should not be out playing, child. Your father expects you to greet him and your brother, such is the duty of a daughter and sister."

Tane walked off towards the direction of his house. Citra had to jog to match his long strides. Through the long grass fields, passing by the village and heading along a trail leading to the outskirts of the village, was were his house was. Her Uncle was well respected in the tribe but everyone knew him to be a private person. Some of the younger kids would dare each other to see how close they can get to his hut, but none ever had the guts to actually get close to it.

As they passed through the village, she was enchanted at the sight of pretty twinkling lights that were strewn across the tents in the main market square. It made her more excited for the celebration tonight. The village held many parties and festivities but this one was the biggest every year. They were celebrating the coming of newly fresh warriors who passed the trails of Chinu as well as honoring the tribe's ancestors. It would also be the first time Citra get to dance with the other older girls in a ritual to welcome home and congratulate their new warriors. 

In the village, families were all inside preparing for the arrival of their sons coming back from the Chinu. Tane walked with his head high, an air of authority surrounding his tall form, and why should he not? He was after all one of the most respected elders in the tribe along side his brother Anaru. They, with many other young men, fought in the great war that united all the tribes on the island into one strong, empire. But that was before her time. She only heard of the war through stories told by her father. Now all the Rakyat people lived together and that is the life she knows.

"Go get ready. They will be coming soon." Tane ordered when they reached his house.

Citra skittered off, her bare feet padding on the wooden floorboards, making some creak and moan under her weight. She went to the kitchen and grabbed a bucket, filled it up with water and went out back to wash herself. Her hair was still dripping wet when she entered her small room. Opening a chest shoved next to her bed, she pulled out a plain tube top and a skirt. After she dressed herself, she slipped on bracelets beads on both of her wrists and golden ring anklets around her ankles. Lastly, she headed outside to collect mangoes as a welcome home gift to offer her father and brother. 

The mango tree was the only thing that seemed to make her Uncle relax. She sometimes spied on him as he tends to it. It was an odd sight to see an intimidating man look so calm and strangely sentimental. She asked one time why he had only mangoes and not banana trees or apple trees. 

"It was your mother's favorite,"  He would say and that would be that.

It is her brother's favorite too.

Sometime later when she picked out the ones that looked the most juiciest, she heard her Uncle call for her. Heart skipping a beat, Citra dashed towards the front of the house, careful not to spill any of the fruit she held in her arms. She made a sound of discomfort as she tried to stop one from already slipping over her arm.

When Tane looked at her he snorted and shook his head, "Child, grab a basket before you drop any of those." She hummed in agreement and toddled inside the kitchen and dumped all of it inside a basket with relief. "I see them," Tane's voice drifted inside.

Citra sucked air in sharply. She quickly went outside with the basket and went to stand beside her Uncle. She found herself unconsciously bouncing on her heels and forced herself to stop. Tane didn't like it when she moved around too much and most of the time he would swat her on the head when she got too antsy. He was strict like that, especially towards his students on the days she watched the class. One time, when she was fidgeting too much, he told her she looked like a cowardly deer. She stood straighter than an obelisk from then on.

They were silent as they waited. From the distance, she squinted to see two figures traveling down the path. They were too far to make out clearly but Citra knew it was them. Her chest tightened at the sight. Too long they have been gone. What must have been weeks felt like months to her. She wished they didn't have to be gone for so long but that was that way it is. Chinu was no short ritual. It was a set of trials meant to challenge young boys transitioning into the strong men they will become. She did not know what partook in those weeks. Girls weren't allowed to to participate in Chinu.

It did not mean that girls were banned from training too. They had certain rights towards learning how to hunt and train in combat yet they were mostly expected to work in the fields, cook, and care for the village. The last great women to not only participate in battles but lead some was her mother. The elders would say she was the true goddess warrior.

Citra herself was always eager to learn how to fight. When they were young, her father would try to teach her brother how to use a knife correctly or how to shoot an arrow. Suffice to say, her brother was more interested in playing jokes and getting into trouble with friends. He quickly became labeled as the village troublemaker. Citra, on the other hand, begged to be taught too. She was patient when learning but when she failed to do things right she was quick to become frustrated and most of the times give up. She's hot-blooded, her father's friends would say. Just like Tane when he was younger.

It wasn't until her father and brother left her in the care of her uncle Tane did she truly learn how to fight. She didn't have to beg to be taught. Instead he simply asked if she desired to learn and when she said yes he would wake her up early in the mornings to teach her. Unlike her father who was always mellow with her, even brushing off mistakes like they were nothing, Tane was the complete opposite.

He was strict, expected her to learn after one try and punished her when she failed. It grew to the point she would have tears running down her cheeks with her demanding to quit. He never let her, though. Instead he pushed her to her limit, which was very small for a little girl. In the end, through tears and sweat, she could throw a knife accurately, block and swipe, and shoot an arrow, albeit at an non-moving, nonliving object. It was a huge accomplishment for a little girl and for the first time she felt pride in herself and in her abilities. But nothing felt better than when her uncle placed a hand on her shoulder and smiled down at her in approval.

Citra exhaled slowly, every nerve in her body jittery. Finally, finally, two figures, one tall and one short, approached the house and she couldn't help but smile. As custom, Tane was the one to greet her father and brother first, giving heavy pats on their backs. Citra didn't wait too long after to welcome her family home. 

"Welcome back, Papa!" She cried, colliding into Anaru and wrapping her small arms around his thick waist. Her father let out an oomph sound and patted the top of her head. 

"Citra, I almost didn't recognize you. What have you done with your hair?" He asked, running his fingers through short coarse locks. 

She stepped back, glancing at her brother shyly and said, "I cut it. Uncle said it was too long and would get in the way, so I cut it."

Anaru looked wearily at his brother, "He told you that did he?"

"It's more practical if she ever wants to become a warrior." Tane grunted in response.

Citra warmed at hearing that.

"She's not going to become a warrior." Anaru said, and that warm feeling cooled down.

She blinked in surprise when she felt a pinch on her cheek. "Those for me?"

Citra turned to see her brother, and all the warm feelings came back in floods. She had almost forgotten how beautiful his green eyes were. Almost. 

"Vaas," She breathed and threw herself on him, giving him a tight hug. Oh! How it felt so good to have those arms around her too. Like the entire universe had been skewed and just here in his arms everything fell back into place. After squishing him the best she can, she stepped back, not too far, and showed him the basket. "All of it, for you. I picked the very best ones." She grinned triumphantly. She handed him one and he took it, his fingers brushing against hers lightly. Vaas bit into the juicy fruit, sweetness exploding in his mouth.

"Thank you for taking care of Citra. Remind me to give you a gift of my gratitude." Anaru said, clasping his brother's shoulder.

Tane did the same, grinning back, "How about the sweet cocoa butters in the rolling hills and a shark's fin while you're at it."

The two brothers laughed, knowing that Anaru would get all those things even if it was a joke.

"Now!" Anaru swooped down and snatched Citra, placing her on his shoulders. "Back home we go. I think I've forgotten what an actual bed feels like!"

"See you at the celebration." Tane called after them, "And Citra! I expect to see you in the future at my classes."

Citra looked back and smiled at her uncle. She waved goodbye. Even though she was back with her father and brother, a small part of her was sad to leave her uncle. She had enjoyed their time together.

When they entered their home everything looked the same as the day they left it, except for the sheen layer of dust settled everywhere. Anaru placed Citra down and went to the kitchen to unload the fresh pack of kills he's got before arriving at the village. Immediately, Vaas started straight for his room but Citra blocked his path.

"Vaas tell me how did it go? What did you do?" Citra shot, burning with curiosity. 

"Citra, leave your brother alone. He is tired from the journey, and will need all his strength for tonight." Anaru said over his shoulder as he laid a dead komodo dragon on the kitchen counter.

She pouted and stepped aside letting Vaas continue down the hall to disappear into his room. She followed him with her eyes, staring at his exposed back. It was more tanned than she remembered.

Anyways, don't you have a dance to practice for tonight." Anaru inquired.

She blinked, tearing her eyes away from Vaas' room door. "Mhm" She hummed.

"Then run along child,  don't be late." When Citra didn't move and kept on glancing at Vaas' room Anaru sighed, "You will see him later. He is no longer a kid anymore, he has no time to play. Now go." 

"Yes Father," She mumbled, and with one longing look at Vaas' room she left the house.

 

 

 

All the young girls going to dance gathered in the shade underneath an open wooden patio. There were plenty of giggling as most of the girls talked about the boys- no men who returned home while putting on organic makeup from bashed fruits and powder spices. Citra stood awkwardly in place, wondering if she could sneak away back to Vaas and climb through his window when a pretty older girl approached her. 

Citra knew who she was, recognized her as one of the kids Vaas likes to hang out with in his gang. The girl's name was Kalai. She was nice enough, helping Citra throughout dance practice but they weren't close by any means.

"Citra, let me help you do your makeup." Kalai said with a smile and lead the younger girl to sit in a small opening. "So, did you see Vaas? How is he?" The older girl asked as she began applying makeup on Citra's face. Citra smiled shyly and shrugged. When Kalai turned away to lather more cherry gloss on her fingers, Citra dropped her smile and stared at Kalai with a cold intensity. Citra smiled again when Kalai faced her and rubbed her index finger on her mouth, painting it bright red. The older girl sat back when she was done, examining her work. "You look so pretty Citra. When you grow up you'll have no trouble finding a husband." 

Outwardly, Citra smiled politely. Internally she cringed at the thought of marriage.

When the sun began to set, the dancers began putting on their traditional costumes and accessories. They wore straw skirts lined with wooden beads making it so each time they moved the beads would create a sound emphasizing their steps. For shirts they wore bright colored red, blue, or green tube tops underneath heavy sets of necklaces. Lastly, the were adorned with a crown of flowers.

The girls rehearsed their dance recital a few more times before an elderly lady ushered them out of the patio and towards the village square. They were lined up hidden behind a building. Citra peaked around the edge. The whole village seemed to have come, and that was over a 100 or so all sitting or standing, watching the older male warriors perform a battle dance. Fast paced drums matched the jumping and rolling of the warriors, so fierce and fluid in their movements that Citra became mesmerized.

Her eyes wandered away for a while, searching for her family. Of course, they sat at the very front beside the other high elders in their tribe. Citra's heart bloomed when she saw Vaas sitting with them. He didn't see her but that was OK. He will pretty soon. 

The dance ended with the two men bowing at each other and walking off stage. Citra's stomach churned as the drums changed into a familiar rhythm and the girls began running out. Since she was among the youngest and smallest of the group, Citra was placed in the front. Her queasiness melted away when she locked eyes with Vaas. He gave a small smile and Citra felt like she could do anything. 

She was not a great dancer, never have been interested in dancing, but she danced her heart out for Vaas. She wanted to impress him and nobody else.

As soon as the dance ended, Citra bounded her way to Vaas only to see him get up and leave. 

"Where is Vaas going?" She huffed, plopping between her father's crisscrossed legs. 

Anaru ruffled her head, "He was chosen to perform tonight. It is a great honor."

"Perform what?" She demanded, making her father chuckle.

"You'll see."

Right after he said that, the great fire pits were partially covered, dimming the light. Chanting arose, like whispers at first yet they grew louder and louder until they sang strongly, sending chills through Citra. She was drawn in, eyes wide and lips parted in wonder as water streamed onto the stage, making the ground muddy. The drums beat in time with the chanting, rising to a crescendo. Citra felt herself rising with it, holding her breath at what was to come.

She gasped quickly when the music and the chanting abruptly stopped, the light from the fires going out completely. A hushed silence fell over the crowd. Steadily, the fire grew again, revealing a boy standing in the middle of the stage, his body covered in tatau. She realized in awe that the boy was Vaas. 

The drums began when Vaas began, matching his steps as if when he stepped the very ground itself shook. He moved with the grace of a warrior, twisting and turning, a long dagger in his grip that he cuts through the air with precision. He flicks his wrists and like magic the dagger moves in impossible ways that hypnotizes Citra. She holds her breath when he glides the edge of the dagger over his shoulder and along his chest. She was so sure he was going to cut himself but no blood was spilt. And his face, there was so much emotions displayed on his usually mischievous looking face. To Citra he looked like an entirely different person.

No. He looked like someone he can become. 

She jumped when Vaas stomped the ground, splashing water everywhere. From the slow twists he began to make jerky violent movements. He stomped the ground many times, the water added an extra effect to the anger he was portraying. He swiped the dagger with the intent to kill, slicing it along the muddy floor leaving straight cut lines. He finished by jumping and landing to kneel on one knee, head bowed over his dagger. 

The beating drums slowed down yet grew stronger when the whispering came back. Out of the corner of her eyes, a dark figure moved past her and onto the stage along with other dark figures. They were men painting all in black with hideous masks covering their faces. They all carried curved daggers and circled Vaas.

Citra wanted to warn Vaas of the danger but she remembered this was just a performance and he was in no true danger. Still though.

The chanting turned ominous as one of the dark creatures raised his sword above the unknowing Vaas. Suddenly, Vaas jumped up and twisted around, slashing the dagger across the creature's chest. Of course the dagger didn't touch the man, but the creature went down with the banging of the drums. The stage broke out in deadly chaos. Vaas battled against the creatures, dodging their attacks and retaliating with brutal force. 

She laughed at them. How could they possibly think they can beat her brother? He was better than them, better than them all.

Pride filled her when Vaas defeated the last of the dark creatures, but it was not over yet. The chanting grew angry, the drums beat wildly. From the crowd to the left of her emerged a man painted all in red with stringy dreadlocks sprouting from a red mask he wore. The mask itself was horrid and terrifying, a disturbing open mouthed grin on its face. 

Citra finally pieced together what kind of play this was. How could she not have noticed sooner. The Warrior and the Giant of the pond. 

The giant swayed his body, sizing the warrior up. He stomped towards the warrior, raising his arms high above his head to intimidate his opponent.

Citra grinned in delight, knowing what was to come. Because despite how terribly big and scary the giant was, the warrior was not afraid.

Vaas the warrior raised his dagger and cut the giant's head clean off its body! 

An explosion of red powder hid the two from view and when it cleared away Vaas stood triumphantly, raising the mask of the giant high and dropping it on the floor. 

What Citra saw was the warrior bathed in blood and the Rakyat bowing before him, worshiping him as the god he is.

 

 

Music filled the night air. People danced around a huge fire pit, getting drunk on sweet, rich wine that tasted like honey in a bees nest. Of course, none was shared to her. Vaas got a sip, but he grimaced as it went down his throat. Sitting with a group of girls, Citra kept stealing glancing at her brother across the fire who was surrounded by his own fellow peers.

"I heard he was the best at each trial." One of the girls said.

"My father said he did better then Tane when he was his age." Another girl piped up.

Citra listened, and inwardly shook her head. They were all stupid not to have realized Vaas' potential until now. She had always known Vaas was meant for greatness. He was her brother, after all.

"I'm just glad your Dad won't be so hard on him all the time." Kalai said quietly, a private conversation between her and Citra. "He's always pushing your brother so hard to become... I don't know. To become something he doesn't want to be."

Her words annoyed Citra, and she made that known by glaring at her. "What do you know," Citra hissed defensively, "You know nothing of what my brother wants and don't pretend you do! I'm his sister. I know what he wants and what he doesn't want" She stood up abruptly, her face hot and stormed off, leaving behind the sound of music and the warmth of the fire.

She didn't know where she was going. She just knew she needed to get away. Be alone.

Citra was not surprised to find herself walking towards the beach. The walking had soothed her anger some, but it did little to help with turmoil in her mind. It was at these moments she went to the beach. It relaxed her the same way nurturing the mango tree did for her uncle. 

She wiped angry tears away, ashamed she had cried over such a trivial thing. Kalai meant no harm, not really, but the older girl didn't know how much it hurt Citra to hear her say that. Speak as if she knew Vaas better than Citra did. His own sister. 

The anger returned, like an oven in her chest. How dare that stupid girl say that. She doesn't know what she speaks of. Citra knows her brother better than anyone else. Loves him more than anyone else. Citra would die for him. Would Kalai? Citra thinks not.

With a frustrated grunt, she kicked sand in the air. It did little to alleviate her anger. 

"Citra," a voice said behind her. She whipped around to see Vaas, tatau-less and costume free, looking like his normal self again. He walked up to her and cupped her cheek, concern in his eyes. "What happened. I saw you speaking with Kalai. Did she say something to you?"

Citra shook her head and slipped away. She sat at the edge of the water, close enough so the waves can wash over her feet. Vaas took a seat next to her. 

They didn't talk for a long while, simply listening to the sound of the waves crashing gently on the beach floor, enjoying the cool night air and the view of the moon casting pale blue sparkling light on the dark sea water. 

The peaceful moment was interrupted by Vaas playing with her hair. "I can't believe you cut it all off."

Citra frowned, "You don't like it?"

"No, no I like it." He grinned easily, "It doesn't really matter. You're still you."

She smiled at that and rested her head on his shoulder, snaking her fingers between his. 

"Did you miss me?" She asked.

It was a simple question with a simple answer. It shouldn't have taken long to reply. She stared at him intensely, the peaceful mood dripping away as the flames of her anger melted it. 

He didn't miss you, he didn't miss you, he didn't miss you - he hates you hehate-

She started to slip her hand away from his when he clutched it tightly, almost painfully so. He looked into her eyes, "Of course I did. You're my sister."

The tension between them was thick in the air. It all swept away by a smile from her. 

"I missed you too," She confessed and leaned in, placing a soft peck on his cheek. She continued, each time electrifying her lips when they came in contact with his skin. She went to kiss him on the lips but he turned away, his face cast in shadows. "What's wrong?" She asked, giving his hand a light squeeze.

When he didn't answer immediately, she grew anxious. 

What happened? What happened? Why are you doing this to me 

Vaas looked at her and smiled, but there was something off in his eyes. "It's nothing." He kissed her forehead and crushed her against him playfully. She laughed but didn't move away. She liked being this close to him.

"Oh," Citra left his warmth, fishing something out of her pockets. "Here..."

He took it and held it out, examining the necklace. The string was made with the course leather of an animal hide, a metallic clip holding it together. Hanging from it was a simple, crudely shaped green glass leaf that looked suspiciously similar to some of the beer bottles Tane liked to drink.

Vaas touched it, turning it side to side. "Did you make this?" 

Silently, she nodded, resting her head on her knees enjoying just watching him. He quickly put it on and smiled.

"Do you like it?" She asked, pleased that the necklace looked good on him. 

"I do, thank you." He hugged her again and Citra was convinced her heart was going to explode. 

They laid on the beach, talking far into the night and at that moment, the world was perfect.

He was all hers. Her warrior. Her perfect warrior. 

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Citra hated more than anything else it would be losing. Losing a game, losing a battle, losing her brother...

When she loses, she is wrong and weak. A pathetic version of herself, something she wants to bury deep in the sands. 

A swift kick to her stomach made her double over in pain. Tears sprung to her eyes but she held them back.

Show no pain. Show no weakness.

Gritting her teeth, Citra ignored the aching in her stomach and charged at her opponent only to get knocked down on the hard stone floor. Her head bounced against it like a toy doll, bright stars bursting behind closed eyelids. A wave of dizzying nausea washed over her, drenching her body in a cold sweat. She didn't want to move, couldn't, and by the gods she felt like she was going to throw up.

"Up! Get up and fight!" Tane's harsh voice barked at her through the ringing in her ears. 

She wanted to, gods she wanted to but everything hurt and the dizziness wasn't going away. 

Focus, you have to focus.

Liquid fire fueled her soul, giving her the strength to breath in and out deeply to clear her head. Blinking away the darkness creeping around the edges of her vision, Citra slowly picked herself off the floor. She felt something unpleasant in her mouth and she spat whatever it was out instinctively. Blood stained the stone floors. She glared at it and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. 

Readying herself physically and mentally, she spun around and landed a blow on her opponents face. It hurt him but it hurt her knuckles a lot worse. She dodged his counter strike then another aimed for her ribs. She threw a jab but it wasn't as satisfying painful as she wanted it to be. 

Her head was already swimming, exhaustion catching up to her. She blinked away the blurriness from her eyes furiously. Focus. Focus.

A familiar laughter caught her attention. She glanced towards the far right side of the training ground to see Vaas sparring with Kalai, grins on both their faces as they fought each other with long bamboo staffs. 

Pain exploded underneath her jaw, snapping her head back. She didn't register falling but when she managed to pry open her eyes she was staring at the sky. Then, she was staring at her uncle's face. 

"Get up," He said, nudging her with his foot. 

No.

"Get up, child. Or have you admitted defeat?"

Never!

Her face twisted in anger. How could he expect her to keep fighting? How could he embarrass her like this? She got up alright, but it wasn't to continue fighting. Instead she stood up, swayed in place and then stormed off the platform, ignoring the snickering coming from the other students as she passed them. She cursed them in her head.

"Citra," She heard Vaas call, already jogging to her but a stern look from Tane halted him.

"Go back to your training." Their uncle ordered with a tone that left no room for argument. Citra, despite herself, chanced a look at Vaas. He didn't look too happy at their uncle's order, twirling the staff in annoyance. For a second he looked as if he wanted to hit Tane with it. Vaas looked from Tane to her and kept her gaze away until she exited the training ground and the walls built around the grounds blocked him from sight.

"Where are you going?" Tane demanded behind her.

"Away from here." She growled, spitting more blood on the floor. 

"So you're quitting then." He said. Citra stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. 

"No, I'm not." She said lowly, "I never quit."

He crossed his arms over his chest, "Then what are you doing right now?" 

She felt her face grow hot and a burning desire to hit something overcame her. "It's not fair!" She cried out in frustration, "He's bigger and stronger than I am. How am I supposed to defeat him? Father was right, I am not meant to become a warrior." 

"If you think that way then your Father is right." Tane said. Hearing that come from her uncle shocked Citra, and she couldn't hide the hurt that passed over face. She bowed her head, unwilling to let the older man see her tears. She didn't look up when she heard him approach her, nor when he bent down and grasped her shoulder. "Citra," He began, "Don't flee from a deer when you are already a tiger. There will be many things that may seem impossible to defeat. There will be challenges in your life that will test you and try to break you. There will be people who will tell you, you cannot but you can. You can, Citra."

She peered up at him, "How do you know that?"

"Because I believe in you," he replied, "And when you start believing in yourself, you will see; nothing can ever stand in your path." 

Citra took his words and played them over and over again in her head. Like the sun rising on a new day, new sense of understanding dawned on her.

Tane straightened, "Are you ready to continue your battle?" 

She looked at her bloody and bruised hands and nodded with determination. They walked side by side back to the training grounds and when she was facing her opponent again, she was ready this time. Clearing her head from all thoughts, Citra settled into a fighting stance, her opponent doing the same. They circled each other, waiting for the other to make the first move, all the while Citra began analyzing her opponent.

He was bigger than her and stronger. It just meant she had to be faster than him and hit ten times stronger. He made the first move, dashing at her with the intent to swing a punch. She dodged it easily and surprised even herself when she kneed him in the ribs and hit him with the her elbow, making him stumble backwards, more out of balance than from pure physical force. 

She went in to hit him more but he recovered faster than she thought. She was struck across the face but the pain didn't deter her. Instead it cleared her mind more, woken her up like a bucket of cold water. She rolled diagonally past him and shot her leg out to kick the back of his knee, making him tumble to the ground. She was on him in an instant, digging her knee into his neck hard enough to cut off his airway as she raised her fist to hit him.

"Kekalahan! Kekalahan!" The boy choked, his hands slapping uselessly at her thigh. She didn't get off though but looked at Vaas to see if he was witnessing her victory. She heard Tane say something but it was background noise for her. Once she made sure Vaas was indeed looking she slowly eased the pressure from the boy's neck, savoring how pathetic he was. 

"Help him." Tane ordered when the boy didn't seem to be getting up anytime soon. Two kids got up and assisted him off the platform.

Citra stood, exhaustion crashing down on her as the adrenaline high wore off from her system. She felt good; powerful. Just like Vaas. That is until Tane snuck up behind her and swatted the back of her head in disapproval. "It is not honorable for a warrior to gloat over their enemies. A good warrior practices restraint." 

Citra tried to look guilty, she really tried but she was practically beaming with unbridled pride. Her opponent was weak and pathetic. It only further proves she and Vaas were better than everyone else. They were born to be better. Greater.  

 

 

The next day, Citra woke up to her bed sheets stained red. 

"You are no longer innocent," Anaru declared, "It is time for you to begin training with our elder priestess."

Citra shot her head up, "No! I can't go." 

"And why is that?"

"Because I'll miss Tane's classes!" It was the most obvious thing in the entire island. How was she supposed to become a warrior if she's stuck all day with an old woman playing with dirt and leaves. And most importantly, she wasn't going to be with Vaas everyday now. Won't see him fight and win. Won't be able to bask in his glory. 

How dare her father try to take that away from her! Doesn't he love her?

Anaru chuckled and to her it sounded like the harshest thing in the world. He was so cruel as to laugh at her? But he looked at her with gentle eyes and said, "Citra, it's been good for you to go learn how to fight but your purpose isn't to become a warrior. It has always been to follow in your Mother's footsteps and become a great priestess as she was in her time." 

Citra stepped back, glowering at him, "But I don't want to become a priestess. I want to be with Vaas and learn how to be a warrior of the Rakyat."

Anaru sighed heavily, "Is that what this is about, Vaas? Stop with your childish ways. Vaas is a man now, he should not be distracted by your childish wants."

They're not childish, she wanted to say but she could only scrunch her face up and try to stop crying. She can't show how easily it was to affect her. She hated showing any weakness. 

"It won't be so bad, " Her father tried to reassure her, "You will become the greatest priestess of the Rakyat, like your mother before you. It's what she would have wanted."

What about what I want?

"Go get ready," He patted her arm, "Monatula has been expecting you for a while now and she will help you with your bleeding."

"She's been expecting me?" Citra asked.

"Of course, the elders have chosen you since birth. It is one of the highest honor in our tribe." He smiled at her, "I've been awaiting this day for a long time and I cannot be more proud of you. You have an honorable duty to this tribe and I know you will be perfect. You're similar with your Mother in that way. She gave up everything for her duty. I know you will do the same." He shook her shoulder and left.

Her father's words were meant to soothe her but they only made her feel worse. She looked at the red stain on her sheets and anger sparked inside her. Why did she have to bleed? Why did she have to be girl? Why couldn't she be just like Vaas? He was so perfect and she was... not.

In a moment of defiance, Citra changed clothes, stuffed cloth in her panties, and sneaked out of the house. It felt uncomfortable walking, something that has never bothered her in the past and it only served to sour her mood more. She's never felt so relieved to see the training grounds before. 

It was still early in the morning and none of the other kids had arrived yet. She didn't expect anyone to be there anyways, but she was pleasantly surprised to find her uncle there. Staying a ways away so as not to alert him of her presence just yet, she observed him train. He moved slowly, a long blade in his hand that he would swipe. He looked like he was fighting someone in slow motion. He performed each step with precise accuracy, letting out harsh exhales when he would thrust the blade forward in the motion of stabbing.

"Do you plan on standing there all day?" He said out loud.

Citra didn't know who he was talking to. With a jolt, she realized he was talking to her. How did he know she was there? Defeated, she wandered closer while he hasn't stopped his practice. He didn't say anything, just glanced at her and jerked his head for her to come to him. Citra eagerly did, snatching up a smaller blade laid out on the ground. She took her place next to him and began copying his movements. 

It was harder than she expected. It looked so easy and graceful when he did it, so when she stumbled and jerked around she huffed in annoyance and wanted to cast the blade away. 

"Patience Citra," Tane said, sensing her anger, "It takes time to refine a warrior's skill. Do not fight against the current. Follow its flow, let it lead you."

She didn't want to go with the flow. She wanted to yell and scream and stomp her feet. But she also didn't want to appear childish to him. She wanted to show him, no, prove to him she can do it. Prove to herself she can do it.

Bottling up her anger, Citra began again. It felt good when she did it right this time. 

"Why do you always look so surprised," Tane asked, sitting down. Citra followed him, shrugging her shoulders. 

"What do you mean?" 

Tane raised a thick eyebrow, eyeing her up, "When you find out that you can do it. It is like you expect to fail and you're always surprised when you don't." She bit her lip, looking away. He frowned, "You learn quick, faster than many of my other students. But you are also quick to anger and you give up so easily because of it. Why?"

Her chest tightened and she felt the sudden urge to run away. "I don't know," She mumbled, refusing to say anymore.

Because I can't do it. I wasn't made for this. I'll just be a failure.

She was quietly grateful that Tane didn't push her to open up. She already felt so shameful admitting those thoughts in her head she couldn't possibly bear say them out loud. 

"You look troubled," He said, changing the topic, "and you came early today. Did something happen at home?"

Now that was something she could talk about. She took a tiny rock, rolled it between her thumb and index finger and threw it with more force than necessary. "It's my Father. He wants me to stop coming to practice because I got my paheke. He says I should go practice magic with the elder priestess but I don't want to. I want to stay here, with you and Vaas and learn how to fight."

Tane leaned back, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "I know you do," He said and paused to collect his thoughts, "But you should also respect your Father's wishes and the tribes."

Citra scowled at him, "You are saying I have to go?"

"I'm not saying you have to go but it is your duty to do so." He clarified, "You are getting older Citra and that means you will have more responsibilities put on you. You cannot always put your needs first above the tribe's. There is a role for everyone to fill, and sooner or later you will come to understand that."

She could feel her face growing hot. "I don't want to understand." She got up and so did he. "I thought you were on my side!" She exploded, tears springing to her eyes.

Tane kept his composure, always the level-headed one. "I am on your side but you cannot keep acting like this. You're acting like a child."

Something snapped inside Citra. "I hate you!" She screamed and dashed off, ignoring her uncle's calls to come back. Hot tears rolled down her cheeks as she ran through the jungle. She didn't slow down until she broke through the foliage and onto the sandy beach. She grabbed fistfuls of hair and pulled, ignoring the burning sensation on her scalp. As quickly as it started, the anger inside her dissipated, leaving her hurt inside.

Her uncle betrayed her. She thought she could trust him but she was wrong. Tane doesn't care about her. He's never liked her. He hates her. Just like everyone else.

There was a collection of large rocks clustered together filled with small puddles and dried corals. Citra made her way across it, holding her arms out to balance herself. She reached the biggest one and climbed on top and settled down. She didn't know for how long she sat there dwelling on her thoughts. 

No one loved her. Tane betrayed her, hurt her. She'll never trust him again.

She was so lost in thought that she was startled when someone sat down next to her. 

"Tane said you were upset and you ran off somewhere." Vaas bumped his shoulder against hers. "What happened?"

"Shouldn't you be at class?" Citra mumbled, pulling her knees to her chest and resting her chin on top. 

 Vaas laughed in disbelief, "Class? That doesn't matter. You're my little sister. You're way more important to me than going to class." 

"But I don't want you to miss it because of me." She replied glumly.

He scrunched his face up, "I'd rather do this than go to class anytime." 

She wanted to say more, tell him he should go back and train. Tell him she'll be fine alone by herself and that he needed to focus on himself. In the end, she remained quiet, waiting see what he would do. She watched him poke his fingers inside the tiny holes littered around the rock, flicking water out of them. 

"Is it Dad?" He said. He saw her confused face and explained how he overhead some of their conversation and when he went to investigate he saw the bloody sheets and knew something was wrong. "What happened between you and Dad?"

She told him everything. About training with the elder priestess and how she snuck out of the house, then how Tane betrayed her. She had to hold back the tears that threatened to spill again. 

"I hate him," She spat, her body thrumming with bottled up energy. 

"You don't mean that," Vaas said casually.

She glared at him, "I do."

He simply shrugged and stared out into the sea. "Dad shouldn't force you to do something you don't want to do."

"He says it's for the tribe." Citra added. 

Vaas laughed and sat up, shaking his head. "He always says that.  Sometimes I think he cares more about what the tribe wants than what his own children want."

"But..." Citra began hesitantly, "Isn't he right, though? Don't we have a duty to fulfill."

"No, no we don't." He said, and there was something about the way he looked that scared Citra and yet at the same time made her heart beat wildly in her chest. He stood up and she had to crane her neck to see him. "Let's get out of here." He said.

"Are we going back?" Citra didn't know how to feel about that. She was still mad at their uncle and she did not want to see him again so soon.

"No. I'm sick of that place. Let's go explore somewhere. C'mon, just you and me, like old times." He held out his hand and she took it with a smile.

 

 

They didn't come home until very late. The stars were shining in the sky when they entered their house. Tane and Anaru were waiting for them at the kitchen table and stood up when the two entered. 

Citra shrunk in on herself, bowing her head while Vaas puffed his chest out and locked eyes with their father.

"Where have you two been?" Anaru began, keeping his voice leveled. Vaas stubbornly refused to give him an answer. Citra's throat locked up, blocking whatever explanation or apology she wanted to give. Their father looked between the two. "Citra, go to your room." He ordered. Citra didn't move. She looked at Vaas, unsure what to do. "Now!" Anaru yelled, making Citra jump and yet it wasn't until Vaas nudged her ok to go that she left to her room. 

She closed the door and sat on her bed, listening to the distorted voices growing louder behind the wall. Curious, she tip-toed to the door and pushed it open slowly, leaving a crack to hear them better.

"You have a responsibility to this family and to the tribe and that is final." She heard her father's voice say and even though it wasn't directed at her it was still scary.

"Yeah well I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm sorry I always disappoint you." It was her brother's voice this time. She hated hearing him so mad.

"I did not raise my son to abandon his duties. You are not a child anymore. You're a man. Act like one." 

"That's funny, because it seems like whatever I do it's always wrong. Whatever I do it's never good enough for you."

There was a pause as silence settled inside the house. Citra bit her lip and peeked through the crack, hoping to catch a glimpse of Vaas but he was out of view.

Vaas spoke again. "You know, I don't care if you treat me this way but I won't let you do the same thing to Citra."

"That's not for you to decide. I know what's good for my daughter and I know what's good for you."

"See! That's the problem; you don't know. You think you do but you don't!" Vaas' voice grew louder, angrier. "You try to control everyone but you can't! You couldn't even stop Mom from killing herself!"

A sharp bang silenced the room. Citra held her breath, straining her ears to hear something, anything. There was nothing for a long while, or to her it felt like forever. Then, somebody's footsteps and the sound of the front door opening and being slammed closed and then back to nothing. Worried about her brother, she slipped through the door and slowly made her way to the kitchen. She clung to the corner of the walls, peering at her father and uncle standing in silence, heads downcast.

Sucking in breath she asked in a quiet voice, "Where is Vaas?" She shrunk back when both of them snapped their heads up. The two brothers looked at each other. Then, her father approached her while Tane grabbed a pot and began boiling water.

"He left." Her father said.

"Oh... Will he be back?"

"He will," Anaru kneeled and held her shoulder. "Citra, you know I'm not mad at you, right?" She bit her lip and nodded. His eyes softened and he tucked a stray hair behind her ear. "I'm sorry if I upset you this morning. You see, your Mother was one of the best priestess' in the Rakyat and I wanted the same for your future. But... if you don't want that and you want to continue training with your Uncle then you can. I won't force you to do anything you don't want to do. It is your decision."

A smile grew on her face but it faltered. She glanced at Tane and bit her lip. Anaru was angry at Vaas for not doing his duty. Maybe... maybe if she did hers their father wouldn't be so mad at Vaas anymore. "Thank you Father, but I have decided to learn from elder Monatula and become a priestess. Like Mother." The joy in her father's eyes confirmed to her that she had made the right choice. 

"You are growing up Citra." He said, "I'm proud of you."

Tane came and handed them kawakawa tea. He tapped her on the shoulder and jerked his head for her to follow him outside. She looked at her father, uncertain but he just patted her head and went to drain out the pot.

They sat on the edge of the elevated platform, Tane's feet touching the ground while hers were left to dangle. She took a sip of her tea, tasting the spice tickle her throat as it went down. She stared at the sleeping village, wondering where Vaas was and if he was ok. Tane breathed in deeply and she tensed. She didn't know where she stood with him after what happened and it was putting her on edge. 

"Tell me Citra, are you leaving practice because of what happened. Because you're mad at me?" 

She blinked. She didn't expect that.

"No," she answered honestly, hoping he would see that. She hid her face, ashamed of the way she acted in the past. "I'm sorry Uncle. I didn't mean it. I don't hate you." She waited for a chastising, or some kind of punishment but it never came. She dared to look at him, wondering what was going on. She was surprised to see him smiling.

"I understand, Citra. No need to apologize." He gazed at the starry night sky, "Sometimes I forget you're still just a child. Things were very different when I was your age. Your grandparents are people from another time. Everything was very different from what it is now."

"Is that why they don't live with us? Or come see us?" 

"In part, yes." Tane admitted, "After the great war that reunited the Rakyat, most of our elders were opposed to change. Your parents and I, we were younger, part of the new generation. We had bold ideas and we were ready to accept change, even if it meant abandoning some of our old ways but to us it was worth it. Your grandparents and the older generation didn't think so. They labeled us as heretics." He chuckled, remembering memories of time past. "They cast us and anyone who agreed with us out of the temple. But we did not give up. Like our ancestors before us we survived and we thrived. Listen Citra, change can be good or it can be bad, but it is change that helped our people, the Rakyat, survive for this long. Even when mighty foreigners came to take our land and enslave our people we adapted, we changed, and we won because of it."

Citra frowned, "But then why do we keep our old ways. Elder Monatula practices magic but there are needles that can heal wounds of the flesh. And we have weapons that sprout metal pebbles- oh!" She slapped her mouth shut. She wasn't supposed to let anyone know she knew about that.

Tane raised a brow, "How do you know of that?" She kept her mouth shut and shook her head vigorously. Tane gave her a deadpanned look. "You and your brother are going to get into serious trouble one day." She breathed a sigh of relief when he didn't get mad. "We keep some of our old ways because even though we embrace change, it is important to remember where you come from. When you are lost, remember where you came from, and it will help you find yourself."

She scrunched up her face, "I don't understand."

"Someday you will," He said.

They sat there, watching the stars and finishing the rest of their kawakawa teas.

When Tane left sometime later, she offered to wash the cups, telling her father to get some rest. When she made sure he was sleeping, Citra sneaked into Vaas' room and crawled into his bed.

She stayed awake for as long as she could waiting for his return. When she woke up, she woke up alone. 

Chapter Text

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.

"Then drink."

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.

Chapter Text

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 hurtsIt 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.

"Zuraidah"

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. 

Chapter Text

No one got any sleep that night. Vaas sat forlornly at the table, the pistol given to him laid on the edge. Every time she checked up on him he never seemed to look away from the gun. She tried talking to him but he would just ignore her, so for the rest of the night they waited in silence. 

When dawn broke, Citra was awakened by Vaas. She didn't remember falling asleep but sometime through the night she must have dosed off from exhaustion.

"I think they're back," Were the first words he spoke to her after a long night of not speaking. She was happy he was talking to her again yet something felt off, as if the reality they shared had shifted and they were misaligned. 

Outside was misty with a hint of fresh rainwater clinging to the air, making her skin feel clammy. They followed fellow passerby's heading toward the main entrance of their village. An ominous feeling lurked behind her mind and at that moment she wanted more than anything to just turn the other way and walk away. Take Vaas with her and never look back.

Vaas pushed on though, pulled by some invisible string that was drawing every villager in. Citra would cut it if she could; tie it around her wrist and lead him away.

They gathered around the entrance and watched as countless bodies were brought in and laid on the ground for loved ones to mourn their passing. Citra was no stranger to death, nor at the sight of dead bodies. It was the atmosphere the people around her created that was new to her. Never before has she been surrounded by a persistent feeling of great sadness that threatened to swallow her whole. 

Vaas left her side when Tane came before them, bloodied and covered in dirt but alive. No words passed between the two; the look in their uncle's eyes said enough. Breathing felt suddenly difficult to do. She could only watch Vaas run to the dead, searching for the impossible. 

Somehow, Citra followed him slowly as if she were in a dream. 

Vaas stopped his search. Citra felt her heart plummet. 

Her strong brother - the one who held her when she was at her lowest - her rock, her sword and her shield, kneeled over their father's cold body, took his hand and bowed his head.

Citra wanted to go over to him, hold him and wipe away his tears. She wanted to make her father's heart beat again or burn his body until there is nothing left but ashes. Make him disappear. Like he never existed.

She should be crying. Why wasn't she crying? Where is the sadness, the pain? Why does she feel so numb?

It took her body a few seconds to sense that a hand was resting on her shoulder. Slowly, she looked to see Tane beside her, his face expressionless. Stoic as always.

She stared at her brother and the body. Just a body, just a dead body.

Citra exhaled and cleared her mind. "Are there many injured?" She asked, her tone flat and monotonous. She felt Tane's grip on her shoulder tighten.

"Yes, many more. The serious ones are with Monatula."

"I must go to her then. She needs my help." A plan, a goal. Something to do instead of standing around being useless. 

"Citra," Tane gripped her arm, preventing her from leaving. He looked into her eyes, those penetrating eyes that can see right through you. But not her, not anymore. There are iron masks clamping over and over her face with final-sounding bangs, never to open again. "It's ok to cry." He said, "Crying is not a weakness. It is accepting your pain, and letting it go."

"Will you cry for me when I die?" 

Tane blinked, caught off guard. He recovered quickly though, and the cold aloofness in his eyes melted away replaced with something soft and vulnerable.

"Yes."

Citra didn't know what she expected to gain from that answer. Maybe validation that someone cared in a world that doesn't care. Or maybe nothing at all. 

Nothing but this emptiness and Vaas' tears.

Would you cry for me if I died?

Would you care at all?

Citra slipped out of his hold and walked away.

 

 

Outside the hut was suffocating sadness. Inside the hut was chaos. 

Citra froze at the entrance, taking in the sight of bloodied, coughing warriors. The stench hit her second, overwhelming metallic and putrid, the aroma of incense doing little to combat the stink. 

"Citra, come here. Help me with him." Monatula called her over when she spotted the girl. Together, they helped a man sit up. "Get the bucket." Monatula ordered. Citra got it right in time for the man to throw up into it. Citra wanted to gag but she held it back, mustering her strength to focus through the nausea. 

Three people rushed in carrying a new patient. 

"He's hurt! He's hurt really bad Mona!" Kalai's voice drew Citra's attention towards the newcomers. The three young warriors laid non too gently an unconsciousness Niko. They all looked exhausted, covered head to toe in dried blood and grim as if they came back from a war-zone. The elder priestess and her apprentice left to handle the more severe patient.

He was bleeding quite profusely. It appears Kalai and the young warrios managed to stop the flow by pressing leaves over the wounds and covering it with dried mud to make it stick but that won't last. It seemed they came at the right time. Their makeshift bandages were beginning to wear off.

Monatula shot orders rapidly at Citra, telling her to hold this, get this, press this... Somehow through it all, Citra remained calmed and worked efficiently, shoving the lingering images of her brother crying over that dead body to the back of her mind and dispelling it away. 

Niko was shot two times in the chest. Citra never had to treat bullet wounds before. It was an uncommon injury. Back then, it was more probable to get attacked by a tiger than to get shot.

They removed the first bullet and patched him up, Monatula dropping the metal ball in a bowl. She went for the other one and that was when Niko decided to wake up. He shot up, or tried to, and flailed around squealing like boar being eaten alive. "Hold him down!" Monatula's voice rang through the commotion, forcing Citra to jump into action. Already his violent movements opened up the patched wound, making it bleed again. "He's delirious from the fever," The old lady said out loud. "We need him to sleep!"

Citra nodded her head and looked at Kalai and the others and shouted at them to come over and keep him still. She then rushed over to the cabinets, shuffling through bottles and bowls, grabbing all the ingredients she needed and grinding them into a thin dust with the palms of her hands. "Get back," She warned the others before blowing glittery powder in Niko's face.

The affects were instantaneous. Niko breathed it in and stopped his struggling, his eyes rolling to the back of his head. Once they made sure the boy was placated, Monatula got to work on taking out the second bullet. With the imminent danger now adverted, everyone took a minute to rest and collect themselves. Citra rubbed her face and felt something wet. Confused, she pulled her hand back to see it was drenched in blood. The bright red color made her eyes hurt and her head dizzy.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she got up and exited the hut. She never realized how hot it was inside that the cool air caught her by surprise. She didn't mind. It felt refreshing. She breathed it in deeply, held it, and exhaled, repeating the motion over and over until the jittery feeling went away and her breath no longer shook. 

She turned around when she heard somebody else exit the hut. Kalai stopped beside her. She said nothing, so Citra remained quiet, letting the sounds of the jungle talk for them.

For some unknown reason, Citra glanced down at the dress she was wearing. It was splattered with dried blood, and she was pretty sure that it wasn't going to come out no matter how many times she washed it. "I'm sorry" She said, breaking the silence. "I think I ruined your dress." 

Kalai took one glance at the dress and laughed tiredly. "It's ok. It's just a dress... It was yours anyways."

This time, Citra was the one to laugh. It wasn't funny at all but laugh she did. She thought of the party at Sunset Cove. It felt like ages ago but in reality it was just a couple hours ago. Not even a full day has passed and everything has changed so much.

"Citra.." Kalai began slowly, cautiously. "Your Father... he's-"

"I know." Citra flexed her bloody hand, watching it soak into every crevice and line in her palm.

"I'm so sorry-" 

"It's ok." She snapped, already tired of this conversation. She didn't want to hear it. It was over and done with, so let it stay that way. Before Kalai can say anything else, Citra turned on her heels and strode back into the hut to get back to work.

For the rest of the day Citra busied herself with taking care of the injured, fetching ingredients to make more medicine, and praying with Monatula to give their ailing warriors strength again. More came, and it got so full inside the hut that they had to make makeshift beds outside. Come nightfall, they placed large bowls of fire around the area to ward of curious animals. She wanted to stay longer, would've stayed over night if she could, but Monatula ordered her to go away and get some rest. 

She walked home dejectedly, pausing to stare at the pile of bodies and at the loved ones who remained by their side. She wondered if her father's body was still there. She wanted to go see but she forced herself to keep walking. No use, no point. They are just empty bodies now. 

No one was home. Tane was probably busy somewhere and Vaas... Vaas was where ever he wanted to be. 

Not with me

She's never fallen asleep so quickly before.

 

 

Anaru's funeral was held the next day at dusk. Vaas, Tane and some of Anaru's closest friends carried his body on a woven bamboo mat up a tall hill. Citra trailed behind them, keeping her eyes fixated on the ground. At the peak of the hill, they placed his body on a pile of rocks before an ancient altar. A Heron relic rested on the altar, surrounded by lit candles and bountiful flowers and food.

Many people accompanied them to the funeral. Anaru was an important man in their tribe, and they have not forgotten the hero he was during the great war. It was a loss they all felt.

Monatula kneeled before the altar and raised her hands. "Our son Anaru, son of Rakyat and servant of the land and sea has left us to journey beyond the sun. Heron, god of wind and wisdom, guide our brother safely on his travels. Let him find his peace and may his children find their own. Heron, watcher of Rakyat, spread your wings and take our brother. Let him fly with you and forever will he watch over us."

Tane lit a torch and handed it to Vaas. Her brother stared into the flames, its reflection dancing across his eyes. Steeling his face, Vaas dipped the torch and set fire to their father's body, releasing his soul. A low chanting began as they honored the passing of a great warrior. 

Citra closed her eyes and imagined a great heron swooping from the sky and taking her father far, far away... 

When they came down from the hill top, a lady was waiting for them. She received many stares and side-way glances from the tribe, some individuals even out right glaring at her in open distrust but she endured and ignored it all. It was to be expected. She was an outsider, a true foreigner. Citra recalled seeing her around from time to time for the past few months. She held no opinion of the strange lady. The lady respected the privacy of the tribe and left them alone and that was that.

Tane frowned and left their side, heading to the lady. 

"You shouldn't be here. It is not a good time." He whispered harshly.

"I know. I know." The lady said a tad guiltily but that faded when she spotted her and Vaas. The lady moved around Tane and approached the siblings. "My condolences to you both." She said softly in that odd accent of hers. "Your Father was a great man and a great friend. May he rest in peace."

Citra waited for Vaas to say something but when it was evident he wasn't going to Citra stepped in. "Thank you.."

"Alexandria," The lady answered without missing a beat. Alexandria glanced at the peeved group of natives and smiled curtly. "Well, I believe I've worn out my welcome. If you will excuse me." She smiled politely and left to her car parked up the road. Tane followed her and they had a quiet discussion before the car turned on and drove out of sight.

It was a weird event, but it wouldn't be the last.

Back at the village, they held a great feast in honor of all those who passed on. Unexpectedly, tribals from the temple arrived, bringing gifts and offerings, and of course an over abundance of food. At first, the villagers of her tribe were wary of the newcomers, but when Tane clapped the back of one of the temple's elders it seemed to break the tension. The people as one laughed and feasted, their spirits high, even if for only the night.

"This is what makes us strong." Tane said, "When we come together as Rakyat." 

He meant well, but Citra was no fool. Because no matter how hard Tane tries to hide it, there was a certain wariness behind his eyes. He did not trust them.

Citra didn't know what to make of it. A new unknown enemy who brought fire to their island and now the tribals from the temple are reconnecting with their estranged brothers.

Things were changing and she couldn't help but feel something big was coming. Something that's going to burn this island to ashes. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Citra was scared of the future but she knew with her brother at her side they can make it through anything.

If only he would just start talking to her again...

 

 

"Thank you.." Citra had to force the words out as she received yet another gift. Villagers have been coming around the house and offering food or flowers as a way to say sorry for their loss. It wasn't that she was ungrateful... but she wanted them to stop. She wanted to be left alone. Her brother was all the company she needed. 

Speaking of her brother, he has been holed up in his room for the entire day. He hasn't come out to eat or drink. She knocks on his door and leave food on the ground but when she comes around later the plate would be left untouched.

Vaas hasn't spoken to her for two days and it was killing her.

Everything was fine and perfect but Vaas had to go and throw her life out of balance. She had things under control, she is moving on but Vaas won't. He's driving a clinch in her calm controlled little world and making her think something is actually wrong.

Their father died. Over and done with. Talk to her already.

Was it something she's done? Why is he pushing her out? He let Kalai in his room when she came to visit them. What makes her so special? Does he not want Citra anymore?

Don't think that way-

It's not Vaas. Her brother wouldn't do this to her. He's an impostor. Something strange and vile that's wearing her brother's skin and pretending to be him.

Cut him out- make him bleed

Lies, lies they're all lies. Vaas wouldn't do anything so cruel to her.

She placed a bowl of oranges on the table, careful to control her anger and not slam it down. She stared at the bright colored fruits and felt the urge to cut them slowly. Cut anything as long as she was cutting something.

For a second, she thought she was hallucinating when Vaas entered the kitchen. He looked bad, deep circles under his puffy bloodshot eyes and an ugly scowl etched in on his lips. He stood in place and looked around the room. His mood worsened at the sight of the gifts. 

"They think they care." He rasped harshly, picking up a wooden relic and examining it. His face darkened, "They don't care." He twisted around and threw the relic, the force of his throw shattering the wooden sculpture. "None of them do!" He picked up bowl of and threw it across the room. "All.. All these fucking gifts.. all these fucking people... What do they know? What do they know!" He kicked a chair, sending it skidding away and tipping over with a loud clatter. 

Citra stood quietly throughout it all. He threw other stuff and yelled and screamed and destroyed anything he could get his hands on. With one final throw he banged his fists on the wall and rested his forehead against it, his body shaking with each breath he took. Citra took in the destruction he has caused. Vaas was the chaos in a storm and everything around him was collateral damage, including her. And the thing is, she wouldn't mind.

Vaas turned around and slid to the floor, his anger dissipating, leaving a tired husk of a boy. Uncertain, Citra approached him slowly. When he didn't show any negative reaction to her closeness, she gathered her confidence and sat down next to him, curling her body against his. She didn't know what to say, didn't know what to do so she did nothing at all. 

They sat in silence surrounded by the destruction Vaas made. It felt like everywhere was chaos except for where they sat. Together, they were in paradise and nothing could touch them. 

She blinked out of her daze when she felt Vaas grip her hand tighter. 

"I could've done something." He choked out, squeezing her hand almost painfully so. She didn't mind; he was talking to her again and she would endure anything to keep it this way. The muscles on his arms tensed, the veins on his wrists popping up from the force. He clenched his jaw making the muscles on his cheek twitch. "If I had just-" He hissed, hiding his face in shame.

Citra felt her heart clench at the sight. She hated that he was in such pain. She would do anything to take it all away and make him feel better. 

He flinched when she cupped his cheek to make him look at her. Vaas was always so strong, never showing weakness to anybody but Citra knew better. He was broken and the only person he could truly be vulnerable around was his sister. Citra felt honored that she was his confident. That she was the only person he can let all his anger and tears fall. That was something not even Kalai had the privilege to see.

He doesn't need her. He needs me.

Vaas' eyes glistened with tears, the green in them shining like sapphires. He is beautiful when he cries.

Your pain makes you perfect.

"I could have saved him." He said hoarsely with wide and open, vulnerable eyes. "If I had just... If I was there I.. I could've done something. I could have- I could have-"

"Saved him?" Citra inquired. 

He bowed his head like a man guilty of something. "I keep thinking if I'd been there things would have turned out differently. You know? Maybe Dad would still be alive..." He chuckled dryly, "And.. and you know what the fucked up thing is? I used to wish he was dead. I wished he was dead and Mom was still alive. And now he is dead." He slammed a fist against the wall, his entire body shaking. "I wish I had gone... I should have gone."

Citra tempered her anger at Vaas' foolish words. "If you had gone, you would have died."

Vaas looked at her like her words burned his skin. "How would you know that, hm? How could you know that?" He got up and stalked away from her putting space between them. Citra stood up as well. "And- and so what if I did die? At least I would have done something instead of staying here with you like- like a coward!"

Citra twitched, her entire body tingling.

stay here- with you- coward

She rubbed the side of her head hard enough to leave it aching. "You're not a coward." She said, her voice wavering as she tried to keep it steady. Images of stabbing Vaas in the neck flashing through her mind.

"Yes I am!" He cried, his voice cracking. "I could've done something but I didn't because I didn't want to leave you." 

Citra snapped her eyes on him, zoning in on what he said. Vaas seemed to realize what he said too a second after.

"Are you saying this is all my fault?" She said lowly. Dangerously.

"No, it's not Citra. That's not what I meant." Vaas sounded so calm now, so in control. He looked so worried too. He tried to go to her but she backed away from him.

Something was tightening in her chest and she could feel the rage oozing out and through her bloodstream, lighting everything on fire. 

He hates her. He hates her. He HATES HER.

She squeezed her eyes shut and dragged her fingers through her hair, her nails digging into her skull. "You hate me. You hate me, why do you hate me?" She expected him to hold her and tell her he loves her and everything was going to be fine like he always does but he didn't. This time he stood his ground.

"Why do you always do that?" He asked, more to himself than to her.

"Do what?" She snapped, glaring at him as if he were the foulest thing to ever grace her sight.

"Do that! This, this thing- I don't know!" He ran his fingers through his hair frustrated. "Every time I say something wrong or do something you don't like you blow up!"

She scoffed at the ridiculous things he was saying. "I don't blow up."

"Yes, you do Citra! You always do this. You think I hate you but I don't! How many times do I have to say it for you to understand I don't hate you. I never have and I never will."

She felt her eyes burn with tears but she forced it down. She hugged herself and looked away. "You don't love me."

Vaas let out a rush of air and paced around the room. "Stop saying things like that! I love you! You're my sister."

Is that all I am to you? What if I wasn't. Would you still care?

Citra shook her head, unconsciously scratching the side of her face. "It's him isn't it? He called you a coward."

How dare he. Kill him. Kill him.

"He's taking you away from me." 

"Stop it." Vaas warned.

Her heart was breaking. It was collapsing under her chest and no matter how hard she will try to claw her way in it'll be gone. 

"He's taking you away from me. He's making you hate me." 

"Stop it!"  

"He's doing this-!" Citra gasped when Vaas slammed her against the wall, trapping her in between his arms.

"Stop it! Stop! Stop it!" He screamed, his body shaking with anger and glistening with sweat. A sob escaped his lips and he rested his head on her shoulder. "It's my fault." He whispered hoarsely, "It's all my fault." 

Citra could feel the wetness of his tears on her skin. Feel him tremor against her.

Weak and vulnerable again. Hold him closer.

She tried to wrap her arms around him but he stepped away from her. He looked like a complete mess. Before she could do or say anything, Vaas stormed out of the house, the door bouncing on its hinges. She called after him but he didn't come back. 

Citra didn't know what to do with herself. She felt excited, ready to explode or exhausted, ready to collapse and cry her eyes out. Either way, she must do something or she will implode. 

She watched herself storm to the kitchen and grab a knife. 

Stop

She placed a hand on the table and raised the blade over her head.

Stop

Citra swung it down, fully intent on piercing it through her hand.

"Stop!"

She cried out, the tip of the knife inches away from her skin. Her hand shook violently and she threw the knife away, horrified at what she was about to do. Shaking, she slid down onto the floor and began hyperventilating.

What was she doing? What's wrong with her?

She hid her face behind her hands and sobbed into them. A second later all the bad feelings disappeared. Someone reached inside her chest and plucked them out, leaving her numb and empty.

This shouldn't be happening.

Vaas should be with her. He should be happy and loved. He shouldn't be this stranger who is against her.

And whose fault is it that he's like this?

Citra knew what she had to do to make things better.

 

 

 

Niko was heavier than he looks. She wasn't even carrying him, but dragging him by the ankles proved a challenge too. She was lucky Monatula stationed him outside the hut or else it would have been impossible to sneak his body away. 

He got caught on something and she pulled hard and promptly slipped on her rump. Gritting her teeth, she got up and continued. She was also lucky that the boy had a terrible fever and was currently unable to think any coherent thoughts. 

Using all her strength, she dragged him up a hill covered in a thick canopy of trees and bushes, the moonlight providing a small amount of visibility. When she got where she wanted to be she dropped his ankles unceremoniously and crouched over him. She slapped him gently to gain his focus. 

"Nnngh.. Cit..ra..?" He mumbled, his head lolling side to side. 

"I'm sorry brother," She began, "But you are making Vaas feel bad. You are turning him.. against me." She cut him, deep enough to bleed but not to kill. "I have to make things right and the only way to do that... is to get rid of you completely."

Out of sight, out of mind. 

Like he never existed.

A part of her felt bad at what she was doing. But in the end, this is for Vaas and anything done for her brother must be right. 

She crawled away on all fours and began praying to the spirits of the jungle to listen to her call. "Take him and bring what is mine back to me!"

Her head snapped up when she heard rustling coming from the bushes ahead of them. Slowly, she got to her feet when she heard a familiar chilling hissing coming from the bushes. From the shrubbery emerged a komodo dragon, followed by another one and another. Beastly creatures; they can smell easy food quickly. 

Citra knew what had to be done. Didn't mean she wanted to stick around and watch. Once one of the beasts clamped its reeking jaws on the boy, Citra turned around and walked away. 

She ignored the sounds of muffled screaming and flesh being torn apart. 

Like he never existed.

It is done.

 

 

She threw up when she got back home. Exhausted, she collapsed on her bed, promising to clean up the mess in the kitchen tomorrow. Sometime through the night, she awoke covered in sweat, Niko's screams fading from memory as well as the images of fire balls falling from the sky. 

It took her a while to process what had woken her up; the front door being slammed open and shut. Quietly she listened to someone's thunderous footsteps stomp around the house, eventually coming closer to her room. 

She sat up in alarm when someone entered her room, but relaxed when she could make out the shape of Vaas in the darkness. 

"Citra," He mumbled and staggered towards her. She became worried again. What was wrong with him? Was he hurt? She let out a little oomph when he fell onto her, effectively crushing her underneath him. Struggling to breath, she hit his back and thankfully he shifted aside just enough to allow her to swallow in air. She scrunched her face up at the terrible smell emanating of off him. He stank of alcohol.

Vaas grumbled something unintelligible and brushed his lips against her neck. 

"I'm sorry," He slurred, planting soft yet sloppy kisses on her skin. "I'm sorry... I tried to.. mmmI tried to fuck her but... but I kept, I kept seeing you."

Citra frowned. She had no idea what he was talking about. "Who?"

"The... girl.. town." He dug his face into her neck and she held him, stroking the back of his head. "Bu-..but I couldn't... hurt.. you." Her neck became wet with his tears. "I'm sorry... is not your fault... my fault. I love you.. I love you..." He wrapped his arms around her middle and rested his head atop her chest, dozing off.

Citra processed the new information and smiled softly. She stroked his head lovingly like you would a giant beast. "It's ok. I know you do. Only me, right?"

She thought him asleep but he clumsily nodded his head. "Only you..."

"You don't need anyone else." She continued. "No one will ever love you like I do. No one compares to you. You are a warrior and you will have your revenge. You are perfection." She paused and stared at the dark ceiling. "I killed someone." She confessed quietly, satisfied to note that saying it out loud doesn't shock her or make her sick anymore. She waited for his response only to realize he was fast asleep. 

She decided to do the same. 

Tomorrow was a new day and this was only just the beginning.

Chapter Text

As promised, Citra got to work cleaning the mess Vaas made yesterday. She picked up shards of broken clay bowls and collected the scattered fruit, dumping them into straw baskets. She up-righted the knocked down chair and when she swooped down to pick up a stray apple Vaas staggered in, hissing and shielding his eyes from the morning sunlight streaming through the windows.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you." She placed the apple away and went to the boiling pot of water, pouring its contents into a ceramic cup. Vaas groaned rubbing his temple and plopped down in a chair. He squinted questionably at the cup of tea offered to him. "Drink. It's for the headache... I used to make some for Father." A painful hollow moment passed between them at the mention of their father.

Over and done with.

Citra blocked off this disturbing sadness creeping up on her and gently placed the tip of the cup on his bottom lip, tilting it upward for him to drink. Vaas did so, never taking his eyes off her. Citra smiled gently and meant to put the cup on the table but he snatched her wrist. She raised a brow and he licked his lips, his brow knitted in concentration. 

"I'm sorry for the way I acted." He said plainly. Never one for long poetics. Always straight to the point. "You don't deserve this. I know you're strong, stronger than me but I'm your older brother. I'm supposed to protect you, more now than ever. It's just us now." He looked deeply into her eyes and said, "We're family. We stick together no matter what."

"Just us?" Citra asked, a gleam in her eyes. She set down the cup to sit on his lap and brushed her knuckles against his cheek lovingly.

Vaas took her hand and held it, "Just us."   

Citra gazed at him, taking him in and wondering how she got so lucky. What did she do to deserve someone so perfect and amazing? What will happen when she loses that perfection...

In a spur of anxiety, Citra leaned in and kissed him. He tasted bitter but to her it was the sweetest taste in the jungle and nothing could compare.  

She pulled away, licking her lips. Vaas looked at her in that way that made her heart skip a beat. Sudden, overwhelming guilt washed over her, making her get up and move away. She fingered her necklace, growing more anxious by the second. There were no secrets between them, only shared ones and Citra had a huge secret. One she didn't know how he will react. But he told her they were in it together and Niko was just his friend. She is his sister. The boy could not even compare to her. Right?

And when she explains why she did it, Vaas will understand. He always does. 

"I have to tell you something." She had to turn around to even say that, unable to face him. It was easier this way. "Last night... I-"

Citra whipped around when she heard the door open. Tane entered, looking tired and worn out, busy from all the meetings he's attended in discussion of the recent attacks. The grave look painted on his face gave Citra a bad feeling. Vaas must have sensed something too since he stood up and met their Uncle halfway. 

"Uncle, what's wrong?" 

If it were possible, Tane's frown deepened. "It's your friend Niko. He has disappeared. Monatula assumes he was dragged off by komodos but no one knows for sure what happened. I need you to take Kalai and some others to find his body but do not venture too far from our territory. We don't know how safe it is on the island until we know who we are dealing with." 

Citra did not miss the fact that Tane said body and not Niko himself. They were not expecting to find him alive. Good. It calmed down some of her frazzling nerves. 

"I'll go right now." Vaas said, the sleepy daze he was in wiped gone replaced with alertness. He went to retrieve his blade and kissed Citra's forehead before leaving out the door. 

"You too, Citra." Tane said, "Monatula needs your help moving the injured into the village." 

She frowned, confused. "Why?"

"Monatula feels that it will be safer for them to be inside the village away from the animals and the foreigners."

"Foreigners?" She perked up, "Are those the people who attacked us? You know who they are?" 

Tane made a sound of annoyance, "No, that is all we know for now. Go, do not make the priestess wait." 

He left and she hurriedly gathered her things and left as well, her mind buzzing with the new information. Foreigners? Is that who were attacking them? People from the outside world? But why? What did they want? Will there be a great war like the ones in history past?

The prospect of war frightened yet excited her. It sounds just like the stories from old, but this time Vaas would be the Rakyat's hero. Citra thrilled at the thought. There was a reason this was happening and she held no doubt in her mind it was because of Vaas. She always knew he was destined for greater things and this right here, right now, was his calling.

All will perish before him.

 

 

"Careful with him." Monatula's voice drifted out from the hut as two men carrying an injured warrior on a bamboo stretcher passed Citra on her way in. Outside, most of their patients have already been relocated to the village. Some of the more critical ones stayed behind. 

Citra made her presence known by asking, "Shouldn't they stay here with you?"

Monatula glanced up from a patient as Citra knelt beside her, giving the parched man some water. "It'a be better but with what happen' to Niko and with them outsider beasts still out there it is not safe. It'a be better for them in the village." She followed the priestess to the table and helped her craft more syringes.

"What happened to Niko?" Citra chatted nonchalantly, crushing underwater mushrooms into a powdery paste. "My Uncle mentioned some things but..."

The priestess took a break from chopping leaves to wipe the sweat from her forehead. "He was taken by the jungle. Your Uncle thinks it be Komodo Dragons who done it but they do not seek out the living. Jus' the dead."

"You think he might have died during the night?"

Monatula waved her hand, "I don't know child. He had a bad fever from the infection but he was a strong one... Boy must'ave bad luck." She concluded, taking the bowl of crushed mushroom and mixing it in aloe water. Once the watery mixture absorbed the liquid and hardened, the old lady rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Fire usually keep them away." 

"Bad luck then." Citra mused, watching her mentor waddle and bend to apply the healing mixture on a deep cut running across a man's leg.

Bad luck... Niko got what he deserved and for the sake of his parents, she did hope they find his body. Or what's left of him to be honorably buried. After all, his sacrifice made Vaas come back to her.

"Auntie Mona, can I ask you something?" The priestess nodded her head lazily. Citra bit her lip, "You grew up inside the temple. You know.. them. The tribals. I was wondering.. if you remember a boy named Zuraidah."

"Zuraidah," Monatula echoed, "I knew a boy of that name long ago... How do you know him?"

"I don't." She said quickly, "Not really. I met him a few days ago, the night before my father... It was strange. He knew my name, like he knew who I was and he called me by my Mother's last name. And the way he said it, Talugmai, like it was important to him. Like it meant something."

"It does." Monatula chuckled at the shock on Citra's face. "Talugmai is a powerful name to the Rakyat. Blood, even more so."

"Is it because of my Mother? She was some sort of, Warrior Goddess to them?"

"She was a Warrior Goddess to them. To all of us."

"But then she left." Citra finished. 

"Ay' she left them."

Citra fingered her necklace, "Are they sad that she is dead?"

Monatula wiped her hands and gave Citra a curious look. "Maybe. Bring me the bandages."

 

 

She stayed until the last patient was taken to the village and lingered a bit longer to wait for Vaas to return but it seemed they were out still searching. Must be hard looking for pieces of a body.

Saying farewell to Monatula, Citra headed back home. She made a small detour to check on the injured warriors stationed at the main hall, then headed to the market place to get fish for lunch. When she arrived at the house she stuffed the fish in ice to preserve it for later. She went to her room next to change into something more comfortable when the door to Anaru's room caught her eye, making her pause.  

Biting the inside of her cheek, she found herself entering her father's room quietly, as if not to disturb the silence. She gravitated towards the desk, running her fingers lightly over various books, parchments and other oddities. Her curiosity satisfied, she headed to the bed. It was built to be big enough for two but only one has occupied the bed for fifteen and a half years. Getting on her knees, she reached underneath and dragged out a wide box towards the center of the room. She sat down and traced a finger down the top, leaving a line of cleared dust. 

When she opened it, she was greeted by a neatly folded up black outfit with a white square centered at the collar. She held it up and discovered it was some sort of long dress paired with equally dark pants. She laid it aside, making a mental note to fold it back properly when she was done. 

Underneath the clothing was a black book with a golden cross imprinted in the middle, a wooden cross necklace laying on top. She raised the necklace to eye-level, intently watching the small wooden cross spin around slowly.

"It is wrong. Sick. Brothers and sisters should not engage in disgusting sexual relations. It is blasphemous. Vaas, you should know better. You will never do this again, you understand? "

She let the necklace slip from her fingers and picked up a rolled up piece of parchment. 

"I was wondering where that went." A voice said, startling Citra. She looked over her shoulder and saw Vaas at the doorway. He came in and sat behind her, his body curled around hers in a way that allowed her to rest against his chest. She inspected the item an asked what it was. "Open it." Was his response, brushing her hair over her shoulder to rest his chin on it.

Gingerly, she pulled at the string, releasing the parchment. She rolled it open and stared at a map of the world. The paper was thin and flimsy, tears here and there at the corners and the colors of the map had faded over time but she could still see the lines of far away lands and the vast blue of ocean that dominated the map. 

"I remember this," She said, tracing the lines contouring around a white area, "A-laska.. You wanted to go there. You wanted to see the snow."

Vaas looked surprised, "I can't believe you remember that."

It was so long ago they played around with this very same map but she remembers little things like that.

"We'll sail around the world. We will find all the treasures and become rich! Like pirates!"

She moved her finger from Alaska down to a bigger country: Africa. 

"I still wanna ride the elephants." He mumbled, chewing on a strand of her hair. Citra found it impossible to imagine animals bigger than houses. She continued tracing her finger over many places, Vaas commenting on some. He nudged her and asked, "Where do you wanna go?"

She cocked her head, "I don't want to go anywhere. I like it here."

"Not for real. Just for fun." He sighed. 

Citra thought of it and found she still had no desire to travel. She was content here. This was their home; their island. Why would she leave? 

"I will go wherever you go." She said finally. It was the truth and possibly the only reason she could see herself leaving the island. Without Vaas, it wouldn't feel like home. She will be happy wherever she is as long as she's with her brother. 

"Hey! It's your bird!" Vaas exclaimed, pointing at something inside the box. Citra set the map aside and grabbed a small wooden bird. The craftsmanship was crudely made but it was obvious that it was supposed to be in the shape of the birds of paradise. "Doesn't it whistle?" 

"Yes," She answered, rotating the little toy. The feather tails was where you put your lips on to blow air in, and there was a small hole on top of its head where the sound comes out. "It needs water to sound like a bird." 

Vaas unclipped his waterskin and popped the cap open. He plucked the toy bird from her fingers and poured water into the opening in its head. "There," He shoved the toy back at her and she shook her head. "C'mon," He encouraged and continued to pressure her until she reluctantly took it. Giving him an annoyed look, she placed the tip of the tail in between her lips and blew.

The exact sound of a bird singing filled the room and if she had no knowledge of any toy bird she would have thought it were real. Vaas laughed in pure delight, something that made her heart bloom. She stopped and handed it to him to try. He did so without any hesitation, and even tried to make a sort of tune. 

"I'm keeping this," He declared, moving the bird through the air like it was flying. The toy bird swooped down and started pecking her cheek.

"I made it for you anyways." She grumbled, swatting the bird away. 

Vaas observed the wooden sculpture, holding it up into the sunlight streaming through the blinds, rotating it this way and that. "It's really good, you know? You can sell this stuff to the towns people. Make some money. You were really good. I remember you used to make all kinds of animals. Why'd you stop?" 

"I don't know.." She stared blankly at the wooden sculpture. Why did she stop? It was nice... soothing in a way; the process of creating something. It required patience, something she lacked back when she was younger. But the most important part of sculpting was the control it gave her. Every slice and cut was done intentionally. Every grain smoothed out was done on purpose. She can move the blade of the knife in any direction she wanted and it would do so. She can mold nothing into something into her own vision and to her it was perfect. Whenever she sculpted, it felt like she was in control of something, even if it wasn't her own life. 

She remembered when she was young she would lay on the floor in absolute happiness knowing her little wooden sculptures would never leave her. They loved her.

"It was just a childish hobby."

 

 

 

Tane came around for a late lunch. The poor man looked more haggard than usual and he gratefully ate the food she gave him. While she cleaned up the kitchen, scraping fish guts into a bucket to dump into the pig pen later, she eavesdropped on the conversation between him and Vaas. They were discussing about any news traveling around the island. Something about the towns people's presidential election at Thurston Town in the Southern Island being disrupted by the same foreigners who attacked not too long ago. According to rumors the nominees running to become the first president of the Rook Islands (only to the towns people that is; not the Rakyat) were executed, along with any government Rook officials in the area. 

"Why should we care." Vaas said, leaning back in his chair. "It's their problem, not ours."

"We should care." Citra cut in and glanced at Tane uncertainly, feeling a tad foolish for speaking up. "Whoever they are, they want the towns people leaderless. Weak. They don't want them to fight back. Which means... the foreigners didn't come to kill them. They want to rule them... but why?"

Tane nodded his head appreciatively and motioned for her to take a seat with them. "Good, Citra. We do not know yet why but we do know they want something. To rule or something else, we will stop them." He sipped from his cup and addressed Vaas. "Any news of your friend?"

Her brother straightened up, "Yeah, we found him in a cave. He's missing a few fingers and he was bleeding all over the place but he was still breathing. We took him back to Mona and she said he will wake up when he conquers the venom of the dragons... He must have dragged himself out of that hell. I mean, if you had seen what he looked like when we found him..." Vaas trailed off and she realized he was staring right at her.

Citra must look pale as a ghost since she felt all the blood rush from her face. She blinked and looked down, collecting herself. One of her hands began shaking with small tremors. She gripped it hard with her other hand to stop it.

"That's good to hear." Tane said, "Niko is a fine warrior and we need every man available to fight in case those demon foreigners attack us next." 

She chanced a glance up and cringed when Vaas was still staring at her. It was a relief when a man burst into their house, drawing his attention away. 

"Chief!" The man said to their uncle, "Alexandria is at the entrance. She has brought outsiders with her!"

"I am not your chief-" Tane grumbled but paused when he heard the rest of the news. He got up immediately and pointed a finger at the two siblings. "You two, stay put." He warned menacingly and headed out the door with the man. 

Vaas and Citra looked at each other and simultaneously scrambled out the door. They made sure to put distance between them and Tane in case he spots them following him. Halfway to the entrance Vaas grabbed Citra's arm and pulled her aside.

"What are you doing?" She hissed. They might miss something important!

"What's wrong?" He demanded more than questioned. "And don't say nothing because I saw your face and you looked scared. I've never seen you that scared before." 

Citra felt her stomach drop and she ripped her arm from his grasp. "It's nothing," She managed to say and continued the path to the entrance, walking briskly, her heart hammering underneath her chest.

Vaas caught up to her. "Don't hide this. We don't hide things from each other. Citra, tell me." 

She stopped abruptly and dragged her hands over her face, tears springing to her eyes. "I thought it was the only way! He was turning you against me! I couldn't let him... I had to get you back!" 

"Stop, stop. Slow down, I don't understand." Vaas said, grabbing her wrists to keep her still. 

Citra wanted nothing more than to run away, but she looked into his eyes and with a shaky whisper she said, "I- I did it. I dragged Niko out into the jungle and I fed him to the Komodos. I had to. You have to understand.. I had to. It was the only way."

Vaas' jaw clenched and he bowed his head. A moment of silence passed before he asked, "Did he see you?" 

"Yes. I think so. I don't know!" She bit her lip harshly, wracking her brain of memories of that night but everything seemed so fuzzy. Vaas let go of her and held his head, walking a little ways away. His back faced her and she could see how tense he was. She jumped when he punched the side of a house.

"Fuck!" He yelled and returned to her, grabbing her shoulders and shaking her lightly. "Why did you do it, Citra? Why? why would you do something like this?" 

She wanted to tell him. She truly did. Explain to him that when Niko called him a coward it made Vaas feel bad and that's why they argued that night and Vaas turned into this monster; a distorted impostor of her brother and the only way to get Vaas back was for Niko to stop existing. And it worked! It worked! Vaas did come back to her. 

She wanted to say all that but her mind drew blank. Somehow, looking back on her reasoning, it didn't make sense at all.

But it must! It had to.

"I... I don't know." 

"This is not a game, Citra!" Vaas roared quietly, "This is serious!"

"I know that!" She snapped, the anger erupting inside her giving her some kind of semblance of control. She wiped her eyes and marched off.

Why is it every time she opens up to him, he always has a way of bringing her down. Making her feel stupid.

She doesn't need him.

She'll handle this on her own. She doesn't need anyone. Especially not him. Ungrateful, blind brother. 

Citra immediately felt guilty. She shouldn't think such vile thoughts about her brother. 

She lost him in the crowd formed around the entrance. Having a small lithe body came with its advantages when needed upon. It took her no time to reach the front.

"What is this, Alexandria?" Tane boomed, "Why have you brought these people to our homes?" Her uncle didn't even look surprised to see Citra standing next to him, Vaas appearing at his other side. He looked exasperated but in part ignored the two.

Alexandria, the white lady from her father's funeral, stood before them with a group of five to ten outsiders. All of them except for Alexandria were bloody and bruised, their clothes torn and burned in some places. They carried with them strange luggage and bags.

"I'm sorry for coming unannounced Tane." The lady said politely, flickering her eyes at the bows and spears trained on the group of outsiders. "Forgive me, but I had no idea where or who else to turn to. These people, their plane crashed down further inland. I rounded up all the survivors but I am afraid if they stay out in the open something bad may happen to them. I told them it would be safe here."

"You bring nothing but trouble!" Someone said from the crowd, prompting a few murmured agreements.

"Why should we take them in? They are outsiders. They could be our enemies in disguise!" Another voice yelled, drawing a louder approval from the villagers. 

"No, they are not." Alexandria stated firmly, taking a step forward only to freeze and raise her hands cautiously as a bunch of arrows drew back. She gave Tane a look that said really? Tane sighed and raised his hand and waved it down. Reluctantly, the warriors lowered their bows, although some have not released the tension in the arrows. In response, Alexandria slowly lowered her hands.

"Talk," Tane ordered.

"I have reason to believe their plane crashing was no accident. It was done deliberately. Maybe by the same enemies you accuse these people of being." She spoke quickly, maybe realizing she had limited time to convince the natives to hear her out.

"Do you have any proof?" Her uncle asked. Citra was surprised by his patience. If it were her, she would have already sent the outsiders away. It is what their people seem to want too. 

"Yes, she does!" An old man dressed in a black torn up suit spoke up, waving his hand in the air. He went to stand beside Alexandria and glanced wearily at the warriors. "I am an official diplomat sent by the Republic of Indonesia. There was another man who represented the country of Papua New Guinea but has died during the crash. We were both invited to witness your President's first inauguration."

"Not our president. We don't have one." Vaas interrupted, crossing his arms.

"Yes, yes, sorry." The man stumbled over his words, clearly intimidate by her brother. He adjusted his glasses and continued. "We were supposed to land at the airport but our pilots stopped receiving word from the tower. All of a sudden, we are being shot at by helicopters! I am sure, you know the rest." 

"Please," Alexandria said, "I understand you do not trust these people but right now, they need medical attention and a place to stay for a little while until I can contact someone to help them." She gave Tane a pleading look, "Please."

"We will discuss more in the main hall." Tane said, sending sharp looks at anyone who wanted to protest. "Citra will care for the wounded. Come."

"Why are you allowing them inside our home?" Vaas asked harshly as they walked alongside Tane, the outsiders following behind. It was the exact same thing she was wondering about too.

"Because they have done nothing to us. We are not like are brothers in the temple. We help those in need." Tane gave a sideways glance at Vaas, "That is what your Father preached and he was right."

That shut Vaas up. Her brother looked away in shame and Citra can't help but feel a tinge of annoyance. After all, their father preached a lot of things. Not all of them were "right".

They entered the main hall; Tane and his men along with Vaas, Kalai, Alexandria, the diplomat and a few outsiders converged around the big oval table. The injured ones were ushered into a separate room where all their healing warriors resided. Citra did her best in checking their wounds, injecting them with healing syringes to heal and stave off the pain. Luckily, most of them had minor injuries except for one man with a broken leg. After she was done, she sneaked into the main room and kept to the walls to observe the meeting.

"Are you sure you cannot think of any reason why they wanted you dead." Tane questioned to the diplomat. 

"No, no reason at all. I'm as clueless as you are."

"They might come looking for them." Kalai said, obviously not happy like Vaas about Tane letting in outsiders. "And if they find out we are sheltering them, we are next on their target."

"That's impossible." Alexandria countered, "No one knows they are here. When I arrived at the crash site I did not encounter anyone other than the survivors." 

Kalai glowered and turned to Tane, "It is a risk letting them stay here. They are putting our tribe in danger." 

"I agree." Vaas said, interrupting whatever his uncle was going to say. "You heard what he said. They have helicopters. They took down a plane."

The village warriors began speaking up too, one even starting to get into an argument with Alexandria until Tane slammed his fist on the table. "Silence!" He bellowed, and with a tone like that no one dared disobey. Secretly, Citra was impressed and a little jealous. She wished she could have that kind of commanding authority. "Alexandria, they may stay. But for only a few days and no longer."

"I understand." She replied, "First thing morning I'll head to the docks and see if I can pay any fisherman to take me inland."

"Why don't they go with you?" Citra spoke up for the first time since she entered. She kept her face neutral when everyone looked at her, although inside she wanted to shrink and hide. She didn't mean to say anything, it just came out.

The diplomat looked at Alexandria as if wondering the same thing. The blonde lady smiled, not at all perturbed by the interruption. "Believe me, I would like to take them if I can but I fear the enemy might have the same idea. Surely they will be searching any boat leaving the island, if they don't blow it up first."

"If that is true, then you are putting yourself in danger." Tane said.

Alexandria shrugged, "What can I say? My Father always said without risk, there is no reward."

"It is settled then." Tane concluded, "Alexandria will go inland and the outsiders will stay here for five days. After that, we will guide them to the nearest town. Does anyone have anything else to say?" Complete silence. Either everyone was happy with the outcome or none dared disagree with Tane. Citra, in her part, was content with the plan although she wished for it to be three days and not five. "Good. Come, diplomat. You and your people can stay here. Some of my men will bring in mats for you to sleep on." Tane stood up, signalling the meeting was officially over. 

Outside, she passed Vaas and Kalai. 

"Citra," Her brother took a hold of her arm but she shrugged him off.

"Trouble in paradise?" She heard Kalai say. 

Vaas followed her, calling her name but she ignored him each time. When they got back home, Vaas called her name one last time and this time she did stop. She squeezed her eyes shut, pressing the palm of her hand against her temple. 

"I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought... I thought..." Her voice wavered. "I don't know anymore. I did it for you, I did it for you. I did it for us." 

She could see her father now. His cold dead body. What was the last thing she said to him? She couldn't remember. Why couldn't she remember? Why did he leave her? Why did he have to die? Why can't he be here with her?

Look at that little girl. Citra never knows when to stop. Always messing up. Always making mistakes. Well now it's too late. You made the biggest of mistakes and no one can save you. You can't take it back! Your brother's not going to make everything better this time!

"No, no, no." She grit her teeth and started hitting her head. 

Over and done with. MOVE ON. He's dead. He's gone, he's gone, he is gone. She never cared for him, remember? He doesn't mean anything to her. He's gone but Vaas is still here and he's the only thing she wants. 

Vaas enveloped her in a hug, crushing her against him and tucking her head under his chin. She thought she was hallucinating at first, but it was real, it was really happening. "Please stop, Citra. Don't do that. Please don't hurt yourself." He said hoarsely, hugging her tighter as if she would turn to dust if he let go. 

She felt a hole in her chest grow wider, sucking her energy. "I'm sorry Vaas. I'm so, so sorry."

"No, no it's ok. It's ok." He hushed her, cupping her cheek and wiping away a stray tear with his thumb. "It's gunna be ok. I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I promise. I promise."

"I don't know what to do." She whimpered. "They're going to find out. He's going to talk and say it was me!"

"No, no, no, no I'm not gunna let that happen. Citra, Citra look at me." He forced her to look him in the eye, "That's not going to happen. Niko is still asleep. Monatula said she doesn't know when he'll wake up or if he will wake up but if he does I'll make sure he won't ever say your name."

Citra didn't like what he meant by that. She didn't want him to do anything drastic. "How are you going to do that?"

Vaas shook his head, "I don't know, I don't know. I'll think of something, alright?" He pressed his forehead against hers, "I promise. I will protect you. Remember? It's just us now. You and Me. I won't let anything happen to you." He kissed her forehead and held her tightly again. "I promise."

I promise... 

 

 

There was a grave, its cross on fire. Then, Komodo Dragons appeared, dragging her father's body to the surface and feasting on his corpse. 

Behind her, the bloody yellow eye of a sun glowered down at her in all its hatred possessiveness.

BANG! 

A bright flash blinded her-

Vaas' necklace falling into a puddle of blood. 

She's trying to search for it but there is nothing but her bloody, bloody hands...

Citra awoke to the sound of someone entering the room. She reached for Vaas but he wasn't there. 

A body dipped into the spot where he fell asleep beside her. Through drowsy eyes, she saw it was her brother. He must have gotten up during the night to pee or something. Making a tired noise, she snuggled up to him, resting her cheek over his heart. She breathed him in and oddly enough he smelled of alcohol and... was that smoke? 

Where did you go? She wondered before sleep took a hold of her again.

Chapter Text

"Auntie, I brought you fresh goats milk from the farmer boy-" Citra announced when she entered the priestess' hut. Her words died in her throat when she realized Monatula wasn't alone. Kalai was knelt beside Niko's bedside. Citra blinked, "Kalai, I didn't know you were here... What are you doing here?"

"I just came to check up on Niko. See how he's doing." The older girl replied.

Citra internally cringed. Of course she would, they were friends. No need to sound suspicious.

"Oh, right... How is he doing?" Citra asked Monatula, handing her the goats milk.

The elder lady smiled gratefully and took a long gulp of the drink. "Thank you, child. The boy is still lost, but he is a fighter that one. He must overcome the jungle if he is to awaken again."

That's... very vague Citra thought, privately annoyed. She looked at Niko, observing how pallor he was. The boy looked like he was on the verge of death. She felt bad, but she hoped he did die. It would make things so much simpler.

"I am glad he is still alive. He is very strong." Citra said, placing a fake smile on her face. She pretended to be lost in thought at the sight of him, long enough to appear to anyone who looked that she cared. Biting her lip, she kissed Monatula's cheek farewell. "I will be back-"

"Tomorrow morning again?" Her mentor finished, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

Citra pretended to blush at what Monatula was insinuating. Of course, why else would a young girl return to check on a boy unless she had feelings for him. 

Kalai stood up and brushed herself off. "I guess I should be going too. Thank you, Auntie Mona, for taking care of this idiot."

Monatula laughed heartily and shooed them out. Together they began walking back to the village. Citra was lost in thought thinking of what to do with Niko when she noticed Kalai staring at her with a strange look. 

Citra frowned, "What?" 

"Oh nothing." Kalai said nonchalantly, shrugging her shoulders casually. "It's just... do you have feelings.. for Niko?"

Citra had to stop herself from bursting out a no! The very thought was preposterous and to be honest she was slightly offended by the mere suggestion of it. Niko was... down here at the bottom and Vaas was... beyond the stars; They don't even compare and to compare Niko to Vaas was insulting. Niko was a tiny insignificant bug and Vaas was the sky, earth and ocean. 

Taking control over her breathing Citra said, "No, I don't. He is a friend to me. What makes you think that I feel for him more than that?"

Kalai hummed, "Well, Monatula tells me that you have been going to visit him for the past two days since he has been found. She told me you would stay by his side for hours waiting for him to wake up. Is that what "just a friend" do?" 

Citra opened and closed her mouth, failing to come up with something to say to disregard Kalai's claims. "He is just.. a friend." She replied lamely.

"Mhm," Kalai hummed, completely unconvinced. "Well, I feel bad for Niko." 

"Why?" 

"Because he has feelings for you, too. And what those Komodo Dragons did to him won't even compare to what Vaas will do to him if he ever tries to make you his." Kalai snickered, "I feel bad for all the suckers who will try to make you their wife."

"Why, do you think I would be a terrible wife?" Citra asked. 

Kalai glanced at her incredulously. "Have you met your brother? Vaas would destroy them." 

It was Citra's turn to be unconvinced. "I don't think Vaas would do that. Sometimes I think he doesn't care at all." 

The older girl laughed, "Are you serious? You remember that time before the party when we ate at your house. You and Niko were getting really close, and don't give me that look. I noticed, and so did everyone else. We aren't blind. Anyways, after we left Vaas got mad at Niko. He told him to back off his little sister. Citra, your brother got so mad he hit Niko and threatened to do worse if he continued to talk to you and to be honest, I've never seen him so angry before."

Citra didn't know what to say. She was shocked. "I... I didn't know that."

"Yes well, your brother can be scary protective sometimes. That's why I feel bad for your future husband. He makes one mistake and he is finished." Kalai sliced a finger across her throat to emphasize her point, prompting Citra to roll her eyes. The older girl bumped shoulders, "Don't get me wrong. Niko is a good guy, stupid at times well, most of the times but he's a good friend, reliable too. He'll treat you right if you decide to marry him."

Citra frowned. Niko called Vaas a coward. Is that what good friends do? "What if I don't want to marry him? What if I don't want to marry at all?" They passed by a women carrying a baby in a basket on her back and holding the hand of her older child. Citra sneered, "There must be more than becoming a wife and bearing children. I don't want that." To her, it felt like a trap. A possible inevitable bleak future.

"There is nothing wrong with being a wife and having children." Kalai defended, "It is an honorable life. Rakyat women are continuing the bloodline of our people. They are the ones who nurture our young and guide their sons with the wisdom of the past."

She had a good point, but the whole idea remained unappealing, even daunting. "Will you marry and have children someday? You are of age."

Kalai grimaced, "Perhaps... Someday, maybe. But not right now. I don't see myself.. settling down right now."

Citra bit her lip and kicked the ground lightly. "Does every women need a husband?" She expected Kalai to say yes, but was surprised when the older girl said the complete opposite.

"No, you don't. I have no Mother or Father and my Gramma is too old to take care of me and my sister. But I do not need a man to take care of me and my family."

"Who will?" Citra asked, perplexed.

"I will," Kalai stated confidently. "I do not need a husband to take care of my family. I can do it on my own. I've done it this far. I can do it a little longer."

Citra looked at Kalai in a new light, studying this new side of her. "That is very brave of you. I don't think I can do that myself."

"You can Citra. You know, you are a very strong girl, even if you can't see it yourself. I think so and so does Vaas."

Despite herself, Citra smiled shyly at the compliment, pride blooming in her chest. No one other than Tane and Vaas would say things like that about her. Even her father would remind her of her place and the duties she must obey all because she was born to do that. She hated to admit it, but what Kalai said meant a lot to her. It felt like someone finally believed that Citra could be something more than what her tribe and she herself expected to become. It felt good.

Maybe Kalai wasn't so bad after all.

 

 

Vaas was in a meeting with the council in the main hall, so Citra decided to wait outside for him. Kalai stayed and kept her company, she too eager to hear from Vaas what information the council were discussing. They watched the bustling people in the market place in silence as they wait. 

"Hello ladies!" A familiar voice that could only be her brother greeted from behind. Vaas slung his arms around them both, squeezing them tight and plastering a sloppy kiss on his sister's forehead. She made a sound of disgust and wiped away the excess of saliva. Citra sent him an annoyed look which only made him chuckle in response. "What are you doing here?"

"We were waiting for you." Citra replied, unconsciously leaning into him. 

He puckered his lips giving his best puppy dog look, something Citra found immensely adorable and annoying when he used it to get out of trouble, usually with her. "Sorry, were you waiting long?"

"No, we came back from visiting Niko not too long ago." Kalai answered. 

Vaas appeared indifferent to the news but Citra felt him stiffen. "How is he?" He asked calmly, but the intensity in his eyes when he looked at her showed how he truly felt. 

"Still asleep." Citra said. There were more that was unsaid in those words. 

Safe for now. No need to panic. There is still time.

"What did the council talk about?" Citra inquired, changing the subject. "Do they have any news?" 

Kalai leaned forward, interested in what Vaas was going to reveal. The tip of his lip curled down, "Not much. They want to send some men to see what's going at the Southern Island. I volunteered to lead the group but Tane thinks it's better if I stay here." He picked up a tiny rock and threw it without much force. "I swear, sometimes I feel like he and Dad always lectured me about becoming more responsible but when I do take responsibility for something Tane thinks I can't handle it. Like I'm a child or something."

"I'm sure your Uncle meant no harm." Kalai reassured him. "He's just concerned. We lost contact with our brothers living over there. No one knows what to expect." 

"Yeah but... It's frustrating you know? All my life I'm told Vaas pay attention or Vaas be more responsible and now when I actually give a fuck nobody thinks I can handle it." He shook his head, "Makes me think why I even bother in the first place."

Kalai placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, "It's ok."

"They are fools." Citra stated bluntly, probably feeling more angry for Vaas than he did for himself. How dare they treat her brother like this. Are they blind bats not to see how great he is? What kind of wise men are they if they can't see how strong Vaas is. He is better than them. Better than them all. "They do not know what they speak of. They are wrong to think you cannot lead our men to victory."

"They are our elders." Kalai insisted, "They have lived long enough to know what is best for the tribe and they deserve our respect."

"They thought it best for you and Niko to stay behind but you still went to fight." Citra countered.

"Yes and Niko almost died because of our stupid decision to disobey our elder's order."

"Ok! Ok!" Vaas cut in, holding up his hands. "Can we just drop it? Please?"

Citra pressed her lips into a thin line. There was much more she wanted to say but for Vaas' sake she kept quiet. She still thought Kalai was wrong, though, and a hypocrite. If somebody thought Vaas was lesser than what he is, then those people are wrong and should be.. punished? Chastised? Made to see how wrong they are and beg for forgiveness at Vaas' and her's feet? All three sounded acceptable.

Kalai tsked and motioned to two outsiders from the plane crash walking around the market place, stopping to show Rakyat children their odd looking devices. "I still think it is a mistake to let them stay. I don't trust them."

Now that was something Citra can get behind. "I agree, they should not be here."

"They won't for long." Vaas said darkly, "They have three days left and then they're gone. For good."  

Kalai fidgeted where she sat, as if wanting to get up and throw them out herself. "Still, I hope that white lady comes back early. The sooner we get rid of them the better." She said.

That "white lady" Kalai was referring to must be Alexandria. Where is she now, Citra wondered. Was she still alive, or was she killed by those foreign devils? "Who is she, exactly?" Citra was curious. She's seen the lady around, albeit sparingly but they've never interacted one on one before.

"Dad said she was some kind of nature explorer. She arrived to the island months ago, I think." Vaas pulled out his knife and ran his fingers along its smooth flat plane when one of the foreign outsiders happened to glance their way. 

It is expected when someone gives you a death glare it's a clear sign that person doesn't like you. For some reason lost to her, the diplomat foreigner took Vaas' glare as an acceptance to approach them. The diplomat smiled at each of them briefly. 

"Hello, would you like to see too?" He held up his communication device. There was a brief moment where Citra thought he expected them to be in awe of it, like it was some magical device from the heavens itself. 

"We know what a fucking phone is." Vaas spat in disbelief. 

A low sounding long horn filled the air, so loud it could be heard no matter where you were in the village. The trio jumped to their feet, looking at each other in confusion. They knew what the horn meant: enemies.

"Get inside!" Vaas growled, grabbing the diplomat's shirt collar and shoving the man towards the main hall. They spotted a group of warriors running in the direction of the entrance. They followed right behind.

"Citra, go back to the house and keep out of sight until I come for you!" Her brother ordered.

She scoffed, "I'm staying with you."  

"I'm not joking!" He hissed.

"Neither am I!" She hissed right back. He groaned in frustration but let her have her way. Once Citra was determined to do something, there was no stopping her. It was pointless to fight. 

"Don't worry. I got her back." Kalai said, reassuring her distraught brother. 

They slowed down when they reached the entrance. 

POP! POP! POP! 

They all ducked when loud shots rang through the air. Before she knew it, Vaas pulled her behind him, using his body as a shield.

Kalai's eyes were blown wide open, "What the hell? Was that gunfire?"

Citra couldn't move or think for the matter. Her heart was racing too fast it was the only thing she could hear.

What was going on? Were they being attacked? Are they safe here?

"Stop firing! STOP firing! Please, stop firing!" A man's voice yelled over the chaos. After that, nothing happened. Everything grew quiet and very, very still. When Citra remembered she can move, she took the chance to peek around Vaas. She saw first two dead Rakyat warriors sprawled out on the ground, bleeding from bullet holes in their chests. Then, she saw three black vehicles. Two of them had a large looking gun attached to the rear. Finally, she examined their attackers.

At least ten to fifteen men all dressed in protective gear head to toe were pointing guns at them. Some were in the vehicles while others were standing. She wondered why so little had come to face them, a mighty tribe more than triple their small group. It wouldn't be a fair fight, but something told her even though they were small in numbers, these strange men were deadly. 

One man in particular was standing up were he sat in the front passenger seat of the car. She took notice of him because he was the one yelling and he was the only one not wearing a helmet or a face cover. 

"Thank you!" The man sighed, shaking his head in exasperation. "Come on guys, we are supposed to be their first contact with the outside world! First impressions are important." He then waved at them, giving a wide smile showing off his pearly white teeth. "Hello! We come in peace. Do you speak English?"

Tane came forward and addressed their attackers. "Yes," He barked, giving them his best ugly scowl.

Her uncle's answer seemed to take the man by surprise. "Oh! Great! Hey look, sorry about the mess. My guys didn't mean to shoot your guys. They sort of just ran at us and you know how it is, right?"

If Citra was being honest, the man did not sound sorry at all.

"You come to our home carrying guns. Did you expect us not to think you were invaders?" Tane said, a few of the warriors grunting in agreement. 

The man scratched his head, "You are absolutely right. Sorry, our fault. That was a mistake on our part." He clapped his hands, "How about this. You can retrieve your buddies bodies here safely and I promise none of my men will open fire. Not even the trigger happy ones! I promise." He held three fingers up, "Scout's honor." 

Everyone looked at Tane waiting to see what he would do. Citra could tell her uncle was thinking hard on what course of action to take with the situation at hand. If the white man kept his promise then there will be no trickery. On the other hand, if he lying then that could result in more deaths. But they couldn't just leave their brothers to bleed out like animals. Not in front of these outsiders. They can't be seen as weak. 

Tane pressed his lips together in a thin line and motioned for four warriors to get their fallen brothers. It was a tense moment, watching them run out there and collect the injured. At any moment the outsiders could shoot them and there won't be enough time to do stop them. It was a relief when they came back safely. "Take them to Monatula," Tane ordered when they came back. 

Citra stared at their fallen brothers as they passed by. There was so much blood. Privately, she knew there was a slim chance of them making it. There was just too many bullets.

"Again, sorry for that fuck up. Can we start all over again? Hi, I'm Jack. Nice to meet you." Jack grinned, waving at them.

"Who are you people? What do you want?" Tane said gruffly, skipping the pleasantries.

Jack spread his arms, "We are called privateers. Or that's what our employer named the faction. Could've picked another name to be honest but what can you do, right? Guy's payin us anyways. And what do we want? We want nothing. We are here as a.. courtesy call. See, we work for a very successful business. So successful in fact that the business is expanding and our employer decided to relocate here on your beautiful islands." Outrage spread through the tribe, riling up the warriors. Tane barked at them to quiet. Jack smiled, "Thank you. As I was saying, since we will be moving here officially, our employer understands it will be hard for the locals to... get used to the idea of having to share space. That is why our employer sent us out here to meet with you in person. Unfortunately, he cannot make it but he does send his warmest regards. Now, greetings are over let's move on to business, shall we? Our employer and maybe your new future boss is a generous man. He is willing to offer jobs to anyone looking for work. Anyone, no discrimination at all. It's a contract, really. Sign right up and the rest is taking care of. You'll be working the land, like farmers. And if some of you know how to use a weapon and is pretty good at it, you can get the opportunity to become a privateer yourself!" 

"In exchange for what, money?" Tane said.

Jack let out a hearty laugh that died down into a chuckle. "No. You will be working for free. Let me make this clear." He raised his voice so everyone can hear him. "Hoyt Volker, our employer and the new ruler of the Rook Islands, is willing to offer you jobs to work for free. In exchange, we won't kill every last one of you."

This time, the warriors readied their weapons, whooping and hollering in anger. It took Tane and Vaas along with Kalai to calm them down.

"No deal! Get off our land and if you come back we will kill you!" Tane yelled, beating a fist against his chest. 

"Understood. I thought you were going to be wise about this and accept our gracious offering but that's ok." Jack said, "But, if you so happen to change your minds there is one way you can make it up. I think, now correct me if I'm wrong, you are hiding some very special people in your village. It will be very appreciated if you can return them to us. Not only will we consider going through with the deal but it will also make the boss very, very happy. How about it, huh? Give them to us and there won't be a need for violence."

"We do not know what you are talking about." Tane replied. "We carry none of who you speak of."

Jack tsked, wagging his finger. "Yes you do. We know it, you know it, and we know you know it. So please stop with the lies and just hand them over."

"Alexandria ratted us out!" One of the warriors hissed.

"She told them!" Another said. 

Tane was not quick enough to silence their foolish mouths. Whatever cover they had was blown. 

Jack looked entertained. "Uh.. I don't know about any Alexandria but... How about this. We'll give you, let's say, until sundown to hand the diplomats and whoever else over to us. If you fail to do that, we will attack with more men and a heck of a lot more guns. Seriously, you do not want that to happen. Whelp, that should give you folks enough time to decide whether or not you want to live or die. Have a nice rest of your day. We'll be seein' you soon." He plopped back in his seat while the rest of the soldiers climbed back into their respective vehicles. 

As they drove off, Tane and Vaas looked at each other.

Citra understood too.

They were seriously kacau.

 

 

"It was Alexandria! She betrayed us!" A warrior said loudly over the arguing council members. They were in the main hall discussing what to do. Fighting, more like it. They had ushered the foreigners into a separate room to prevent them from listening in. No need to let them know they were deciding whether to hand them over or not. 

"It was not Alexandria. The man said he didn't know who that was." Tane stated.

"He could be lying. She made a deal with them and he is covering for her."

The other council members murmured in agreement. Citra silently agreed with them. Who knows what happened but she was sure somehow, someway, Alexandria ratted them out.  

"It is not her." Vaas piped up, surprising everyone including Citra. He awkwardly cleared his throat and glanced at Tane. "It's not her."

Tane was silent for a bit before nodding. 

"But if not her then..." Kalai trailed off, her brows knitting. 

Everyone knew what she was implying. If not Alexandria, then it had to be one of them. No one outside of their village knew of the strange foreigners. But the thought was simply impossible. No Rakyat would willingly betray their own tribe. It was inconceivable.

"We will figure it out later." Tane said, sensing the growing tension in the room. "Right now, we have to deal with the Privateers."

"I say we give them to the Privateers." A warrior said. The rest voiced their agreements, including Kalai and Vaas. Tane did not look happy about the decision.

"Uncle, we can't protect them." Vaas said. "They have brought this on us. I'm not willing to die or for any of my brothers to die for a bunch of outsiders. We owe them nothing."

"We owe them our word." Tane straightened to his full height, staring his fellow council members down. "We said we will keep them safe for five days. We gave our word. Does that mean nothing?" Where ever he looked, his brothers bowed their heads in shame, unable to look him in the eyes. "Are we Rakyat men or are we snakes with no honor? Have you all turned into a bunch of simpering deer? We are Rakyat! We do not back down from a fight."

"Even if that means a lot of our brothers dying for- for what? For honor?" Vaas bravely spoke up.

"Honor is everything to a man. Without it, he is nothing." 

Vaas chuckled dryly, "This is pointless. We should just hand them over."

"My word is final." Tane said sternly.

"But-"

"I said enough!" Tane slammed a fist on the table, silencing her brother. Vaas' face twisted in anger and he squared up, hands balled into fists, body tense. Their uncle didn't back down either. The two stood so close together their chests were almost touching.

"Vaas..." Kalai whispered but it held no effect.

After a few seconds that felt like hours, Vaas chuckled, wiped his nose and headed to the door.

"Don't walk away from me!" Their uncle barked.

He paused, possibly considering doing as he was told but eventually ignoring the command and continued out the door. Curiously, Tane did not look angry, just disappointed. And maybe that was far worse. Citra hated when Tane was disappointed in her.

Citra slipped out of the room when they continued their meeting; making battle plans for tonight. A part of her wanted to stay and hear what they were planning but Vaas was obviously distraught and he came first before her own personal wants and needs. 

By the time she exited the main hall, he was already gone. She searched for him in the most likeliest places he might be: their house or the training grounds. When he wasn't at either two she looked around the village but he was nowhere in sight. 

He couldn't have gone beyond their territory. It was dangerous out there. Maybe... maybe he went to the only place she hadn't checked yet.

Monatula was alone except for the two fallen warriors from earlier. One had, sadly, passed on. The priestess was chanting a funeral song for him while cleaning his body when she arrived. She was disappointed to not find him here that she almost didn't realize Niko was gone. 

She froze, feeling as if an ice cold bucket of water had been dumped over her. "Where is he? Has he awaken?"

"No child. I asked him to be moved to the main hall with the others. Be safer there than here. 

The relief she felt was immense so much so she had to sit down. She could cry right then and there.

This had to stop.

She couldn't keep it up forever. The constant terror and worry was draining and now they had to deal with a possible attack. It was too much for her to handle. She couldn't possibly imagine what Vaas must be going through too.

And that too! He was missing and who knows where he went. It was driving her crazy with worry. 

She just needed everything to slow down for a moment. Let her catch up and process all this quietly and peacefully in her own time. But that's not how it works. Life waits for nobody.

She had to be strong. Citra can't break down, not right now. 

It was her fault she's gotten herself into this mess and she has pulled Vaas along down with her. Like she always does.

No. Not anymore. It was time for her to do something. 

It was time for her to finish what she started.

Chapter Text

Niko could pass away in his sleep. There wont be a sound nor a peep. She could take his pillow and smother him with it. Everyone will think he succumbed to his injuries.

Or she could poison him. Pass it off as a sudden freak fever from a hidden infection.

No guns or knifes or bows. It had to look like it was natural.

It would be easy too. When the privateers come to attack, all the warriors will be too busy fighting to notice or defend their injured. She could sneak into the main hall without being seen and do the deed. 

That is... if she can do the deed. Thinking of killing someone, imagining it in your head was completely different than actually doing it

She knows she's done it before. Sort of. She wasn't technically the one to physically kill him but same thing, right? 

She is fine. She can do this.

But it felt wrong. So, so wrong. She was murdering someone to cover up her mistake. Her stupid, stupid mistake.

Every time she looks back at what she's done, she wonders why? Why did she do that? It made so much sense at the moment, but now, looking back with a clear head, it was utterly stupid and crazy. What had come over her to think killing Niko was the right thing to do? What was she thinking?

He was turning Vaas against her.

No. No. Wrong. That is not correct.

Or is it?

Thinking about it now, it did sound reasonable. Niko is the cause of all this pain and suffering. He needs to disappear. Never exist. Get rid of him completely. It'll make everything better.

Citra closed her eyes, gritting her teeth. She breathed in and out, forcing herself to calm down but it felt like something in her chest wanted to explode. She started pacing back and forth to release that built up energy.

No, no, no. Stop thinking like that! If she starts thinking like that then it'll be hard for her to stop thinking like that because her reality will start to shift and everyone won't be who they are and what she does won't be what she wants to do and what she says won't be what she wants to say and- and... She just needs... to calm down. Think rationally.

She is OK. This is real. She is real. She is the one in control. She has control. 

KILL HIM!

Breathe. Breathe. 

Now, once again. What does she need to do?

Kill Niko.

Why?

To stop him from revealing who really tried to kill him.

She let out a sigh. That wasn't so hard.

"Citra, what are you doing?"

She jumped and faced the door. She didn't even hear Tane enter. Her uncle looked concerned, his eyes flickering to the blade in her hand.

Odd. She forgot she was holding that.

"Nothing," She tossed the knife on the table. "I was going to cut apples." 

He opened his mouth to say something but closed it and shook his head. "Where is Vaas?"

"I don't know. I thought he was with you."

"He's not." Tane rubbed his chin displeased. "You have your knife?" Citra nodded and unsheathed the medium-sized blade strapped to her hip. "Good. Listen, the council has decided that every women, elderly and child must go to Amanaki Town. It is safer there in case we do not win this battle."

"We will win." She said confidently.

Despite the seriousness in his face, he managed to crack a tired smile. "Yes, we will. But in case, I want you to go with them."

"What?" Citra felt her mouth go dry. "No. No I have to stay here. I have to-"

"Citra, Citra!" He took a hold of her shoulders, "Please, do not fight me on this. I'm only doing what's best for you."

"But I can help! I can fight!" Say whatever, she just needed to stay.

Tane shook his head, "You know I can't allow you to do that. I won't be able to forgive myself if anything were to happen to you. Your Father won't forgive me either." 

Her mind raced with a billion of thoughts on how to stay, what to do, what to say. "What about Niko? Will he come with us to Amanaki?"

"No. He and the rest of the injured must stay here. If we take them then the diplomat and the other foreigners will know something is wrong. They know nothing about the privateers. If we do.. lose we will use them as a bargaining chip to save our people." Tane didn't look pleased when he said that.

Citra frowned, "But you said we gave them our word we will keep them safe."

"If we can keep them safe. I don't like it either, but I won't let our people be slaughtered like animals when there is no chance. Rakyat must do what we must to survive."

She bit her lip, "I understand... and I will go to Amanaki Town." 

His body deflated in relief and he hugged her. "Thank you. Now, are you ready? Come, everyone is leaving now."

 

 

Citra made sure to linger at the back-end of the crowd. Tane hugged her again and left. In uncertain times, he was named Chief, if only temporarily and he was needed elsewhere. 

She gazed at the crowd, seeing all their scared confused faces. Funny, the only thing Citra felt was anxiety. Not fear, but anxious to get it over with. End Niko and be free.

Someone calling her name brought her out of her thoughts. Citra turned and saw it was Kalai. The older girl approached with her little sister and grandma in tow.

"I'm glad I found you. I don't mean to put this burden on you, but can you look after my sis and my gramma. Please?" 

Well that put a damper on her mood. This was ruining her plan. "Aren't you coming with us?"

Kalai grabbed her bow, "I'm staying."

"Does my Uncle know of this?"

"He does. He needs every available warrior to fight. Guess that includes me, too." Kalai's little sister whined and latched onto her older sister's legs. Citra could relate. Difference is there was no Vaas to hold on to. Was he not worried about her? Where is he?

"I'm not scared though." Kalai grinned, "I'm gonna get revenge for me and Niko. And every privateer I shoot down will be in honor of your Father." 

"Thank you," Citra muttered distractedly, looking around for even the slightest hint of her brother.

Kalai noticed her behavior. "Has Vaas already said goodbye?"

"No, I haven't seen him since the last meeting." She felt her eyes burn threatening to spill tears. "I don't know where he could be."

"He's probably holed up somewhere. He'll come around." Kalai said and hugged her reassuringly. The older girl then hugged her sister and grandma before jogging off. Citra was still hoping to see Vaas when Kalai's little sister held her hand.

"We're going." The little girl said quietly.

Citra squashed down her disappointment, covering it with anger. Guess she didn't matter to him. If he didn't care where she was then she didn't care where he was or if he's ok. He can go ahead and get shot for all she cares because she doesn't care. Why should she care for someone who doesn't care for her. 

While they followed the herd out of the village, Citra fantasized Vaas being shot in the chest. It would be pouring rain and he would be laying down on the muddy ground, his blood streaming like a river, mixing into the small rainwater puddles in the earth. Smaller rivers of blood, like spiderwebs, would pool into the dips of his collarbone. His adam's apple would bob up and down as he tries to breath or cough the blood in his throat out. His lips would be parted and his eyes, his beautiful cosmic eyes would be wide open in the realization he is dying.

She found the imagery her mind produced to be... erotic.

Or. Or.

She could be on top of him, straddling his chest, shoving the barrel of the gun inside his mouth.

Make him cry. Make him bleed.

Make him regret not caring about Citra. That will teach him a lesson.

Citra dwelled on the idea a bit more, savoring how good it made her feel, before shoving it to the back of her mind. No time for fantasies. They were amusing but she had work to do. 

Inserting a finger in between her wrist and a bracelet she wore, she snapped the string holding the trinkets together. Tiny skull beads fell and scattered on the ground. Citra cursed quietly and bent down to pick up the pieces. The little girl and her grandma stopped to wait for Citra but she waved them to go on without her.

She pretended to search, and kept up the act until the last person behind the line passed her. As soon as she was sure no one was looking, she dashed into the jungle and proceeded to make her way back.

 

The sun was beginning to sink by the time she reached the village. The battle will begin any moment now. She was hidden in some shrubbery, just beyond the line of sight.

Strangely enough, the village was dead quiet and appeared deserted. She knew a lot of people left to Amanaki Town, but she expected to at least see a warrior or someone patrolling the area. Where could they have all gone? 

There was no time to figure out the answer to her question. The privateers were here. 

They arrived in a squadron of cars; five normal cars and one large cargo truck. Her heart sunk when she saw more privateers emerge from back of the cargo truck. There were a lot more privateers than she expected. One car was parked a little ways ahead of the rest. A man, no doubt Jack, brought a megaphone this time. When he talked, she could hear him loud and clear. 

"We're back and we've come to collect. Now, are we going to be civil about this or do we have to be the bad guys? Believe me, I don't like being the bad guy. I don't like feeling like a dick. So please, show yourselves and hand over the diplomats." He paused, waiting for a reply but he was met with silence. Citra watched him shake his head and say something to the rest of his squad. In must have been some confirmation to proceed since the group from the cargo truck moved forward in a tight circle. From where she was, they looked like a bunch of ants clustered together. She lost sight of them when they entered the village.

Nothing happened for a long while. She was nervous at first, straining her ears to hear something, anything: Sound of gunfire, painful screams, battle cries of the Rakyat. But the silence remained.

What was going on?

An explosion to her left caught her off guard, making her jump. One of the cars had caught on fire. The men inside scrambled out, shouting obscenities and aiming their guns at the jungle.

Citra didn't know what happened until she spotted an arrow zooming through the air. It hit the flaming car, and she gasped as the vehicle exploded! It shot straight up into the air and over, landing upside down with a loud crash. 

A cacophony of war cries rose in all directions, like a monstrous beast awakening from its slumber. All at once they came from the jungle, Rakyat warriors charging to meet their enemies. Arrows upon arrows were released, striking privateers down and sticking to the sides of the cars.

Now was a good time as any to make a break for the village. 

She dashed from her hiding spot and ran as fast as she could while trying to remain invisible. She could hear the loud battle being taken place to her left but she didn't chance a glance to see how they were fairing. Getting to the main hall must be her number one focus. Each time a warrior happened to run past her she would crouch, hoping they hadn't seen her. Thankfully, they were more focused on destroying their enemies than to notice her. 

Unbeknownst to Citra, a privateer operating the mounted machine gun had his throat slit. As he died gurgling his own blood, he still had a firm grip of the handles so when he began to slump down the machine gun swerved erratically, its line of fire passing over the area she happened to be.

Thunderous tiny earthquakes shook the very ground under her feet. Citra glanced behind her to see chunks of earth being thrown into the sky from an impact so strong it blew smoke everywhere. A frightened cry tore from her lips as she was knocked off her feet by an impossible force of power. She landed on her shoulder and rolled a few times to a stop. 

It took her a moment to regain herself. She blinked rapidly, trying to clear the dizziness in her head and to stop the sky from moving. There was a loud ringing in her ears that didn't fade. She panicked, horror filling her at the thought that she was deaf. With a grunt, Citra tried to get up. She screamed in terror when a large object fell on her, pining her down.

Immediately she tried pushing it off. She managed to lift it a little but gasped when blood poured like a waterfall onto her. It was then she realized she was holding up a torso. And connected to said torso was arms and a head and- Oh god! Get off her, get off her!   

With all her strength, she kept the body lifted long enough for her to wiggle her lower waist out. She flipped over and dug her nails into the ground, dragging the rest of herself free. She scrapped both her knees standing up. For a horrifying moment, she looked back at the body thinking it would be Tane or Vaas that fell on her. It wasn't, and the relief she felt was indescribable. 

The sound of continuing gunshots snapped her out of her little reprieve, reminding her she was still out in the open. Citra took a moment to look at the battle, watching in slow motion Rakyat warriors gunned down like wild animals.

So many people dying. So much ruthless violence. Was Tane among them? Was Vaas still fighting? She wished she can go search for them but she had to trust that they were ok. They were fine warriors, both of them. They can handle themselves. 

Focus, Citra. Focus on the mission.

Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to continue forward.

They are fine. They are fine. Vaas is fine. He's OK. He is o-k. 

An image of Vaas being the body that fell on her freaked her out. Her legs wobbled and she almost fell. She managed to catch herself and ran even faster.

He's not dead. He's not dead. He's fine. They're fine. They're all going to be fine. No one is going to die. Not Vaas. Not him. Focus. Focus!

She collided into the side of a house, gripping onto it as a sob wracked her body. She didn't know how she did it, but she let go and ran down the pathway, ducking every time she heard gunfire. Once or twice she felt and heard a stray bullet zooming past her.

Citra went around a bend and spotted the main hall. It used to be the regular old main hall, but now it was like a heavenly sanctuary among all this chaos.

She sprint to it and she was sure with how fast she was going she could outrun a tiger. She skidded to a halt and leaped for cover behind the side of the main hall when two Rakyat warriors appeared at the entrance.

That was too close. She was almost seen.

Cautiously, she peeked around the corner and cursed under her breath when they were still there.

Ok. Ok. Think Citra. Where's another way to get in. 

She stomped her feet. Of course! There was a window in the room last time she remembered. Keeping her footsteps light, she went to the other side of the building and found the window. It was closed shut, but with a few good pushes, the flimsy wooden latch broke. She held it open and struggled to slip through the tiny space. She yelped when she fell onto the hard floor.

Citra held her breath, eyes wide in fear that she had woken someone up. Luckily, her patients remained sleeping. Thank her ancestors the battle hasn't reached the main hall yet. It was still relatively quiet in this area. With no time to waste, Citra approached Niko's unconscious form. 

Time seemed to have gone by so fast that it perturbed her that everything was slowing down. 

Sweat accumulated on her forehead, and for the first time she felt a throbbing ache in her shoulder, no doubt a large bruise was in the process of forming.

She was numb again by the time she stood staring down at Niko.

She can do this. She is Rakyat. She is not afraid.

Her brothers are out there fighting a real fight. Killing and dying. This should be easy.

Just do it. Grab the pillow and place it over his face! Come on. Do it!

This is easy. She can do this. She can do this.

Don't look at his face.

Don't look at him.

Just do it. 

Just do it.

Just do it!

Her hand trembled as she reached for his pillow.

Her brain was starting to go funny. She couldn't think straight. Her vision blurred. It felt like she was leaving her body and someone else was controlling it.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she registered hearing loud, heavy footsteps close by.

Someone stopped at the doorway. "Well, well. You're not supposed to be here." 

Citra froze and turned around slowly, dreading to see one of the guards. But it wasn't. It was someone much, much worse. 

The privateer cocked his helmeted head and laughed. "Don't be scared. I'm not gonna hurt ya." He stepped towards her and she backed away only to be met with Niko's bed preventing her from going further backwards. The privateer advanced on her, outstretching his hand. A zip of adrenaline shot through her and in a flash she unsheathed the blade on her hip and took a swipe at him. "Whoa!" He jumped back laughing, doing a quick examination of his cut hand. Citra made another swipe at him but he dodged it easily. They circled one another, Citra keeping the blade pointed directly at him, ignoring the way her hand shook.

The privateer held up the hand she cut. "Okay for that, I might hurt you a little bit." He charged, taking her by surprise. Citra didn't know what to do, her mind blanked. She closed her eyes and felt the air being knocked out off her. If she had to describe what if felt like, it would probably feel like being hit by a car head on. Her back hit the ground and stars burst in font of her eyes when her head followed.

He didn't allow her enough time to regain her senses. Strong thick fingers wrapped around her throat and tightened in a vice-like grip. He used his free hand and stroked her cheek. "Sorry love, nothing personal." He said through the blood rushing in her ears. "Wrong place. Wrong time."

The edges of her vision was starting to darken. Her lungs screamed for air. She slapped lazily at his face, his hands, his chest, desperately hoping to find a way to get him off her.

Her mind was slipping...

Suddenly, the pressure around her neck was gone. Her body instinctively sucked in air before her brain could catch up and realize she was no longer being chocked. It hurt to breath, every inhale and exhale causing pain in her throat. Citra forced away the dizziness and trained her eyes on the privateer. She didn't understand what she was seeing at first. Someone's hands were attacking the privateer's face. Citra didn't have time to question who though. 

She groped for the knife that fell from her hand when she was knocked down and with a ferocious scream she drove it through the privateer's neck. He froze and she took the opportunity to pull him down next to her. She rolled off the floor and dug her knee into his abdomen, yanking out the knife. Blood sprayed everywhere, wetting her face, chest arms, hands-

Citra grit her teeth and stabbed his throat. Then again and again.

A disturbing whistling sounded with each ragged breath she took. Adrenaline still coursed through her veins, and it took her awhile to realize her hand was still clamped around the knife embedded into the man's neck. Her knuckles were white from how hard she was holding it. With quivering fingers, she pried off her stiff ones one at a time.

She sat back and stared at her bloody hands. Slowly, she looked up and saw Vaas standing at the doorway. 

"Vaas?..." She whispered hoarsely.

Her voice seemed to snap him out of whatever trance he was in. Vaas stormed over to her and hefted her up like she weighed nothing. 

"Citra, are you OK? Are you hurt? Did he hurt you?" Her brother checked her body, smearing blood over his fingers.

"That's not mine." She said and winced at how much it hurt to talk. His head snapped up at how terrible her voice sounded. His face screwed up in as much pain as she physically felt. He touched her neck softly and drew his hand away when she winced again. 

Vaas looked utterly destroyed. His eyes welled with tears as he placed his forehead against hers, holding her close afraid to let go. "What are you doing here?" His voice cracked, "You were supposed to be in Amanaki Town. You were supposed to be somewhere safe."

Citra answered by looking at Niko.

She wasn't surprised to see the boy awake, staring back at the siblings. Someone distracted the privateer before he could kill her. It just so happened to be him. 

Vaas' demeanor changed from distraught to dangerously calm. Niko froze like a deer in headlights. He looked between the two and shuffled back in his bed. "Wait... Wait..." He stumbled over his words, panic settling into his eyes. "I won't tell. I promise, I promise I won't say anything! Vaas, Vaas brother, please don't do this. Don't do this!"

Vaas didn't seem to hear him. Her brother stood stock still, staring at the dead Privateer. He moved and Niko flinched, expecting Vaas to do something to him but instead Vaas bent down and unholstered the dead man's gun. He examined the gun and then pointed it straight at Niko.

"No, no, no! Wait! Wait! I saved her! I saved your sister! I saved her!" Niko yelled, pointing a shaky finger at Citra. 

Vaas kept the gun aimed at him and looked at Citra. "Is that true?"

Those three, little words. Is. That. True.

She could lie. She could lie and say Niko was lying. There would be nothing stopping Vaas from killing him then. He won't be bound by honor or debt. Niko dies and everything will be alright. 

The power of fate was in the palm of her hand. All she needed to do was lie. 

Citra nodded her head. 

It was true. She told the truth because everything will be alright. Niko said he won't tell anybody and she believes him. He did, after all, save her life. He could have let her be chocked to death. If he wanted misfortune upon her he wouldn't have helped her. 

And how could she lie to Vaas. How could she let him live his life knowing she's made him commit murder to an innocent man. It was wrong. She didn't want to hurt him anymore. Sacrificing herself was worth it, if it meant sacrificing herself for him. 

Citra relaxed, knowing everything was all over now.

Niko relaxed too when he heard her tell the truth. 

Vaas bowed his head, lowering the gun. He looked at Citra, their eyes locking onto each others and-

She knew something was wrong.

Vaas raised the gun, pointed it at Niko and pulled the trigger.

Niko's head snapped back and he slumped onto the bed, smoke twirling upwards from a bullet-sized hole in the middle of his forehead. 

A panicky cry came from their left. One patient had awoken, the rest waking up too.

Citra tried to come up with something to say to them. An excuse or- or-

Vaas put two bullets into the man.

Citra gasped. She stood frozen, watching Vaas shoot dead one by one the rest of the patients. One man managed to scramble out of his bed and limp towards the door unnoticed. Vaas scowled and unlocked the chamber, letting the empty clip clatter on the ground. He swooped down and picked up a loaded clip and slammed it in. Citra stumbled after Vaas as he followed the injured warrior to the meeting room. 

The man struggled to go faster, his painful whimpers striking a cord in Citra. She had taken care of that same warrior a few days ago. He fought side by side with their father.

Vaas strolled after him and stopped when he was right behind the warrior.

"Don't-" She said, her voice barely above a whisper. She doubted Vaas heard her. 

The warrior cried out and collapsed. She thought he would die instantly but he kept going. He crawled to the exit leaving a bloody trail. He was crying, calling out for someone she did not know. He stretched out his arm and died with someones name on his lips.

Silence.

Dead, heavy silence.

She couldn't tear her eyes away from the dead man. The dead man Vaas killed. Outright murdered. A Rakyat warrior. Their tribe brother. He killed him.

Vaas... He opened the chamber to see how many bullets he had left and closed it with a snap, jolting Citra from her frozen state. Her brother scratched his head with the barrel of the gun and turned towards Citra. She didn't dare look away as he approached her.

Her brother... his eyes were blank. Cold. Empty. He rested his forehead against hers, cupping her cheek and used his thumb to wipe away the blood on her face. He breathed her in, his eyes fluttering shut. He held it and exhaled deeply, re-opening them.

He didn't say anything when he led her back to the separate room. Citra paused, taking in the chaos Vaas created. Blood everywhere, bodies strewn about. It was horrifying but because Vaas was the one who caused this... it wasn't so bad to her.

"You came back to check on Niko. You liked him and you couldn't leave him alone." Vaas crouched and placed the gun in the privateer's hand. "When you arrived, it was too late." He pointed to the dead privateer. "He killed everyone. You killed him in revenge." Vaas stood up and wiped his hands on his shorts. He approached Citra again, cupping her face with both hands. "Do you understand, Citra? That's how it went. That's what you will tell people when they ask what happened here. Do you understand?"

Citra gently removed his hands from her face and traced a finger along his cheekbone. "Say you want me."

Vaas connected their foreheads. She could see the storm in his eyes. The promise of a dangerous desire.

"I love you." He kissed her softly, making sure not to hurt her. Citra tasted the rage on his lips and it drove her to oblivion. 

The feel of his lips molding against hers set every inch of her body on fire. Funny enough, it felt like being strangled again but without the pain and with all the pleasure. Her hands sought out to touch him, feel him. She ran them over the muscles in his shoulders, snaking them down his torso and under and up his shirt. Her nails lightly scratched the dips and curves carved into the expanse of his skin and touching him like this, feeling his muscles contract under her touch and the texture of his skin, it started a fire in the pit of her stomach.

Vaas groaned into her mouth, deepening the kiss. She felt his fingers grazing her neck, then brushing her arms and waist but they never stayed for long. It was as if he was scared of touching her but he could't resist at the same time. He finally settled on cupping the back of her head, massaging it while his other hand pressed against her lower back.

She knows he wants more. He wants to press harder, kiss deeper but he was so, so careful, treating her like she was a fragile artifact. What was he so afraid of? Did he really think he can break her?

She wants to break him. Tear him open and expose him. She wants to hide herself underneath his skin where he can keep her warm. Where his blood can flow through hers and vice versa. Where their hearts can beat as one and someday stop as one.

She wants to become the love that drives him mad.

Oh it was so painful now! Not having him closer to her! Closer! Closer, she needs him closer!

She needs to feel him. She needs him to fill up the emptiness inside of her; take away the sadness.

Citra breathed him in, trying to suck away his soul. She ignored the burning in her throat. She can endure any and all pain if it meant she gets to have him. It was worth it, ten times over and over and over... Her tongue flickered out, brushing against his. The feeling was instantaneous. Hot, fiery desire exploded like a fire cracker in the night. A thrilling hunger for more shot down her body straight to her lower region making it tingle with excitement.

Her mind was reduced to thinking more, more, more! 

Nothing else mattered. Her world shrunk to Vaas: the feel of his lips, the hot wetness in his mouth and the feeling it gave her each time he moaned. Citra stuck her tongue in his mouth again and she was pleasantly surprised when his met hers.

Oh it might be the lack of oxygen in her brain but how wonderful a feeling it is!

But it was still not enough.

She wanted more and she was going to have more.

Citra slipped her hands out from under his shirt and latched onto the buttons of his shorts. Vaas made a sound and did something horrible: he stopped kissing her.

"No. No." He breathed, catching his breath and rubbing his lips on her cheek.

Citra caught her breath too, or tried to. Her throat burned something fierce and she would stop breathing if only to alleviate the pain. It didn't help that every time she inhaled and exhaled it was accompanied by a disturbing whistling noise. Vaas noticed it, too. She knew the moment was over when the fire in his eyes died, replaced with concern.

Vaas took her chin and tilted her head gently, examining the angry red hand print marked across her neck. His face darkened and she was sure if the privateer was still alive he would be wishing he wasn't. Vaas released her chin and ran his thumb under her left eye. She didn't know it then, but her eye was bloodshot red.

Her brother inhaled deeply through his nose, his face twisted in fury. He looked away and exhaled, releasing the tension in his body.

"I'm sorry Citra." He said. "I won't let anyone ever hurt you again. I promise. I'll kill them. I'll fucking kill them all."

Citra wished to say something back. Express her appreciation at hearing those words. Instead, she cupped his cheek and made him look at her. Their eyes locked and she smiled. His eyes flickered to her lips before he leaned in and gave short chaste pecks.

"Let's go." He said, licking his lips. Citra nodded distractedly, her attention drawn to the flash of his pink tongue. She followed Vaas to the doorway and paused for a fraction of a second, gazing at the dead men. A hollow feeling clenched inside her chest. 

Goodbye, she thought and hurried after her brother.

 

  

 

Vaas picked her up by her waist and hoisted her over the dead body blocking the exit. Right outside, Citra discovered the two warriors guarding the main hall laying motionless on the ground. One had his neck snapped and the other his throat slit. She wanted to ask if he did it but she remembered the privateer must have gone in somehow and aside for the window, the only way in was through the front door.

The night sky was lit up by flaming houses. The second they stepped out of the main hall they were immersed in hot smoke and were drenched in sweat equally fast. Citra coughed violently as she breathed in a mouth full of smoke. She winced in pain, tears welling in her eyes. She panicked when it became a struggle to breath. 

Calm. Calm. Stay focused. Have to find a way out. Breath slowly. Hold your breath if she has to just don't panic.

Vaas unholstered his gun. "Stay close to me." He said, holding her hand in a firm grip and pulling her closer to him. They didn't make it three steps before three privateers popped out of nowhere. Vaas instinctively raised his gun, putting himself in front of her. 

"Put your weapons down! Put it down!" One of them shouted. Citra peeked around Vaas and was blinded by a bright light coming from one of their attached flashlights. It was gone a moment later, allowing her vision back just in time to catch sight of a dark figure on top of one of the burning houses adjacent to them. The person leapt from the edge of the house, landing and rolling to a stop right behind the privateer in the middle.

Kalai drew her blade and slid it upward into the privateer's back. The soldier let out a small gasp, alerting his comrades of her presence. Kalai moved quicker than they could react. She pulled the blade out with relative ease, flipped it with a flick of her wrist and in one fluid motion twirled around and sliced the soldier's neck to her left. She would have dug the blade into the other's neck but the privateer raised his arm and blocked her strike. He stepped around and banged his helmeted head against hers making her stumble back. The man aimed his gun at her but before he could shoot he cried out as Vaas shot him down.

"Thanks," Kalai said gratefully, rubbing her head.

Vaas approached her pulling Citra along. "What's going on? They shouldn't be so close to the main hall. Where's Tane?"

"He's with the others. They're driving back the privateers." The older girl glanced at the men she just killed. "They must have hidden somewhere. There could be more of them..." Kalai squinted at Citra. "Citra? Is that you? What are you doing here? You're supposed to be with my sister in Amanaki Town!" Citra opened her mouth to say something, running through the script again in her mind. It turns out she didn't have to explain herself. Kalai was more interested in the fact she was covered in blood. "Oh my god, you're bleeding."

"It's not hers." Vaas cut in, blocking Kalai when she tried to reach for his little sister. "I'll explain later but right now we have to get out of here!" Vaas said when Kalai gave him a confused look. 

"Wait, wait!" Kalai pointed to the main hall. "We have to get the diplomat and the other foreigners. Tane sent me to get them." 

"They're not there." Citra rasped. She was surprised as the rest of them. It dawned on her that she did not see the outsiders. They were supposed to be inside that room. They would've been dead if they were. 

"They probably ran when they heard fighting outside." Vaas speculated. 

Kalai cursed and looked around as if she could find the outsiders hiding in the shadows. Instead she was greeted by an entire squad of privateers too many for them to fight and just their luck, Jack was the one leading them. The man was bloodied and bruised but he smiled when he saw them. 

"You came too late. They're long gone!" Kalai shouted, settling into a fighting stance.

"Oh I know." Jack grinned, far too happy for someone who just failed their mission. "I just received word that the diplomat and his buddies are safely en route to our camp." His grin widened at the shocked looks on their faces. "Isn't it funny? They're the ones who came to us!"

The man laughed and Vaas growled in response. "Then why are you here?" 

Jack's laughter died down into a chuckle. "To tie up loose ends." He said menacingly with a sneer. "Kill the boy and take the girls. They'll be worth a few dollars, I think." The privateers collectively pointed their guns at Vaas but all except one. 

"Jack, they're just kids." An unnamed soldier spoke out.

"Tough shit, man." Jack snapped. "Look jungle bunny, you knew what you were getting into when you signed up for this job. Volker doesn't pay you to grow a goddamn conscience so why don't you be a good little monkey and do as you are told. Got that, nigger? Now can we please get this over with? I'd like to eat dinner on time for once-" He stopped talking suddenly. 

"What did I tell you would happen if you called me that again." The unnamed privateer snarled, digging the barrel of his gun into Jack's head.

Jack raised his hands and laughed but this time it was without his usual bravado. "What the fuck do you think you are doing?"

"I am tired of taking your shit. I took it back in America but I refuse to take it here!" The unnamed privateer said. He clocked his gun when his comrades turned on him. Jack shouted for them to stand down.

"You're fucking done." Jack chuckled. "You're done, you hear me! You can kiss your ass and your paycheck goodbye because when I'm through with you you'll be shark chowder!"

"That may be true but at least I won't be taking orders from you anymore." The unnamed privateer cocked his head at them. "Go on! Get out of here!"

Citra didn't know what would have happened after that. Maybe they would have escaped unharmed thanks to the kindness of one random privateer. Maybe they would have been shot anyways. Who knows because neither two options happened. 

They moved silently like ghosts. The group of soldiers were dispatched quicker than humanely possible. Some were killed while others were incapacitated. 

Citra, Vaas and Kalai stood back to back as tribal warriors circled them, hooting and hollering, jabbing spears at them when one of them would try to step forward.

"Hey, hey! We're on the same side, right brothers?" Vaas said flippantly with a charming grin. Citra rolled her eyes. How does her brother always find a way to be facetious in a humorless situation. He's going to get them more in trouble than they already are.

"Put down your weapons!" Someone barked. Vaas and Kalai did as told, albeit with much reluctance. As soon as they were weaponless, two tribal men tied Vaas and Kalai's wrists behind their backs while another two shoved potato bags over their heads.

Citra grew alarmed. She stepped towards Vaas, his name on her lips when a sudden heat wave hit her with full force. She sucked in smoke and began coughing violently so much so it wracked her lungs. Her vision blurred and the world spun around her. She faintly registered falling, then something catching her.

The last thing she saw before darkness took her was the face of Zuraidah peering down at her. 

"Citra..." His voice sounded so far, far away.

Citra...

Chapter Text

Breathe...

Breathe...

She can't breathe...

Something was holding her down underwater. Citra claws at the hand wrapped around her throat. Her vision was distorted by the water but she could see it; the demon. It wanted to cleanse her. Rebirth her anew.

The rushing water faded to silence. 

The sky brightened. The great flaming rocks passed overhead signalling a turning in the tides. The water rushed away and she went along with it down... down... down...

Citra came to in a cold sweat. Automatically she reached for her neck having felt something strange on it. When she drew her hand back her fingertips were lathered in a mud like substance. She took a whiff of it and smelled aloe vera. It was a healing clay. She would have kept it on longer but the mud was beginning to dry and crack in some places. Groaning, Citra sat up and began wiping off the mud.

"You mustn't get up!" A girl she hadn't noticed was in the room with her said. The girl grabbed a cloth and rushed to help Citra with her task.

"It's ok," Citra said. She preferred not to be touched but the girl began taking off the mud anyways. A sudden coughing onslaught hit her. Her eyes burned with tears from the pain it wrought. She almost had a heart attack when another girl appeared out of nowhere with a cup of water. Citra downed it like a dying man. She cleared her throat and said thank you to the girl. Oddly enough, the girl gave Citra a strange look before gasping and adverting her eyes.

Citra thought it strange but ignored it. She then looked around, taking in her surroundings but it was all unfamiliar to her. She was in a room she has never seen before. By the design of it, it looked almost similar to the ancient ruins she and Vaas would explore but those were all abandoned, dark and damp. This place was lit up by sunlight streaming from two square openings in the wall and it felt lively. Like someone had been living here for ages.

"What happened? Where am I?" She remembered last night. Sneaking off to get to Niko. Having almost been strangled to death and killing said privateer. Vaas... shooting Niko and then shooting the rest... Being surrounded by privateers and then the tribal men coming to their "rescue". Vaas being detained and she tried to go to him but... but she fell and Zuraidah caught her...

"You were injured." One of the girls answered. "You were brought here to heal." 

That answered everything and nothing at the same time. "Who are you?" She asked next.

"I am Hana and she is Rui. We have been chosen since we were little to serve you and now that you have returned we will do so until our spirits depart to the afterlife." Hana said, keeping her head bowed. Citra was stunned into silence. She didn't know what to say. Serve her? Chosen? What were they going on about? And where was her brother? Citra didn't have anytime to ask these questions since Hana began talking again. "Now that you have awoken, I must get Jebiya." She bowed to Citra and fled the room. 

Citra didn't know who this Jebiya was and frankly she didn't care at the moment. Her main concern was finding Vaas and making sure he was ok. She turned to the other girl still in the room and demanded more than asked where her brother was.

"He is outside near the ancient tree. Your friend is with him too." Rui answered, her eyes trained on the ground. 

Citra didn't mean to sound so rude but anything concerning her brother, especially his well-being, brought out the worst in her. Citra would have left already to find him on her own if it weren't for the fact she didn't know where the ancient tree was and she would have probably gotten lost on her way to get there and who knows who she'll bump into along the way.

"Why don't you look at me?" Citra asked, unable to tame her curiosity. It was bothering her. 

"We are your servants. We are unworthy to look at your greatness." 

Again, Citra didn't know what to say to that. Everything here was becoming stranger and stranger by the minute. She didn't like it. She just wanted to find Vaas and once she was with him again they can both try and find out what was going on together. 

"It's... fine. You can look at me." Hesitantly, as if unsure if Citra was joking or not, Rui raised her head and looked at her. "Can you take me to my brother?" Citra asked.

Rui looked uncertain. "But Hana is coming back with Jebiya. He ordered us to fetch him when you awake."

That didn't sound good. Citra didn't want to wait for this man. She wanted to find Vaas and find him now. "Hana said you serve me, right?" Rui nodded. "Well then, I want to see my brother. Take me to him. Please." Citra cringed at the last part. She didn't mean to say please. It just came out. The whole commanding thing was awkward to her. 

"I'm sorry. As you wish." Rui said with a bow and lead Citra out of the room and down a windowless corridor lit up only by the light coming from torches hanging by the walls. They took steps down and exited onto a wide grassy plain. There was no one save for a few guards who stared at them as they passed. Citra barely noticed. Her attention was drawn to the magnificent building protruding upwards like an arrow to the sky. It was a sight to behold! Wonder filled her and for the first time she had a hint of where she was.

The ancient temple. The temple she's only heard of but never seen. She's dreamed of seeing this temple since she was young. From the stories it sounded so great and mysterious. This was the birth place of the Rakyat. Their ancestors built this temple long ago and it began a long dynasty of their ultimate rule. No longer were they simple tribes scattered divided amongst themselves. They were an empire. They had armies and they fought countless epic bloody battles. In the olden times, it was said the greatest of warriors went into battle with tigers at their side! 

Oh how she craved to explore every inch of the temple! She knows that if allowed, she would spend days wandering these halls, uncovering secrets of the past. Her desire was diluted at the thought of her brother. Vaas came first. No matter what.

Rui lead Citra back into one of the temple's hallways. Citra got one last look at the wondrous structure before entering into a poorly lit up passage way. As they passed through, she happened to notice strange markings- no drawings on the walls. It was too dark to make out what they were of and Rui was already exiting at the end of the passage way. Perhaps in another time she can come back and look at them properly.

A ginormous tree covered in painted swirly white lines greeted them outside. It dominated the area they were in, its branches long and thick stretching to the very corners of the clearing. Surrounding the area were tall brick walls, high enough that she couldn't see above them. There were more people out here; warriors training under the shade provided by the leaves of the tree, women tending to their young or cooking by the fire, and children running around chasing a monkey. 

"This way." Rui said and walked around the tree. Citra followed and slowed to a stop. 

"Vaas.." She whispered, relief flooding her at the sight of her brother well and okay. He wasn't tied up with a bag over his head. He was OK. Kalai was with him. They appeared to be talking to Zuraidah and a bunch of other warriors. Recalling the last time those two met, this should't be good. Citra drew nearer, masking her presence for the time being.

"I heard you were taught by the great Tane himself." Zuraidah boasted. "I was too young to have trained with him myself and by the time I was of age he was long gone. I would like to see how his teachings have passed on to his students. How about a friendly match between brothers? To see who has the better teacher. What do you say?"

Don't do it, Vaas. Citra knew her brother could beat Zuraidah. He was far greater than him but she didn't want Vaas to cause any trouble. He was reckless sometimes and she wished he could be wise just for once. Citra sometimes feared what her brother could do if she weren't around to keep him out of trouble. 

As expected, Vaas uncrossed his arms and moved forward to accept the challenge when Kalai nudged him aside.

"I accept." She said casually with her head held high.

The group of warriors burst out laughing. Zuraidah looked at her uncertainly. "I do not harm women."

Kalai smirked and settled into a fighting stance. "It's a good thing you won't be doing much of the harming then."

"Remember, you brought this on yourself." Zuraidah matched her smirk with his own. Kalai tsked and attacked first, charging at him. She jumping at the last second, using her momentum to drive her punch harder than her own force. Zuraidah dodged it and landed a blow to her unprotected side. He pivoted around swept his legs along the ground, knocking her off her feet. Everyone let out collective oohs when she fell flat on her back. That must have hurt. 

Zuraidah looked less than impressed and turned around.

"One more time." Kalai said, picking herself off the floor.

"I do not want to hurt you more." He sighed.

"You're not." She retorted snippily.

Zuraidah sighed again and faced her. This time, Kalai didn't rush in. They circled each other, Kalai sometimes faking him out by lunging forward and then retreating. Citra didn't know why she was doing that. It made the girl look cowardly. Finally, Kalai did attack. Zuraidah raised him arms, shielding his chest and face but she didn't aim there. She kicked him swiftly on his lower side and again for two times until the last one he caught her by the ankle and jerked her forward causing her to lose her balance and hit the ground.

The warriors mocked her. Vaas threatened them to shut up. Citra was going to make herself known before things got worse when Kalai got up again, rolled her neck and said, "One more time."

"No," Zuraidah replied. "You lost. It is done."

"One more time." She insisted with a smile.

Zuraidah huffed and obliged. He threw the first punch. Kalai didn't even move. She turned her head, his fist passing centimeters from her face. Like a snake striking its prey, her hand shot out snatching his wrist. With her free hand she jabbed at the spot where she kicked him earlier and punched his stomach then the middle of his chest, making him gasp. With a grunt, she turned around, crouched and flipped him over her shoulder. He landed on his back, the force of his fall knocking the wind out of him. This all occurred within seconds. The tribal warriors were stunned into silence. Vaas held a smug smirk on his face.

Kalai wiped the sweat from her forehead and extended a hand to help Zuraidah up. He took it in a daze.

"You ok?" She asked him. 

He blinked a few times. "How did you do that? With the chest. I couldn't breathe!"

She shrugged. "A little trick Tane taught me."

Zuraidah rolled his shoulder wincing. "I was wrong. You are a good fighter."

"I observe, that's all. You're not so bad yourself although you should pay more attention to your lower half. Not everyone's going to be aiming at your face."

"We should train together, sometime."

Kalai was about to answer when someone caught sight of Rui and then Citra. Once her cover was blown, Citra walked out into the open, never once taking her eyes off her brother. Kalai and Vaas both exclaimed in excitement at the sight of her. Citra let out a surprised O when Kalai rushed at her and hugged her tightly. Vaas wrapped his arms around them both and squeezed, lifting them up off the ground.

Citra rubbed her sore neck when he released them. He flicked her nose, gaining her attention and rubbed his knuckles on her head playfully. She made a sound of annoyance and swatted his hand away, pouting at him. He grinned charmingly and hugged her, giving a peck on her forehead.

"Citra, Vaas told me about what happened with Niko. I'm sorry, I know you liked him a lot and it was brave and foolish of you to come back for him." Kalai said when he stepped back.

Flashes of last night passed through her mind. Citra bit her lip. "He was your friend first. I'm sorry I couldn't do anything to save him."

"Don't blame yourself. There was nothing you could have done." Kalai said reassuringly. "He didn't deserve to die the way he did. I'll be sure to dedicate every privateer I kill to Niko. He can't join in on the fun with us but he will taste the blood of our enemies in the afterlife."

Zuraidah came forward and was prevented from coming any closer thanks to her brother. Vaas straightened up, puffing out his chest. He made it clear without words he didn't want Zuraidah any nearer his sister. Citra didn't know what his problem was. She thought his display of overt masculinity was unnecessary. Although... she didn't say she didn't like it. Vaas can be over-protective, be it convenient or not, she appreciated it. It showed he cared. It was the little things like that that counts. 

"I am glad to see you have healed from your injuries quickly." He said. 

"Thank you," Citra replied. "And thank you for helping us the other night but... how did you know where to find us?"

"When our scouts sent word they didn't see you with the others at Amanaki Town, we thought you stayed in the village. It was lucky we found you when we did."

"You're spying on my sister?" Vaas cut in.

"Not spying. We've been watching over her. We must know if she is safe and when she is in danger, we must protect her."

Vaas scoffed and stepped towards Zuraidah until they were almost chest to chest, "Look, brother, I don't know who the fuck you think you are but I'm her older brother. She doesn't need your protection. She's got me."

"And when you're not around, she's got us."

Citra could almost choke on the testosterone coming off those two. They were both being ridiculous in their attempt to intimidate the other. If they kept this up she is going to knock some sense into the both of them. 

"Citra Talugmai!" An elder warrior said loudly, interrupting the group. "You and your friends have been summoned to meet the chief. Follow me."

Kalai and Vaas gave her questioning glances as they followed the warrior. She wished she could answer them but she herself was just as clueless as they are. When they entered the dimly lit passage way, she lingered behind to walk beside Zuraidah. 

"How long have you been watching me?" She asked quietly, her thoughts dwelling on the night she fed Niko to the dragons. Were they watching her then? Did they know?

He looked at her seriously. "For a long time. You are more important to us than you realize."

She was about to ask why but then they exited the passage way onto the grassy field yard where a group of tribal men were waiting for them in the middle. There stood an old man covered in tatau wielding a staff carved out of wood and beside him a notably tall and thick warrior, beefier than her uncle, who stood ram rode straight with his crooked nose held high in the air and another older man who wore heavy sets of jewelry. 

Their party halted before the group. Zuraidah went to stand by the large man. There was a moment of unsteady silence as the older man with a staff observed Citra. 

The old man raised a hand and beckoned her forward. "Come closer, my child." Uncertainly, she did. He circled her slowly, tapping her with his staff in certain spots such as her back to straighten it. When he came full circle, he stopped and stared at her face. "I am Chief Rognuak. This is my temple. He is my second in command, Zarak and my healer, Jebiya. I welcome you back home, Citra Talugmai. We have been awaiting your return for many years."

Citra frowned. "My return?"

"Yes. You grew up in these very walls." The chief waved his hand. "Your blood runs through the cracks in these stones. Your mortal body may not remember but a Rakyat's soul never forgets."

"I don't understand." 

"In time you will." 

"We won't be staying." Vaas announced flatly, breaking whatever mysticism forming in Citra's mind.

Chief Rognuak looked at Vaas as if noticing him for the first time. "Ah, son of Anaru. If that is what you want, you are free to go."

"I don't think you heard me, old man. I said we, as in me and my sister. We're both leaving."

"Watch your mouth, boy!" The large man, Zarak, barked infuriated. His ferocious anger was only tamed by the silent hand of chief Rognuak.

"You do not speak for her. What say you, Citra. Will you leave?" 

She opened her mouth to say yes but... a part of her doesn't want to. A part of her wants to stay, if only just to explore the temple. Somehow, it pulls her in like magnet. There was this... energy here thrumming through her bones whispering promises of adventure and mystery. It seemed so other worldly. How could she possibly leave without entertaining it. 

Vaas is going to be so mad at her...

"I want to stay."

Rognuak was pleased to hear that while Vaas made a sound of bewilderment.

"But I can't. We have to return to my Uncle. He and the other must be looking for us."

Vaas was the one to grin smugly while Rognuak clicked his tongue. "Then at least stay for one night. You and your friends must be tired after battle. Do not worry about your Uncle. We will send a scout letting him know you are safe."

"I- I don't know..."

"You must stay for tonight. There will be a grand feast in your name. To welcome your return to us." 

Citra bit her lip and glanced back at Vaas. Her brother seemed to be thinking hard, most likely about the promise of food since he didn't look so opposed to the idea of staying anymore. He then shrugged and gave her a nod. 

"I guess we can stay." Citra said. "Until our Uncle comes to get us."

"Then so be it. I will see you at the feast." And with that, Chief Rognuak left them.

Jebiya, the older man adorned in heavy stone jewelry came forth and bowed his head. "It is an honor to meet you, Citra Talugmai. I am the head healer in our tribe. How is your throat?"

She unconsciously reached for her neck. "Better, thank you."

"No need to thank me. It is an honor to serve you. Come to me if you feel any lingering pain and I will prepare a concoction to soothe it." Jebiya motioned to the two servant girls. "Hana and Rui will take care of your every needs." He bowed again and went on his way.

Citra felt a pinch on her arm. "The fuck is wrong with these people?" Vaas muttered into her ear.

"Don't be mean." She chastised. 

Zarak greeted them next and Citra had to crane her neck up to look at him. "I am Zarak, second in command to the chief and commander of his army. We are in your service." He spoke each word forcefully, as if having this conversation was a pain to him. In fact, he looked like he would rather be somewhere else than here.

Citra was prepared to give an awkward thank you when Kalai cleared her throat and stepped forward. Strange, the girl usually held herself with confidence but now she was unsteady. In all honesty, this was the first time Citra's seen her so unsure of herself.

Kalai inhaled deeply, as if preparing herself for a long battle. "Hey Dad."

Citra blinked in surprise. She looked at Vaas but he himself was shocked too. It seemed even he, Kalai's closest friend, did not know that her father was alive, not to mention the commander of an army.

Zarak eyed his daughter, and sneered in disdain. "Kalai. Has a life without discipline made you forget how to address your elders?"

"I'm fine too, thanks for asking. How's Mom?"

"Your Mother is dead." He answered bluntly. 

Citra drew a sharp intake of breath and waited for Kalai's response to the news.

The girl looked like someone had hit her. "Whe- When..." She stumbled backwards but managed to catch herself. "When did she die?"

"Years ago. There was a small funeral held for her." Zarak talked like they were discussing the weather. A temple guard appeared and said something to Zarak, who then addressed Citra. "I must leave now. I am needed elsewhere." He bowed and left them. Zuraidah stayed behind and they all looked at Kalai.

"I-" She stuttered and swallowed thickly. A tear slipped down her cheek but was wiped away furiously. Without a word she stormed off. Vaas called after her and took a step forward to follow his friend but halted and looked back at Citra.

"It's fine." She said. "Go."

Vaas smiled gratefully and kissed her forehead. "I'll see you later." He promised, trailing his fingers down her cheek before departing.

"Will your friend be alright?" Zuraidah asked.

Citra took a moment to think over his question. "I think she will. She's very strong."

"Oh, I know." He chuckled. "I'll see you at the feast then?" 

"Yeah," She said. He smiled and said his goodbye. Citra watched him leave and turned around to face the two servant girls. 

"Follow us. We will get you ready for tonight's celebration." Hana said and with that the two girls began walking. Citra could do nothing but follow.

 

 

They led her further into the temple. Citra thought they walked too fast for her liking. She wanted to slow down, taker her time, take everything in. Perhaps for them, who they have lived here for all their lives, it was mundane but to her it was fantasizing. They soon came upon a circular area with an opening on the ceiling allowing light to pour into the area as well as fresh air. There stood a door across from them, and inside a large room. She didn't get quite a good look at it since they passed through quickly, entering a rectangle door to the right side of the room. There was no physical door but drapes of fine cloth and hanging beads were used as a barrier between the two rooms.

In the other side was a spacious bathroom, or if she could call it that. It was more luxurious than the bathrooms she's ever seen and ten times as bigger. There was even a tree to the right, lit a glow by opening in the ceiling. Monkey's screeched when they saw them and scampered away. But it was the large, square shaped bath tub that caught her attention. It was made into the stone floor and had wide steps leading down into it but most importantly, it was a lotus pond. 

Beautiful, vibrant pink lotus flowers laid on top of crystal clear water. It looked like what she would imagine the pond from the legend of the Giant and the Warrior's pond to have looked like. Hopefully, no giant lurked underneath waiting to devour her. 

Rui and Hana went to lit candles; incense filled the air, sweet to the nose. Citra waited expectantly for them to leave but they remained looking at her... expectantly too. 

"I'm... going to take a bath now." She announced awkwardly. Still they remained unfazed except now they began to take their clothes off! "What are you doing?" Citra exclaimed, raising a hand to block her sight. The two servant girls looked at her as if she were the odd one.

"We are going to cleanse your body. It is one of our duties as your handmaidens." Rui explained.

"No, no thank you. I'm fine. I can do it on my own." Citra said quickly, trying to force the heat in her face to go away. 

"As you command. We will wait for you outside then." Hana said and the two thankfully redressed and left the bathing room. Once Citra was sure she was alone, she peeled off her dirty, bloodied clothes and left them in a pile on the floor. Nobody has ever seen her naked before, save Vaas but they were innocent children back then. The thought of someone, anyone really, seeing her naked and exposed made her skin crawl. She would hate it and as silly as it sounded, to her it felt wrong. 

The water was cool to the touch. She waded in deeper and found she can stand with everything below her shoulders submerged. Taking a breath, she dunked herself underwater and came back up, smoothing her hair back. She then floated on her back and spread her limbs out. 

This was all too surreal. Just hours ago she was in a war zone, had killed a man and watched her brother- 

And now she was here. In the temple of old! If she didn't know any better, this could all be one huge whimsical dream that she was going to wake up from at any moment now.

...

...

Not a dream then. 

Citra couldn't stop the smile tugging at her lips. With nobody around, she let out an uncharacteristic squeal and slapped the water in excitement.

This place might be heaven. 

With Vaas it may be paradise.

She emerged sometime later from the bathing room and without anything to cover her she put back on her dirty clothes. As told, Rui and Hana were waiting for her right outside. 

"New clothes have been laid out for you on the bed. May we dress you?"

"No, it's fine. I can dress myself." Citra went to the other side of the room and sort of shimmied on the clothes. She changed quickly and found to her dismay that she didn't know how to tighten the top. The bottom was simple, a long skin skirt with a slit on the side allowing her left leg to peek out. 

"Can you help me, with the top?" She asked them when she left the bed. They rushed to her side immediately and fastened the many strings at the back of the crop top. They then guided her to sit at a table and began plucking off an assortments of jewelry laid out. They stacked bracelet upon bracelets on her wrists and adorned her with necklaces. When one of them made to put on a red circlet around her neck Citra stopped her.

"Wait, what is that?"

"It is a neck ring. It is tradition for noble women to wear them. It shows they have high status over others. You are Talugmai. It is your right to wear one."

Citra fingered the neck ring. Why not, it was only one. She nodded and they stretched it open and wrapped it around her neck. It wasn't too bad, a little tightly clamped but not to the point of bothering her. 

It was when they went for her hair to weave into dreads did she stop them completely. 

"It is custom for Rakyat women to wear their hair this way." They told her but still she refused. If it was one thing she knew, Vaas liked her wavy and thick hair, and she liked it to.

When they were done, Citra bounded off the chair and headed to the door, eager to explore some of the temple before the feast starts.

"You cannot leave!" Hana said, rushing after her. "The Chief has ordered for you to stay in your room and rest for tonight's festivities."

"But can't I just wander around for a little bit?"

Hana shook her head. "It is his orders."

For a fraction of a second, Citra contemplated disobeying the order and doing what she wants but she threw that thought out the window. She was a guest here and she didn't want to make a bad impression on these people.

Begrudgingly, she drudged back to the bed and crawled inside. Laying on top of the covers, she didn't know how exhausted she was until she closed her eyes and let her mind wander. Soon, she fell into a light slumber dreaming of endless stone hallways and crocodiles in lotus ponds...

Chapter Text

The celebration began when darkness settled over the sky like a black blanket. A many torches were lit across the main courtyard filled with people sitting to the side lines. A great feast was served; large fatty pigs roasting on a stick slathered with a rich sweet sauce burned over a fire, soft warm rice served with potatoes and green beans and many a more delicious combinations.

Where Citra sat, among the Chief and his second and the healer, they were served delicacies not for the common folk. Monkey brain was served with the actual monkey head as a plate as well as freshly caught salty oysters and cooked shark meat and a plethora of seafood. For drinks they had sweet alcohol that went down her throat nicely. She particularly had a fondness for the sea coral wine and perhaps drank a bit too much. When the first bout of dizziness hit her head she set aside the drink and asked for water only.

Before them, performers with painted bodies and costumes danced around to the beat of the drums, scaring the little kids and entertaining the adults with their splendid fire juggling. Many a people would approach the table she sat at and leave gifts of food or jewelry or simply greet her. Citra would smile at them since it was the polite thing to do, even though in the inside she felt rather odd and out of place receiving such attention. One thing- one person can ease this anxiety.

She turned to Chief Rognuak to her left and asked, "Where is my brother?"

"Sitting amongst the people." 

Citra frowned. "Shouldn't he be here sitting with us?" 

Sitting with me?

Chief Rognuak sighed wearily as if she were an ignorant child. "You are special Citra. He is not. He does not deserve to sit where you sit. It will be disrespectful."

"He is my brother." She replied sternly, disliking the tone in the old man's voice. "If he cannot sit with me then I will go sit with him."

It must have been the alcohol in her system giving her the bravery of an idiot but she moved to get up and the Chief raised his hand, halting her. "If it is what you desire then it shall be done." He sent someone down to the people and they came back with Vaas in tow. Citra greeted him with a smile. They glanced to the left of her where the Chief sat and knew it was out of the question to make him scoot over so the second in command, Zarak to her right became the better alternative. If looks could kill, then the look Zarak gave them would have killed them ten times over. The huge warrior grumbled but moved to make room for Vaas to sit down.

Vaas chanced a glance at the grumpy man and whispered lowly so no one could hear,"If I get stabbed, it's your fault." And then promptly received a playful punch and a giggle from his little sister. "You okay?" He then asked, his hand snaking behind her back to play with the tips of her hair. 

"Yeah. How's Kalai?" 

"She's going to be ok. She's with Zuraidah. Turns out she's becoming really popular among the warriors. They're all trying to get her to teach them Tane's trick."

Citra chuckled at that. Good luck learning that quickly. It takes a certain amount of strength and the right degree of precision to execute the technique perfectly. Especially considering that the technique is performed during combat where your opponent is in constant movement.

They ate and drank, albeit only Vaas, and watched the wondrous performances down below. Citra felt easier now, more relaxed with her brother at her side. She was happy that he was having a good time. She feared he would be sour having to stay at the temple for longer than they intended. She knows he doesn't like these people, the tribals. It was nice of him to act civil.

A group of young men adorned with bright bird feathers flocked to the center. Zuraidah was among them, standing right in the middle front. He gave her a smile she could see all the way up there. They began a traditional dance, stomping their feet and slapping their wide chests, yelling chants.

"Ah, the young warriors in our tribe has put together a performance for you." Chief Rognuak said.

"Why are they wearing so many feathers?"

"To catch your eye. The brightest ones attract more attention. It is loud and the man wearing it must be louder than the rest."

They were very pretty, she had to admit but no matter how many feathers they wore none could compare to the green in Vaas' eyes. Why would she want feathers when she could have emeralds.

She observed him as he watched the performance. He appeared displeased although she couldn't fathom why. It was a beautiful dance.

The way the light of the fire washed over his skin, bathing him in a rich warm glow, made him look ethereal. She traced the contour of the side of his face with her eyes, trailing them down his forehead and his sloped nose she loved so much; his lips thin as the petals on flowers and ten times softer, her own lips tingled at the ghost of how they felt on hers; and finally his strong jawline, having grown more pronounced over the years as he aged. If she tried, she could still visualize him as the young boy he once was. Sometimes, she missed those days.

Sometimes, she wished they can go back to being little kids.

Vaas took a sip from his cup and happened to glance at her, their eyes locking. He set down the cup and gave her a questioning smile. "What?"

She smiled back, wanting to reach out and touch him but remember they were out in the open and refrained from doing so. "Nothing." 

They both resumed watching the performance. The young men had stopped dancing now and stood in a wide square shaped form. One by one, a pair of two would enter the middle and fight each other with their bare hands, blades or spears. When the other man was defeated he would walk off stage and the victor would meet his next opponent and so on forth until only five were left, Zuraidah among them.

"Zuraidah is the top student in Zarak's class." Chief Rognuak's voice pulled her attention away. "He shows much promise for one so young. He far surpasses his peers in the art of the blade and the spear and his skill with a bow is unmatched." Zuraidah battled against his opponents, defeating them one by one. "He has the strength of five buffalo and he wrestled with the great lizards in the water." Zuraidah fought against the other man still standing and defeated him. The crowd roared when he was the last one standing and the victorious man raised his hands in the air and faced Citra and kneeled. "A worthy prospect, is he not?"

The loud slam of Vaas' cup hitting the table interrupted them. Her brother stood up, drawing everyone's attention. "He has one more challenger!" He announced loud enough for his voice to reach the crowd below, silencing them.

"Vaas! Sit back down." She hissed, while trying to come up with some kind of apology to give to the Chief. She scrambled to her feet, her face growing warm. "You're drunk."

"Not yet." He corrected, and swooped down to finish his drink. "Maybe now."

Citra opened and closed her mouth flabbergasted. "Sit. Down."

"What are you so afraid of Citra?" Vaas said. "Do you think I'll lose?"

"No-" Of course not. How could he ever lose? He was her brother. He always wins. 

"Bah, let the boy fight! It'll teach him a lesson of his ignorant ways." Zarak said gruffly.

They then looked to the Chief. "I approve. I too would like to see the son of Anaru fight." Rognuak spoke, eyeing Vaas. Even though he was given two permissions by the second and the Chief himself, Vaas waited for her approval.

"Fine." She bit out.

She sat back down as Vaas made his way down the steps and onto the courtyard where a hush fell upon the crowd. They whispered as he stood in position across Zuraidah. With the beating of the drums, the fight began.

There was something different about this fight than the others. Everyone seemed to be watching every move Vaas made, judging his decisions and skill. 

Citra has seen Vaas fight before, but never like this. He was uncharacteristically focused, utilizing the techniques Tane taught him with precise precision and power. It seemed all those times Vaas was goofing around in class, he was actually paying close attention to Tane's lessons. If their uncle were here, he would have been proud.

She gasped along with the crowd when Vaas took a blade from one of the warriors. Zuraidah did the same and they clashed together, a sharp ping sounded when the two metals met. Alarm bells rang in her head. She wanted them to stop. Someone was going to get hurt and she didn't want it to be her brother.

"What are you so afraid of Citra? Do you think I'll lose?"

No, he won't lose but she didn't want him to get hurt. What was he doing anyways? What was he trying to prove?

They were moving quickly now. Springing attacks and drawing back in defense. This was serious. They clashed together again, straining their blades against the others to break down his shield. They broke apart but not for long. With a war cry from the two young warriors they lunged at each other, blades raised ready to strike.

"Stop!" Citra cried springing to her feet.

Vaas and Zuraidah froze, blades poised against the others necks. Nervousness filled her when they didn't move their weapons away. Finally, Zuraidah withdrew his blade and stuck out his hand.

Vaas stared at the offered hand and glanced at Citra.

He was mad. She can see it. He's not yelling or screaming, but she knows when she looks into his eyes that he is fuming. There was a rage hidden underneath that calm facade.

A giant hidden underneath the pond's calm surface.

Citra wants him to accept the hand. Cause no more trouble and let it go. She tries to convey all this through her eyes alone.

She sighed inwardly in relief when Vaas grasped Zuraidah's offered hand in good nature. The crowd cheered for the wonderful performance.

"Your brother is very loyal to you." She heard Chief Rognuak say in a tone that didn't settle well with her.

"We're family." She replied firmly. "We are loyal to each other."

"The Rakyat is your family. Your true family. Do not forget that, child. That is why we are celebrating tonight. To welcome home you Citra, a lost sister of the Rakyat." The Chief stood up with the help of his cane. When he raised his hand, the laughter, conversations and celebrating ceased. "Bring out the offerings!" He bellowed and then addressed her. "Come with me, child. We have brought you gifts." So she, the Chief, Zarak and Jebiya went to the courtyard. They stood and waited for who knows what.

Eventually, the gifts arrived.

The privateers were worse for wear since the last time she saw them. All who were captured were brought out before her,including Jack himself The helmets and face coverings they wore were removed. She could see all their weary faces.

"These are the men who attacked your village. They slaughtered your brothers and wanted to invade your homes and lives." Chief Rognuak spoke. "There must be retribution for these demon foreigners. We offer you, Citra Talugmai, your right to avenge your fallen brothers and have your revenge!"

The crowd roared like a beast in the jungle. From somewhere in the mass of people, someone threw a rock that hit one of the privateers.

They were scared. All of them. And they all looked at her, wondering- fearing what she may do. Their fate rests in her hands.

"I get to decide?" 

"It is your right." Chief Rognuak answered. "Your birthright. They will fear the wraith of Talugmai." 

Citra has never before once been the one to make choices. They were all chosen for her, by her tribe, her father or her uncle and sometimes... even by Vaas.

This time, it was her turn.

"I want them all dead." She said, her gaze sweeping over each and everyone of their faces. She paused on one of them, whose face stuck out from the rest. "Except for him."

"You fucking cunt." Jack said when she pointed at the man who wanted to save their lives. Vaas stormed over to Jack and hit him hard.

"You ever call my sister that again and I will kill you myself!" He growled.

Jack spat out blood and grinned. "Look at you, kid! All fucking brave and macho man now, are you?" He lowered his voice so as only Vaas can hear what he was saying. Whatever he must have said to her brother, it set him off. Vaas began wailing on him; his knuckles staining red. A particularly hard punch sent Jack to the ground. "Fuck you!" Vaas cursed at the withering man on the floor and kicked his stomach. 

"Vaas, that is enough!" Citra said. What must the man had said to get Vaas so riled up? She made a mental note to ask him later.

"Not nearly as enough. They all deserve worse." Kalai said, appearing from the crowd. "They killed my friend, our brothers. They were injured. Defenseless! They shot them in cold blood, like animals! These men have no honor! Let them all die a dishonorable death!"

"This man tried to save our lives." Citra argued, pointing at the unnamed privateer, who so far has remained silent. "He doesn't deserve to die."

"He still killed all our other brothers. Don't they deserve to be avenged?"

"I agree. They all must die!" Zarak said.

"I understand this man may have helped you but he is still one of them. He is still an outsider who has spilled the blood of our brothers. Our dead demand justice." Chief Rognuak said.

"Death to them all!" Zarak howled and the crowd whooped and cheered.

"Kill them all!"

"Make them suffer!"

Kill them all!

Kill them!

Kill them all!

The growing roar of the crowd swallowed her thoughts up. They wanted them all dead. But how could she condemn the man who had tried to save them? Just like she did to Niko.

Her brother. Did her brother want them all dead, too?

She searched for him, searching for the rock to keep her steady in a storm, to find he was right there beside her. He wasn't calling out for blood. Instead, the rage in his eyes were gone and when their eyes locked she knew.

He was on her side. No matter the odds, he stands with her. And that was all she needed to have her confidence returned to her because with him by her side, nothing can stand in their way.

"I said I wanted him alive." She yelled over the noise, and faced the Chief. "It's my decision, isn't it? So I decide whether he lives or not and decide that he be spared."

"We cannot simply let him go. He has seen our temple. Our holy grounds." The Chief said.

"We should let him go." Zuraidah spoke up. "If it's what Citra wants then we must obey her command."

Citra gave a surprised yet grateful look to him. She didn't expect him to side with her. His loyalty was unexpected but welcomed nevertheless. He is proving himself to be quite trustworthy to her, if only slightly.  

Chief Rognuak wanted to protest but he thinned his lips and tapped his staff. "If it is what you want, Citra."

"It is what I want. Set him free." The guards went over to the unnamed privateer and cut the binds tying his wrists together. The man stood up, rubbing his sore wrists. "Come here." She commanded. The man did so and stood before them, glancing wearily at the Chief and Zarak. "What is your name?"

The man cleared his throat, "Dennis Rogers."

"Dennis, I have spared your life today because you decided to spare ours. You could have had us killed but you didn't. You were threatened with harm on yourself but you went on anyways. For that, you are free to leave with your life."

"Thank you," Dennis said, eyes wide in awe. "Thank you." 

A potato bag was shoved over his head and he was taken away.

"As for the rest of you, you have all committed unforgivable acts of violence on our people. Our dead demand justice and we shall give them it!"

The crowd roared in agreement.

Vaas took her arm and whispered into her ear, "Citra, are you sure? I don't want.. I don't want you to do.. to do something you will regret."

Citra stared at him with wide, faraway eyes. "I know what I'm doing. They deserve to die." 

"Motherfuckers!" Jack screamed, blood trailing from an open cut in his head. "Savage fucking pricks!" He cried out in anger, his face tomato red; veins popping from his neck. He whipped his head around wildly until his eyes landed on Citra. "Please, please I'll give you whatever you fucking want. Money? You want money? I can give it to you! All the fucking money in the fucking world!" He babbled as he approached her and was promptly shoved to the floor by Vaas.

"We don't want your money." Citra sneered, disgusted at how pathetic he was acting. Even Rakyat warriors, beaten and at the verge of death, wouldn't bargain for their lives like lowly cowards. This is no man. He has no honor. 

Jack scrambled to his knees, laughing like a crazed man. He turned his attention to Vaas. "Kid! Hey kid come on! Help me out here. Come on. Fucking help me!"

"Shut the fuck up!" Vaas kicked him solidly in the chest, knocking him down.

Jack got to his knees again, pure malice in his eyes. "Look at you. Is this how you treat me, kid? Is this how you treat good ole Uncle Jack now? Ha, ha! You fucking piece of shit, you're going to get me out of here, or else..." The privateer grinned toothily, his teeth stained red like he was luckiest man in the world.

Citra frowned and looked to her brother, wondering what in the world was the man talking about. Why was this man talking to her brother like he knew him?

Vaas was silent as approached Jack.

"That's right. I'm getting out of here alive." Jack said, laughing in relief. "You can't fucking kill me. You can't kill me."

Citra watched in awe at her brother's stark brutality as he shifted behind Jack, jerked his head back by the hair and sliced open his throat; never once looking away from Citra as he did it.

The only person who looked surprised was Jack himself.

"Kill them!" She heard herself say in a voice that didn't sound quite like hers. Something was wearing her skin. Or maybe she was wearing the wrong one.

The rest of the prisoners cried out in fear of their lives as the guards slit their throats and cracked their skulls in with their blunt, round edged weapons.

Vaas let the dead man slump onto the ground face first where a puddle of blood formed, dropped his blade and walked away.

It was then she heard the cheering of the crowd, so distant and hollow, the shadows from the fire distorting their image, making them look like angry shadow monsters.

As Citra watched the carnage taking place in front of her, she felt a fear that stole her breath but along with that... deep down... she felt adrenalized.

She did this.

She commanded it.

And they did what she wanted.

Citra stared at her hands, remembering how they plunged the knife into the privateer's throat. Remembering how it felt to take his life.

She did that.

She did.

There was no need to feel bad. They deserved to have their lives taken from them. All of them.

 

 

The celebration continued afterwards.

Their heads were propped up on sticks and were waved around for everyone to jeer at.

Citra searched for Vaas but found Kalai instead.

"I'm not going to bed without someone tonight!" The girl proclaimed, slinging an arm around Citra. "Nope. Nope. I'm going to... I'm going to take him-" She squinted and pointed at Zuraidah. "And...." She twirled her finger and it landed on an unsuspecting pretty girl. "...her."

"Have you seen my brother?" Citra huffed, having to hold herself up because Kalai was leaning all her weight on her. 

"Vaas? Mmmmmno... Your brother is cute but I wouldn't want to.. to sleep with him. It'll be like.. like sleeping with a brother..." Kalai took a hold of her cheeks and mushed them together. "You know, your brother is a really, really, really good friend. He lost his mom. I lost my mom. Oh! I'm sho sorry, you lost your mom, too!" She giggled, her eyes shiny with tears or intoxication. Citra had a sneaking suspicion it was by both. "We're all losing things aren't we? And we can't get them back." 

Citra's face darkened. "I don't want to lose things anymore. I won't let anyone leave me."

"What?" Kalai yelled into her ear.

Citra grimaced and managed to untangle herself from the older girl. "I said I'm going to look for my brother." 

"Okay, good luck! I'll see youuu later. Or maybe not..." She grinned devilishly and left to go talk to the pretty girl.

No matter where she looked, she couldn't catch a glimpse of him. It didn't help that people wanted to stop her and talk to her. She tried not to be rude, so she managed to keep the conversations short and light. It was when she circled the courtyard for the third time did she give up and head back to her table. She sat unhappily, watching the crowd in case she might spot him.

The night grew darker. She excused herself when her eyes began to droop.

"Do you mind if I walk with you for a little while?" Chief Rognuak asked.

Citra thought it wouldn't hurt and said yes. It would be rude to decline a Chief and she was curious as to what he may want. Their footsteps grew louder as they walked farther from the party; Hana and Rui trailing behind them quietly. They strolled down an open corridor, vine leaves blowing in the breeze and fire from the torches crackling, casting shadows that danced on the walls. 

Chief Rognuak stopped at the edge to look at the moon. "It is good that you stood by what you wanted. You wanted that man alive and you made that happen."

"I just didn't want him to die. He didn't deserve it." 

"Because you thought he didn't. Many thought otherwise but you went against the masses and did what you wanted."

Citra looked at him wearily. "Is that bad?"

The Chief chuckled, "No, it's not bad. It was the right thing to do. You showed your strength when it was being tested. The right to command are for the ones who are not afraid to do so."

I was afraid, she wanted to confess. She was so, so very much afraid and confused and overwhelmed! But then... but then there was Vaas and he gave her the strength she so desperately needed. 

"Your mother was very much the same." Rognuak reminisce.

Citra perked up. "You knew my mother?"

Before the Chief could answer, a haunting wail traveled through the quiet night. It came from the farthest area inward of the temple. If Citra squinted, she could make out someone far away. The longer she looked, she realized that the person was moving on all fours and looked to be naked. The person let out another wail and moved in jerky, inhuman movements.

"What is that?" Citra whispered, feeling a shiver going down her spine.

"A sad woman who has given her mind to the demons in the jungle." Rognuak said thickly, gripping his walking stick tighter. "I must go and take care of this. Sleep well, Citra." He left in a rush. Another terrible wail echoed into the night, reverberating in her mind, bouncing against the inside of her skull.

Growing louder and louder...

Citra blinked, "What?"

"Would you like to return to your room?" Hana repeated.

It took Citra a while to answer. She still felt spaced out, like the world she lived in shifted and became something else. Something... horrible.

She nodded, unable to speak. She thought something was trying to pry open her head and scoop out her brain. Citra patted the top of her head to make sure it was closed. Just in case. 

 

 

The cold water woke up her numb body. She dove underwater and stayed there, letting it block out the noise in her mind. It was so peaceful down here. Was this how baby's felt when inside their mother's wombs? 

Quiet... floating in space feeling weightless. 

She wished she could stay down there forever but the living needed to breath. Citra swam up to the surface and floated on her back. 

She was still calm and she tried, she tried to keep it that way but there was a heat prickling at her skin and a rage brewing in her chest.

She thought of killing them again. Bloody hands, how satisfying it would feel to pound a knife into their bodies again and again and again- make them scream, make them screammakethemscream!

Stop! Stop, stop she's not supposed to be thinking this way! She's not supposed to be! Just don't think about it. Don't think about it. Don't think about it.

Citra screwed up her face and slammed her hands over her ears. But now she was scared because she won't be able to hear if something comes for her, reaching out for her under the deep.

LET IT GO. Calm down. Calm down. 

Everything's fine. She's still here. This is still the same world. She is still herself.

Calm... calm... easy now. She's fine. It's going to be ok. 

Citra almost had a heart attack when her brother came striding into the bathing room. 

"Vaas!" She cried out in surprise, hiding her naked body underneath the the surface of the pond. Vaas paused and looked around the room.

"What the fuck... This is where you're staying?" He waved around a bottle in his hand. "They have me sleeping near the pig pen. Fuckers." He took a swig from his bottle and did a little twirl, a silly little smile on his lips meanwhile she tensed up fearing he would trip and fall. 

Citra swam to the edge of the pond and rested her arms on the ledge. "What are you doing here? How did you find me?"

Vaas hummed, "I don't know. I asked one of the.. those girls, Anna or something..." He stood by the edge of the pond and precariously walked along it placing one foot in front of the other, his arms outstretched to keep him balanced. Citra had a bad feeling but before she could tell him to stop Vaas began to wobble and she let out a little yelp and reached out her arms to catch him when he stumbled and fell; thankfully on his side and not into the water. He laid on his back defeated and grinned at her.

Huffing in annoyance that he gave her such a fright, Citra plucked the bottle from his hand. It was hanging above the water, its bottom half already submerged. She was afraid he might accidentally drop it in the pond. She set it aside and rested her cheek on top of her folded arms.

They gazed at each other, green against green. Vaas ran two fingers delicately along her hairline. His face twisted with pain. He sat at the edge of the pond, getting his feet and the bottom half of his pants wet. He hunched in on himself and pressed his knuckles into his forehead. "I'm sorry, Citra." He said gravelly, "I'm supposed to protect you from.. from this, this fucking violence. I never wanted you to see all this. You shouldn't have seen me do all those fucked up things." He shook his head, his breath coming out in shaky patterns. "I'm a failure. I failed you. I failed Dad. I'm a fucking failure." 

Citra swam between his legs and grasped his hands firmly and tugged them away, revealing shiny red eyes and wet cheeks. He looked so vulnerable, so broken that it broke her own heart to see him this way. 

She held his hands tighter, afraid that he may slip away somewhere she can't protect him. "You are not a failure." She declared, staring into his eyes. "You are the best brother I could ever have. You are the best thing I could ever have in my life. You are not a failure."

Vaas laughed brokenly, "I couldn't save Dad. I couldn't protect you from killing Niko. I should have. I should have done something. I should have known. I'm supposed to protect you even if it's from yourself. But I failed and I had to watch you be fucking scared because you did something you didn't mean to do but who the fuck is going to understand that? They won't but I do. They don't fucking understand but I do. I do! I won't let them hurt you because they don't understand us."

"I know you won't." She said. "They don't know anything. I hate them all."

"Don't say that. You don't hate Tane."

"He hasn't been the best lately." Citra muttered. What has their Uncle ever done for her? He loves her, to an extent, but it wasn't unconditional. Not like Vaas. If she gets into an argument with Tane, he'll leave her. If she does anything that crosses the line she's finished and he won't love her anymore. He can leave her, just like anybody else. Tane had his uses but his usefulness was being used up. Why should she invest in someone that might leave her?

She hates him. He is useless.

But she is glad she haves him because Tane is family and families loves each other, even when she doesn't deserve it.

Vaas bowed his head in shame, "I'm sorry, Citra."

"There is nothing to be sorry about. What's in the past is in the past. You did what you had to do and you are stronger because of it."

"I don't feel strong." Vaas clenched and unclenched his hand, his face framed in shadows. "I killed them. I've never killed anyone before and I killed my friend and I shot all those people. Fuck they couldn't- they couldn't even fight back." His eyebrows twisted up in distress. "What kind of man does that?"

Citra's face turned stony, a cold look in her eyes. "Do you regret it?"

"No." He said quickly, "I would do it again. For you."

"Then why did you do it?" She said, kicking off the wall and swimming backwards, strands of her hair slipping through his fingers.

"I had to."

"That's not answer." Her back bumped against the other side of the pond and she rested her elbows on it, her long wet hair covering her breasts. "No one forced you to. Niko was going to keep it a secret."  

"And you believed him?" Vaas waved his hand incredulously. "He wasn't going to keep it a secret! He was probably going to use it against you!"

"Maybe. I wouldn't know. He was your friend. Do you think he would've used it against me?" 

"N-" Vaas shut his mouth and looked away in anger. 

"Then why?" She waited patiently for his answer. She had a feeling there was something he wasn't telling her. There was a reason he shot Niko but he didn't want to say why.

He shook his head, "Why did you tell the truth? You could've lied but you didn't."

"Don't try to change the subject."

"I'm not!" He exclaimed, raising his voice. Citra gave him a look and he thinned his lips. The next time he spoke he kept his voice restrained. "You could have lied." 

Citra raised her eyebrows in mock surprise. "You wanted me to lie to you?"

"No! I just..." He stood up and began pacing back and forth. "You knew I would have killed him if you did."

"You killed him anyways."

"Because you told the truth!" He had stopped pacing and was now facing her, his body tense and fists clenched. "You think you are the only one who is afraid of losing someone? When you told the truth you wanted to save him. I thought you were fucking around but I didn't know you were serious. I didn't know..." He plopped down, covering his face with his hand. Concerned, she swam over to him. Vaas chuckled sadly, "When you told the truth, I imagined you two marrying and having kids and having the perfect fucking lives and I... I would still be there by your side because even if you stopped loving me I can't stop loving you. I can't stop..."

He sounded so broken it tugged at her heart, compelling her to lift herself out of the water. She was dripping wet and she was sure she was going to get him soaked too, but she could care less about that. Right now he needed her and she needed to be there for him.

His warm arms wrapped tight around her and the heat coming from his body was a stark contrast against the cold air. He let out a shaky breath and rested his head over her heart. Citra cradled him in her arms, stroking his head soothingly.

"You're all that matters to me." He confessed and gazed up at her in reverence. "I would do anything for you." 

I would do anything for you. 

I would do anything for you.

Do anything for you for you for you

Citra cupped his cheeks and rested her forehead against his, their noses touching. She shut her eyes and breathed him in. "Don't you ever think I will ever love somebody else." She whispered. "There is no one else. There will never be anyone else." She opened her eyes and lost herself in his. "You're all that I want. I love you." 

He let out a small breath of air and drew his arms away from her. "How can you say that?" He stared at his hands, curling his fingers. "I'm a monster."

"You're not a monster." She took his chin and forced him look at her. "You are a warrior. You protected what was yours and defeated your enemies. You are a warrior. You are my brother."

Kissing him was bliss; like her head cracking wide open and yellow butterflies by the dozen pouring out kind of bliss.

Inconspicuously, she eased her way back into the pond leading him on with her lips until he was hanging off the edge. All she needed to do was let him fall.

 

He should have been more careful. The surface of the pond may look beautiful but there are giants hiding underneath waiting to devour him.    

 

~~~~~~~NSFW~~~~~~

 

Curling her fingers around the necklace dangling around his neck, she gave it a light tug. He let out a small noise of surprise when he fell face first into the pond. She grinned at him devilishly when he resurfaced and then promptly squealed in delight as he splashed water at her in retaliation. Like a shark he advanced towards her sending a thrill down her spine. Citra retreated but swimming backwards was not as fast nor as effective as swimming forwards.

He caught her just as she felt the stairs behind her. Citra laid back, trapped underneath him. She was breathing hard, her chest rising and falling, half submerged in water; her legs spread apart with him in between. Vaas went still above her.

They stared silently into each other's eyes. 

She always gets lost in those eyes. What she wouldn't give to have him look at her this way forever.

He caressed her cheek and although his touch made her eyes flutter it wasn't where she wanted him to touch her. She took his hand and guided it down to cup her breast. He stared at the sight and clenched his jaw, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed hard. 

He shook his head, taking away his hand.

"Don't." She whispered, placing a hand on his chest.

Pain filled those sad, tortured eyes. "I can't." He confessed brokenly, his voice weak. 

Something flickered in his eyes, something she was all too familiar with. He was pulling away again. There was always something holding him back. 

She was losing him again. He was slipping through her fingers. She would crush him in a fist if it will stop him from leaving her.

"He's not here anymore." She said. "It's just us." 

She felt vulnerable waiting for his response: his rejection or acceptance. She didn't like it, it put her in a position to get hurt but for him she'll take the risk.

"It's just us." She repeated, hoping that if she said it a certain of times it'll make the fear she knew was in his heart go away. She teared down the walls protecting her, pried open the iron masks concealing her true self, and laid herself bare before him. She let the facade of control go and showed him how scared and uncertain she felt. She would have never showed this kind of weakness to anyone else but he wasn't anyone else. He was her brother, her family, her home. The only person she trusts wholly with every inch of her being. She knows he won't hurt her.  

Don't go. Don't leave me. I love you.

She leaned in and his lips met her halfway. The world tilted diagonally and she had to grasp onto him to stop herself from falling. His hands were all over her, his body smothering hers. His forwardness caught Citra by surprise. Despite this, she let herself be swept away into his chaotic passion. 

Her legs widened more to make room for his hips. A small gasp escaped her lips when he desperately grind himself against her and she could feel him. 

Heat bloomed in the pit of her stomach, snatching her breath away. He did it again and again and again and then his lips attacked her neck and his fingers ran through her hair and Citra thought she might have died and went to the afterlife because nothing in this world could ever feel so good.

She didn't want it to ever stop but the edge of the stair was digging into her back painfully. Bringing herself back from the high he was giving her, Citra bit her lip and pushed weakly at his shoulders. He relented immediately, like pudding in her hands. She kissed him deeply while she maneuvered herself from underneath him. When he finally registered that she was gone, he looked at her with puppy dog eyes, a kind of childish hurt and confusion reflecting in his eyes. How was it that with one innocent look from him it melts her heart.

Citra paused and took a hold of some of the beaded curtains hanging from the doorway. She looked back. He was still in the same spot on his knees staring at her. She smiled coyly and continued into the room, letting the strands of beads slip from her fingers making a pleasant rattling sound. She crawled onto the bed, her wet body soaking the sheets. 

She waited and he came for her. 

He kept his shorts on but had stripped off his shirt, the fire bathing his skin in a warm glow that accentuated the grooves and curves of his muscles.

Vaas froze when his eyes fell on her. In a trance, he climbed onto the bed, never once looking away. Citra sat up and embraced him. Their lips moved like they were participating in a secret dance only they knew, tiny gasps and moans the steps they follow. She tightened her grip on the back of his neck when he pulled away. 

She saw the uncertainty in his eyes, the fear. He wanted to run away but the only place he can run to is back to her.

"He's not here anymore." She reassured- she didn't know if it was more for him or for her. 

"I know. It's not that." He gazed at her in mellow fondness and brushed a wet strand of hair behind her ear. "I... I don't want to hurt you."

"You can never hurt me." She said with a smile, a gleam in her eye. She sat up on her knees, holding his face and forcing him to look up at her so she can look down at him. How pretty he looks from up here. So vulnerable. So weak in her hands and all hers. She lowered her head and brushed her lips against his, catching his breath. "I won't let you."

She kissed him with more force than usual, staking her claim on his lips and if he ever tried to leave her she would have to cut them off for her to keep. 

"You're mine." She breathed, wrapping him in her arms and digging her nails into his back. She held him tighter and squeezed and squeezed in the hopes of merging his body with hers; their bones breaking and reconnecting together and their hearts bleeding as one.

Don't leave me.

He held her back gently and said softly, "I've always been yours."

Citra became lost in his lips and she barely registered being laid down on the soft sheets. She tugged at his shorts blindly and helped him take them off. Shuttering in excitement, she grasped his hips and pulled him in between her legs. 

"Mmhno, no." Vaas pleaded, taking a hold of her wrist. "I want..." He swallowed thickly, unable to control himself from rubbing lightly against her. "I want to take things slow. Please... Let's just take it slow... Please..." 

Citra bit her lip and giggled. "Like when we were little?" She ran her hands up and down her body groaning. "Do you want to check up on me? Do you want to play doctor?" 

He scoffed, offended, and attacked her stomach. "I was an awesome doctor. Better than you!" 

She laughed and pushed him off her. He plopped down on his back, a silly grin on his face. 

"You poked at it." She reminded as she laid next to him, draping her leg over his thighs. 

"Yeah, and you squeezed my balls. That hurt!"

She shrugged, "It was funny."

"You're mean." He pouted, crossing his arms and scooting away. Citra raised a brow and waited for a good five seconds before he cracked a grin and snuggled up to her. "I can't believe Dad put us in the same room. Do you think he separated us because he knew something was going on?" 

She rolled her eyes, "No. He separated us because you started waking up with a tree in your pants."

"I swear I wasn't dreaming about fucking monkeys."

She scoffed and punched him playfully. "You're ridiculous."

"Yeah but you love it." 

Citra couldn't say no to that. It was part of his charm. She relaxed into the bed and brushed her nose against his, her fingers dancing across the expanse of his chest. "Do you remember?" She whispered, "I touched you here..." She grazed his nipple. "...and here." She circled his belly button. His body felt so familiar, like a long ago dream. He was soft and pliable back then. Now, his soft edges were sharp and strong, a faint ghost of the boy who he used to be.

His fingers found her skin and his hands wandered her body, retracing the paths he used to know so well. Everywhere he touched set her on fire.

Her breath caught as he bent to place a chaste kiss on her collarbone. "I love you." He whispered into her skin like a tattoo; permanent and meaningful. 

She responded by tilting his chin up and kissing him.    

It was confirmed; this was heaven. He is her paradise. 

Citra snaked her hand down and swallowed his surprised gasp. She took great pleasure stringing out the little grunts and moans he tried so hard to hold back. Her breath hitched when she felt his fingers touch her where no one else has been. Unconsciously she spread her legs, her body writhing under his touch. Her mind was going fuzzy and it was becoming harder and harder to think straight. Her world was reduced to the touch of his fingers and the puffs of air on her neck. 

In a cloud of lust and desire, she grabbed his hand and guided his fingers in a circle, teaching him how to touch her the way she liked when she was alone in her bedroom at night. The new pace sent a jolt through her body and she reached out blindly, grasping at anything to keep her anchored. And then Vaas did something, quicken his fingers or change direction, and it sent a shockwave of pleasure through her veins. She threw her head back, lips parting and her hips lifting off the bed, the hand wrapped around him quickening to match the pace of her racing heartbeat.

She felt a pressure building in her lower abdomen, one she has felt many a times but she has always stopped by this point. It wasn't because she was scared, in part she was, but it was mostly because she would suddenly lose interest. Her body would shut down and she would go back to being bored and empty and all the excitement she felt would dissipate into thin air. Honestly, it was a rare occasion whenever she felt in the mood because most of the time she wouldn't think twice about it. The thought of it even put her off sometimes.

But now... Oh god now she didn't know whether to push him away or spread her legs wider and Vaas wasn't letting up and he was moaning into her ear and panting against her neck and-

She cried out his name, begging him to stop or keep going she did not know. She did not want to know. She wanted this decision out of her hands. She wanted him to strip her of any control she so desperately clinged to and take her life into his own hands. Kiss her or kill her; either way, what bliss.* 

Her moans poured out loudly and uncontrollably, her body twisting and arching like a snake ready to strike. Her eyes fluttered open when she felt Vaas move and she had a second to see his head disappear between her legs before his mouth was on her and-

A jolt of electricity shot up her body, her muscles contracted and her legs shook. Her mind went stark white blank as intense waves of immeasurable pleasure coursed through her body. It was amazing and too intense at the same time and the thing was, he was still going. He stroked himself as he lapped up the last of her orgasm. Citra could not in a million years describe how it felt to watch the sight of him doing that. 

He crawled back to lay beside her. She wanted to return the favor but his hand quickened and his breathing was coming out in short bursts. She felt just as excited, even more so, for his orgasm than she was for hers. Soothingly, she rubbed her hand up and down his stomach, hoping to encourage his end. His free hand held onto her shoulder as if he were falling and he needed her to support him. He opened his dazed eyes, his pupils blown wide at the sight of her. His back arched of the bed and he came on himself with her name on his lips. 

There was a moment when the only sounds in the room was their harsh breathing slowing down. Her heartbeat returned to normal and she could finally think clearly again, albeit her mind was muddled by a satisfyingly sweet exhaustion. They were both covered in a fine sheen of sweat that made their bodies glisten under the firelight. 

Citra was basking in her afterglow when she spotted the product of his still on his stomach. Curious, she reached with the two fingers and scooped some up. She intended to give it a taste, know what he tasted like, but Vaas snatched her wrist and took her fingers into his mouth and didn't give it back until he licked them clean. All the while she watched in fascination. Again she slathered her fingers and Vaas let her slide them right into his mouth. She repeated it again and again until she scooped up the last of it. This time when she slid it in, she stared into his eyes as she moved her fingers in and out, imagining her fingers were something else... He swallowed and let out a little groan that vibrated around her fingers that sent a tingling in her nether regions. Citra slid her fingers out and grasped the back of his head and pulled him in for a kiss.

He tasted faintly of something salty, kind of like the ocean.

~~~~~~~end~~~~~~~

It felt like time no longer existed as they laid on the bed; the sweat on their bodies cooling down as they kissed softly, whispering sweet nothings into their skins. Vaas hugged her middle like a child and rested his ear over her heart while she caressed his head and hummed softly.

"I love you." She said, kissing the top of his forehead.

She felt him stiffen and wrap himself tighter around her.

"Oh god," He chocked out, his voice trembling. "I'm sorry Citra. I'm sorry." A violent sob racked his whole body. "I couldn't stop. I should've stopped! I'm disgusting. I'm fucking disgusting. I wronged you." He withdrew from her warmth as if it were fire and it was burning him. He sat at the edge of the bed and hid his face in his hands, his body trembling and the muscles on his back tensing. "Oh god, what have I done?"

He looked physically ill. His body lurched as a sound of vomit came from his throat but nothing came out. Citra flinched when he shot out of bed and began pacing back and forth, clutching his head, tears falling down his face. "I'm a monster." He breathed shakily, quickening his pace. Citra grew alarmed. She's seen all sides of her brother but this- this was something new. The way he was acting, it was scaring her. She's never seen him this way before. 

"Fuck- fuck.." He was breathing erratically and his entire body was visibly shaking.

"Vaas," She said quietly, the sheets twisting in her fists.

"I can't-.. I can't.." He swayed in place. "What the fuck?.." He said, staring at his shaking hand. She flew out of the bed when he collapsed onto the floor. He curled his body into a tight knot, twitching and hyperventilating, his eyes wide staring at nothing. 

"Vaas," She repeated, placing a hand on his arm. 

He flinched violently. "Don't touch me!" He screamed but not at her. He wasn't even looking at her. He looked lost, like he was somewhere else. She retracted her hand quickly and stared at him. A pang filled her heart. She wanted to do something but she didn't know what to do. She wanted to hold him but she was afraid he would lash out. She didn't want to make things worse, but she couldn't just leave him. 

In the end, she decided to stay with him through whatever he was going through; in case he needed her, she will be there. Citra scooted away, giving him space, and leaned against the bed, bringing her knees to her chest.

She stared at him quietly. 

He hates you, she thought in an ugly voice. Look at what you made him do. Look at what you've done to him. He thinks you're disgusting. You are disgusting. You are despicable. How could he ever love you? HE HATES YOU. Wake up! He never loved you- 

Stop! STOP. Don't think that way. DON'T think that way. That's not true. It's not real. None of this is real. Vaas doesn't hate her. He never has b ut but he doeshedoes-

Citra dug her nails into her arm and inhaled deeply. She needs to keep herself afloat. He needs her; she can't afford to drown in her own thoughts. Not this time! 

Stay here. Stay with him. Focus, focus... 

But the rage was too much. It was scratching underneath her skin.

And then, nothing. Her face relaxed and her eyes became blank.

Oh, the thoughts were still there but they can't reach her. It was happening again yet this time she welcomed the emptiness, the numbness. The world around her faded. She faded. No one lived inside this body anymore.

"No," A bodiless voice reached her ears. Something grabbed her wrist, but it took her a moment to register it. "Don't do that." The voice said, and she realized she was looking at Vaas, then at his hand wrapped around her wrist. Something clicked inside her brain, and she finally noticed that she was bleeding. Her nails had dug in so hard that it broke skin making streams of blood trail down her arm.

She felt the pain soon after. It woke up her body. She grit her teeth, prying her nails off. She almost jumped in fright when Vaas let out a shaky sigh of relief. Her brother wasn't shaking anymore but he twitched at odd times, his breath hitching and he still looked awfully sick but he was touching her again and that made all the difference. He exhaled and moved to sit beside her with much struggle. 

Their hands found each other's; one trembling and the other bloody. Their fingers intertwined, locking together, promising never to let go. 

"I love you." He shuddered, and when his body started convulsing he gripped her hand harder until it passed.

Her eyes welled up with tears that stung. "You don't have to."

If loving her meant he'll face so much pain then believe her, she will understand if he leaves one day. Who could ever love her, anyways?

With trembling fingers, he took a hold of her face and made her look at him. 

"I'd die before I ever stop loving you."

His words were so sweet and it hurt even more when a small part of her didn't believe him.

Chapter Text

nothing to see here....

Chapter Text

"Did he deserve to die?"

"You pity him?" Citra asked. Vaas laughed, a wide grin spread on his gaunt face.

"Fuck no. Little shit should've known better than messin' with things he didn't understand. It's never a good thing to get sucked into other peoples problems."

"You killed his brother. He wanted revenge. I saw it in his eyes." Citra whispered, a flash of those burning, angry green eyes that promised retribution. "I saw an opportunity. I saw... potential."

"What? You saw potential in a white fuckboy?" Vaas snorted, looking amused but underneath she could see a rage growing. "Is that why you inked him up? Made him one of us? Accepted him? What THE FUCK did he do to deserve that, huh?"

"He helped us! He understood who the true evil was." Citra countered. The two sibling were both tense, like still stars ready to explode any moment. They were locked in a heated staring match, neither one willing to look away first. Vaas looked like he was going to explode, and the bounds around his wrist were stretched thin to its limit. After a while, the tip of his lips flickered in a smile and he relaxed, laying back down casually.

"How did you even get away with it." He asked.

"With what?" Citra too relaxed, though she was ready for an attack if Vaas, gods forbid, somehow got out of his restraints.

"Making him one of us." Vaas said, "The elders, the priests, they would never allow that. You know how they are, fucking old rats wanting to swim in their exclusivity. I think the one thing they hated more than me, is outsiders, and Jason fits the bill."

Citra looked away, "You don't have to worry about the elders. They won't stop you from becoming king."

"You didn't answer my question." Vaas said.

Citra smiled, rubbing the side of her forehead violently. "The.. elders are old. They do not know how the world works anymore. Even I know change is progress for the survival of our tribe. They didn't. I tried to make them see. I tried to make them understand but they just wouldn't listen." Citra stood up and paced the room anxiously. "They wanted to kill Jason. They couldn't see, NONE of them! They were all blind!" She stopped and closed her eyes, breathing in and out deeply.

"You killed them." Vaas said, coming to his own conclusion.

Citra opened her eyes, strangely calm, as if she were in a trance.

"They couldn't see the truth. So I made them see."

Vaas threw his head back and laughed, "I can't believe this! You killed the elders! Man and here I was hoping I could of gotten to them first, but no, it was someone they trusted that stabbed them in the back! Does anyone know about this? I don't think the Rakyat will be happy to hear that their own Queen murdered crusty elder bread."

"I... said it was the pirates who did it." Citra mumbled, plopping back down on the chair, suddenly exhausted.

"Did you really do it for Jason.. or for yourself?" Vaas asked.

Citra shook her head. "No, no I did this all for you." She crawled onto the bed and cupped his cheek. "Everything I have done, was for you.""

"I don't doubt that." Vaas mumbled, "But it's hard to imagine you giving up power to someone else. Did you really kill the elders for Jason, or did you do it to to pave a clear road to leadership. Without the elders, no one is going to stand against you. They're all fucking pussies anyways." 

"I don't want power. It's not mine to have." Citra said, stroking his face gently. "It's all yours. It's your birthright, your destiny to lead us all." 

"And that's killing you." Vaas hissed. "C'mon Citra, I know you. I know you want the title. The leader, the hero, the warrior."

A flicker of anger crossed her face but she replaced it with an unsteady smile. "That's not true."

"Save the bullshit for Jason ok?" He spat, his nostrils flaring. "Even Tane saw it to. Fuck he even encouraged it." His voice lowered, "He always did."

Citra froze at her uncle's name being spoken. There was an empty feeling in her chest, empty yet so deep, like a swallowing vortex.

"Tane knew you were going to be our next great leader. He saw the warrior inside you." She said.

"No." Vaas shook his head, grinning grimly. "He saw it in you." 

"Stop!" Citra cried, jumping to her feet abruptly, pushing the chair back. There were tears in her eyes, and she turned to the window to hide them from his sight. "Stop.."

Silence settled over them. A silence she wished could last a century. This wasn't how she wanted their time together to go. Gods, why can't he just hug her. Hold her and talk about a future together. No more of the past. The past matters not anymore. All that matter is now, right here, them only. Just them, like it was supposed to be. No one else.

"Why did you kill him?"

Citra laughed weakly, a tear slipping down her cheek.

"Because I love you."


The morning after was quiet, everyone asleep with bellies full of wine from last night's feast. Outside in one of the temple's courtyards, Citra and some of her generals sat in a circle discussing war plans and strategies. Dennis cradled a cup of coffee in his hands, muttering about how it was too sunny and missing 'modern' cures for a hangover. Citra paid him no mind, it was the own mans fault he can't control himself. And he did deserve it for being rude to their.. special guest.

"The rebels have taken over two of our beaches bases here, and here." One of the generals pointed at two places on the map laid out on the ground.

"So close to the fishing harbor?" Dennis grumbled, rubbing his eyes.

"I think they have plans to take it." The general said. "Why else would they choose to conquer the bases closest to the harbor."

"So desperate, are they." Citra spoke, "To launch a massive attack on one of our strongest strongholds." 

"They won't be alone." The general said, "Some of our scouts report that not only will the pirates be helping, but also mercenaries, from the south island."

"What?" Dennis gasped, "How is that possible? They couldn't have made it off the island. What happened to our patrols? They should be watching them!"

"Dead." Citra said gravelly, "That is why the rebels took the bases close to the stronghold. They made sure none of our patrols saw the mercenaries leaving the island." How clever, and yet remarkably stupid. No doubt the rebels face constant attacks to just hold down the bases they have conquered. It allows easy passage for the mercenaries onto the island. Three forces, joining together to defeat a bigger evil. Mankind thinks in funny ways, the rebels, the tormented innocents, now working with their tormentor. But she still didn't understand one thing. "How did the rebels get in contact with the mercs?" This wasn't some unplanned alliance. It was strategic, and well thought out.

"Ah!" Dennis snapped his fingers together, "It must be the radio towers."

"I thought you had Jason shut them all off." Citra said.

"Yes.. on that specific channel. The rebels must be using a different frequency to contact the mercenaries."

"Then have all the radio towers destroyed!" Citra demanded.

Dennis bit his lip, "I think they will be expecting that. So even if we do destroy all the towers, they need only one to keep a signal, and that will be close to the shore somewhere, hidden away."

"Then find it, and destroy it." She said. "We send out scouts to search for it, all the way around the island. If it's not there then it must be on one of the three smaller islands."

"Then it must be heavily guarded." A voice spoke, and everyone snapped their heads to the entrance of the courtyard. Citra got up, as well as the others.

"Yalung." She greeted. 

The masked man nodded and stepped aside, revealing Colonel Len. 

Citra frowned. "And Colonel Len." She said with less enthusiasm.

"Heyyy!" Someone said, and from behind Colonel Len, Hurk stepped out, bouncing around like a child while he gazed at his surroundings. "Man oh man, this is so awesome! I always wondered what it looked like inside this place, though I thought there would be more tigers and you know, magical voodoo stuff. Uh though the fake people on sticks back there was a nice touch, really added to the whole 'tribalness'."

"They aren't fake." Dennis said, rubbing his temple.

"Oh..." Hurk muttered, deflating a bit before lighting up. "Hey Tat Sista long time no see!" He went in for a hug but Citra whipped out her knife and held it pointed to his neck. "Oh! Oh! Ok, ok, no hugging, got it. Got it."

Citra sneered. "Who let this buffoon in?" She demanded, sheathing her knife when Hurk backed away.

"I did." Dennis sighed, "Though I'm questioning my decision right now. Hangovers and idiots do not mix."

"Hey bro, I'm just here because you said you guys needed help. And I'm down with helping my buddy Jason with anything. He's done so much for me, I gotta repay him back someway, and this is it. So now in the future he won't come back to me and ask me for my liver or something as payment. Oh wait, I think I'm thinking about the black market here.."

Citra glanced at Dennis in annoyance and the African man sighed.

"Hurk, Jason is-"

"Jason is alive and well and he is truly grateful for your help in taking back our southern island." Citra cut in, giving Dennis a seething side-look. "Unfortunately, he's very busy handling more pressing matters at the moment so he can't be here in person. He would if he could, but I think you understand being the new leader of the Rakyat takes up a lot of his time."

"Oh, uh, do you think I can go see him sometime?" Hurk asked, looking beyond Citra at the huge ominous temple, blocking half of the sun. 

"No." She stated harshly, making it obvious there was no room for further questions. Hurk pursed his lips and nodded disappointingly. Done with Hurk, she addressed the other, more important, guests.

"Yalung, it is good to see you but why did you bring the Colonel? I told you before I don't discuss matters with common soldiers." She said.

"Colonel Len was appointed by General Yuma Lao and Vice Lord Noore Najjar of Kyrat. He is, officially, the man in charge of this excursion."

She raised a brow, and examined the Colonel up and down, not in the slightest impressed by the man who is supposedly in charge.

"Interesting how your leaders chose someone of lower importance to hold power, rather than the ones who seem more competent." Citra said slowly, looking at Yalung. The Colonel looked flustered, but she noticed he would glance at the masked man, and keep his mouth shut.

"I am no one of importance. I posses no position in Kyrat's army." Yalung told her.

Citra smiled. For someone who holds no position of power, Yalung had this command over his comrades. She witnessed this before, during the celebration. When he stepped up to address her. She saw the confusion in the soldiers eyes, even the Colonel looked baffled. They were weary of him. Even... afraid of him?

"Alright then." She said finally and turned to Colonel Len. "Will you join us and discuss war?"

Colonel Len opened his mouth to answer her, but he paused and glanced back at Yalung who showed no sign of acknowledging the Colonel.

"Uh- uh yes. We will." Colonel Len stuttered, regaining his disperse pride.

They sat down, some of her own generals scooting over to make room for three more occupants into the circle.

"Some wine and water for our friends." Citra ordered, and her handmaidens went to fetch it. They came back shortly, and gave it to the newcomers, Yalung as usual placed the water down and didn't touch it again.

Hurk sat next to Yalung, and he kept looking at the masked man in a fixated childlike awe giddy stare. He reached slowly for the mask only to have his hand snatched in a tight grip. 

"Don't." Yalung uttered.

"Ow, ow, ow! Ok, Ok Uncle! Uncle!" Hurk whined, snapping his hand back to his chest when Yalung released it. "Owww, that hurt dude. I just wanted to try it on. You know you look like one of them uh.. assassin people, from the game. You know what I'm talkin' about? Those people who jump in the air, do this whole flying stuff with all these cool weapons 'n shit."

Citra watched the spectacle from where she sat, and marveled at the patience Yalung had for the idiot. She leaned over to Dennis and said, "Tell me again why the American is here?"

"Uh, yeah yes. Hurk!" Dennis called, catching the fat man's attention. "You said you had something that'll help us get onto the southern island undetected?" 

"Damn right I do." Hurk said with a grin. "I managed, by the awesomeness of moi, and some of the monkeys, to get one of Hoyt's military submarines! It still has some missiles in it, too."

"A submarine?" Citra asked, looking to Dennis.

"A warship that can move underwater." He answered.

"How did you manage to steal a submarine from Hoyt?" Dennis questioned, truly curious.

"Oh dude, you do not want to know. A lot of good men- er primates were lost that day. Poor suckers, they just drowned." Hurk said with a far away look. "Oh the sharks, the sharks..." 

"That is good then." Citra said, "We have a way to reach the island now."

"Yeah about that." Hurk scratched the back of his head, "See, I have the submarine.. I just can't move it." 

Citra frowned in confusion. "Why not?"

"Weeelll for starters I totally skipped out on how to use a submarine 101 for dummies, so I have absolutely no idea how to use the bad boy. So I kinda left it just... floating there."

"That can be fixed." Yalung spoke up. "Colonel."

Colonel Len sat up straighter when his name was called and he cleared his throat. "We have men who know how to use a submarine. We can operate it easily. All we need are coordinates of the location and we can go as soon as you want."

"Perfect!" Dennis smiled, " We have a secure passage to the island. Now all we need is a group skilled enough to take out what's left of Hoyt's mercenary army."

"Don't be too hasty for victory." Yalung said, "You mentioned before the radio towers. It is a possibility that when we attack, the mercenaries will send out a distress signal to the rebels for reinforcements."

"Then we bring the Rakyat army to meet these rebels." Citra said.

"On what? Boats?" Yalung asked, "The mercs have heavy artillery, bombs, missiles. Your warriors will be dead before they can even reach shore."

"Then we bring them with the submarine." She said.

"It will take too long for the submarine to go back and forth for that many miles, and the mercs will catch on." He said and Citra huffed.

"Then what do you suggest we do?"

"Destroy the radio towers, like you planned to do." Yalung stated.

"That will take a long time. Time we don't know if we can spare." Dennis said grimly.

Citra pursed her lips and nodded. "No, we can if we do this separately. One team to destroy the radio towers on this island, and the other to find the hidden one on the other three smaller islands."

"I can find the hidden tower." Yalung said. 

Citra nodded, "And we can set out to destroy the towers here." Good, they got a plan that sounds like it might actually work. Citra had no doubt that Yalung can fulfill his duty.

"Hey.." Hurk spoke up, smiling nervously. "This is a great plan n all, but there is one flaw I forgot to mention..." They all waited for him to say what it was he got to say, and he gulped and chuckled. "Well uh, you know about the submarine and all, I uh, left it... near Badtown. At the ports really. Heh, sorry.."

Everyone groaned except for Colonel Len and Yalung. 

"What, what's wrong with this Badtown?" Colonel Len asked.

"It's the main base of the rebels." Dennis groaned, running his hands through his short hair. "Fuck. How are we going to get it now?"

"I will get it." Yalung said, and everyone looked at him in shock. Citra raised a brow, and wondered if this man was suicidal or too confident in his abilities. 

"That's impossible!" Dennis exclaimed, "One man cannot accomplish this task alone. You need an army, or- or-"

Citra raised her hand, silencing Dennis. There was something different about Yalung. She could sense it.

"I didn't know you were so heroic." She said to the masked man, "But heroism gets men killed. Save it for the legends."

"I can do it." Yalung said, and yes this man really is very curious. He doesn't speak to convince her, he speaks with the knowledge that he can do it. 

She smiled, "Quantity doesn't matter. It is the quality of a man that is important. Twenty boars can fight a man and lose, but a tiger is an even match, even if it is alone. And I remember Jason doing impossible things once, and despite our negative hopes he has come back victorious." 

"And look where that has got him." Dennis said, and when he realized what he just said his eyes went wide and he shut his mouth. Citra sent a cold glare at her second in command, her hand twitching to hit him. Dennis glued his sight to the ground, his head hung low. "I am.. sorry."

"We will discuss this later." Citra said quickly, and turned her attention back to Yalung and the rest. "Dennis' been to Badtown before. He knows the area. He can help you find the ports and then Hurk can lead you to where the submarine is."

"I work better alone." Yalung said. 

"Don't worry, it will all be over a two way radio so the rebels can't listen in."

"What about the radio towers?" Colonel Len asked. "When can we destroy them?"

"After we secure the submarine. That is our top priority. If we don't have it, then this whole mission will be for nothing." Citra said. "But about the radio towers, how much C4 do your men have?" 

"Not much, we didn't expect to be fighting a war." Colonel Len confessed. "Not here anyways." 

Citra pursed her lips, "I need an inventory count of what you have, and maybe with ours combined we can destroy all the radio towers at the same time." 

"C4 has a minimal activation range of 4.6 meters. You need men close enough to explode the towers." Yalung informed.

"Then I will have two a men stationed at each tower, all with radios so they know when to explode it." Citra said. This will work, she could already see it happening.

Hurk had his hand raised, and Citra rolled her eyes and waved at him to say whatever dumb thing he has to say.

"Or, you know instead of men we could use monkeys. They're pretty smart you know? Ever seen Planet of the Apes? Ehh, eh yeaah you know what I'm talkin' about." Hurk smiled pointing at Colonel Len who looked helplessly confused. 

Citra truly wanted to know how this buffoon of a man lasted so long on this cruel and brutal island. It has to be solely based on luck, it just had to be.

"When do we start this thing?" Hurk asked excitedly. 

"That depends on the Queen." Yalung said, and even though he wore a mask she knew he was looking at her. What hid underneath, she wondered. Was there a face, or was the mask his face. 

"We need the cover of darkness, so at night. Tonight." They couldn't spare any time. The longer they wait, the stronger the rebels get, and even though the Rakyat were undoubtedly more powerful than the rebels, anything can happen during war, and the tides might change but not in their favor. She couldn't lose it all, not when she was so close. Vaas.. she needs to make everything perfect. She needs it perfect for him so when he re-takes his throne the Rakyat won't waste their time fighting but instead worshiping him. He will be the focus of all their attention, all their love and admiration. She will see it done.

"Then I must prepare." Yalung said, getting up swiftly, Colonel Len joining him. Citra, too, stood up.

"Come back at sunset. I will be waiting for you at the tree." She said. 

Yalung gave a curt nod and walked off, Colonel Len following him. She watched them until they disappeared into the tunnel. 

"You think he can do it?" Dennis said, standing beside her. 

"Is there any other way?" Citra asked back. 

"Mhm." Dennis hummed, crossing his arms. 

"Hey guys, what about me? You mind if I stay here? And dude can I get tatted? I want a tiger on my left shoulder, and a panther on my right." Hurk said, examining his shoulder. 

Citra gritted her teeth and barked for the guards. "Take him to the soldier's camp and don't let him back in until sunset, or unless he is accompanied by Yalung himself." She ordered in her native tongue. They nodded and dragged a passive-offended Hurk out of the temple. She relaxed. Now that a major annoyance was gone, she had to deal with a more smaller one.

"Dennis." She said lowly. "I don't want any more mentions of Jason unless I bring it up."

"But why are you doing this?" He asked, "He is dead. Why trick Hurk? Riley?"

"Hurk because he wouldn't of helped us if he knew the truth." She snapped, her face twisted in a horrible scowl. It was true, if Hurk knew she killed Jason, well then the fat man would have joined the rebels. No, Hurk needed to be told Jason was alive, and needed his help. 

"And Riley?" Dennis pushed on. 

Citra blinked, and relaxed her face.

"He's not dead." Dennis said quietly. "I saw the captured sacrifices. His body wasn't there."

he's alivealive impossible or possible?

"You know that already... don't you." He said.

The tips of her lips curved up and she turned to look at him.

"Get some rest Dennis. You will need it for tonight." 

He left quietly and she turned her attention to the vast jungle that stretched out as far as the eye can see. And somewhere out there little Riley was still running, running as far away as he can. But this is an island, her island, and the trees will whisper his name and the leaves will show her where he went and he can run and run but he'll never escape. There were only two choices for him.

Run, be a coward, and ultimately, die a coward.

Or.

Turn around and run straight back into the fire.


Badtown could be describe as the complete polar opposite of the town Amanaki. There was a bad stench that clung to Badtown, and held many unpleasant people. It was only after the war ended, and the rebellion started, did Badtown change for the better or for the worse. Anarchy didn't run so rampant in the streets, yet it was where the rebels decided to lay base. The town evolved into a war like settlement, where simple civilians are turned into soldiers, the very same civilians the Rakyat spent years protecting, and now they turned on their saviors. 

Badtown grew with the population size, and more houses were built. Forts armed with machine guns, watch towers with snipers, huge headlights that can pierce through the jungle foliage, and to make it worse, they had dug a huge moat surrounding the fortification, at least 10 feet deep, at the bottom filled with wooden spikes. The only way in or out was through the main entrance, which was a crudely made drawbridge. And even if they tried to get to the bridge, the surrounding area around the town was littered with motion sensor mines. 

Of course, this couldn't be the work of simple civilians. They had the help from Pirates, their weapons and brutality, and the Mercenaries, their strategies and war plans. The rebels themselves wouldn't have survived long if it weren't for them. But she doubted the pirates operated as one, they were not intelligent enough too. That was why they had a leader, Vaas. Despite his chaotic nature, Vaas actually was a good war leader. He knew what he was doing, he was just doing it on the wrong side.

No the pirates must have a new leader, and it couldn't be one of them. It must be a mercenary. Trained, cold-blood killers known to flip the world off and survive despite the circumstances. She just didn't know who the new leader was. 

A loud horn pierced the night air, and the drawbridge lowered, letting through some weaponry trucks, and two cargo trucks. Citra saw this all from on top a cliff using binoculars. She turned her attention to the lower part of the base; the ports. Though smaller, it was equally as protected. 

"How are you going to get in?" Citra asked to Yalung who was crouched beside her. 

"He doesn't have to. The submarine is underwater, he can just swim there." Hurk cut in.

"And get eaten by sharks?" Dennis inquired. 

"What?" Hurk looked confused, "You can't fight off sharks?" 

Yalung didn't answer him. The masked man seemed to be off in his own little world, two fingers pressed to the side of his head.

"Hey-o, earth to master ninja dude." Hurk said, waving a hand infront of his face. Yalung stood up abruptly, startling Hurk. 

"Two shipments of guns are coming in." He told, adjusting the straps around his wrists. 

"Whoa, you're some kind of a Jedi." Hurk said with wide eyes.

Citra frowned, "How do you know this?"

Yalung pulled out a gun and clipped a silencer onto it. "I tapped into the radio frequency they're using at the ports. They don't have a detection coder so our listening in will go unnoticed."

"That means you took a risk of detection." Dennis said angrily. "You assumed they wouldn't have a tracker."

"With their technology and money, no, they wouldn't have that." The masked man said.

"Oh my god," Hurk gasped, "Stop the fucking press, is that- is that what I think it is?" He giggled in childlike amazement, his eyes widening with a silly smile on his face. "Holy chicken-nuggets it is! Can I hold it, oh please, please, please man!"

Hurk was referring to the gun Yalung had in his hands. More specifically a-

"A 44. magnum purple chrome deagle engraved!" He squealed like he just won the lottery. "Where did you get this baby?" He said in awe, reaching to touch it but he drew his hand back and shook his head. "No- I can't bear to lay my unworthy hands on this majestic beauty, it's just too epic. What do you have engraved, some kind of a fox or a wolf?"

"A Jackal." Yalung corrected, putting away the gun in it's holder.

"That is... an interesting choice of an animal." Dennis spoke up, a peculiar look on his face. "It is, truly, interesting." 

"They're coming soon." Yalung stated, and in the distance Citra could see two large cargo truck moving down the road heading straight to the ports. "I'll let you know when I'm inside." He leaped off the cliff in a flash. Hurk gasped and ran to peer over the edge. Like a bullet, Yalung sped through the air, and he was almost invisible in the darkness. 

"You guys, I think I have a man crush." Hurk said seriously. "This is it, I feel it in my heart." 

While Hurk came to terms with his 'man crush', Dennis crossed his arms and scratched his beard in deep thought.

"That is very interesting." He said.

"The gun?" Citra asked.

"The animal." Dennis clarified, "I knew of a Jackal back in my homeland, before I left. But not the animal. The man. If he was one."

"You think this is the same person?" Citra questioned. She didn't know why, but knowing who was the man under the mask interested her. Slowly, some of the pieces were coming to place.

"I don't know. I never saw the Jackal myself." Dennis said, "He was considered a legend, or more absurdly a demon. He might of been, he had some of the warlords scared of him."

"You ever been?"

"Once."

"I see." Citra muttered, holding the binoculars up to her eyes. The two truck shipments arrived at the port's gates, and some soldiers walked around them, inspecting the trucks. She waited with bated breath, knowing if they find Yalung it would be all over. One of the soldiers dipped down and looked under the truck.. and stood back up and waved for the signal to let them pass. She breathed out in relief. 

As if on cue, the radio crackled and Yalung's voice sounded. 

"I'm inside. Where is the submarine." 

Hurk took control of the radio. "Ok bro you see where all the smaller boats are, and the jet skis, yeah it'll be around there somewhere." There was silence on the other end, and then,

"Be more specific."

"Oh, uh..." Hurk scratched the back of his head, "Uh do you see like a small shack somewhere? I think I left it in front of the shack, but more deeper in, cuz you know, don't wanna beach the submarine 'n stuff... Does that help?"

There was no answer, and none came for about the next ten minutes and more. By that time, Citra sat down and sent a prayer to the gods, Hurk looked worried as heck, and Dennis paced back and forth in irritation.

"What is taking him so long?" The African man burst out, "He should already have the submarine by now."

"Patience." Citra hissed. There was no doubt in her mind that Yalung will fail. That is, until the sirens started.

"Oh shit." Hurk cursed. 

"No." Citra shook her head. How did this happen? They all jumped when the radio crackled to life.

"They must have found the bodies."

Everybody let out a sigh of relief, and Citra snatched the radio from Hurk.

"Yalung, did you get the submarine?"

"I got it." He answered. "I'm heading back to the temple." 

Looking at the scramble of people at the ports all panicking in pathetic confusion, she smiled.

"We'll meet you there."


"We have an ally. A strong one. He sneaked into Badtown undetected, and stole a submarine right form under their nose."

"Sounds like something Jason would do." Vaas said, "He's always willing to help. Psh, the fucker."

"His name is Yalung." Citra said, playing with a knife, her legs kicked up on the bed, laying over his thigh.

"Good for him." Vaas grinned, another way of saying he didn't give a fuck. She glided the knife across her fingertips and got up. He tensed when she straddled his hips, laying the tip of the weapon right between the abs of his chest.

"I asked some of the soldiers what they knew about him." She slid the knife lazily down the vertical line of his abs and stopped where his shorts met. "They all said the same thing. He was a demon. The name Yalung in their religion, is the name of a demon." 

Vaas breathed in and out slowly, his chest barely moving. His cheek twitched and he said, "The guy's compensating for something, eh?" He smiled, baring his teeth at her. Citra didn't smile, and cut her hand, letting droplets of blood stain his body till she- gently - smeared it on his lips. Citra didn't miss the feel of his tongue darting out to taste the cut. He licked his lips, running it across his upper teeth with heavy-lidded eyes. Citra couldn't look away, and a burning sensation filled the lower half of her stomach. 

Quickly she leaned down, pressing herself against him, their lips a shy inch apart. She was breathing hard, and so was he, her eyes flickering between his lips to his eyes. It was Vaas who leaned in, pressing his bloodied lips to hers softly. She could taste the iron, and it made her dizzy with want. It felt so good, like she could fly away right then and there or melt into a puddle of lava, mini explosions blinding her behind her closed eyelids. 

She could almost laugh when his lips were violently ripped away, a growl replacing the softness. Citra didn't bother to pull back, the binds held his wrists true, not even allowing him to even scratch her. His eyes were deranged and rageful.. and she smirked, though inside she could just crycrycry.

Citra sat back on his hips, putting pressure a bit more than necessary and Vaas chuckled even though he looked anything but happy. 

"You can hurt me if you want." She whispered huskily, grinding her hips down in a swooping motion. "You can even kill me." 

i'll let you i loveyouiknowyouwantohatemehateme

"But not after.. I have this child." She placed her hands on her stomach, barely a bulge visible. Vaas stopped moving, and stared at her belly. It started with a tremble, and then he lunged at her with renewed forced. 

"YOU LET HIM- YOU LET HIM-" Vaas couldn't even form the words. He was furious, chaotic, and broken all at the same time. He yelled out in rage, twisting his body here and there violently so, that she had to get off. 

Citra shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. "No! No, no I did this- I did this for you! For you!" 

"You let him touch you!" Vaas roared, "HIM. Jason! JASON!"

"You don't understand." Citra said weakly, "He was the warrior. I had to. To let you win!"

"Win?!" Vaas barked, "Win?! This isn't a fucking game Citra!"

"I had to!" She screamed, flinging the knife, embedding it right next to Vaas' head. "Can't you see? I'm imperfect. I'm not good enough for you." She squeezed her eyes shut, her fists shaking at the sides of her legs. She sucked in a deep breath, and forced herself to relax. "I will be reborn. And then you will love me. Like it should of been. No Hoyt, no dad or Tane or- or mom." She laughed, wiping away the tears. "It will be just you and me, like it was supposed to be. Like you promised."

Her chest felt so tight, like someone was squeezing the life out of her. Wringing her dry and empty. 

"You can't recreate the past Citra." Vaas said tiredly, the fire gone out of his eyes. "You don't know.. how much I want it, too." He shook his head, smiling an empty smile. "I killed so many people. And for what?" He laughed hollowly, "It was all I knew. It was all we knew what to do. I don't know.. if I regret everything I've done. Sometimes I can still hear their screams, see their faces. But yours, yours stood out the most. A little islander girl who had the shiniest of eyes. And I walked away, I couldn't stop. And in the end I found myself alone, with no one but myself."

"You didn't have to leave." She said, "You, you had a life here. A father who loved you, an Uncle who believed in you, friends who adored you. You could've been someone. You were someone. You still are."

"But it wasn't what I wanted Citra." Vaas said, "I wanted to leave this island. I wanted to escape. I wanted... I wanted to take you with me. But everything fucked up. I fucked up and look at us now. I was supposed to protect you. I made that promise to myself but I fucked that up too and I let something happen that I can never, ever take back."

"It's not your fault." She hushed, sitting back down and rubbing his cheek with her thumb. "It's not your fault."

Vaas looked at her, and the emotions in his eyes shocked her to her very core. Sadness, a deep and soulless tiredness. He had never looked so broken, shattered. 

"Tell me the truth Citra, no more lies." He uttered. "Did you love, Jason?"

"No." It flew out her mouth without a thought, because it was true. "I never loved anyone else other than you. There is no one else."

"Do you regret killing him?"

This time Citra didn't answer immediately, and she licked her trembling lips. "I-" She spoke, "I love you. Vaas." She tugged the knife from the wall and walked away, drawing the curtain close before he could say anything. She stood there just trying to let her mind catch up, and when she was ready she entered her room and laid on her bed. From underneath the pillows she withdrew a cellphone and again swiped through the collection of photos of far away lands and a smiling, living, happy, Jason.

She stopped on a picture of Riley and laid the phone down and looked out the window. It was raining, but she knew the boy was going to be alright. 

He is, after all, Jason's little brother.

Chapter Text

Citra lazed around on soft grass, dipping her fingers into a small pond. One of her handmaidens held a huge leaf to block the sun out of her eyes, while the other fanned her face. The Rakyat Queen wore different attire for this occasion, a simple see through velvet dress, and adorned herself with exotic jewelry, large golden anklets and emeralds that displayed nicely on her chest. She laid waiting idly, while the Witch Doctor sitting next to her prepared a concoction for the baby in her belly. Her boredom was relieved when she spotted the man she sent for. 

"You asked for me?" Yalung said, always the one to get straight to the point. It was all business with the man. Did he ever relax? Or a more interesting question, did he ever take that mask off?

Citra took her sweet time in answering him, withdrawing her hand from the water and grabbing a soft pear to bite into. She examined him while chewing on the juicy fruit, and without warning threw it at him. Yalung caught it instantly, and tossed the pear back to her. 

"You're mind is sharp, even at this hour when the birds sing morning praises to the gods." She let the fruit roll from her hand.

"Is there something you want?" He asked, and she suspected impatience in his voice.

"What? Can't relax and talk with a friend for a while." She inquired. Damn that mask, she couldn't tell what he was feeling or thinking, and he stood rock still, leaving nothing to study of his body movement. "I have a thought." She continued, "Say you are without any weapons and are defenseless, while the enemy has spears and knives. How would you survive?"

"Disappear and use unawareness to your advantage." Yalung answered. 

"And if there aren't any places to hide? If you are out in the open, not a single bush or tree in sight. You have no choice but to confront the enemy. Then, what do you do?"

"Anything, and everything can be a weapon." He said. "A pair of fists can do as much damage as a knife can if used properly."

Citra smirked. "It is easy to fight back, especially with skilled knowledge. But what if the enemy daggers are dripping with poison? You cannot allow one mistake, not even a tiny scratch."

Yalung swooped low, barely dodging a throwing knife that zipped through the air right where his neck should have been. From the shadows emerged five Rakyat warriors, and they wasted no time in advancing on the single man. He was a blur of movement, so spectacular was he, his body twisting like a serpent, avoiding sharp knives and spears alike. She's never seen such skill, such precision. Each hit Yalung struck was calculated, made to be a finishing blow and in one moment he kicked off one of the warrior's chest and propelled himself into the air only to bring his fist down hard on the warrior opposite of them; whipping the native's head to the side with the force of the blow, blood spraying everywhere. A powerful kick sent another Rakyat warrior flying through the air, landing in the pond with a splash. 

In a matter of seconds, Yalung was the only one left standing, flexing his knuckles, her warriors sprawled out on the ground, groaning in pain and clutching their wounds. 

Citra laughed and applauded him, "An impressive feat. Weaponless, outnumbered, and yet you bested some of my most skillful of warriors with only your bare hands, all without getting hit."

"I don't fight for others pleasure." He said, and ooh did she detect a hint of anger in his tone?

"I was just curious to see.." She bit her lip, looking the man up and down, ".. what the demon of Kyrat had to offer."

"You saw what you wanted." He growled, turning on his heels to leave.

"Wait!" She called, and surprisingly he halted. "I did mean it when I said I wanted to have a talk. Sit."

The warriors he defeated limped away, and Yalung sat down across the pond from her. He was so very serious in everything he did, much to her amusement. 

"Relax." She smiled, "You look like someone is going to attack you at any moment." The irony was not lost to him, and she wished she could see if he was smiling under that mask or if he was frowning. She wondered how old Yalung exactly was. He moved with such skill, he must have had years of experience, but he wasn't old, his body seemed to be in perfect shape. So perhaps at the prime of his life? What color eyes did he have?

"I found the hidden radio tower." He began, "You were right. It was on one of the smaller islands."

"Mmh." She hummed disinterestedly. "That's interesting but I thought we could talk about matters of a more, casual topic. Some of your fellows soldiers know not a lot of you, but they do like to talk about you. They even called you, what was it? Yuma's lapdog."

"It matters not what they call me. I hear they call you the tiger warrior." He said, moving the attention away from him and onto her.

Citra raised a brow. Seems like she wasn't the only one doing some investigation. 

"That is an old title I haven't heard in years." She muttered, gazing at nothing. The memory of fighting the animal was faint, but the disappointment she felt when she realized Vaas was not there to witness her success still stings in her heart. "Tell me demon, what kind of man hides his face, his identity, from the world?"

"The kind of man who has made a lot of enemies over his lifetime." He answered.

"To protect his family?" She inquired curiously.

"I have no family." 

"Not even a mother? A father?"

"The pirates here, what became of their leader?" Yalung asked, and she frowned. He seemed to change the subject when things got too personal. 

"Vaas?" She said, taken by surprise. "He's dead. Why? Did you.. know him?"

"It's nothing of importance." Yalung dismissed. She felt a tinge of annoyance with all the secrecy surrounding him. She just wanted to rip off that mask, and cast her eyes on the person underneath. 

"Walk with me." She said, standing up abruptly. Side by side, they strolled out of the garden, no particular destination in mind, the handmaidens trailing behind wordlessly. She absentmindedly placed a hand over her stomach, secretly dreading the day it will swell to a size that'll incapacitate her from battle. She never truly understood why it was such a necessity for women to procure a child, like it was her, a woman's, sole purpose in life and nothing more. It makes her sick just thinking about it. If only she were born a boy... Tane never saw her as a girl.

When her father and brother were away enduring the trials of The Chinu, Tane took her under his arms as if she were his own child. She recalls he treated her differently, always have. While the girls stayed in doing whatever their mothers taught them, Tane took her with him out into the jungle and hunted, coming back with boars, deer, monkeys. He taught her some English, a privilege only for boys to learn, and he was the one who taught her how to suckle the poison out of a snake to use as a weapon.

He was always... he is.. he is gone.

He never truly loved her. None of them did! None of them understood! It was always Vaas! Vaas, Vaas, Vaas! It's always him and no one else!

It eases her heart to know Vaas is with her now. No longer separated, and this child will be the symbol of their unity. Of their dying, unconditional, love, and all the struggles they had to go through, the suffering they had to endure, to be together again. It was not in vain.

"You're pregnant." Yalung noted.

"A blessing from the gods." She blinked, removing her hand from her belly, a grimace gracing her face which didn't go unnoticed by the man.

"Or a burden." He added. Citra paused in her step and glared at him.

"This child is the future of my people. Watch your tongue demon or I will have it removed." She warned, resuming their casual walk through the temple grounds without him.

"Apologies, I spoke without thought." He said, joining her shortly, taking easy strides alongside her angry ones. "A mother's love is an unrivaled force of nature.. for some."

Citra didn't vocalize it, but agreed with him silently. What is a child to a mother, if not her entire world. She wished the same could be said for her own mother. Did the woman whose womb she was nurtured in ever loved her? Did she, that mysterious woman, gaze upon her daughters face and felt only unconditional love. Did she love her when she held her own daughter underneath the stream. Did she love her even then... 

"Not every child is lucky enough to be graced with such love." Citra whispered, feeling tired all of a sudden.

"I know." Yalung said, gazing at the scenery. 

Curiosity burned at her, making her want to press for more, for him to reveal more but she held back. Everyone has a past they wish not to revisit, especially herself.

"Come, let us not talk of the past but of future glory." She said with a strained smile. "I have assembled a group of men to join us onto the southern island. Five trained in stealth."

"Five is too many. We need a smaller group." He said, "I already have three soldiers joining us, including Hurk, Dennis, and I. It will be eleven of us."

"Twelve." She added, giving him a look.

"You plan to come with us?"

"I am coming with you. Dennis will stay here and take charge while I'm away, and your men can stay too. It'll be for the best anyways. The warriors that are coming knew the land before Hoyt took it from us. They can help."

"So it will be eight." He stated.

"Seven, not counting what the buffoon can offer us." She frowned, truly wondering why Hurk is joining them. Walking past crumbling pillars they came upon the courtyard and slowed to a stop to watch the spectacle playing on the grounds.

"Those are the men I have chosen." She spoke, nodding towards the line of five natives practicing with bows, a collection of dead bodies strewn on the ground. She walked towards them, watching with approving eyes as each native shot their fleeing target on point.

"Why don't we have a try." She said, holding out her hand as two of the natives gave their bows to them. Yalung examined the wooden bow and plucked the string to test its strength.

"Release the pig!" She yelled and turned to him. "The first one is yours."

A pirate was pushed out into the field with only a poorly wrapped clothed to hide his nudity, and he jogged/stumbled to safety, passing his fallen comrades. He couldn't run, his feet slashed so many times the pain of putting pressure on it was excruciating, and his back bore the scars of bad blood. An agent of the giant.

Yalung raised the bow and pulled back the string, standing entirely still. The arrow shot through the air like a bullet and pierced the pirate's calf. The pig shrieked, staggered and fell, clutching the leg that had an arrow sticking out of it.

Citra clucked her tongue in disappointment. "I thought you good with a bow."

"I don't kill anyone as if they are an animal." He said, lowering the bow to his side. "Even men like him deserve a humane death." 

"Men like him?" Citra laughed in disbelief, "He is no man. He doesn't deserve to be called a man. And what of the deaths of my people. Men, women, children, did you think they got a fair death?" The pirate got up, and wobbled as best as he could with his injured leg. He didn't even make it five steps before Citra pulled back the string angrily and let loose an arrow, striking his head. "No they didn't." She breathed, clutching the bow until her knuckles turned white. "You know what they did? They set them on fire, little boys and girls, children. And they laughed as their small bodies turned black, as they screamed for their mothers embrace to make the pain go away. You say we treat them like animals but THEY are the animals! They string pregnant women up by their feet and leave them with their bellies cut, and make them watch as their unborn child growing inside them be eaten away by bugs and animals! They stick us in the dirt, leaving only our heads to gaze freedom as our body leaves us! Now WHO is the animal here!? We only exact vengeance for our loved ones. For the people who were ripped so cruelly away from us."

"And are you no better than them now? Is your actions justified; blood with more blood." Yalung said calmly.

"If I say it is then it is. You don't know our suffering. This is just the beginning of our retribution." 

"To what end." He asked.

"Until everyone who has wronged the Rakyat burn." She hissed, an inferno blazing inside her chest. They were locked in a staring contest, she boring her eyes into round eye holes covered by a smooth black material, but she knew he was staring straight back at her.

"Revenge is a fickle thing. I've seen many good men and women consumed by it, and ultimately, destroyed by it." He said and turned on his heels and left, handing the bow back to a native.

"And you?" She called, "A man who has seen many wars, does not come out unscathed. I am sure revenge follows you like a shadow, and you too seek vengeance."

The demon halted, and without turning around said, "I have long ago learned that revenge is pointless. There is no reason to anything. I simply.. exist." 

He left her with that, left her angry and, undeniably, conflicted.


"I've never met someone so, so, infuriating!" She said, cutting another piece of apple and shoving it through unwilling lips. Vaas grimaced and spat it out. Citra paid no mind, and attempted to feed him another slice to which he held his head away from.

"I'm tired of being hand-fucking-fed! I can fucking feed myself, I'm not some fucking ass vegetable." He growled. 

She looked at him in shock, and then with weariness, indecisiveness evident on her face. "I can't. You know why."

He chuckled and threw his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Why? No, no I really don't think I know why."

She frowned. He was making things more complicated than it had to be. "Yes you do. I can't-"

"-Trust me? Is that it?" He interrupted her, and her silence was the answer. "You can't trust me. Wow, wooooow. And, and here I thought I was your brother, mh?"

"You are. I just.." Her voice trailed off, and she was struck with internal conflict. No doubt in her mind, she knew he would try to escape if she set him free from his bonds. But he was weak, he hasn't exercised in a month now. But Vaas was unpredictable, violent, and chaotic. She had no clue what he could do, even in this state.

"I trust you." She said slowly, and his brows raised. "But I won't lose you."

His face fell, and he clucked his tongue shaking his head. "You never even had me in the first place. No one fucking owns me. No one."

She bit her lip, and got off the bed, walking out of the room. She was gone minutes, and came back with shackles. Wordlessly she sat own on his chest, one to hold him down if he tries anything, and the second reason was because she wanted to. Carefully, she clasped the iron bounds around his wrist, and repeated it with the other wrist. She breathed out unsteadily. Here comes the part she dreaded doing. 

Slowly, she untied the rope bounds, left wrist, right wrist- 

She expected the violent reaction, she just couldn't stop it from happening. In a blink of an eye he had her pinned underneath him, his body twisted in an unnatural way because his ankles were still tied but his hands? They were free, not entirely, but free enough to maneuver. The chains connecting his wrists together was sprawled over her chest, his hands wrapped around her throat. 

He wants to squeeze. Can see it in his eyes but something's holding him back from putting pressure, from digging his nails into her skin and drawing blood. She didn't know how long they were in that position, seconds? Minutes? His lips twitched, his eyes unblinking in a glossy hazy stare. Those eyes could just unfold the layers of her skin, pierce right into her soul and she'd let him. 

He rubs a thumb over her bottom lip harshly, laughs, and pulls away. He doesn't lay back down but sits beside her, taking the apple and biting into it while rolling his shoulders and stretching his arms. Citra breathes out shakily and sat up with him, touching her neck gingerly. 

"You could have killed me." She said, phantom pains of hands clamping down, squeezing the life out of her. Losing air, losing air not the first time. 

"Could've, would've, should've." He shrugged. "But you wouldn't let that happen because you have that- little thing growing inside you. Citra 2.0 or sum shit." 

She glanced down at her belly and cupped it. She was really glad the bump was barely visible. She has more time to pretend there wasn't anything in there.

"You know I never took you for the mother type." Vaas said, tossing the now finished apple away, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Crazy, fucking delusional, goody-fucking two shoes, but a mother? Never."

"This child is ours. You are its father as much as I am its mother." She said, scooting closer to him and resting a hand on his arm. He visibly flinched, but didn't move away from her touch. 

"I remember you hated children. Swore to never have one because-"

"Because they hold you back and we were going to travel the world and we didn't have time to be parents. I know, but we were young then. Now we have responsibilities, duties to our tribe, to your people." She said. "This is a new beginning for the both of us. We are different people now." 

"Not so different. Some people never change." Vaas cracked his neck, letting out a relieved moan. "Some people keep doing the same things, over, and over again, expecting shit to be different, different this time, something so fucking different. But nothing changes, and it's.. it's really fucking crazy to think it will." He laughed, his index fingers making a circle formation in the air. "Round and around in a fucking circle, never ending." Short, hysterical giggles escaped his lips, and he started scratching the sides of his head.

"Never-ending, fuck fuck fuck me, never ending. IT'S a fucking circle and we're in it!" He grinned widely, his eyes big and bright. "I- I mean think about it, this is the fucking reality we're in! WE are stuck IN HERE and the funny thing is- the, the funny things is we CAN see it, and yet we still go in a circle until we shit our fucking organs out and fall over and die." His smile slowly disappeared when he saw her confused face, and he slammed his fist on the bed, alarming her. "WHY THE FUCK DON'T YOU GET IT!? WE'RE STUCK IN THIS FUCKING REALITY AND WE CAN'T GET OUT! IT'S RIGHT IN OUR FACES BUT WE we can't- we can't." He kept mumbling something, dragging his hands down his face.

"I think I need my happy pills." Vaas said, pointing at her stomach, "And you should be careful. It's gonna pop out of your chest and give the crew a heart attack."

She stared at him in disbelief as he started giggling. What did Hoyt do to him? What horrors did her brother endure. It made her furious to know he was hurt, and she wasn't there to help him, protect him. Vaas breathed in deeply and raised his hand.

"Mmmh I think it's OK now. OK, OK. Gone, see? No more." He raised his hands, as if showing her proof of something, but she didn't know what. He let himself fall down on the bed and stared off at nothing. She's seen this before, sometimes he would have short outbursts and then the next he was calm and docile. A chaotic pattern that she didn't mind being around as long as it was around her brother. 

"Yalung.. mentioned you. He said you two met before." She said, deciding to move on from whatever mood he was in. It was sometimes hard to tell. He was a ball of jumbled up emotions waiting to explode at any moment.

"Nope. No, no I don't remember a Yalung." He said, shaking his head.

"He wears a mask to conceal his face." She added, hoping to jog some memory in that beautiful brain of his.

"Lots of people wear masks to hide something. Jason had one... but I think that was just his ugly fucking face. Poor guy."

Her stomach twisted at the mention of Jason. No one brings him up anymore, maybe Dennis once or twice but really, it's like he never even existed. The only thing holding the memory of him was Riley, and Riley, that small bird, wherever he is, gone , gone.

"He carries a gun. A.. 'deagel'. Purple. Chrome." She said, recalling what Hurk said about the gun. "It... has an engraving of a Jackal."

"The Jackal?" He piped up, and by the look on his face she knew she had his full attention.

"You know him?" She inquired curiously, noting in the back of her head that Vaas went to this, Africa, place. Where else did he go? What else did he get to see out there?

"Tough sonofabitch that's what he is. Makes Hoyt look like a child dipping his fingers in the smuggling business." 

"Could he be Yalung?" Citra asked, more to herself than to him. 

"No." He answered her. "No but I knew Mayura. And what the fucking coincidence, he wore a mask too."

Mayura, she thought. Could this person be Yalung? Now that she's gathering her memories, Yalung did mention gaining his name, like a title. Mayura could be his real name.

"How did you know him?" She asked.

"Why the fuck do you care." He said back lazily. "What? Lil' sis have a crush on pendejos? Never thought your standards were so low. Well, you fucked Jason so that is pretty low actually."

"Who is Mayura?" She pushed, ignoring his harsh comments. 

"I dunno. The guy's uptight, all fucking secretive and shit like he's part of the fucking C.I.A. All I did was trading with him, I sell workers, he buys them. Boom, transaction done and all before bedtime. Hey, what's he doing here anyways."

"He's helping us gain back the southern island.. and he has offered us a way to pay back the debts we owe." She said. Vaas frowned, and looked at her critically. He chuckled, rubbing his eyes.

"They really don't give a fuck who runs the operation. We're expendable, interfuckingchangeable... I never thought you would agree." He said, and in such a way that made Citra feel like she let him down. As if he was disappointed in her. And she hated this feeling.

"I'm doing what's best for the Rakyat. For you." She said. 

"You think you're doing what's best but in the end, you're no better than Hoyt and I."

"Hoyt was a monster. I am doing this for your people, this is a righteous cause." She said, her hands balling in to fists.

"So taking up where Hoyt left off is righteous? Enslaving people, selling them. That's... good to you?" He questioned. "You're just like him."

Her hand twitched to strike him, wanted so badly to hit him yet she couldn't. She wouldn't dare. Vaas' eyes flickered to her hand and he smiled, making her blood boil to know that he takes this just like some.. joke.

"I am nothing like him." She growled, barely holding back her temper. "And you, you're nothing like him either."

He shook his head, "No.. no maybe you're right. I am, the bad guy. And you need bad guys like me, to make people like you look like the good guys. I mean, I think that's what Jason saw. But the bad guys are gone now, and people realize there never was any good guys. Never existed." He pointed at his head, jabbing an index finger to his skull. "We're all doing the same thing. Mankind is a.. broken record on a loop. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat." 

He sat hunched over pressing his hands to his face. 

"We're all just.. insane." He sounded broken, his voice raw and vulnerable. "We keep doing the same thing over and over again.. thinking this time, something will be different. Something will of changed because it had too. Because by the will of fucking mind and thought something had to of changed and when it didn't we still try." 

Citra touched his shoulder and he didn't flinch, didn't even move. She took that as an invitation to scoot closer until she was pressed up next to him, resting her head on his shoulder. She looked up when she felt his head move, and he's looking at her with wide eyes. 

"I get it now. You and I. The stage changes but the roles don't. We just fill them, and when they dim the lights they'll forget the actors who played them."


The night air was filled with smokey wisps of orange and herbs. She sat among shamans, witch doctors, and priests all praying for good fortunes for the liberation journey to come. Seven virgins were slathered in oil and pigs blood, an exquisite and ripe offering to the gods, which they would be taken by the chosen warriors to accompany her on liberating the southern island. It was a ritual for good luck, to earn the favor of the Great Warrior to descend from the heavens and embody the soul of each and every brave Rakyat. Hurk was unaware of the ceremony, something she made sure of. The only problem presented to her was not from the man-child but actually Yalung.

The demon was different, that was a fact. But no matter how he presented himself to be, he was still a man with basic needs. And yet she finds him sitting beside her uninterested in the offerings presented. Bored, even. 

"If you require privacy then a room can be arranged." She offered, thinking that had to be it. The demon won't eat or drink if it meant taking off his mask, no less stripping naked to lay with the virgin. 

"Gratitude, but I hold no interest." He said dismissively. 

"Oh." She said in slight surprise, "I didn't know. I will have a boy to suit your needs."

"No, that's not what I meant." 

Citra frowned, "You don't enjoy the pleasures of sex? Or... not with just anyone?" He looked at her and she smiled. "I know the soul when it's found another. I hold someone in my heart, too."

"I think you misunderstand simple disinterest with love." He said, impassive as ever. Loud moans interrupted their conversation; in the middle of the spacious smoke filled room, a virgin tangled up in the sweaty mass of an orgy threw her head back and gasped as an orgasm consumed her. Visions of that night with Jason flooded her mind, the pain, it had hurt and he was overwhelming her and then- and then he was gone, dead like the rest and, and maybe that shouldn't of happened to him, he didn't deserve- 

"Are you OK?" Yalung said. 

She blinked, and realized she was sweating and wiped it away from her forehead. Her voice was shaky when she spoke again, her stomach queasy.

"Tell me Demon. Are deeds done for love justified?" She needed to know, needed to know his answer. She didn't know if it'll calm her, didn't even know what she was searching for. 

"Everyone has a purpose for doing the things they have done. Hatred, revenge, justice, love... love especially. It's one of the most powerful driving force behind mankind's actions, but decisions done out of love is entirely up to the person who's done it. I cannot tell you what you've done was justified, that is for only you to decide." 

She smiled weakly. That was the problem. She didn't know. She didn't even know why she was feeling this way. Tane's life didn't matter to her, it didn't. Jason should be no different.

then why is Riley still alive?

"Jason?" She whispered, eyes widening as something big and fleshy towered over her. Horror froze her, the only thing she could do was stare at the monstrous person, the skin on its face peeled off, revealing gaping round eyeballs, and drooling decaying teeth.

"You killed me!" It roared, crawling onto the seat, trapping her under it, its mouth hung open letting clumpy chunks of blood splat onto her.

"No." She whispered, horrified, staring at two familiar green eyeballs. "No! NO!" She flung herself away, desperate to get away, away from that thing! A gasp tore form her lips as she knocked into something and felt herself falling. 

"Citra!" Someone screamed. 

She tensed her body for impact, but it never came. A hand pressed against her back, and she snapped her eyes open to see Yalung crouched over her. 

"Citra!" Dennis came into view, and Yalung drew back, removing his hand from her back, the other from her stomach. The world stopped spinning gradually, leaving her with a faint headache, but she could still see that- that face. 

"Dennis?" She mumbled, disoriented. "I thought you already asleep." 

"I couldn't go to sleep." She started to sway in place and he grabbed her arm gently steadying her. "I came to see if you were OK, and it was a good thing I did."

"I'm fine." She said, brushing his hand off. "I just need rest. Stay here, see the ceremony through."

"I will help you back." He offered and she shook her head.

"Stay here, and do as I say. Yalung." She reached out for him and he came to her silently. She used his arm to steady herself as they slowly made their exit. Outside she sucked in fresh air greedily, clearing her dizzying head, the chill in the air cooling the sweat on her skin. He walked slow for her, allowing her to catch her bearings. It was dark out, the only light source was from the burning sticks, and empty, everyone already asleep or getting ready to. She did notice her handmaidens following them, but with a discreet wave she sent them away. 

"Thank you." She said, breaking the silence. Yalung responded with a slight nod of the head. In the dark she noticed he blended in well, as if she were walking arm in arm with a shadow rather than a tangible person. She wondered if he wanted to, he could just make himself disappear.

"Is Dennis the Father?" Yalung asked. 

"No. No... Jason is." She corrected him. Ghastly flashbacks of that, hideous, rotting face made her cringe, her grip on his arm tightening. "Tell me a story. Any, it doesn't matter." 

"A story?" Yalung echoed. He was quiet for a moment, she waiting desperately patient for something to distract herself with. "There was once long ago a great warrior named Kalinag." He began. "And one day he was tasked by the King in search of a place where time stood still, and where the water was the color of blood and flowed backwards; a place called Shangri-La."

"Did he find this place?" Citra asked.

"He did, but the land of peace was corrupted. An evil force called the Rakshasa infected the very heart of Shangri-La, chaining its bells down never to ring once more, and removing its habitats forever. A place of serenity was now a land of chaos and evil. Kalinag knew he had to purify the land, and with the help of its protector, a Sky Tiger, they freed all the bells, and they're ringing repelled the forces of evil away." He said.

"And what became of this hero? Did he return to the King?"

"Yes. The tale of his journey through Shangri-La was drawn down, but when the King asked how to find the land, Kalinag refused to say. He understood, that a place like Shangri-La should not be tainted by humanity's evil nature, so he kept the way a secret until he drew his final breath. They say when his soul approached infinity, the Sky Tiger came to him and guided him back to Shangri-La, where to this day he stands vigilant guarding the holy land against evil, listening to the ringing of the bells forever." 

"He is a noble warrior." She mused, "Most men want rest after death. Do you think such a place exist?" A land of peace sounded surreal to her. How can there be such a place without violence? She grew up around it, thrived in it. Violence is in her blood, the heat of the Rakyat.

He didn't answer, and she looked at him quizzically.

"Perhaps." He said. "Even if there was such a place, it is gone now, and the people who go looking for it will find nothing but rocks."

They stopped in the middle of the grassy courtyard, in front of the inner temple. She stepped away from him, glancing at the pale moon. 

"Tell me another one. Tomorrow is a day of uncertainty, and I wish to hear your stories when I have the chance." She sat, he sitting across from her. She found it fascinating. She felt like a kid again, listening to legends of heroes, and mythical wondrous journeys.

"OK." He said. "A long time ago in the heart of a desert, was an Oasis.There the lakes sparkled like diamonds, and plants filled with juicy fruit flourished. Animals lived in harmony, and among them was a Jackal and a Peacock. The two made sure there was order and balance among the animals... until a great plague engulfed their paradise, bringing an illness that rotted the inside of their bodies, leaving only an empty shell in its wake. The ones who weren't yet infected fled, taking precious water and food enough to last them through the long journey across the desert, but when they reached the borders of the Oasis, they found it blocked by a Lion who demanded to have all the food and water for himself."

"The Jackal is a clever animal by nature, so he thought quick, and told the Lion that he stashed more food and water in a secret place, back in the heart of the Oasis. But the Lion was no fool, and demanded the Jackal come with him and lead him there. The Peacock, knowing there was no secret stash, offered to lead the lion back with flight, since it was more faster. The Lion agreed, but the night before they were supposed to go back, the Jackal told the Lion the Peacock would fly and fly, and leave the Lion behind. So while the Peacock was asleep, they slipped away, and by morning they were gone."

"The animals were free to pass without the Lion present, and left the Oasis, unaware of the sacrifice made. The Peacock never saw the Jackal again, and yet she knew he had tricked the Lion and escaped the sickness. So the Peacock flies throughout the desert, never to rest until she finds the Jackal."

"That is sad." Citra commented, standing up. "The Peacock knows the Jackal is dead, why search for someone who is not there? Why continue on with pointless hope."

"Wouldn't you do the same for the person you love?" Yalung said. 

Citra paused, and surprised herself by agreeing. She would. Even when Jason came back victorious, she knew, or hoped, deep down that Vaas was still alive. And he was because she didn't stop searching for him.

"Maybe... the Jackal isn't dead. Maybe he is still out there, somewhere." She said. "He just needs to be found." 


 Vaas' heartbeat was a slow, steady rhythm. 

She traced his scars lightly with the tips of her fingers, marveling at how he survived such wounds. If she didn't send out her men to search for Vaas, he would surely have died. Gods just the thought of Vaas leaving her alone in this world crushed her very soul. She could never survive without him.

She didn't know if the feeling was vice-versa. She really didn't care. 

He was hers now. All hers like it was supposed to be. Like it was meant to be. 

As Citra fell asleep to the sound of his heartbeat, she tried to ignore the monstrous being standing in the corner, staring at her with dead green eyes.

Chapter Text

"I feel like a prisoner."

Vaas held up his hands and rattled the shackles cuffed around his wrists. "You know this isn't the first time I've been locked up like this. Two times actually. The first time I was in Egypt, and I was so fucking young and stupid." He laughed fondly, his chest vibrating under Citra's head; she laying sideways so her head rested on his chest, quietly listening to him. "I fell pretty hard for this Egyptian boy, he was actually the one I was supposed to do the dealing with at the ports. He sold guns, I sold la mari-ji-juana. Simple stuff you know?"

Citra clenched her jaws, but no, no now wasn't the time to let petty jealousy ruin this precious moment. Vaas was actually mellow. He woke her up very early, the sky outside still dark, and started talking and talking about nothing and everything. It was out of the bloom, and she loved it, craved it. He was talking to her, talking of the period of his life that remained a wonderful mystery to her. So she didn't dare interrupt him, or get mad. She desired this.. this lost connection. It felt so nice she could cry. 

How did they become so estranged?

"Turns out he was a she, Nadira.. that was her name, and she was already married to this Brazilian mercenary fuck, Marty or something I don't fucking care." He trailed off, raising his hand to shape a finger gun, and pretended to shoot something up at the ceiling. "Anyways Nadira was part of this rebellion group, she had a lot of enemies. She got framed, I happened to be around and got pulled into the shit fucking mess and then I found myself locked up sitting in piss and shit, mostly from the rats. I think god was flipping me off cos her fucking husband broke us out, saved my sorry ass." He groaned, as if the memory still bothered and embarrassed him to this day.

"And the second time?" She chirped.

"Mmmh that, that was somewhere in Africa. Some fucking idiots thought I was a merc for the other team, so like the dumbfucks they are, they locked me up, and took all the diamonds I was supposed to get for Hoyt. Funny enough, I was only in there for two days and then someone started a prison break. After that.. I dunno, I don't really remember. Next thing I know is that I wake up in this church that smelled like rotting balls, got told by Father Maliya I was all kinds of fucked up cos of malaria.. fucking mosquitoes."

"Church? Like.. Christianity?" She hasn't been to a church in years. Well she only went once, when there still was a church, and it was only because Vaas was curious and wanted to check it out, and she... she just wanted to go wherever he went. It was one of there mini adventures, a fond memory she treasures. The church is burned down now, maybe from the pirates or the Rakyat, she didn't know.

He snickered, "Nah, the old fart was Catholic. I holed up there for a while, great place to lie low. Only downside was he talked my ear off 'bout the bible and sweet, sweet Jesus. He said the usual stuff priests say and shit. You're a lost child, come to the light side we have cookies. Batshit crazy religious fuck.." He said smiling. "Kinda reminded me of the priests back home. You know I always wondered how much they had to smoke to believe in the crap they preached."

Citra frowned, "It's not.. crap Vaas. It's real."

Vaas threw his head back and barked with laughter. "Six? Seven, years now and you still haven't changed, huh. Grow up Citra, stories like that are just stories for kids. We're not kids anymore."

"It's not just a story!" She said, sitting up. "It is real. You are proof of it."

"Proof of what? The 'great warrior'? I thought Jason was your so called warrior?"

"He is- he-" Citra couldn't form the words inside her head. "He is- he just.."

"No." Vaas cut her off. "I think.. me, yo, and fuckboy snow white, we aren't the warrior in this game. You were." Citra shook her head, confused, and that made Vaas smile. "Yes you are."

"I'm not. You are, you always were from the start. It was always you." She said. 

"And that wasn't fucking fair to you." He whispered. "No... can't you see? The,'giant', is a.. this symbolic generalization of fucking outsiders trying to take over your fucking pond. And guess what little sister you fucking chopped their heads off." He made a quick movement of his hand like a knife cutting across his throat, a broad grin stretched on his lips.

"I don't.. understand." Citra said faintly, staring at him like he's lost his mind.

"You got Jason to get rid of me, then Hoyt, and when it was only him left, hermano was gonna rule the Rakyat. Just like fucking Hoyt, he, Jason, a fucking outsider, was going to take over your pond, and you the 'great warrior', well fuck him right? Literally maybe, but still, fuck him. Can't you see Citra? You slayed the FUCKING giant and 'saved' the Rakyat!" Vaas was giddy with excitement, like he just discovered all the secrets in the universe. "You are a FUCKING HERO! Like you always wanted!"

"Stop!" Citra yelled, getting off the bed to pace around the room, suddenly very agitated and anxious. "You speak nonsense!" 

Vaas laughed, and started to vigorously scratch the sides of his head. He stopped after a second, moving on to rubbing his arms. It was like he couldn't sit still, always moving his hands or something, anything. 

"No, no, no it's OK. It is, OK. You will see." He said, his voice shaky. "You will see. The truth will set you free Citra. I should fucking know. I wish I didn't, but I do. And I'm flying, flying way up in the clouds like Jason and his little friends, and nothing can touch me up there because I AM FUCKING FREE! And I'm not gonna fall this time."

She was hit with a mixture of emotions, so complicated and scattered and she didn't know what to do, what to feel anymore.

One word was calling out to her. 

Escape.

She needed to get away right now. Far away right now. This room, the very air was suffocating and her head hurt hurt hurt like someone was dragging their nails against her skull, etching deep marks into the bone. 

No no no nono it was Jason she knew it was him! He was trying to get in her head, they all were! BUT NONE OF THEM UNDERSTAND. NO ONE DOES.

YOU KILLED ME!

Citra cried out in utter terror, hiding her face behind her hands.

"Citra... Citra.. Citra." Vaas crooned from his relaxed position on the bed. "Bring me back a souvenir, kay?"

Slowly, Citra removed her hands from her face and stared bug-eyed at her brother. It was then she realized the sky was brightening outside, meaning that Yalung and the rest of the group was waiting for her at the beach.

"He's waiting for you. Bye bye." Vaas said, giving a little wave.

Citra was a mute, and somehow she left his room, watched herself prepare for the trip and found herself exiting the inner temple, all in an odd daze. The waking dream was broken when someone spoke up behind her.

"Citra, I need to talk to you."

She halted and turned around to see Dennis behind her, a worried look on his face.

"What is it.." She asked, not really looking at him, more like gazing off in an indirect location. 

Dennis gulped and breathed out. "I can't let you go to the southern island. No, I won't let you."

That snapped Citra out of whatever trance she was captive in. 

"You won't.. let me?" She repeated, the tips of her lips pulling upward out of pure disbelief.

"That's right." Dennis said, and he sounded so determined. "I won't let you go because you are pregnant. You are carrying your future son or, or daughter! And if anything happened to the both of you I don't- i won't be able to forgive myself knowing I let you go!" He stepped closer to her and cupped her cheek, his other hand settling on her arm. "I love you, Citra. You and the child."

Citra stepped back away from his touches. "You forget your place, Dennis. Defy me again and I will make sure the sharks eat happy tonight." She turned on her heels to leave but he snatched her arm. Dennis let go like he just touched fire, and Citra spun around.

"Citra I'm sorry I didn't mean-" He stuttered, his eyes wide with fright.

"You test my patience, old friend." She said, her voice steady but livid. "Do not forget I am the one who accepted you into the Rakyat. Kept you and did not discard you when you were no longer useful to us. Do not forget that." She left it at that, once again turning back to walk away.

"You talk like I'm not one of the Rakyat but I am just as much of a warrior as they are!" Dennis said, making her halt and face him again. "I am part of the Rakyat. I am part of this tribe! I am a warrior!"

Citra laughed, shaking her head. "A warrior? And who, tell me, believes that too?"

"The tribe do." Dennis said, and Citra stopped smiling. "I've been fighting with them side by side, commanded them while you stayed inside the temple. You weren't out there, fighting against the pirates. I was, and the tribe sees it too."

"I was injured. Healing." Citra said between gritted teeth, remembering the bullet wound in her upper thigh.

"Yes, you were." He agreed. "But you never came out of the temple Citra. The people rarely got to see their Queen, the one person who gave them hope when looked upon. You stayed in the shadows, and the only time you actually showed yourself was when I brought Jason to the temple. You barely talked to anyone. No, you did, but... to yourself."

"You.. told me to stay inside." She said, closing her eyes, her head aching. "You all did.. told me it wasn't safe out there."

"We didn't tell you that Citra. I tried to talk to you but you wouldn't listen to me. You wouldn't listen to anyone!"

"NO." Citra bellowed, silencing Dennis. "No you- you are lying. All of you! You're all against me!"

"No we aren't!" Dennis shot back helplessly. "Citra we are family. Did you forget that? I'm with you!"

"My family is dead." She spat, and if it were possible, she could feel her heart crack. "I have no one."

No one no one no one. Just one left and she needs him more than he needs her and that breaks her apart.

End. Done. She doesn't want to be here anymore. There are more important duties to be dealt with. 

"You would go to Yalung then?" Dennis said, and Citra, Citra felt the need for blood intensify. "He is not one of us! We can't even trust him!"

"Don't! Let petty jealousy cloud your mind." She seethed, getting tired of this whole situation. "Yalung is the Rakyat's ally. He has proven himself to be trustworthy and I won't have you ruin this alliance because you cannot control your own emotions!"

"Just an ally?" Dennis scoffed, "I am not blind, Citra. I see the way you look at him. It was the same way you looked at Jason and I- I can't stand it. They don't deserve you!"

"Enough! You are wasting my time! I have an island to liberate, and you will stay here and wait for my command." She left no room for a response, and left Dennis, not once glancing back.

Citra was fuming. Dennis was out of control. He was forgetting his place in her tribe. Among her people! He needs to be dealt with, but there was nothing she could do now. But she won't forget to. Dennis was a threat to her position, her leadership, and if he dares try to usurp her, she will take him down


The designated team had to pile into one patrol boat to get to the submarine. The top of the underwater vehicle was visible, and Yalung hopped onto it, opening the latch and helping the others inside. She was the last to get on, except for the driver of the boat who was going to return it to shore. She placed one foot on the side, the demon gently taking a hold of her wrist, and pulled her up. She was about to enter when Yalung spoke up.

"Wait." He said, and fiddled with the vest on his chest. He took it off and handed it to her. "It's thin, but it'll stop close and far range bullets but it won't do much help against a SPAS-12 and an AMR rifle."

In the back of her mind, she noted that Yalung must of attained that knowledge by getting shot himself with the guns.

"But don't you need it?" She asked, albeit grateful, slipping on the bullet proof vest that did not weigh as light as it looked. How did Yalung move around in this thing? No less run and jump.

"You need it more than me." Was his response, and she knew he was talking about the baby. Even though the vest concentrated protection at the chest area, it did have coverage for the stomach and back. The vest was thin, and she found it very hard to imagine this stopping a bullet.

He probably saw the look on her face and said, "Don't worry. It's filled with non-Newtonian fluids. It can take the heat."

"Thank you." Citra said, placing a hand on his shoulder. Yalung gave a curt nod and gestured her into the submarine, closing the hatch behind him. Inside she expected it to be dark and dank, but surprisingly it was lit by two long electrical lights, and at the wheel was a huge glass panel that allowed the occupants to see what's in front of them. 

"Alright let's get this puppy started!" Hurk said, rubbing his hands together. He and Yalung went off to fiddle with the panel at the front, while Citra and her men gathered at a table connected to the floor. A map of both the islands were laid out, though they only focused on the southern one. They were discussing peculiar matters in hushed voices until there was a deep thrumming and from the glass panel she saw them descend underneath the water. 

"There's a cave somewhere here on the island that connects up to the land." Citra said when Yalung and Hurk joined them around the table, pointing at a place on the map. "We can get there unnoticed." 

"Oh!" Hurk gasped, "Wait, hold up uno momento. I remember that, that's uh, that's the port the Privateers use for shipments and new recruits and stuff. I don't think it'll be empty, brah." 

"A port? How do you know about this?" She demanded, looking at him suspiciously. 

"From my German pen pal dude. I found this random shortwave radio transmission a while ago repeating this coded message on a loop. I only understood it because it was basic U.S spelling alphabet. I got the thing translated, and it was all like, fuck yeah America is the best, ja! If you agree go to these coordinates, so I went and it was super secretive and shit, had to dive off a cliff and swim through this tunnel thing into an underwater cave, like the Batcave, but there weren't any bats which was kind of a let down.."

"Get on with it." Citra snapped.

"OK, so there was a radio there and I used it and this guy with a thick German accent comes on thinking I'm this Willis guy. I think he was disappointed when it was just me but anyways he introduces himself as Sam. This guy, no shit, is part of the C.I.A, and he told me he lost contact with his group and he's like going undercover working for Hoyt. I mean, how fucking cool is that, like James Bond cool." He said.

"The C.I.A are here?" Yalung spoke up with sudden interest. "Are you sure?" 

"Whoa dude, yes? Don't worry, no one here is a P.O.I." Hurk joked, and when Yalung didn't share his amusement Hurk's smile dropped. "Oh.." 

"Old friends of yours?" Citra asked, leaning against the table crossing her arms.

"Acquaintances." He bit, revealing nothing more, and instead asked Hurk, "How do you know about the ports. Sam told you?" 

"Yeah actually he.." Hurk shoved his hand inside his sweatpants and it took him a while to pull out a white folded paper. "Aha! Right here, he left me a diagram of Hoyt's island." Hurk unfolded the paper which turned out to be a map with neatly simplistic drawn areas of specific locations with x,y coordinates, and on it was the docks. The man child laid it next to the map she was using.

Citra examined it, and glared at Hurk. "You purposely withheld information from us?"

"What? No, no I just forgot. Well I lost it one time because of damn Gilbert but I got it back so no worries. Kept it safe and warm." He grinned, patting dangerously close to his butt. Citra pulled her lips back in disgust, making a mental note not to touch the map.

"Then we have a way onto the island." Yalung said, heading back to the wheel. Citra accompanied him, standing beside him gazing at the endless sea of blue.

"There might be Privateers there. We will get caught." She said.

"They won't expect anyone to come that way." He replied, starting the engines. "It's our best option."

Citra bit the inside of her cheek. "It's our only option but.. I trust your judgment."

The time waiting to reach their destination was spent studying the diagram, and when she grew bored with that she sat with her men in silence. Thankfully Hurk was too busy talking to Yalung, which was more of a one-sided conversation, and didn't bother her. She went through the plan again in her mind. They didn't plan specifically, but they had a general objective. Sneak onto the island, take out the outposts stationed near the shores, making it possible to allow access for the rest of her army to come without getting blown to bits, and destroy whatever organized structured group that is keeping the Privateer together. It sounded impossible with only eight people, but Citra believed quality beats quantity. And Jason single-handedly brought down Hoyt's empire; they can do the same with a band of mercenaries.

Jason... The conversation she had with Vaas came back to her, and she thought, truly thought, would she be OK with Jason ruling the Rakyat. If Vaas was.. dead, then would she let Jason take her mantle as tribal leader of the Rakyat? Maybe... yes, no, she didn't know. Jason was so similar to.. Vaas?... no... herself. That was why.. Jason caught her interest, because his older brother was killed, taken away from him and the fire in his eyes reflected hers. She wanted Jason to rage, rage rage and she wanted vengeance. 

She wanted to right the wrongs done to her through Jason. 

And Liza... 

you took him away from me

Riley...

where is he? THE where is my brother

you're no better than Hoyt and I... little sister you chopped their fucking heads off

I see potential in you. You have the same passion your TRUTH mother had. A will to move the people. To lead them. I see that in you. You are strong. And one day I know you will lead our people to better days. But you WILL cannot let whatever infected your mother get to you. Do you understand, Citra?

do you understand Citra?SET

do you understandunderstandUNDerSTAnd

could not save your mother you took her away YOU TOOK HER AWAY YOU TOOK HER AWAY MY MOTHER MY MOTHER

the warrior? made for kids we're not kids anymore you can't recreate the past 

a cycle we're stuck we're actors in different bodies bodies bodies I'm in the wrong body escape FREE

"What do you see?"

Yalung's voice rang clear in her head, like a pin drop in a silent room.

"Uhmm well we're heading straight into the tunnel." Hurk replied, looking through the periscope. "Aaaand we're in."

Citra got up from her seat on the floor and stood next to Yalung. The glass panel showed that the sandy sea floor was gone, replaced with bumpy raised rocks, and the natural light from the sun was gone, leaving them in darkness. They could barely see what's in front of them.

"Tell me when to stop." The demon said to Hurk, decreasing the speed of the submarine.

"Uh.. oh, oh that's not good. Stop, stop now." Hurk said frantically and Yalung cut off the engine, leaving them hovering in the dark.

"What happened? Are we at the docks? What did you see?" She asked, a bit disturbed with being in a mechanical beast underwater. Hurk pushed the periscope away and scratched the back of his neck.

"Yessir. The only thing is we're not alone." 

Citra pursed her lips. She expected this, hoped it wouldn't be proven true, but now they have to deal with it. The only thing is they cannot be seen. No alarms, no flare guns, and no survivors to escape. This part was crucial. They have the advantage of obscurity, and to waste that opportunity meant definite failure of the plan. No, first they have to take out the alarms, and she knew of one person who is stealthiest enough to do so.

"Yalung, can you disarm all the alarms without being discovered?" She asked. He had his gun out already, checking the chamber and slapping it shut with a resounding click. He put it back in its holder and took control of the wheel and slowly raised the submarine. 

"When you hear gunshots, get ready to fight." He said, and climbed up the ladder, noiselessly opened the hatch and disappeared from sight. 

"I bet ten minutes." Hurk sniffed. Citra ignored him and motioned for her warriors to be prepared; standard AK-47 strapped around their shoulders. She herself only carried a regular pistol, but she favors the long jagged edge knife hanging from her skirt. They waited for what felt like an eternity, and Citra was already sweating with anticipation. 

BANG! BANG!

Hurk let out a battle cry, raising the gun in the air, followed by the warriors and- The sounds around her faded into the background, like someone was covering her ears. Everything seemed to go in slow-motion, and she watched as Jason, literal in the flesh Jason, walk past her. 

The world came rushing back to her, and she found herself climbing up cold bars and then she was outside, sucking in fresh air. She wasted no time running across the submarine, leaping through the air and grabbing the edge of a wooden dock. She pulled herself up with more effort than it should of taken due to the armored vest. Gunshots echoed throughout the cave, accompanied with angry yells and screams of pain. Citra took off in a random direction, passing dead Privateers, searching for live ones.

The short path lead into a larger space, where she counted at least twelve mercenaries, two she noted were heavies. Instinctively she grabbed a bottle and chucked it at the enemy closest to her. It shattered in a rain of glass, and the yellow-clad merc clawed at his body as flames erupted from the broken molotov. In a burst of speed, she flew to the merc beside the burning man, and shoved a knife up his throat, using him as a human meat shield when a spray of bullets fired at her afterwards. Citra grit her teeth and dragged the body back until she found a safer coverage, which was behind stacks of crates. It was the Rakyat on one side, and the Privateers on the other.

"Say hello to my little friend!" Hurk yelled like a maniac, appearing out of nowhere with a rocket launcher on his shoulder. Citra gasped and pressed her body flat against the wall, covering her ears. It didn't help, the explosion leaving a ringing in her ears and the very ground shook underneath her. Something bumped against her and it was Hurk reloading the missile. 

"No!" She snatched the rocket launcher from him and threw it away. "Are you mad? We're inside here too!" 

"It was cool though, right?" Hurk laughed and she groaned in frustration, leaving the cover to get away from him. Bullets whizzed past her, and she cursed Hurk; he didn't even get all the mercs. She slid behind a ridge in the wall, chunks of rocks blown off right next to her head. They had her pinned, and she could only do so much with a pistol before having to hide again. The ongoing assault of bullets was suddenly interrupted, followed by a loud bang; smaller than a missile launcher so it must be a C-4. 

Peeking around the corner she saw Yalung emerge from behind enemy lines and tossed another C-4. It exploded mid-air, achieving a triple kill. With renewed force, Citra charged forward and hopped onto a merc, stabbing him in the shoulder. He grunted and threw her off him, the knife still sticking out of his shoulder. He pulled it out and flung it aside and aimed his gun at her.

Citra twisted her body and kicked the gun from his hands. She was on him in a second, tackling the merc to the ground. They rolled around, kicking, punching, biting- though that was on her part. They rolled once more and he was on top, his fingers wrapping around her throat, cutting off her airway. Citra's eyes bulged,  and she desperately felt around for something, anything! 

Something burned her fingers at the touch, and she grabbed it and slammed it against the merc's head. It turned out to be a simple lantern, but it did the trick. The Privateer withdrew his hands to clutch his head, giving her the chance to shove him off. Scrambling up, she retrieved her knife and pounced on the merc letting out a fierce scream, ready to end his life.

"Stop!" Yalung shouted from across the room. Despite herself, she froze, the tip of the blade pinching against the skin of his neck. 'Don't kill him. We need him." 

"For what?" She barked, pressing the knife down, her instincts urging her to kill, kill, kill! 

"Information." He answered. Citra didn't remove the knife, didn't want to, but taking a quick sweep of the room, she noticed that the merc underneath her was the only one still alive.

"Lucky fool." She hissed, getting off him. The merc let out an audible sigh of relief, rubbing his neck. Yalung marched over to them and pulled the Privateer up non-gently and threw him against the wall. 

"Ow, fuck!" The merc cursed, clutching his newly broken bloody nose. 

"That is the beginning of your pain. Treasure the memory, it will bring you comfort." Yalung said, and yanked the merc back, pressing a gun to his back and ushered him to walk. "Tell your men to scout the area, find anything useful." He ordered over his shoulder, forcing the merc to a different section of the cave. Citra repeated the order to the natives in their natural tongue.

"My stomach can't handle gore, you do you guys. Imma be over here." Hurk announced, and rubbed his hands together. "Alright now where did they put the explosives..."

Citra followed Yalung through a tunnel and out onto a rusting metal dock that stretched out into the water. The cave was actually a large sinkhole, stairways attached to the walls of the sinkhole spiraling around it leading up the surface. There was already a chair on the dock, and Yalung forced the merc to sit on it.

"Put your hands behind the chair." He ordered.

"Fuck. You." The merc spat, giving the demon a shit-eating grin. He received a sharp back-handed slap in response, the merc's head whipping to the side from the force of the blow.

"Put your hands behind the chair." Yalung repeated again, and it was slightly unnerving that the demon sounded so.. indifferent.

The merc glared daggers, but did as told. Yalung produced handcuffs from his belt and cuffed the mercs wrists to the back of the chair. Citra blinked in surprise when the demon punched the Privateer, and by the looks of it, hard enough to almost knock the man unconscious, his head rolling from side to side. She understood the reason for that when Yalung cuffed the merc's ankles without a struggle from said man. The demon moved away and crouched, pulling out a rolled up pouch, and laid it out.

Citra approached idly, looking over his shoulder to see what he got. At first glance, it looked like a tool pouch that a mechanic would carry around, but the use of the tools were for a more sinister purpose. Her eyes widened when Yalung started tugging off his gloves. This is the first time the demon has removed any article of clothing, and her heartbeat sped up.

Pale skin. He had pale skin. And there were prominent scars etched on his hands in a distorted pattern. The thing that caught her eye were the two black fingers on his right hand. She examined them more carefully, the index and middle finger, and it dawned on her that those weren't actually his fingers; it was fake, the prosthetic fingers attached to a mechanical device wrapped around his hand, and she watched fascinated as it moved so naturally, like real fingers.

Yalung chose a pair of pliers and stood up. He turned to Citra and said, "It is better if there is no one else present. He will look to you for hope."

"He won't get any hope from me." She replied and waved her hand. "But if you need privacy then I will leave." 

She headed back to the cave, catching Yalung's last words. 

"The amount of pain you will experience, will be determined by you. Comply or resist, the end will be the same either way. It is all up to you."


The screams lasted a good hour or so. By the time it died down, Citra and the group turned the cave into a temporary base of operations. They piled the corpses into a corner, and stashed weapons, explosives, and med-kits into separate piles. Everything seemed to be in conditional order, so she left to check up on Yalung. 

She found him crouched by the edge of the walkway washing various tools. The merc sat slouched on the chair, his shirt ripped open exposing bare chest, and his pants were pulled down along with his boxers. His unblinking eyes stared up at the sky, maybe wanting to see something beautiful for the last time. She was surprised to see his face was left unscathed except for bruising when Yalung hit him. Same can't be said for his body. 

Patches of his skin were sliced off, and by the knife-work it was done with skillful fingers. There were small and long cuts on his chest leading down to the inside of his thighs, and.. even some on his genitals. The meat around the knee area was stripped away, exposing milky white bone and squishy cartilage, and the nails on his hands and toes were ripped out. 

"You won't kill a pirate because of your ideals, but you would torture a man to death? Is this a humane death to you?" Citra asked, using two fingers to get a better look at the merc's neck. There was a small incision on the side, and a steady stream of blood flowed from it. So Yalung wasn't entirely ruthless. A mercy kill, a cut in the external vein jugular. A fast, almost painless death.

"Mercenaries aren't human beings. They're just guns for hire." Yalung said, wiping dry a medical knife. "The only thing they care about is the next quick buck they can make. They don't think about the pain they've inflicted on other people as long as they're getting paid." He said it with such bitterness that she would of thought he had some personal vendetta against the group.

Citra nodded toward his hand. "What happened to your fingers?" 

He had unclipped the prosthetics and laid them down next to his feet to wash his hands. His two fingers were gone from the knuckle up, just stumps with faint scarring. It looked years old, no longer requiring stitches.

"A honey badger bit my fingers off when I was eight. It wouldn't let go, even when it was getting punched." He said, scrubbing off dark blood.

"Did it eventually?" Citra laughed, taking a seat next to him, dipping her feet into the water. 

"It did, along with my fingers." 

"That almost happened to Vaas, too." Citra said without thinking, followed by an awkward pause when she realized what she just said. What did it matter, it's not like she was keeping it a secret. "He is.. he was my brother."

Though he wore a mask, she could feel his eyes on her. 

"War tears families apart." He said, putting on the fake fingers, giving it a flex or two. 

"He chose his path, and so did I. Our paths just went separate ways." She muttered, looking away. The conversation died down, Citra staring off at nothing swishing her legs in the water. Life was made up of decisions, Tane told her that. Maybe if she were a better sister, then Vaas wouldn't have left her. Maybe if she were a better daughter, her father would have paid attention to her for once. Maybe if she were a better person, then Jason wouldn't be.. Choices, decisions, actions. She's made so many mistakes. 

"What happened?" Yalung asked, rolling up the tool pouch. 

"With what?"

"Vaas. His fingers." He clarified. 

Citra blinked and stared hard at Yalung. She couldn't tell if his curiosity was genuine, or done out of politeness. Why would he care? When Yalung sat down facing her, Citra finally let herself believe he was truly interested. It was weird, talking to someone else about Vaas. Not only that, but just talking to someone else that isn't Vaas, or about non-personal topics.. was just weird.

Friend is a foreign word to her. Friends meant allies. A true friend meant Vaas. There was nobody else, or not that she could remember. The girls in her tribe were far away creatures, unable to communicate on a friendship level. The boys she felt didn't like her, and she suspected it to be solely based on her gender. It was Vaas who she could feel like herself around. He didn't treat her like a girl, or a boy, or anything. They were just kids playing in the dirt.. and sometimes under the sheets. 

Innocence. They didn't have a worry in the world. And then they grew up. 

Vaas into a man, and Citra into a.. woman. 

The boys started liking her then, but she didn't want them too. Don't get her wrong, she longed for their acceptance, to be a part of the group just like Vaas was, but not this way. She wanted... to be just like them. To be just like Vaas. 

"Vaas used to be a wild child. Reckless." She said, smiling at the memory of a grinning young boy that sported a bruise or a cut everyday. "He never had any self-control. One day our Father and our Uncle caught a komodo dragon and put it inside a cage. Vaas stuck his hand in there, he wanted to know what it felt like. Luckily our Uncle came back to check on the animal, and pulled back his hand before it could bite him." She shook her head smiling. "And then years later he goes putting his arm in crocodile mouths because of some dare." She says it now like a joke, but back then when it actually happened Citra was truly terrified. She even cried, though nothing happened, and Vaas called her a cry baby, his way of comforting her. 

An unfamiliar sound came from under his mask, and Citra realized he was chuckling. It was so bizarre to hear. She thought the demon didn't have the ability to laugh, usually so stoic and emotionless. It sounded distorted with the voice-changer, but it was a laugh either way. 

Yalung slipped on the gloves, and the human underneath disappeared. It was back to the demon now. He stood up and so did she.

"Did he have the information you wanted to hear?" Citra asked, looking towards the corpse. 

"Jason Brody destroyed Hoyt's satellite dish, but they didn't have just one." He replied. "Hoyt kept a second one in a storage building, and they're going to use it to call for reinforcements, the ones who are still loyal to Hoyt that is." 

"Where is it? We have to destroy it immediately." Citra said, alarmed at the fact that the Privateers can get in contact with people overseas. And then she thought, in the back of her mind, that Yalung would of been sent from where ever he came from to help Hoyt. In another universe, if Jason didn't destroy the satellite, they wouldn't be here, sharing stories and fighting together. Yalung would be on Hoyt's side, just like Vaas was.

"They have it, but they can't use it. Their communication systems were destroyed by Brody." Yalung said. "But he missed the radio tower at the airport."

"Then we go there and get rid of it!" 

"It's not as easy at it sounds." He uncuffed the corpse and lifted it over his shoulder. "Since Hoyt died, the Privateers disbanded. They no longer have a leader, or the funds tying them to this island. You and your men are the only thing stopping them from leaving. Forced under conditions like this, it's only natural for some of them to step up and take control. Don't mistake it though, mercenaries don't take orders from anyone without cash, but they're organized now. The only good thing is that they're not unified."

"Why is that a good thing?" Citra asked, walking beside Yalung as they entered the cave. 

"Two forces grasping for power tend to turn on each other, rather than focus on the real enemy." He explained. "Frank Bilders has a faction of the group siding with him. They want to stay on the island and use the satellite to call for help. He thinks the next guy in charge gets to take Hoyt's place, and all the profits that comes with becoming the new boss. He doesn't understand that everyone else has the same plan in mind."

"And the other one?" She asked, watching him throw the body onto the pile of corpses. Yalung's entire demeanor changed, from the slight stiffening of the body to his hands balling into fists.

"Nasreen Davar." He answered, like the very name itself was some kind of curse. "She's the one that can be a real threat. She's smart, she knows there's nothing left to salvage from Hoyt's empire. It's better to get out with as much money you can take. It's safer that way, less risky."

"How do you know that is her true intentions?" Citra asked.

"Because it's what I would have done. The satellite dish and the radio tower are at the airport, and since your man Brody burned down Hoyt's compound, they moved all their forces there. It's their main base, and it will be hard to get into. We need to lessen their power, liberate the outposts near the beaches, or at least the ones North so your men can come by boats undetected."

"Then we can take the airport?"

"It won't be easy. We need at least a small army. Though they are small in numbers, these are mercenaries. One Privateer is five pirates, and they are better equipped than us. We are playing on their turf, they have the advantage." He said, and she could see the wheels turning in his head. He motioned with his hand to the piles of corpses. "Tell your men to change into Privateer armor." 

"Why?" Citra gasped, rearing her head back in disgust. What in the world would compel the demon to say such a thing? They hated the Privateers. Wearing their armor is unacceptable.  

"There will be check ups, and they will notice the pile of dead bodies. Put two of your men dressed as Privateer's at the entrance to greet them, pretend everything is OK done here." He said, walking over to the pile of guns.

"Wouldn't it be better to kill them?" It has the same result, and two less Privateers on this island is always a plus. 

"No. They have to report back to someone, Nasreen maybe, and their sudden disappearance will be suspicious. We can't afford to raise any alarms, not yet." He examined an assault rifle and tossed it at her. "You know how to shoot a gun?"

It took her a moment to figure out how to hold it correctly. "I'm familiar... with pistols." He had been examining another gun, and put that down, striding over to her.

"It's not so different." He lifted her arms so she would now be aiming the rifle, and tapped her trigger finger. "Never put your finger on the trigger unless you're aiming to kill." She nodded in understanding, and he continued. "You look through the scope, and where the green dot is that is where the bullets will go." He stepped back. "Shoot the wall."

"It will be loud." She warned.

"Shoot the wall." He repeated.

Breathing out, she slowly squeezed the trigger. She fired fast rapid shots, the gun surprisingly sturdy in her hands and didn't shake with the force of the bullets. The best part was that the gun barely made a sound; must be due to the sound suppressor clipped at the barrel. 

"Good. Now shoot that bottle." He pointed to a beer bottle placed innocently on a table, right next to where Hurk was standing, looking between a C-4 and a mine.

A small smirk formed on her lips, and she didn't waste any time shooting the bottle. It exploded, and Hurk jumped in surprise dropping the explosives, letting out a frightened squeal.

"Hey now that was uncalled for. You heard that girly scream? Yeah well that was my super saiyan scream. I was going super saiyan, so y'all better watch out!" Hurk said, bending down to pick up the explosives. She let loose another torrent of fire near his feet, making him jump from foot to foot yelling. Laughter filled the cave, and Citra felt a tap on her shoulder.

"Get your men changed and stationed. Meet me outside when you're done." Yalung said.

She did as told. Her men were, reluctant, in putting on armor from dead bodies, but they do what they must. She chose two from the group who were the best at English, and took them up to the entrance, explaining their job on the way.

As promised, Yalung was outside, standing a little ways down the dirt road. She went to him, and they walked off the path into the wide grassy plain hills. It was so different here. Citra never set foot on the Southern island, and she expected it to look like her home island, but it turned out she was wrong, extremely wrong. While the Northern Island had towering peaks of mountains filled with jungle so thick it was impossible to drive through with a car, the Southern island was a complete opposite. There were soft rolling hills, wide grassy plains, and everything here was more... spacier. Barren compared to the jungles.

"Where are we going?" She asked, brushing her fingers gently through feather soft grass.

"I want to check out the airport. Get a better sense on what we're up against." He replied. 

They walked for quite a long time more in silence. The sun bore down on them mercilessly, and underneath the vest Citra could feel herself sweat. She glanced at Yalung, at the concealing clothing he wore. It must be so hot in there, she thought, especially under that mask. The grassy plains ended, and they entered a small forestry area. The sound of rushing water relieved Citra, and when they came upon a waterfall she wadded into the water, splashing her face and arms cool. 

"Drink this and refill it." Yalung said, handing her a bottle of water. She uncapped it and drank down the contents greedily, her parched throat relieved of dryness. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, and looked around.

"With what? This water?" She kicked her foot, splashing the water. "It is unwise to drink from rivers."

"The bottle is a purifier. Wait an hour and the water will be clean." He said, gazing up at the top of the waterfall. "The airport is just over this. We can get a better view up there."

She handed him back the refilled bottle. "Vaas and I used to climb the mountains back home. This is nothing." She strolled right up to the wall and examined it for the best place to start. Running footsteps, and above her Yalung jumped and latched onto a crack in the wall, his body swinging with the momentum. The demon eventually found his footing, and started climbing. Not wanting to be left behind, she felt around for a crack to slip her fingers in, and lifted herself up.

She hasn't done free climbing in a long time, and it showed when her muscles started to burn, and her breaths came in short frequent gasps. Despite this, she was enjoying it. It felt good, like a release of the soul. Vaas was always faster than her, always got to the top first, always won... but she made some excuse of him having longer legs than her. And if she weren't in this body, then she could win for once.

By the time she made it to the top, Yalung was already waiting for her. He outstretched a hand to help her up, but she ignored the offer. After catching her breath, she joined Yalung where he was, looking through a pair of binoculars. He handed it to her when she crouched down next to him.

She's never seen anything like this before. The soft ground of earth was gone, miles of it, replaced with concrete. Big metal birds stood on small wheels, and bunkers large enough to house the planes lined the port. Construction vehicles and technical trucks moved this way and that. It was an ants nest of Privateers. 

"Do you see that, way in the back." He pointed beyond the bunkers, at a wooden radio tower. The thing looked new, sturdy, and tall, at least 80. "That must be their new communication system."

"Where is the satellite dish?" She muttered, scanning the area.

"Maybe in one of the bunkers. They want everything close and secure. I doubt it's somewhere far." He answered. 

Three trucks pulling up into the airport caught Citra's eye. More Privateers climbed out, nothing unusual, until a man dressed in different attire got out. That man was approached by another group of mercs, and at the head was a woman. 

"Look, down there." She said, and Yalung slung a sniper rifle from his back and used that to get a better view. 

"That's them. The man with green jacket is Frank Bilders. The woman is Nasreen."

From where she sat, she could make out what they look like. Frank did sport a bright green jacket, unzipped to show he wore Privateer armor underneath. He looked aged, maybe in his early 40's. Compared to Frank, Nasreen looked younger, and shorter, but size and age didn't matter; you can still kill a man. The two seemed to be in a heated argument, Frank waving his hand at the radio tower. 

Yalung slapped the floor suddenly, startling her. 

"I can kill them right now. I can kill her right now." He growled, his grip on the rifle tightening. Even under the mask, she could hear his distorted breathing. 

"Then kill them." She said, as if it was the most simplest thing to do. "What's stopping you?"

"Getting rid of the people in charge won't end the war. There will always be someone else, someone else to take their place. To continue their work!" He said, slinging the rifle over his back and getting up. "No, no we have to hit the sickness at its source. Isolate it, already done. They did it themselves. We can't wait for them to destroy each other." He spoke fast, and she had a sneaking suspicion he was talking more to himself than to her. "We have to destroy them all."

"And you will." Citra said, giving him a small smile, taking his hand in hers. "You can free this island."

The demon slipped his hand away. "We should head back." 

They went back to the edge of the waterfall. Only one way down.


Their clothes dried in no time on the trek back to the ports. 

"I'm going to check out Thurston Town." He announced, "You remember the way back?"

"I do. Yalung!" She called after his retreating form. "Return to me, to us, soon."

The demon left without a response, jogging off in a different direction. She made her way back to the port, and nodded a greeting to the two natives standing in position at the entrance, dressed as Privateers. It is a clever idea; with the helmets on Citra could barely make out their faces, and the tattoo's were covered up nicely. 

Stepping off the winding ramp, she went straight into the cave to take a look at the maps again. Turning around a corner, she strode into the room and stopped abruptly. Her lips parted in confusion when she saw all five of her men on their knees, Hurk alongside them. Something grabbed her arms roughly and shoved her down, her knees scraping against the hard floor. She glanced behind her to see the two Privateers at the entrance, and that's when things clicked together in her head.

"Seems like we have a bug infestation on our island boys!" Frank Bilders exclaimed, emerging from the shadows. "It's a good thing we're exterminator certified."

Chapter Text

"Ya fuckin' eejit I think ya hit her too hard over the head!"

Citra's eyes fluttered open as consciousness came back to her, followed by a dull pounding on the side of her skull. 

"Haul, I think she's wakin' up. Hiya, rise n' shine! C'mon now, don't be hole."

"Vaas.." She mumbled, touching the spot where it hurt the most only to feel a bump.

"Sorry friend, Vaas is no longer employed in this fine company. He's taken a 'leave of absence'. But I'm still available, so let's talk business shall we?"

There was a bright light shining harshly, making her squint and wince. The light dulled and everything came into focus, first a wooden desk to the bottom of someone's shoes, then to the person itself. 

"Feeling fresh as a daisy, Sleeping Beauty?" Frank Bilders had a smile that stretched his face back, creating layers upon layers of wrinkles crunching up at the tips of his eyes. He sat leaned back on a leather chair, legs kicked up on the desk as if he owned the place; overall the epitome of hubris. Despite his relaxed state, Citra did not underestimate the perilous predicament she was currently in.

"Fancy a feg?" He asked, presenting a brown cigar. Citra stared in silence and he shrugged, placing it in his lips and lighting it up. He took a drag and exhaled slowly, slapping his lips as if tasting it, examining the cigar with interest. "You know, it is such an honor to finally meet you." He got up and walked to the front of the desk and sat on it. Citra noted he wore a leg brace, giving him a slight limp to his walk. "Thank you. Thank. You. You know, if it weren't for that Brody kid, I wouldn't be sittin' here in my new office, with my big fancy promotion. I don't know if you've heard the bad news, but Hoyt decided to get an early retirement, completely unexpected and heartbreaking. Said he wanted to swim with the sharks."

"Doesn't this look nice on me? Ma always said gold is my color." Frank lifted up the sleeve of his jacket, flashing an expensive looking watch. He squinted and licked the tips of his fingers, scrubbing at dark red spots on the watch. "Diamonds would've been nice, too, but I think.. they're not my kind of style no more." 

"Where are my men." She demanded, sitting up, noticing for the first time her hands were bound with ropes. Floorboards creaked to the sides of her, and she glanced both ways to see unnamed Privateers pointing their guns at her.

"Calm ya fuckin' tits, ya cunts. She's fucking tied up. What's she gonna do, bite my langer off?" He chuckled. The Privateers looked at each other and lowered the guns, returning to their relaxed pose. "Your men are alive, for now. Depends if you'll cooperate with us."

She cocked her head, "And if you're lying?"

Frank smiled, and patted a small machine and twisted it around to reveal it to be a miniature TV. On the screen were the five natives in some kind of dark room lit by a single light bulb. They were on their knees, their arms pulled behind their back. 

"Maybe a small demonstration is needed." Frank unclipped a radio from his belt. "Oi, would you kindly take one shot?" 

On the screen a Privateer stepped into view, and without warning shot the native farthest on the left in the back of the head. 

"Mmh. See, it's just gonna be a bad time." He said nonchalantly, not at all bothered at the scene that played out right in front of them. Citra stared at the TV. Jason was slumped over dead, his brains splattered all over the floor. The screen glitched out and returned back to normal in a second. Jason was no longer on the floor, but walking to the camera slowly, his face hidden in shadows. 

"What do you want?" She muttered, tearing her eyes away from the screen. 

"I count seven men. Seven. I want to know where the eighth one is, your friend Yalung. Where is he hiding?"

"I don't know." She answered truthfully, albeit too quickly. 

Frank pressed his lips together in a thin line nodding, and said into the radio, "One more time for the audience!" Another gunshot, another brother dead. 

"How do you even know there are eight of us?" She avoided looking at the TV. How could he possibly know that? How, how, how... Where did they go wrong? What happened? 

"Ya friends from out of town made a great executive decision to continue doing business with us. Mr. Len is a smart man, and I think he saw the bigger picture. I mean, no offense in any way, but a bunch of tatted up tribal freaks ain't gonna make much of a profit. They need someone who already knows how the business works... someone like me and sorry lass ya just don't fit the bill." He smiled, and patted the TV again. "I'm asking one more time. Where is Yalung?"

It started with a low chuckle, and then full blown laughter. She couldn't help herself! It was just so ironic... 

She grinned, a mischievous glint shining in her eyes.  "Colonel Len and his men are-" 

A loud bang interrupted her. It was the sound of the doors slamming open, followed by fast paced footsteps. The smug on his face dropped, replaced with a look of pure annoyance. 

"Who the fuck let her in? Come on guys are we gonna let in every sorry bloke we see off the streets? Are we not doing our jobs anymore, is that it?" Frank said irritated. Citra's grin died when she saw Nasreen Davar stride into the room.

"I said I wanted her. You can have the other six but I want her." Nasreen hissed, jabbing a finger at Citra. Frank looked smug and sat back, blowing smoke in the mercs face. 

"Sorry bibe, finders keepers." Frank grinned, flashing his teeth, which he was missing quite a few. Nasreen snatched the cigar between his lips and put it out on the desk. 

"I have the radio station." She said. "You won't be able to contact anyone."

"And I have the fucking satellite dish." He spat back. "You won't even get a signal!" 

The two of them looked ready to explode, or shoot the other.

two forces grasping for power tend to turn on each other, rather than focus on the real enemy

Maybe those words held some truth to it. It didn't matter, as long as she had some kind of an advantage. 

"What are you even doing with her." Nasreen waved at her face. "She doesn't even look beat up."

"Oi, I'm actually doing something important right now and ya interrupting me!"

Nasreen crossed her arms, "Like what, finding the eighth man?" She approached Citra and placed one hand on the chair, blocking her sight. Citra locked eyes with the merc, and staring back at her were cold, harden eyes, different than Vaas' whom looks disconnected, and Jason who only had rage. Despite this, Citra didn't back down, and stared right back.

"You're wasting your time. You won't find Yalung, he will find you, and he will definitely try to rescue her." Nasreen said, finally backing away. Citra let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. The peace didn't last long when she was suddenly yanked up, and if it weren't for the two Privateers holding her in place she would've tripped on her own two feet. 

"I'm going to do something actually important for the both of us." Nasreen said, walking to the doors. "If you care to join then I suggest you shut up and follow."

"Oi! Don't tell me to fucking shut up ya cunt. I'm doing what I think is best." Frank snapped, yet he joined Nasreen to wherever they were going. Citra was dragged along forcefully. Passing through the doors, they entered an open space hallway that had wide stairs they took to go down to the bottom floor. Interestingly, the bottom floor looked burnt in some areas. They went down another set of stairs that took them underground where she was shoved in the middle of the dimly lit room. 

"I want them as witnesses." Nasreen pointed to a side of the room, and Citra looked to see whats she was pointing at. It was her men, three of them, with sacks over their heads, which were removed under Nasreen's command. "See what happens if you fight against us." Her fist connected with Citra's cheekbone, and gods it was like someone hit her with a bat. Blood filled her mouth from biting down on her tongue, and she spat it out. "This is what happens!" Another hit sent her sprawling onto the ground, blood drooling from her lips. 

It hurt it hurt so much her mouth went from numb to a painful pounding then back to numbness, an endless cycle. She struggled to get up, her arms shaking. From the corner of her eye she saw a foot coming at her and she instantly curled up into a ball.

"NO!" She cried, wrapping her arms around her stomach and pressing her legs over it to do something, anything to protect the child. The kick never came, and she cracked her eyes open to see what was going on. Nasreen looked dumbfounded, while Frank looked ecstatic.

"This is great!" He exclaimed, "Not only do we have the leader of the Rakyat but her unborn child!" 

Nasreen crouched down, staring hard at her belly. "Are you with child?" 

Citra couldn't speak, her mouth hurt too much but she did give a quick nod. 

A dark look came upon the mercs face. "Jason Brody's, I assume." 

How did she know that? Citra didn't answer that one, but the look in her eyes betrayed her. 

"I see." Nasreen muttered, standing up. Citra managed to sit up, and gently touch the side of her face. The slightest press sent waves of pain, and whenever she moved her jaw that hurt too.

She moved her attention from the pain to Nasreen who was standing in front of her men. "Tell Jason Brody, that if he doesn't turn himself in we will kill her and the unborn child. We will show them no mercy, just as no mercy was shown to Sam."

"Oh great." Frank said, rolling his eyes. "You're still not over that? For fucks sake the fucking Nazi ratted us out."

"He did not know my name was on that list!" She snarled. "If he did he would have protected me... but Jason.." She slowly turned to Citra, and the look of pure, unadulterated hatred in her eyes were all directed at the pregnant native. Citra tensed up when the merc stormed over to her, grabbing a fistful of her hair and yanking. A growl of pain escaped her lips as Nasreen dragged her by her hair and slammed her against a support post. 

Frank grimaced, "Don't hurt her too bad, ya hear. We need her alive still."

"Jason took someone that I loved, and I'll see to it I do the same." Nasreen whispered harshly, releasing her hair but not without making Citra's head bounce back on the cement wall. Citra gritted her teeth, screwing her eyes shut to lessen the dizziness in her head. 

"You would kill a mother carrying a child for revenge? There is no honor in that." Citra said, using each word to bring her back into reality. 

"Honor?" Frank laughed as if he's just heard the best joke in the world. "Where the fuck have you been living lass? Under a rock? It's 2012, screw honor. No such thing in this lifetime." 

"You're right Frank, no such thing." Nasreen said, pulling out a gun and shooting the man at point-blank range. Frank collapsed on his side, eyes wide as he placed a hand over his neck which was spurting out blood, gasping and choking for air. The Privateers loyal to Frank raised their guns but where shot down by enemy mercs. Nasreen casually strolled over to him and tipped him over with the tip of her boot so he was laying on his back. 

"You- gah- fucking.. bitch.. argh!" Frank choked out. "You'll.. never get out.. alive!"

"What makes you think that? I can stroll right out of here and by the time they find your body it'll be too late. And don't worry about the satellite dish. Your friend Anthony's made arrangements to have it transferred to the airport." Nasreen fished out a piece of rock from her pocket and tossed it onto his chest. "One for the road Frank. Maybe it'll buy you a ticket out of Africa." 

Despite the situation, Frank Bilders cracked a smile. "We're still.. there.. aren't we?.." 

"Never left." She replied.

He laughed, which transformed into a coughing fit. "Fuck... sorry... Marty pal..." Frank struggled more with death, and then gave up with a sigh.

A moment of silence, and then Nasreen turned her attention towards the natives. "We only need one messenger." Two gunshots, two more of her brothers dead. "And proof." Nasreen returned to Citra and grabbed her mother's necklace. Instantly, Citra snatched the merc's hand and glared with cold fury, baring her teeth aggressively. Nasreen looked unaffected by the display. "You're right. A necklace won't be enough. Hold her down!"

Citra snarled and squirmed as hands firmly held her in place. Nasreen pulled out a large hunting knife. "This was... Sam's knife. It's the only thing I have left of him." She grabbed Citra's upper arm, the spot on her shoulder where was inked a tatau. "This'll be the only thing Jason will have left of you." 

Nothing could prepare her for the excruciating pain of something foreign and metal slicing under the thin layer of her skin. It was indescribable- horrible. She couldn't think properly, couldn't register in her mind that she was screaming and thrashing around like a wild animal. She caught a glimpse of it, of that knife that was gliding smoothly, smoothly, under skin, like peeling a potato. Why did it look so peaceful? 

Just like that it was done. All the energy in her body was spent. She was tired. She was in so much pain. 

Nasreen waved the piece of skin infront of her face. 

"It hurts doesn't it." The merc ran a bloody thumb lazily over it, gazing at the tatau. "We were going to get married. We had a plan, to leave this island and our old lives with it. Do you know what it's like to feel that you can live again. Start all over? A second chance at life." Nasreen's voice wavered, her eyes glossing over. "I had it all. I convinced myself it was too good to be true, like it was some sort of dream but it wasn't. And just like that it was gone. He was gone. And I.. and I have nothing left." 

Despite the crushing pain and overwhelming exhaustion, Citra mustered up what strength she had left and spat at the merc. 

"You are a coward. Weak. You bring harm to an unborn child, because of the sins of its father." She growled, tiny embers of a dying fire sparking in her eyes. "Your man has fallen because he like all of you chose to fight against the power of the Rakyat! His life has been taken, deserved to be and all those who have wronged us!"

"And Jason has wronged me!" Nasreen yelled with untamed raw anger that Citra could feel, could hear in the woman's voice. It was grief, fury, agony, and torment stuffed into five words, which those five words could not express, not even close. 

How is it possible... that the name of a dead man could still hold so much power. He was haunting her. He was that person next to her chuckling into her ear, laughing at her misfortune. 

The uncaged animal crawled back into its cage, leaving Nasreen with a stoic face, and cold eyes, once again the heartless mercenary.

She stood up and said, "Get her changed. I'll be waiting at the entrance. You, take the native and make sure he gets on a boat back to land with this." She tossed the piece of tattooed skin to another mercenary. Nasreen didn't give Citra a parting glance when she left upstairs.

As soon as Nasreen was gone, a Privateer approached Frank's dead body and picked up the diamond, holding it up to the single light bulb making it glint prettily.

"What, he's not gonna use it anyways." He said when he noticed the others looking at him. He shrugged and stuffed it into his pant pocket.

Citra faintly registered the world around her. Everything was coming in and out of focus, and all she wanted to do was sleep and escape the intense burning spreading though her arm. Did pain go away with death? Is death relief? Was Jason relieved? 

Unexpected liquid splashed onto her shoulder, setting her exposed flesh on fire. It was like tiny little knives pricking at her skin slathered in acid. She hated showing weakness, hated being treated this way by- by outsiders! Oh but it hurt, hurt, hurt! She was shaking uncontrollably, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. Alcohol, she could smell it, feel it. One of them grabbed her abused arm, and she tried to rip it from their grasp. No more! She couldn't take no more! 

They pressed padding on the wound, and wrapped it tightly. Why?... why were they treating her with proper medical care?.. But of course, they didn't want her to die so soon. This wasn't done out of kindness, just necessity.

She was jerked up roughly, and somehow she managed to stand in place and not fall limp. One of them threw clothes at her, and told her to get changed. Citra in all her beaten up state, refused, maybe from idiocy, or hubris. Mostly hubris. 

When she showed no sign of moving, a Privateer cursed under his breath and ripped off her skirt. He got to the task of shoving jeans on her followed by boots. She didn't resist, nor comply. This was no time to put herself in an even more difficult position. Thankfully her shirt didn't receive the same treatment like her skirt did; only having a Privateer jacket covering her. She hissed when cloth touched her wound, which was every second. It was constant torture, and she couldn't wait to shed this jacket given the chance. 

A helmet was shoved onto her head, and the Privateers made disapproving noises. She didn't understand why until she felt tugging of her hair, and when it stopped she saw a chunk of her hair drop onto the floor.

They must have deemed it alright since they started walking up the stairs and onto the first floor. They stopped at the double doors she passed earlier, now wide open showing off the outside.

"Run or do anything else and I will make sure your stomach is the first thing I shoot." Nasreen warned, cutting the ropes tying her wrists. "Follow me and don't say a word." 

Nasreen started walking, and Citra followed with clenched teeth. Outside was crawling with more Privateers, some stopping what they were doing to stare at them. It was similar to the airport, except there were more buildings, like the one they were just in, and surrounding the compound were thick, tall cement walls lined with barbed wires at the top. Four technical cars and one cargo truck awaited them, on a dirt road that carved straight through the compound. Just before they reached the cars a Privateer stepped in their way.

"Hey, where's Frank?" He questioned, squinting at them suspiciously. 

"He's still in the basement, entertaining his guests with stories about his leg brace during his time in The Maze prison." Nasreen lied easily, not even batting an eye. 

The Privateer grinned, "Sounds like him. Shit I heard Talugmai is in there. Fuck I do if I got my hands on the cunt."

"Likewise." She retorted, and continued past him. She swung open the door of the middle car and turned to Citra. "Get in." 

Reluctantly, Citra climbed on board, the merc with the diamond following her in. From the window, she watched Nasreen get into the passenger seat in the car at the very front. In no time they drove right out of the compound, past dozens of unsuspecting enemies. So easily. She wondered what will happen when they find out that Frank is dead. Complete total war? A rip in the truce so wide it cannot be stitched back.

The Rakyat and the other people living on Rook were once unified. But they.... they didn't help win the war. They sat back and let her people do all the work. Let her people die for them! And now in a time of peace and rebuilding THEY turn on their protectors?! THEY have done this, not her! They have brought this upon themselves, and they've torn the alliance so wide it can never be whole again. After she's done taking care of this.. predicament, she will make the villagers suffer for their betrayal. 

Frustration hit her harder than a charging tiger. This was not going as planned! The Privateers have leverage, a huge one. Leader of the Rakyat, in their possession. It was over. She knew her people would drop everything to have her come back safe and unharmed- well too late for that. Did she lost? Is this how it ends? No, it can't be, there must be a way. There is always a way!

Ever so slowly, she reached for the door handle and gave it a gentle tug. Locked. But there was no point to it anyways. They were going so fast that if Citra did manage to jump out, she had no doubt she wouldn't escape unscathed, and the fall might harm the baby. Hi-jacking the car was out of the question. Three against one tied up? The fight won't be in her favor. 

"Maybe you should jump. You never wanted a fucking baby anyways." Vaas said, sitting in the passenger seat. She could see his face reflected in the side view mirror. "Doesn't look that bad. I don't think he'll mind." She frowned and glanced at Jason who was sitting beside her slumped over. "Here, watch me." Vaas opened the door and leaned out. "Adios motherfuckers!" He saluted and jumped off. Citra's eye widened and she rushed to press her face against the window. Nothing, gone. 'He's vanished.'

"Hey.. what the fuck is he doing?" The driver said, squinting at the rear view mirror. There was a loud roar of engines accelerating, and the car behind them swerved to the left and sped up and rammed against them. "Fuck what the fuck!?" The driver screamed, their car almost veering off road. 

"It's coming back!" The diamond Privateer sitting beside her yelled. 

Another hard impact, yet this time the driver door swung open and one second the driver was there and the next he's being thrown off, replaced with a new person. 

"Yalung!" Citra shouted, and it felt like the gods shined down their blessing on her. Yalung did quick work on the merc in the passenger seat, stabbing a knife in his throat before he could reach for his gun. Through her joy, she spotted the diamond Privateer next to her pulling out his gun. There was no way for Yalung to stop him in time, and even if she alerted her friend it would be too late. Every second counts, and without thinking she shoved herself against the merc and took a hold of the gun with his hands still wrapped around it and pointed the barrel at him and shot twice. She didn't know why, but she reached into his pocket and took the diamond.

"Get down!" Yalung yelled and Citra shoved the diamond in her pants pocket and squished her body in between the seats just as a spray of bullets hit the car. The back window shattered, breaking into a million pieces. She felt the car swerve and the road underneath them became bumpy. Citra got up from her hiding place and glanced behind them. They were no longer on the road, driving off into the grassy plains. Two cars followed them off the path.

"Wait, they got the satellite back there!" She said, pointing at the cargo truck that continued on the road, getting farther and farther away.

"No time! Put your seat belt on!" He shot over his shoulder.

What!? This wasn't the time for trivial safety regulations, but she put it on anyways, though it didn't make her feel any safer. The heavy blasts of a machine gun alerted Citra to duck down. Yalung was swerving side to side, avoiding critical hit damages to the car as best as possible. Citra chanced a peak over the seats and her heart stopped.

"Watch out!" She screamed. Yalung made a sharp turn in the nick of time just as a rocket launcher flew past them, barely inches away. Gods what were they doing?! Didn't they need her alive? 

"Shit!" Yalung cursed, making a hard left. 

"What are you doing!?" Citra yelled, looking in horror as the two cars grew closer and closer. 

"There's a cliff! We can't go down!" He said. Citra ripped her eyes away from the cars and looked out the window to see that the land did slope down, not exactly a straight way down but straight enough to be a bad time if they drove down, not to mention there were a bunch of trees down there. But staying up here was bad too! They were out in the open now driving sideways, an easy target. Just a she thought that, there was another blast and a rocket came zooming right at them.

"Yalung!" She didn't know why she tried to warn him. What difference did it make? There was nowhere to go except down. 

Which is exactly what happened. 

"HOLD ON!" He hollered, swerving the car down the steep hill. They weren't fast enough, and the blast of the rocket lurched the car forward and over. There was period of disorientation as up became down and down became up, and then up and down didn't exist anymore. Citra didn't realize she was screaming, couldn't process it. Everything became a jumbled mess. It felt like hours before the world around her stopped moving and everything became perfectly, blissfully still. 

Or that's what she thought. The only thing she could register was that the car stopped moving, and she was upside? Down side up? She didn't know how, but she managed to crawl out of the car and yank off her helmet just in time as vomit spewed from her mouth. In her disoriented state, the taste of acid was triple times more awful, worse than her morning sickness. And the world was still spinning and gods she needed to rest for a bit or just- just pass out and stop thinking and being alive! Someone just shoot her!

"..Get up.. come on, get up!.." Sturdy hands found her shoulders and lifted her up. "We have to go, now! We need to gain distance from this place!" 

The gross dizziness didn't go away, but the mask of a demon came into view, albeit blurry. Yalung? How was it possible.. that he was fine and she was losing her mind. 

"This must be.. a daily.. thing for you.." She mumbled like a drunk. He didn't answer, and she didn't even notice. Actually she forgot what she just said. 

"Can you walk? Can you walk?" He repeated and she nodded her head lazily. Right.. one foot after another. One foot.. one foot.. 

An impossibly loud explosion rattled her brain, and the both of them turned back to see the car engulfed in a heated inferno. That was loud...

"We have to go." Yalung said with more urgency, breaking into a fast pace. 

How in the world was he even walking? She couldn't even make it two steps before a wave of nausea swept over her.

"W-wait.. wait.." She gasped, her vision blurring. Her legs felt like noodles, and like noodles it didn't support her and she went crashing down. It was too much.. the spinning the pain. She felt fire hot then ice cold and- and it was so hard to breath. She blinked, and the shadowy figure of Jason stood by the burning car. That was the last thing she saw before her eyes rolled upwards and the world fell silent.


You're my first love. I only wanted you. 

I hate you. I love you. 

You left me. 

She was under the sheets, curled up giggling. Hiding, no one can find them. It was their own safe world, somewhere only they knew. And no one could touch them here. They were everything and nothing. They were safe. 

A sudden violent wind ripped the sheet away. Like a lost cloud it billowed in the wind, disappearing into the sky. 

a place where time stood still, and where the water was the color of blood and flowed backwards; a place called Shangri-La

Citra stood on a small sandy land surrounded by pristine clear water. In the distance, she spotted a hazy form. This.. indescribable feeling to go to whoever that was washed over her, pushed her to go. Go, go, go. That person was magnetic, and she felt their pull.

Stumbling into the water, she walked deeper and deeper in, but it seemed no matter how far she walked, that person was always out of her reach. Desperation took a hold on her, and she started jogging, which turned into a full on sprint. She slowed to a stop. The person was before her now, standing with his back facing her. 

"Look at me." She whispered. 

but the land of peace was corrupted

White hot pain exploded, frying her nerves and no matter how hard she tried she couldn't scream. Slowly, she looked down and saw the handle of a knife sticking out from her stomach.

Oh gods.. oh gods.. the baby. The baby! THE BABY!

She got a firm hold on the handle, and yanked the knife out. It hurt, it hurt so much. The pain was too great it made her hand shake uncontrollably, making her drop the knife. It felt like someone stuck their hand inside her stomach, swishing and moving it violently around, messing up her organs and twisting her intestines, until finally it grabbed everything and pulled it down, like a suction. 

A gush of blood fell between her legs, followed by red plops of meat. It stained the water, blood spreading like tendrils in all directions until the entire ocean turned the color of red as far as the eye can see. 

"Is this what you want?" The voice of Yalung said in her ear. 

The person turned around, and before she could see their face it fizzed out, and reappeared right in front of her.

"Vaas!" She cried out. "Look at me!"

He didn't, his eyes staring off at something behind her.

"We were supposed to go far away together." He whispered hoarsely. "I waited and waited. I didn't want to leave you. The dream. Our dream. Why did you forget?"

He placed a hand on her flat chest.

"I came back for you." He finally looked at her, his face contorted into a terribly beautiful, yet haunting expression as his eyes welled with tears. "I thought you would be waiting for me." 

Hands emerged from the blood red water and grabbed onto her. 

"No!" She gasped, clutching his hand as she was dragged down. "No, no no!" 

Vaas stared down at her, his face emotionless.

"He's waiting for you. Bye bye."

He let her go, and the blood swallowed her whole.


Pain woke her up, and with consciousness came more pain. She could almost cry, and she wanted so desperately to go back to sleep where it didn't hurt.

Citra opened her eyes, grimacing as she examined her arm. The padding was still on her exposed flesh, but it looked different. Significantly so. It wasn't half-haphazardly slapped on without care like the Privateers did. This looked new, proper. Little blood drops made a trail which lead to a small nightstand. On top was a lamp, and bloody metal medical tools. 

Slowly, Citra peeled the corner of the pad to get a good look at her injury. 

"Don't bother it. It needs time to heal." Yalung said, entering the room she was in through a sliding glass door, part of an entire wall that was made out of frosted glass. 

Citra looked at him bug-eyed, and then to the patch of stitched light colored skin, a contrast against her darker one. 

"What is this?" She whispered with trembling lips. She touched it, the skin, not hers. It felt cold- and she, she couldn't feel her fingers brushing it. 

"You suffered severe flaying done to the epidermis area." He said, moving her hand away and re-flattening the pad carefully. "Immediate surgery had to be done before an infection can arise. I didn't have the equipment to perform an autologous grafting, so the only solution was an allogeneic." 

The words coming from Yalung's mouth were alien, but she got the drift.

"That is.. your skin?" 

"You needed a proper donor." Yalung went to a table and came back with a glass of water. "Avoid using your left arm. Straining it will make the healing time longer." He handed it to her, and she took it with her right hand. She didn't realize how thirsty she was, and hungry. "How is your head? You passed out, and I feared you must of had a concussion."

Feared? Was he worried about her? 

Yalung plucked the empty glass from her hands, getting up to leave. Like a snake she snatched his arm with her left hand, pain flaring from the wound. 

"Sit." She ordered. Once he did she let go, relieving the stress on her arm. "Why?" There was no need for an explanation, she knew he knew what she was asking. He tilted his head down, the only sign he was looking away from her. 

"You're a valuable asset for my employers. We have already made a deal and the deal dies when one of us does." He said robotically, like reading off from a script. 

Citra chuckled weakly, "I don't die so easily. This is just a flesh wound, it won't kill me." 

"You'd be surprised by how fragile humans are."

"Fragile bodies, maybe." She agreed, "But our souls aren't. That is what makes us strong." 

"And when you don't have one anymore?" Yalung said, his fingers curling. Citra didn't miss that small detail. Demon he may be, but underneath she knew a human still breathed. What drives a man to hide behind a mask, to hide from the world. 

"My value is worth nothing to your people." She said, "It is the truth. I know nothing of the outside world. I have no connections, I don't understand money or business... I am just a savage in their eyes." She remembered Frank Bilders words. It angered her, but it rang with truth the more she thought about it. Who was she in this vast world but a savage? "Why are you still upholding our deal when you know I am not the better choice?"

"Because I would rather have the people who call this island their home be in charge than a bunch of paid mercenaries." Always the mercenaries. Why did he have a burning hatred for them?

"Why do you hold anger in your heart for her, Nasreen." Citra developed a special hatred for the mercenary; the feeling was mutual, as shown on her arm. But what she didn't understand was why Yalung hated her.

This time his reaction was much stronger, the balling of gloved fists, his body tensing. "It is not important to the task at hand." 

"But you will not leave this island until she is dead." Citra concluded. She took his silence as a definite yes. 

"Your body needs rest." He said standing up. "And don't worry about your baby. It's fine, I have checked."

"Oh.. yes." She muttered, having completely forgotten about the life growing in her stomach. Shouldn't that have been the first thing on her mind?

Yalung walked to the sliding glass door he came from and opened it. "I will be in the other room. Call me if you need me." 

"Where are we?" Citra questioned, taking in her surroundings for the first time. The room looked modern... alien. 

"Rest first and then we will talk." He said, and before she could reply he disappeared through the door, it sliding close behind him. She could still see a vague shape of his form behind the frosted glass wall. The sound of another door opening resulted in the dark shape vanishing from sight. 

Citra settled down, touching the medical pad. If it was his skin he used, then that meant he has a chunk missing, and she didn't know how he was going to replace that. Morbidly, she wondered which section of skin on his body did he sacrifice. Curious to see it again, it took all her might not to peel off the pad. This is not a time to be weak, she needed to recover fast. 

Once her eyes closed it didn't take long to fall into a deep sleep.

***

When she rejoined the living, the room was blanketed in darkness, the only light source was a faint glow behind the glass wall. Citra eased herself off the bed and approached the spot where the door should be. There was a handle she didn't notice before, and she used it to slid it open. Bare feet padded on smooth, polished wooden floorboards, and once or twice she had to pause to steady her balance. 

The other room was an exact copy of the one she woke up in, except the bed wasn't disrupted, and stuffed in a corner was a lamp which was the source of the light. And this room had a balcony. She had a strong feeling he would be outside, and he was. Yalung had his back facing her, the front of a sniper rifle resting on the handrail, the end placed on his shoulder. She could see him clearly, but if she were a mercenary down below Yalung would be invisible to the naked eye. He stood so perfectly still, letting the darkness envelope him. 

"How long have you been out here?" She spoke up, making her presence known as she went to stand beside him, breathing in fresh crispy air that rejuvenated her lungs.

"You shouldn't be straining yourself." Was his reply. 

"I think it is I who should be saying that to you." She said, giving him a side-smirk. 

"I'm fine." 

"Even you need sleep just like the rest of us." 

Yalung lowered the rifle from his face, "We are at a disadvantage. We are being hunted down as we speak. We need to be prepared for anything."

"Frank Bilders is dead." She felt the need to put it out there. "Nasreen killed him, and she has the satellite dish. Does that even the odds?"

"Perhaps."

Silence settled over them, each lost in their own thoughts. 

"What is this place?" It was a burning question she needed to sate. Wherever they were, it looked drastically different from the other buildings she had seen on both islands. This had a sleeker more urbanized design, from what the room revealed. The rest of the building she has to explore.

"It's a private resort. Hoyt had it built for accommodating guests, usually friends from overseas. Many of the mercenaries don't know about this place, so I think we will be safe here."

Citra raised a brow, "And you know this..?"

"Because the General of Kyrat was invited to come discuss business. Hospitality and charm can make strong alliances.. and that was when I met your brother."

At the mention of Vaas she perked up. "You did? How was he like?" 

tell me everything please, I want to know more, more, more

"Fine." 

Citra deflated, and he must have noticed. 

"He was arrogant. Reckless. He killed more products than he did selling them, wasting thousands of dollars. He acts before he thinks, and I think he doesn't think at all."

"Vaas was always a wild child." She said with a small smile on her lips. That was one thing that never changed. Sometimes she desired to be like that. He always had a way of drawing people in. He was always the center of attention. 

"You seem to admire him." The demon commented.

"I love him." She blurted out. "He's my brother... and it.. hurt so much when he left me. Vaas was the only one that truly cared about me.. or I thought he did." She blinked away the tears, her face burning. "That's why I want to protect this island. It's not only my home but his, and I don't want the memories of our childhood to fade like it never existed. He was so happy back then.. I want to remember him like that. I just wish I can go back and relive those days, stay there forever."

Yalung laid a hand on her shoulder, "Don't let nostalgia consume you. No one can return to the past. We are left with only the memories to cherish."

Citra stared at the gloved hand, its weight reassuring and dare she say it, comforting. Yalung tensed when she took his hand to cup it to her cheek, her hand over his. His whole body screamed uncomfortable... and yet he didn't pull away. 

"You're too kind. To me, and to my people." She lowered her eyes, "We have suffered.. so much, and I try to make things better but it's getting harder. We protect our home, our newer generations but I fear there will be others to come and try to take it from us. I fear this will be an endless war."

"You won't have to worry about that." He said, "Once we get rid of the Privateers I will make sure you will officially own these islands. You will be under the protection of Kyrat's army. No one will try to take your home away from you ever again." 

Citra laughed, "A noble demon. How funny." She glanced away and then back to his mask, and she touched it gently. Yalung kept still, and he didn't move away. Wasn't he worried she would rip it off? Maybe he knew the threat of that possibility.. and maybe he knew she wouldn't.

It was cold to the touch, and rough. It would have been smooth possibly in the beginning, but constant wear and harsh environments worn it down. Her fingertips traced deep grooves and lines etched into the mask, over bumps and scratches. This mask must have seen its share of battle. How many men have died looking up into those soulless black eyes? Finding no remorse or humanity to plead for. 

With her thumb she rubbed the bottom lip of the smiling demon, flicking her eyes up to meet the dark sleek orbs.

Yalung reacted by grabbing her wrist and gently moving it away. "Your body is still weak. Rest and recover. You will need it for tomorrow." 

Citra smiled impishly and walked backwards towards the rooms. "You're human just like me." She said as parting words before walking normally to the sliding door. She stepped inside and closed it with a click, glancing at the demon. It pleased her to see he had been watching her. 

Demon he may be, but a man he still is underneath.

***

They laid low for one day for two reasons. One because, despite her protests, she had to recuperate, let her new skin heal. He told her not to move it that much, or at all really. Explained how the main veins needed time to connect so the blood can flow into the foreign skin, and if she did anything drastic it would tear what little process had been made and possibly lead to the foreign skin dying, thus decaying, which would lead to an infection. She asked how he knew so much about this and he revealed he was an 'uncertified' doctor.

The second reason was that Yalung wanted to do some reconnaissance before taking action. They certainly didn't have all the time in the world, they needed to act fast and hard, considering Nasreen now held the radio tower and the satellite dish. While Yalung was out, ordering her to stay put in bed, she filled the time by exploring the resort. Despite it being made for outsiders, it was fascinating, wondrous at the accomplishments mankind has made through technology. 

There were more rooms similar to the one they settled in, and she counted three stories. Their temporary base was on the third floor, the second floor the same, and the first floor was a kitchen/living room/inside pool area. The inside pool was drained, and it looked like nobody had been in the building for a long time. Outside contained another pool shaped like the number eight. This one had water in it still, but murky and green with moss and plants. There was not much to see and overtime she grew bored and decided to go out hunting animals. She didn't use her left arm at all.. well not really, but they were going to starve if they didn't eat, and the idea of staying in bed all day didn't sit well with her. 

Yalung returned first, and when he discovered she had been out hunting he straightaway did a check up on her arm. Luckily nothing wrong happened, and he noted that it was healing exceptionally well. Though it didn't exempt her from a silent scolding. He didn't give her a lecture or anything like that, it would be strange if he did considering she was an adult and he was.. well him, but she knew he was displeased.

Using a makeshift fire pit they cooked a rabbit, and when done Yalung immediately put the fire out. He said they were far from any civilization, but still, better safe than sorry. 

"Are you not going to eat?" She asked when he only got one plate from the kitchen. 

"I already did." 

Citra frowned. It was a blatant lie, and to be honest it was starting to get annoying. Didn't he trust her? She thought they were past this. Why did he continue to hide? 

"You don't have to hide your face from me." She said gently, carefully. "You can trust me."

"It has nothing to do with trust." That was all he said, and the topic was dropped.

As she ate, Yalung started cleaning his guns while filling her in on information from his recon mission. "They're fighting, it's an all out civil war. Frank's side are targeting the airport to get back the satellite dish, or better the entire airport. This traps Nasreen in a corner, she's not going anywhere for a while." 

"So what are we going to do?" She asked.

"We can use this to our advantage. We need to get to that radio tower and destroy the satellite without being caught. If we get Frank's privateers past Nasreen's defenses then they will be a big enough distraction to allow us to sneak in and do what we have to do. But before we destroy anything I need you to get in touch with Dennis, tell him to bring in every man he can spare. If we move fast then we may be able to take control of this island today."

Citra nodded in approval, and remembered something.

"Your people betrayed you. They told Frank we were coming." She said, curious to see what his reaction will be. 

Yalung looked unfazed, albeit he is wearing a mask. "Their punishment is beyond my authority. They will be dealt with properly later." 

She cocked her head, "You don't crave revenge?"

"They thought their decision was the best for Kyrat." 

"Kyrat." She said, tasting the word. "Is that where you are from?" 

"Yes." He answered curtly, pushing in a cloth with a stick inside the barrel of the gun. 

"I only know what I've seen, and I've seen only this island. Tell me, what is Kyrat like?" 

Yalung dismantled the purple desert eagle easily, automatically. She wondered if this was routine for him. 

"Big. Kyrat is surrounded by mountains, bigger than the ones here on your island. The land changes in areas, forest in some and dry brown plains in others. There is no ocean there, only lakes and rivers." 

Citra wondered what that was like. To have no endless sea as far as the eye can see, only land and more land. It disturbed her just imagining it.

"It's a peaceful land. I cannot say the same for its inhabitants." 

Citra sat back, "You fight your own war back home?" 

"War is everywhere." Yalung said coldly, "War. War never changes. Just different places, different people."

Citra finished her portion, but oddly she was still hungry. Starving, actually. She just chalked it up to her being pregnant, and ate the rest of the rabbit. After eating they went back up to the room. Yalung went to a door in the room and she followed him. It was a bathroom, and she watched him bent to twist the shower knobs. Surprisingly water gushed from the faucet. He then turned his attention towards her. 

"Don't move." He said, and carefully peeled the pad off. While he inspected it, she looked at her reflection in the mirror. Where Nasreen had punched her, her skin had swollen up, marred with dark purplish bruises. "Clean yourself, try to avoid direct contact with the spray on your wound. I'll be outside." He left and closed the door behind him, leaving it open a bit for light to shine through.

She undressed herself, untying the top and shrugging off the cargo pants and stepped in. The water was freezing cold, making her gasp, but she toughened up and scrubbed dirt off her body as best as she can with hands. It was short, the only trouble she had was trying to figure out how to turn off the shower. Eventually she got it, and stepped out, drying herself with a towel hanging from a bar. Grabbing her clothes, she exited the bathroom. 

She was disappointed when she didn't get a reaction from him when he noticed her walking out naked. But he is wearing a mask.. 

"Your arm." He said, and she handed it to him. He put on a fresh pad, and it stung a bit. "It may sting a bit because of the anti-bacterial cream. Try not to scratch it." He said when she raised her hand unconsciously to scratch it.

"Get dressed, put everything on, and wear this." He handed her a helmet, and she realized it was the helmet she threw off to vomit back at the car crash. She glanced at the bed, and the rest of the Privateer get up was laid out.

She frowned, "You want me to dress like a Privateer?"

"It's part of the plan." He explained, and stood there expectantly. 

"What about you?" She asked, slipping into the pants. "You should use the shower. It is cold but it is relaxing."

"I'm fine." 

"It is relaxing.." She said, stepping into his personal space. "Don't worry for once. That is all you do. I can keep watch, I'm not helpless." 

Yalung went silent for a while, his mask hiding whatever he was thinking.

She was surprised when he nodded his head. "Get dressed and wait for me. I won't take long." 

Citra expected Yalung to get undressed and use this bathroom, but instead he walked to the glass wall and slid the door open. She was right behind him when he turned around swiftly, making her step back. 

"I won't." She said, knowing what he was going to say. "Trust me." She whispered. Yalung stared hard at her, and finally gave a curt nod. He slid the door close and she went back to the bed. It wasn't long before she heard the sound of running water. 

Citra was just putting on gloves when the shower turned off. She watched in silent wonder as the dark shape of Yalung walked across the room. The glass revealed nothing, but she knew he was naked. Bare. Unprotected, vulnerable. She wanted so bad to see him, but she gained his trust and she wasn't going to break it. She wasn't going to break her word. 

Yalung stopped to where she thinks the bed is, and the outline of his head moved. It was then with shock she realized he must be looking at her. It stayed that way for a few seconds, and when he started getting dressed she let out air she didn't know she was holding. She watched him put on each layer of clothing he wore, the last was the mask. Another few seconds and he was inside her room, dressed and ready. 

She tried to imagine what he looked like underneath. Light skin, pale from a period of no direct sun contact, and strong. 

"So." She said, "What's the plan?"


"This isn't going to work." 

"Relax. It will if you stay focused." 

"Are you sure?" 

"If I weren't then I wouldn't put you in danger."

Citra bit her bottom lip, and flickered her eyes up to look at Yalung through the rear view mirror. He gave a slight nod which settled her internal nervousness, and with a deep inhale followed by an exhale, she put on the helmet and started the car Yalung had gotten, its previous occupant's bodies hidden by the side of the road. Hoyt's compound grew closer and closer until they came to a stop at the guarded entrance. She looked wearily at the snipers and the gunmen guarding the entrance, knowing if she made one slip up they were going to be blown into smithereens.

A guard greeted them, walking up the driver window. Citra tensed, and rolled the window down. 

"You're late. Frank's dead and Anthony's boss now and he called everyone back an hour ago." The guard said. 

"I got held up." She replied, nodding towards the back, "Frank's death won't be in vain." 

The guard peered behind her and his eyes widened at the sight of Yalung sitting in the back, his wrists cuffed. 

"Holy shit how did you do it?" He said in awe. 

"I don't have time to tell. I need to get him to Anthony. And I don't think the new boss will be happy if he knew two of his men are the reason Yalung escaped." She said lowly, "And he can, maybe he's working on it right this very instant." 

The guard nodded his head like a bobble head figurine, and waved, "Yeah, yeah. Hey, let them in!" 

The gates to the entrance opened, and she drove in deep into enemy territory. It was crazy, and gods this shouldn't be working but it was and she didn't know how or why and she wasn't going to question it. They were lucky they weren't shot on sight! 

She parked the car right in front of the building she was previously held in and hopped out, walking to the other side to get Yalung. 

"Grab my arm." He whispered, and she did. making sure to make it look like she was pulling him along like a prisoner. They received stares, but she fixated her sight straight ahead and ignored them. Up the stairs they went where they were halted at the doors. 

"I got something for Anthony." Citra said.

The Privateer eyed her, and when he looked at Yalung his grip tightened on his gun. "Follow me." 

They followed the merc into the building and up the winding staircase. As she expected, they were lead straight to the office she woke up in. The guard pushed it open, and they walked inside. Citra did a quick sweep over the room. Two guards in the corner, minus the one beside them, and a gruff looking man seated behind the desk. He must be Anthony.

"Well, well, well. What do we have here?" Anthony said, resting his elbows on the desk. 

"Yalung sir." Citra shoved the prisoner, noting he tripped on his feet purposely, making him stagger. 

"I can see that." Anthony rubbed his chin, squinting at them. "What happened to the rest of your team? Lemme guess, they were all killed?" 

"Yes." 

"And you were the only one to survive, right? Mh. That's very lucky, don'tcha think?" He drawled.

Citra didn't like the look in his eyes, and she glanced at the two privateers. It was barely noticeable, the raising of their guns, and her instincts screamed danger! Before anything could happen, Yalung sprang to life, breaking the tampered cuffs and in a blur he had her pressed against him, a gun raised to her neck. 

"What are you doing!" Citra yelled, thrashing around to get out off his grip. He ripped off her helmet and let it drop. "This isn't part of the plan!" 

"Change of plans." He said, giving her rough shake. "Anthony, my name is Yalung and I come as a representative for the General of Kyrat. I have come to you as a sign of peace, and offer the leader of the Rakyat as a gift." 

"I will kill you!" Citra whispered harshly, baring her teeth at him. She wanted to say more, throw in some curses, but Anthony's laughter interrupted her. 

"Don't try to fool me, Colonel Len already has my alliance, and nowhere did he say you were in on it."

"I'm sorry for the misunderstanding, but I am with General Len." Yalung said, "In order to gain the Rakyat's complete and ultimate trust I had be devoted to their cause, even if it meant looking like I betrayed the Colonel. You have to understand it was all settled in the beginning, and it worked. I have Talugmai right in your hands, on your island. You've won the war." 

"If you had her why didn't you just come in with her. Why the trickery?" Anthony said, gesturing to the get up Citra was dressed in. 

"I would've been shot on sight. We were supposed to kill you, or that's what Talugmai thought." Yalung answered. 

Anthony pursed his lips, looking at them suspiciously. "This all looks bad for you, you know that? How do I know if you're just bullshitting me? Where's your proof?"

"I do, but I know you are a reasonable man. And you can radio Colonel Len for proof, he will tell you what I already said, but first you need the radio station, and the satellite, which Nasreen has. I can help you get it back."

Anthony sat in contemplation until finally he unclasped his crossed fingers and smiled. "Alright. Colonel Len did describe your history in battle in full detail. Told me you were some kind of.. 'one man army', and to be honest I'm running out of options. I need a guy like you."

"So we have a deal then?" Yalung said.

"You got yourself a deal." Anthony smirked, and shifted his attention on her. "But I want Talugmai under my supervision. Take her to the basement and lock her up." 

Yalung nodded and made to walk out with her.

"Wait." He called, "Not you. You and I got lots of things to talk about, and you are going to prove to me how you're going to be useful. I want the radios, and I plan to get it today." 

Yalung's grip on her arm tightened, yet he released her, letting the guards take her. Citra growled and tried to rush at Yalung, to hit him or just- just something! Instead she spat at him as she was dragged out of the room. Downstairs they went to the basement, where there was still her blood on the floor, dried now. They shoved her inside and forced her to sit on a chair, cuffing her to it. 

Citra glared heatedly at them as they walked out, slamming the heavy metal door shut and locking it behind them. As soon as she made sure she was alone, Citra relaxed into the chair. Now all she had to do was wait. 

Without a clock around, she didn't know how much time passed, and despite the situation she grew bored, restless. What was taking him so long? Was he even allowed to come down here and see her? What's happening? This uncertainty put her on edge, and she feared the worst. 

Heavy footsteps sauntered down the stairs and approached where she was held captive, but they didn't open her door. Instead it sounded like the door of the room next to hers opened, and a voice she hoped to never hear again reached her ears.

"I ain't saying nothing!" The voice of Hurk said, followed by a scraping of a chair."Ow, ow! Hey where are you taking me. I got rights you know! I'm a U.S citizen!" 

Hurk kept on babbling until she could no longer hear him, his voice fading when the footsteps marched back upstairs. She was left all alone again, and more time passed until someone came into the basement. This time they opened her door, and Yalung slipped through. He stuck to the walls, pressing himself against it as he edged his way to the camera in the corner. Citra knew better not to show any reaction, she didn't even look at him. 

In silence Yalung reached up and started tampering with the equipment. 

"I don't have much time." He said finally, lowering his arms. "Anthony is set on keeping you down here. He plans on attacking the airport soon, and he's taking most of his men. Hold still." He went behind her and started fiddling with the handcuffs.

"Do you think he fell for it?" She asked, wincing as the cuffs scratched against her wrists. 

"I don't think so. He doesn't trust me, but as he said he's out of options. He'll keep me around until he gets what he wants." The tightness of the cuffs loosened and Yalung straightened up. "Alright, you should be able to slip your hands through. Here." He stuffed something in her hands. "It's the key to the door. We're leaving now so escape when you are certain we are gone. Try to reach the airport. When you're there head straight to the radio tower. Fire a flare so we'll know you're there. Don't stop for anything understand? I'm planning for Hurk to blow up the satellite dish and he will once he sees the flare. You'll have ten minutes to get to the radio tower before Hurk destroys the dish. Contact Dennis and tell him to send every man he can as soon as possible."

A sound erupted from upstairs and they both froze. A moment passed and Yalung whispered, "I have to go now. I left the car behind the back of the building. You understand what to do?"

"I do." She said with determination in her eyes. Yalung didn't say anything more, and left quickly. Citra waited, straining her ears to hear what was going outside. The sound of multiple cars starting prompted her to start wiggling out of the handcuffs. It was a struggle, but eventually she managed to slip her hands through. She got up, massaging her sore wrists. 

In a matter of seconds she unlocked the door and headed towards the stairs. The sound of footsteps coming down made her freeze, and she dove to the corner of the stairs just as two Privateers came down. 

"What the hell?" One of them said when they spotted the door, which she left ajar. She cursed her stupidity, and watched them rush into the room... Immediately she was on her feet and slammed the door shut, locking it. The two Privateers whipped around in surprise and started yelling, banging on the door with their fists. 

Citra backed away, and darted up the stairs. Just as she stepped onto the first floor, a group of Privateers walked in and stopped at the sight of her. Citra didn't let them have time to register what they were seeing, and sprinted down a corridor. There were two doors down there, but she didn't have time to check if they were exits to the outside; she could already hear their frantic calls and pounding footsteps behind her. In a split second decision, Citra charged straight to the window and jumped, curling up her body. 

She landed with a crash outside, pieces of glass cutting her face as she rolled to a stop. Heart pounding, she got up and booked it to the parked car. Sirens filled the air just as she got in. The keys were in the ignition already, and she wasted no time getting the car going. She zoomed around the corner, and past the building. Citra grit her teeth when they open-fired at the car, cracking the windshield.

Taking from memory, she made a sharp turn and the entrance of the compound came into view. Privateers tried to stop her, but she swerved violently that they couldn't get a proper shot to the tires, sometimes running them over. Slamming her foot on the pedal, the closed her eyes as the car collided with the door. A loud crash, some resistance and then she was out, racing down the road. 

Opening the compartment, she pulled out the map and a pistol. Looking at a map for directions while driving with bad guys chasing after you was extremely hard, something she learned right now. It was chaotic, and she drove like a mad man. It helped that she didn't really know how to drive properly in the first place. 

By the time she reached the airport the car was smoking, and she could see fire! Even she knew that was a really, really, bad sign, and the moment she entered the airport she dove out. The car continued to go, and unintentionally it crashed right into a flammable tank, exploding into a ball of fire. It happened right next to a building, which simultaneously caught on fire with the resulting explosion.

Citra never felt so alive! She didn't feel any pain, but that could be a result from the adrenaline rushing through her veins. If she thought being chased by five cars was bad, heading straight into a war was worse! Everywhere around her was death and screams and gunfire and chaos! Chaos! Chaotic! In the back of her mind she thought Yalung must be around somewhere, and she was disappointed she couldn't see him in intense action. 

It was too dangerous out here in the open with bullets flying everywhere, so she headed straight for cover. Recollecting herself, she scanned the area and spotted crates of weapons under a stretch of blanket held up by poles. Gripping the pistol, she went over there, shooting as she ran. She slid to a stop, crouching next to the crates. Frantically, she shoved aside guns and ammo until she spotted a flare and took it. 

OK now she only needed to get to the radio tower. Taking a deep breath, she ran towards the tower which she could see from where she was at. No one noticed her as Citra Talugmai. To them she was another enemy running around, shooting left and right, dodging and jumping. 

It felt like a lifetime, but she finally reached the radio tower. Stopping by the stairs, she pointed the flare up to the sky and fired. 

Now she really had to hurry. 

Taking the steps two at a time, she rushed to the top. A boom knocked her off-balance, and she had to grab a hold of the railing to keep herself from falling down the stairs. She peered down and saw the bottom of the radio tower on fire. 

"Gods.." She muttered and hurried up with a stronger sense of urgency. Climbing up a ladder she finally made it to the very top. The radio panel was right in front of her. She rushed to it and got to work trying to get a signal to Dennis. 

"Dennis!" She yelled into the speaker, "Dennis it's Citra!"

"Citra?" His voice sounded far away, and there was something in the background making it hard to hear him. "Citra what happened? Has something gone wrong?! Are you OK?" 

"Dennis listen to me. I need you to send in as many men you can as soon as possible!" 

"Citra-" More background noise, and she realized they were gunfire coming from his end. 

"Just do it!" She ordered. 

"Citra- base being- hold on-" 

An earth-shattering blast shook the ground, even up at the tower she felt it. Snapping her head up, she saw smoke rise from one of the buildings. Times up, that must have been Hurk blowing up the satellite dish.

"NO!"

She was brought out of her gaze when something grabbed the back of her head and slammed it down on the control panel. 

"Ah!" She gasped in pain, clutching her head. That very person shoved her down on her back. From the floor Citra looked up at her attacker. 

Nasreen stared at the burning building, and then to Citra, uncontrollable fury on her face. Citra stared back into the eyes of pure hatred all directed at her. Her body went numb when Nasreen raised a gun pointed at her, ready to kill. 

Out of nowhere Yalung appeared and rammed into Nasreen, grabbing her arm and pointing it upwards, the bullet making a hole in the ceiling instead of Citra. They clashed with one another, and in one moment Nasreen's gun was knocked out of her hands. Yalung took the opportunity to whip out his deagle but Nasreen charged and tackled him down. The purple gun slid across the floor, coming to a stop right before her. She grabbed the gun with shaky hands and got up. 

Now the fire had ascended up, and was right below the floorboards. The air got hot and smoke made her eyes burns. The two had been wrestling on the floor, and separated, getting to their feet quickly. Like a mirror, they both pulled out huge hunting knives. Citra refrained from intervening. This was it, the moment of truth. It is only fitting they kill each other with knives, it is the Rakyat way. 

Nasreen moved first, lunging at Yalung with a fierce growl. Every hit she struck was blocked, vice versa for Yalung. Citra's never witnessed a brutal, calculated, personal battle such as this. Yalung was a tiger, striking ruthlessly, holding nothing back, but his anger clouded his mind, allowing Nasreen to gain an opening in his defenses. 

Citra gasped when Nasreen swung down the knife aimed close to his neck. She was so sure, so sure Yalung was going to be stabbed but in a show of raw strength he snatched the blade. Blood dripped from his fingers as he forced it away. Nasreen's face held one of utter disbelief, then pain when Yalung slammed his head against hers. She was momentarily stunned and he used that time to shove his knife in her chest. 

Nasreen's eyes bulged, her mouth parted in a small o. The knife clattered to the floor when she dropped it, and she stumbled backwards towards the ladder. Shaking, she grabbed the hilt and pulled it out, letting it fall to the floor. The merc collapsed to her knees, pressing a hand to her chest. 

Yalung approached her like a tiger going in for the kill.

"Julio Medina Cordero!" He roared, and Citra's never heard him this angry, this furious There was so much raw emotion in his distorted voice Has he been keeping this bottled up all this time? "Do you remember his name!" 

Nasreen grimaced in pain, her blood soaking in blood, but she looked confused to what he was saying. 

"REMEMBER! Julio Medina Cordero! The man who worked for the Jackal! The man who had dreams of becoming an astronaut! MY FRIEND YOU LET DIE! MY FRIEND WHO WAS TORTURED AND RAPED AND BURNED ALL BECAUSE OF YOU! And for what?! For this!?" Yalung pulled something out from his pocket and held it up. It was a diamond. Citra patted her pockets, and yes, nothing was there. He must have found it somehow. 

"I- I don't know who-" Nasreen stuttered, and then paused, and her eyes widened. Citra could see the gears working in her brain, see something indescribable fill those woman's eyes.

She stared up at Yalung as if seeing him for the first time. "Who... Who are you?"

"It doesn't matter who I am. He was a good man with dreams. You killed him. He died suffering." Yalung snatched the sides of her head. Nasreen had that look, the look of a human who knew she was going to die. It wasn't acceptance, or defeat. It was just ruthless knowledge.

"He was my friend." Yalung sounded tired.. sad. "My only friend."

CRACK!

It was beautiful. Nasreen, her neck twisted- snapped. Her body fell limp, and Yalung let it fall backwards through the opening of the ladder and into the flames. 

He stood there in silence, and she couldn't imagine the thoughts running through his head right this very instant. 

When he turned around to face Citra, she raised his gun and pulled the trigger. 

The recoil of the gun was stronger than she expected. It bounced right from her hands and clattered to the floor. 

Yalung staggered two steps forward before falling to his knees, his hands pressed down on his stomach. Pity... this would have been avoided if he were wearing a bullet proof vest... 

Citra didn't bother to pick up the gun.

"You're right Yalung. Killing the leader won't stop anything. Their will always be someone to take your place. That's why I made sure to get rid of everyone. Right now as I speak your men are being slaughtered." Citra spoke slowly, leisurely with a smile. She strolled the distance between them, casually picking up a knife from the floor. "It is your turn."

Yalung seemed invincible. Powerful. Strong. When she slid that knife through his chest she proved that he is, after all, human. Mortal.

"You would've been so perfect." She whispered, stroking his mask. 

Yes he would've been if not for one thing. He is an outsider. 

She guessed Vaas was right after all. Citra wasn't going to let nobody- Hoyt, Jason, Yalung- rule her island. 

Slowly, to savor the moment, she hooked her fingers under his mask, and with one tug pulled it off.

Yalung had brown eyes... cold. Dead. 

Yalung had dark short hair, cut like a boy's, with three small long braids. 

Yalung's face was marred by old scars.

Yalung is a woman.

Citra smiled, rubbing a thumb over skin. Skin, no more mask. 

In one smooth movement, Citra bent down and kissed her. It was soft. Slow. Insane. Citra ended it. 

"Farewell demon." She whispered, and pushed Yalung back. 

She fell through the opening, joining Nasreen in their fiery end.

So perfect... she would have been perfect. 

Citra kept the mask, and picked up Yalung's gun. Going to one of the corners in the radio tower, she used the electrical cable to zipline down to safety, and just in time. The tower, now engulfed with fire, collapsed in on itself, now nothing but a huge bonfire. 

The Privateers were still fighting one another. The fools. By the time the Rakyat arrived on the island, the Privateers were tired and few in numbers. Their defeat was fast and pathetic, not even a challenge worth her warriors. The South Island was now hers. 

"My Queen," One of her men came up to her. "The rebels attacked the fishing harbor. Dennis is fighting them back but he needs reinforcements."

So they've finally launched an assault.

Citra smirked. "Let's go."


By the time they reached the fishing harbor it was nightfall. The aftermath of the battle was fire and dead bodies. 

When Dennis saw her, he reached out, but held back, the expression of relief on his face masked with stoicism. 

"We drove them back. The rebels won't launch another massive attack like this, they've lost too much today." He said. 

"Who are they?" Citra nodded towards the row of people on their knees with guns pointed at them.

"Surviving rebels. Now prisoners for you my Queen." 

Citra raised a brow and went over to inspect the survivors. Each one dared not to look at her, their heads hung low. 

Except for one. 

A certain, sick joy flickered in her chest. 

"My little bird. Flown away." She whispered, bending down to run her fingers through Riley's messy hair. Riley jerked his head away, looking disgusted and defiant.

Citra laughed, her eyes sparking with insanity.

"How far he has fallen."


Vaas inspected the souvenir she got him. A purple chrome desert eagle, with an engraving of a jackal.

Inside her room she placed the mask of Yalung next to Jason's skull, and touched them lovingly. 

And guess what little sister you fucking chopped their heads off.

For you Vaas, she would do anything.

Chapter Text

What's the most important thing in the world? 

Family. 

Without family, you are nothing. 

Family doesn't mean blood relation. 

Family can mean the people who care about you. The people who hold only unconditional love for you.

Citra cares about Vaas.

Their love is pure and beautiful. Beyond this simple universe they're trapped in. Nothing can compare. 

Not even Jason's love for his little brother. Riley... Riley, Riley, Riley. It's tragic in a way, how hope is still reflected in those blue eyes. Right now, he's glaring at her, silent defiance, a thin veil covering the anger underneath his skin. The boy's in chains, stripped naked with the other prisoners in the middle of the Rakyat's celebration. Citra stares back, the tips of her lips curling. He's changed a lot since the last time she's seen him.

No longer the weak and pathetic boy down in the darkness. No now he's starting to look like his older brother. The island is finally taking a toll on him. 

"I don't like the way he is looking at you." Dennis seethed from his seat beside her, his fingers wrapped around a goblet of wine. "How dare he look at you that way! He is not dead yet because of you, and this is his appreciation? He should be bowing before you!"

"Relax Dennis." Citra spoke, refraining herself from rolling her eyes. The idea of Riley bowing down in gratitude, subjecting himself to her, didn't spark any interest. It wasn't what she wanted, far from it actually. Keeping Riley around was just.. amusing to her. He was still so innocent, nothing compared to Jason. So young... to her he was a boy, not a man. Just a boy.

"How is your leg?" She heard Dennis ask, and she glanced at the leg in question. It was her left leg, the calf wrapped in bandages. Back at the airport, either due to adrenaline or something else, she had been shot clean through, leaving a small circular hole. The pain came to her on the boat ride back to the Northern Island. She's been shot before, the scar on her thigh permanent proof of it, but this time around the pain was more bearable. She isn't a healer, but she's sure that people don't get used to bullet wounds, especially the second time. 

To everyone's surprise, she could still walk, maybe with a small limp but it was still a steady walk, something considered impossible after a severe injury.

"It's fine." She said in a bored tone. He's been fussing over it ever since he has noticed it, same goes for the baby.

"I can't believe you killed him." Dennis took a sip from his cup, a frown on his weathered face. "I didn't think you would."

"And what makes you think that?"

Dennis saw the look on her face, and he shrugged, busying his mouth with drinking. "Nothing.. nothing.. How is your stomach?"

"Fine." She hissed defensively. Why did she bother telling him anyways? Oh, yes she didn't. If her memory served correct, she remembered that Dennis disturbed her examination with the witch doctor. This was the day after the purge of the Southern Island, and waking up in the morning she was greeted to discomfort in her stomach. Immediately fearing the worst, she called for the witch. By then the discomfort had turned into a dull, almost rhythmic, pulsing pain.

Using his mysterious ways, he told her the child was fine and healthy but she didn't believe him. How could she? No words can out rule the truth she was feeling, and when she described what she was exactly feeling Dennis walked in. He told her he heard she had sent for the witch doctor, and at an early hour he was worried and went to check up on her. Now the man can't stop asking about the baby, fretting with a distressed look on his face when she catches him looking at her stomach. 

It hurt. But it wasn't killing her.

She squinted at him, but didn't press on. He can hold his thoughts to his own, she certainly wasn't interested. What's done is done, and it was done for the better. Yalung promised much, maybe there was honesty in her words, but Citra didn't care. She's had enough of outsiders. They all wanted to control them, supress the true potential of the Rakyat. This is their island, their home. Their ancestors carved the very land they stand upon and she wasn't going to give it all away to an outsider.

Not when she has come this far.

It's been years but finally, gazing down at her people, she sees a culture that has struggled to stay alive rejuvenate and become the strength, and glory of what the Rakyat should be. What they were before Hoyt. She has restored the Rakyat to its former glory, just like in old times! And in old times, the Rakyat devour their enemies.

She stood from her throne, her people falling silent as they gazed up at her in wonder.

"Bring me the Colonel." She bellowed, pointing with a knife to the group of prisoners. Colonel Len resisted when he was brought up to her and laid on a stone table, presented more like a pig prepped for gutting than an offering. Citra raised her arms to the sky.

"We have been starved, beaten, and killed. They took our soil, our land to grow their evil crops while our children's bellies sink and cry for their mother's milk." She bellowed, sweeping her eyes over the crowd. They were all fixated on her, listening, agreeing. "We will never forget what they have done to us! The Rakyat is strong! We are strong and we have persevered! Our hunger is over brothers, sisters! Now we feast!"

Colonel Len was spewing something in a foreign language, and gaped in horror at the sight of Citra raising the knife above her head. Using momentum, the blade drove deep into the outsider's pudgy belly. She dragged it across, having to tug it through when it got caught in places. By the time she finished, Colonel Len was barely alive, his eyes rolling to the back of his head as he slipped in and out of consciousness. 

Grinning in anticipation, she shoved her hands inside the long cut and pulled out slick, meaty organs.

Blood.

Oh the sight of it sent a thrill up her spine and gods the smell.. She breathed in deeply, her mouth watering. The aching pain in her stomach grew to such an intensity that if she didn't get a taste of flesh right this instant she would certainly die.

Feed. Eat. Devour. Hunger hunger hunger eateateat

Something deep inside her awakened, like a beast rousing from deep hibernation. This, this was something new, and exciting. She couldn't wait a second longer, and shoved her face into slippery, squishy meat. Ripping, tearing, chewing- This feeling.. it was indescribable, but if she had to describe it, it would be euphoria, and she only felt like that when she's around Vaas.

It was so great, she couldn't get enough. Gods it felt like she hasn't eaten in days, year! And the best part, the best part was that she could sense her prey was still alive. Barely, but his heart still beat, no matter how weak, and that.. that made it all the more satisfying.

Finally, the ache in her stomach was silenced.

She straightened back up, swallowing something round and chewy, her eyes lidded in elation. With her tongue she licked at the blood smeared all over the lower half of her face, breathing heavily.

Oh.. Riley.. Riley.. now there is that fear in his eyes. He looked at her like she was some kind of monster, his face pale and he really did look like he was going to be sick. She smiled at him, showing off her blood stained teeth.

"Take him back to the dungeons." She ordered the guards.

Citra didn't bother to clean up. She wanted Riley to see her this way. She wanted a closer look at those fearful eyes.

Down in the dank dungeon, she sent all guards away. Grabbing a torch hanging off the wall, she unlocked the cell and entered. He was there, curled up in a corner with his head down and his knees tucked to his chest, wearing only a ripped pair of shorts. The sound of the cell door opening made him look up, and when he caught sight of her he scrambled up, settling into an alarmed stance.

"Get away from me!" He growled. He tried to sound confident, but she could hear the panic in his voice, see the fear in his eyes. Smell it, really.

Her response was a small smile and the tilting of her head.

"My little bird." She whispered, taking a step forward which sent him skidding backwards, bumping into the wall.

"I'm not your fucking bird!" He shouted, his flickering to her and the wall behind him. No escape. He's trapped. His fault.

She was on him in a flash, and there was a brief struggle which resulted in Riley falling on the floor, Citra holding him down with her hand pressed down on his neck, the torch rolling away, illuminating their struggling forms. He's not so weak like last time. Riley squirmed underneath her hold, going into a panic-state.

"No! Let me go! Don't touch me!" He choked, his eyes bulging, slapping at her arms.

Citra hummed, and there was this hysteric, uncontrollable feeling spreading through her body. Restless, she was so restless but a hundred times more than that. Riley cried out when with her other hand, dug her nails into where his heart was. She stopped when beads of blood erupted like small raindrops. Gods she didn't want to stop, wanted to dig her fingers all the way in, wrap them around his beating heart and tear it out. Holding in her laughter, her body swayed back and forth, restless- need to do something.

"You went to them." She breathed, caressing his cheek with a trembling hand, leaving trails of blood. "You betrayed us!" How could he! She gave him freedom and he runs straight to the rebels! Fights for them now!

"You're fucking crazy!" He spat, lips pulled back like a tiger, though lacking the fearsome passion of the beast. "Where's Jason! What did you do to him!? God fuck if you did something to him I will KILL YOU!"

His incessant threats were silenced with a back-handed slap, so harsh that it whipped his head to the side, his temple knocking against the dirty ground, resulting in small, bleeding cuts. Her vision zoomed in on the blood, a dark red that was so mesmerizing against pale skin. She coated two fingers with his blood and licked them, tasting so much more than its metallic flavor.

Green eyes flashed under lidded eyelids, a dark kind of excitement. Riley lay frozen, unable to tear his eyes away. Did he fear her now? He should because she wanted more. More, more, more until there is nothing left of him. Instead of cracking his jaw open and tearing out his tongue, Citra ran her tongue across her teeth and smiled at him, "You look prettier bleeding."

"Fuck you." He breathed out shakily, and she wondered how much courage he had to scrape up to spit those words out. Funny, he's at her mercy and yet he acts like she could kill him at any moment. Right here, right now somewhere in a filthy dungeon underground in darkness with no witnesses, nobody to see or remember him. He would die alone, and no one would even care. Maybe Jason would if his skull was not stripped and cleaned and used as a trophy. And maybe the boy's parents in America will wonder what truly happened to their sons.

"They ran off to play warrior in the jungle." She thought.

"Jason is not your warrior. He NEVER was." Riley said, as if he heard her thoughts. Shrill panic mixed with paranoia clouded her mind, and she thought, truly thought for a moment, he could read her mind, burrow into her skull and listen in. But no.. no, no she- she said it out loud. No worries, no worries, no need to kill him. "You're tricking him.. you-" He licked his chapped lips, his eyes growing wet, "You don't even care. You're just- you're just using him."

"Using him? No." She said, "It wasn't me who killed your friends. It was Jason. Your brother wanted to. I did nothing. It was his own hand that ripped your friends souls from their bodies and he loved it."

Did she just enjoy watching him squirm.

"I don't believe you. Jason is a good person." It came out as a whisper, small, surprisingly defiant. A fact? From what truth? Who is he trying to convince? "I know him. I know my own brother!"

Citra stared intently at his young face. Did he really think, he knew Jason? Understood his brother like no one else could? What a hopeless fool. There is no secret, mystical connection between siblings. There is just blood and unrequited limerence. She should know! SHE'S BEEN TRYING FOR OVER A DECADE!

Something horrible, and dark swirled around in her mind, and it was beautiful.

"Do you love Jason?"

Riley looked like he just witnessed cannibalism. "You're sick."

She tried not to hit him. Breaking him so early is not fun. But he's so much better dead. He flinched when she brushed her lips against his earlobe, whispering, "Do you want to see him again?"

Internal conflict reflected in his eyes, but it was up to him whether to believe she was telling the truth or not. Citra waited patiently, and when he nodded his head she couldn't help but smile and get up. Riley sat up immediately, scooting away from her.

"Then you have to do one thing. One thing and you can see Jason." She said, rubbing the side of her head because Jason was trying to get in again. Bothersome American.

Riley didn't trust her, she could see that obviously, but she knew he would do whatever to see his brother. To talk to him again.. to hug him and say please please please don't leave me I need you why did you leave me.

"What is it." Riley put up a brave front, but his body shook in fear, betraying him.

Her face was devoid of emotions, a blank canvas.

"I want you to touch yourself." It was a direct order, and to her she could be saying kill yourself and there would be no meaning behind it. No care, just emptiness. Riley didn't know what to do with himself, and stood there frozen, his expression one of disgust, absolute revulsion.

"No." He whispered.

Citra blinked and walked to the cell door.

"Wait! Wait!" She stopped and turned around. The boy looked frightened, desperate, his hand raised as if it would magically compel her to stop. He licked his chapped lips, his eyes flickering around the room. "Ok.. Ok.. if I do this, you will get Jason?"

Citra didn't answer him. Instead she strolled up to him and shoved him down onto his knees. She withdrew like smoke into the darkness. Riley swallowed and started muttering comforting words to himself. With one trembling hand, it disappeared under raggedy shorts.

"Fuck shit.." He grit his teeth and squeezed his eyes closed, trying to block watching eyes out. No, no, no Riley didn't get the privilege to block her out. He didn't get to escape while the rest of them were still here.

"Look at what you've done." She uttered, circling him slowly. "Little bird... How will Jason feel when he finds out you betrayed him?" Citra never cared for torture, not really. Vaas was the one who liked tormenting the little animals. She was just content with watching.

"Shut up! I can't fucking- just, just fucking shut up!" He snapped, his face screwed up in intense concentration, cheeks flushed with shame and embarrassment.

Citra ignored him, "But that's okay. Because he forgives you. Jason forgives you because he loves you. You are his brother, his little brother and he would do anything for you. He loves you Riley."

"Jason.." Riley looks like he wants to cry, and he does. "Grant.. mom, dad.. I- I want to go home. Please... please just let us go home. Please.."

Plead. Beg. Submit. Why was he so sad? She just didn't understand. So.. lucky. Riley was so lucky. His brother loved him.

"He needs you. He wants you Riley." She moaned.

Riley's eyes snapped open and he removed his hand from his shorts in a flash. "Stop it! WHY? Why are you doing this?! What have I ever done to you?!"

She emerged from behind him, grabbing a fistful of hair and yanking his head back making him yelp. "You exist. Do I need any other reason?" She released his head non to gently and continued her prowling, flexing her fingers in want to grab his head again and rip out his throat. 

"No.. that can't be it. People don't just hate someone to hate. You- you can't hate me. You can't do this. Please." Riley sniffled, his shoulders sagging in defeat. "Please.. just let us go. I just- I just want to go home. Why did we come to this fucking island? Why did this happen to us? Why? Why us?" He slapped his fists against the side of his head, burrowing his face into his palms letting out a sob. "This is a fucking nightmare."

"No this is real." She hissed, "Outside is the dream world but here, right now, you are awake. This is life."

"This is not my life!" He cried, "Life is home and my parents and Jason and- and Grant and- and-" He couldn't finish his sentence, dissolving into a helpless mess. It seemed like all the boy could do was cry. Jason never cried, not that she remembered... Were those wet eyes staring up at her when she stabbed him in the chest considered crying? It didn't jog any sympathy from her, so it must be fake. "Just let us go.. please just let us go." 

"WHY DO YOU STILL LOVE HIM?" She exploded in angry fire hot rage, kicking his back which sent him spiraling onto the ground. "He left you! HE LEFT YOU! He chose someone else over you! He NEVER cared about you! It was all LIES!"

ALL LIES! ALL LIES! EMPTY PROMISES AND FALSE HOPE! 

Riley weakly picked himself up off the floor, nursing the spot where her foot connected with his back. "Because he's my brother.. and despite everything.. we're family. He's all I have left." 

Her chest tightened, and to her shock her eyes started to burn. Not because of his words, but because, she realized, it was exactly what she would say. And she hated that. Thinking it in her head was one thing, but hearing it said out loud was another. It made her see what hopeless fools they both were. Still are. "Everyone leaves. No one ever stays." She said bitterly, swooping up the torch and exiting the cell.

"WAIT! WAAAIT! NO NO DON'T- I CAN'T STAY HERE!" His screams tore from his throat like a mad man. It was a dramatic switch from his previously quiet attitude. He had launched himself against the bars, an arm reaching out for her. "No don't leave me in the darkness! Not again, please, please come back! I can't be in the dark again! I need to see the light! PLEASE! I CAN'T STAY HERE! PLEASE!"

"Don't worry bird." She called over her shoulder, "You will see the light very soon."

He didn't stop his mad yelling, following her up the stairs. Stepping out into the hallway, she was taken by surprise when Dennis appeared. He jumped back, looking startled. 

"Citra I thought you already-" 

"What are you doing here?" She snapped.

He lowered his head and stepped aside, revealing a line of chained prisoners, two guards standing in the back. "I was just bringing them to the dungeon. For the games." 

She glanced at the prisoners, "Why are you bringing them? That is a servant's duty?"

His thick eyebrows shot up and he blinked rapidly, "Ah, yes but I thought it would be better if I did it myself.."

"I see." She muttered, squinting at him suspiciously but it was soon disregarded. She wanted to crawl back to Vaas, like she always does and if Dennis wanted to haul around prisoners then he can. Without a word she left, picking up the audible sigh of relief coming from Dennis.. even though she was already around the corner.


Citra woke up to a feeling of intense pain coming from her stomach. Scrambling out of the sheets, she barely had time to dump fruits out of a bowl before throwing up chunky blood into it. Her body was shaking uncontrollably, and the inside of her mouth had that gross acidic taste. Screwing her eyes shut, she hugged her stomach, breathing deeply through her nose to calm herself down.

"Jason Jr. being a lil' puta? Doesn't like human for breakfast huh?" Vaas' amused voice said from his place on the bed, looking the least bit concern for his sister's health. She didn't answer him, not because she was ignoring him but because she couldn't. All her focus was put into somehow suppressing the extreme distress her stomach was in. Gods it felt like it was moving in their, or- or something was scrambling her organs. The sickest part was when she glanced at the pool of red vomit, she felt the urge to eat it.

"Nnngh.." She groaned, tearing her eyes away. Is this what pregnancy felt like all the time? 

Vaas tsked, "Don't be such a pussy. You brought this shit upon yourself when you let Snow White put his fucking- when you two fuckers had unprotected sex. Shit I sound like Father Maliya now. Heh, should've told the geezer I fucked a boy without a condom. I can imagine the look on his face. Oh yeah another thing you should check little sister, see any warts down there?"

Citra sat there cradling her stomach, resting her form against the bed, too weak to move. All she could do was ride out the waves, waiting for it to pass so she could pass out. Her skin was slick with sweat, small trembles going up and down her body. She frowned when she felt something tap her head. If she had strength, she would've swatted the offending annoyance away. "Aye, ayee. Don't let that thing eat you from the inside." 

"Mmwhat..?" She mumbled, straining to open her eyes but she just couldn't. Hands shoved under her arms and pulled her up onto the bed. The movement made her sick all over again, but this time she knew there was nothing in her stomach, so all she did was lie there dying. 

"I'm gonna get something to make you feel better." Vaas said.

Citra's eyes fluttered open, panic swelling in her chest. "No! No.. no don't leave me.." She slapped a hand lazily on his arm, a fruitless attempt to grab him. One second she felt his warm skin and the next nothing but air. The bed felt different without the added weight, something she noticed immediately and- and how did he get free? Didn't she.. oh.. right. Vaas wanted to stretch his legs. She couldn't say no. 

But now he's gone. Gone gone gone and gods what if he never comes back! He's going to leave her again! He's going to leave her! Not again, she can't handle it again. 

"Vaas.." She croaked, trying to get up but her arms weren't cooperating and her legs felt like jello. "Vaas!.." 

"You're always so needy." 

Relief flooded her senses, and she reached out for him, wanting to feel him and know he is real and not some hallucination. His hand pushed her seeking one down, and she complied, rolling her head to make out what he got. Her vision was blurry but she could make out the shape of a box- no a safe. She's seen it before, and the contents inside was a mystery since the thing was locked with a four digit lock. Whistling, he put in the code and opened the safe, sticking a hand inside to rummage through whatever was in there. 

Curious, she wanted to see what's inside but she was too tired. Plus Vaas kept glancing at her, looking on edge. Whatever was in there he didn't want anyone to see, especially her. Citra laid back and closed her eyes, surrendering to the exhaustion, and let her mind wander. 

"Open your mouth." Vaas ordered. Without thinking she did so and froze when she felt soft lips press against hers. She opened her mouth wider, expecting a warm cavern but instead received something entirely different. She ripped away from, coughing and half choking as puffs of smoke escaped her mouth. Vaas was laughing, and rolled onto his back beside her, giving her a little nudge.

"What was that?" She asked, trying to clear her throat because there was something stuck in there. 

"It'll help ya relax. Don't fight it or else you're gonna have a bad trip. Fuck you're a bad trip anyways."

Citra wanted to reply, but she just rested her head on his shoulder. They laid in silence, and Citra realized sluggishly that the pain in her stomach had receded to the background. It was still there, but her mind wasn't quite focused on it. She felt hazy, like in a waking dream.

this is real. Life not my life it can't be

"You left me." She said out of nowhere.

"You killed my mom." He replied. "So that makes us fair and square eh?"

A hollow pang struck her chest, "Is that why you left?"

"No. Yes. Fuck I don't know. I don't know.. I just needed to escape.. I needed.. space from everything, everyone."

"Even me?" She asked in a quiet voice. Even though she asked it, she didn't want to hear his answer. Maybe she already knows what it is and she couldn't bear to hear it from him.

Vaas flicked her forehead, "You're bringing me down little sister. I don't like that."

"Sorry.." She murmured, though all she wanted to do was cry and rage. A thought popped in her mind, something she desperately needed to know the answer to. "Why didn't you leave? You could of but you didn't. Why?"

Vaas shrugged, "I think I'm gonna stick around. I'm not done here yet."

"Done with what?"

"Citraaaa," He groaned, rubbing his face, "You see that's one thing I hated about you. You always needed to know everyfuckingthing I do. When I eat, when I drink, when I jack off, when I take a shit." 

She cracked a smile and snuggled into his shoulder, "I don't need to know that.

"Well since we're on the subject of asses, I ate one that tasted like uh, like.. sparkles, tequila, and sunshine all mixed together. You'd think it'd taste like shit huh."

"That's gross." She mumbled, envisioning in her head a floating butt with sunshine shining and tequila flowing out, all covered in glittering sparkles. 

"I think I loved him." 

Citra grew quiet, disheartened, and meekly asked, "Why are you telling me this?" Was his intentions to hurt her further? Break whatever pieces of her heart still remained.

"Because I want to." He said simply, and sat up. Citra watched him reach into the safe and take out a single feather. He laid back down, rolling the feather between his thumb and index finger, gazing at it with a blank look. It looked soft, and the colors were a vivid blue, with a dip of neon orange around the edges. Citra plucked it right from his hand and examined it, grinning when Vaas made to snatch it back but she held it away.

"Tell me about." She said, handing it back to him. 

He took it and shrugged. "Not much to tell... I was in Rio. We met on the beach. He was a local boy, showed me around.. It gets fuzzy a lil' but I remember there's this carnival and the way that chico sacudio su pequena culo-" Vaas slapped a hand over his heart as if he'd been shot, "Ooh, you don't see that back home."

"What did you say?" She asked, annoyed she didn't understand what language he was speaking, and annoyed that he was purposely speaking a different language.

Vaas grinned devilishly, like he knew something she didn't. "Nothing, nothing." She pouted and punched his arm, but relented and let him have his fun.

"Continue." She said.

"We sneaked into one of them, those floating thingies, and we fucked to the music as it drove through a parade where thousands of people could see us if we weren't hiding inside. Fuck that was great. Wish I could do it again sometime." His face fell, staring at the feather. 

"What was his name?" She asked. 

Vaas broke out into laughter, "I was Sparrow. He was Canary... wish I did ask for his name though. I never got the chance."

"Why?"

"Woke up to find him gone." He said flatly. She looked at him to see what he was feeling, but his face was heavily guarded. "Fuck it though, it was great while it lasted." He smiled that wickedly charming grin and brushed his fingers against her discolored patch of skin. "You should peel this off. But I think it's a little bit too late for that."

She examined it, seeing that it did heal nicely. It didn't even leave a scar. "I can if you want me too." And she meant it full-heartily. 

"And you would do anything for me right?" He said, his lips pressed into a thin frown. Citra didn't have to answer that vocally for him to know what she was going to say. He tucked the feather behind her ear and sighed. "It doesn't matter anyways. It won't change anything." To her surprise, Vaas looked mildly somber. And she didn't want him to look so sad so she said the first thing that popped into her mind.

"Whatever happened to that toy sword you stole when we were kids." Thinking about it now, she actually did want to know.

Vaas frowned, "I think I gave that to Tipene."

Oh. Yeah. She remembered now. No wonder she never liked him.. and tried to get him killed. Excessive? She didn't think so.

"Aye, how's the SoCal douchebag's spawn?"

"What?"

"How's your stomach?" Vaas clarified. "Does it still hurt?"

It did.

"It's fine."


Citra walked in right as Riley had the ever living shit punched out of him. Blood flew from his mouth, staining the stone floors. To his credit, he didn't pass out, but the boy did slump to his knees, blood drooling from his lips. Riley looked bad, worse than his time with Hoyt. His body was littered with bruises, contrasting greatly on his pale sickly skin. When they noticed her presence, the torturer bowed. 

"Has he talked yet?" She asked, secretly breathing in the stench of blood and.. possibly urine? 

"No my Queen. Shall I continue until he does?" 

"No. Leave us." She dismissed, and the torturer with two guards left obediently. Citra waved her hand and her handmaidens handed her a bucket before following the guards out. Once alone, she strolled over to him. He had his head bowed and turned away from her, hiding his face in shadows. She put the bucket down, noticing how Riley flinched. 

"Why must you do this to yourself?" She asked, her words being swallowed up in the silence. He didn't answer, and she didn't expect him to. "You do not owe them your loyalty. You do not need to receive pain for them." She crouched down and tried to cup his bruised cheek, but Riley shrunk away as if her fingers were on fire. "This is not your war." 

Shaking, Riley lifted his head and glared at her. "It became my war when you fucked with my friends." 

"If that is what you believe, then so be it. I did not force Jason to come to me." She said. 

"You think this is all his fault?" Riley said incredulously, "He- we never asked for this. None of us.. wanted this to happen."

Things happen, sometimes when nobody asked for it. She understood that.

Riley grimaced, and let his head drop. Citra blinked, and reached out for him. His reaction was too lean away from her, too tried and beaten up to actually get up and put distance between them.

"I won't hurt you." She said, her voice calm and leveled. Riley didn't trust her, and it showed. When he could no longer further himself from her, she gently wrapped a hand around his shoulder, and slowly edge him down. There was resistance, but Riley gave up and let himself be maneuvered to where he was laying knees curled, his head resting on her lap. 

Tilting his head, she pulled out a bottle of water and placed it on his lips. Riley stared at her as he greedily drank its content, his eyes wide and weary. She set it down when she deemed he had his fill, and from the bucket, she soaked a small towel in warm water and squeezed it. Riley winced as she softly dabbed it around his face, careful not to put too much pressure to hurt him. She washed off dried flakes of blood that crusted like tiny little spiderweb cracks.

"Nothing is warmer than a mother's love." She hummed, brushing away strands of hair that stuck to his face. "But I wouldn't know. Do you? Riley?"

"Why are you doing this?" He questioned, ignoring her question. He licked his chapped, bloody lips. "You hate me."

Citra smiled and caressed his jawline. "I don't hate you Riley. Jason could never hate you."

"You're lying." He said with such bitterness in his voice, his lower lip trembling. "Jason hates me. What.. what kind of person leaves his own brother like this? He doesn't.. care, he doesn't give a shit about me. He promised- he promised he would protect us. But he killed us. He killed.. them."

"Older brothers tend to do that." She said, "They break promises. They hurt you. But that's OK. You get used to it."

"I don't want to get used to it." He said, his eyes drooping.

"Do you want it all to end?" She whispered, tracing the circular shaped scar on his chest. Riley mumbled something in-audible, but the slight nodding of his head told her yes. "Riley.. Riley you have to stay awake. There's no rest for people like us." She shook him gently awake, and his eyes slid open, dull blue eyes looking up at her. "Do you want this all to end?"

"Yes." He croaked, his adams apple bobbing up and down. Taking his hand, she wrapped it around a purple gun and pointed the end of the barrel directly at her face. 

"Then shoot me." 

Riley's lips parted in a small surprised o. They were both frozen in place, as if time inside this room never existed. The more time passed, the more his hand shook under hers. He had his finger on the trigger, and all he had to do was squeeze. A simple action that results in a chaotic aftermath. 

"You can end it all. You can be free." She urged him on, and this time she wasn't lying. She knew if it were Jason, hundred percent he would've done it. Jason was a stone-cold killer, and she would've done the same. But Riley's not Jason, and he's not Citra. Something he keeps proving time and time again. 

"I can't." He breathed, lowering the gun and looking away. "I, I can't." He sounded angry. At who? Himself? Citra felt strangely calm, neutral with the outcome of the situation. She took the gun from his hand and slipped it back in a holster. She sat Riley up and stood up. No words were exchanged until she closed the cell door.

"The gun was never loaded, was it?" He asked quietly. 

Her response was a small, knowing smile and she left him. Her handmaidens waited for her at the top and she unclipped the ammo cartridge, dumping bullets into a bowl before clicking it back in.

"My Queen." A guard came up to her and bowed. "Dennis has asked for you to come to the entrance of the temple."

"I will go later." She said dismissively. 

"He says it is urgent. He is dealing with outsiders." 

"Outsider?" She whipped around, suddenly alert. "Take me to them."


She heard Dennis' voice around the thick tree, and soon saw him. She then settled her eyes upon a group of soldiers. They weren't pirates, obviously, but they weren't Privateers either, nor do they look like poorly trained civilian soldiers. They were something more, something else. 

"Ah, this is Citra-" Dennis said, stepping to the side.

"Who are you?" She bellowed, "What do you want?"

One of the soldiers stepped up and removed their helmet.

"Citra Talugmai," She said, bowing in respect. "My name is Valerie Constantine. I'm a CIA agent from the United States government and I was hoping you can answer some questions regarding a man under the alias Yalung."

Chapter Text

"My name is Valerie Constantine. I'm a CIA agent from the United States government and I was hoping you can answer some questions regarding a man under the alias Yalung."

CIA-DANGER-THREATKILL THEMkillthem

Citra scowled. She had no time for this, and how dare they enter her temple grounds! How dare Dennis even allow it! "Kill them." She ordered with a wave of her hand. 

"Wait!" Dennis cried. Citra blinked in surprise when her warriors halted at his command. Her men looked confused, looking back and forth between Citra and Dennis. They remained hesitant, unwilling to unsheathe their weapons. 

"What are you doing?" She yelled angrily, her blood boiling. "I said kill them!"

"Wait, wait! Citra." Dennis jogged up to her and pulled her aside. She ripped her arm from his grip, her face scrunching up in disgust. "Citra think this through. These people, they're different, you can't just kill them. Not only are they american citizens but they're government officials. I'm sure they're very important, and I'm sure their disappearance will go noticed. This is not some, criminal organization we're dealing with. This is serious, and we do not want to get on the radar of an entire country!"

"Then what do you suggest we do? Let them live?" She hissed. "I don't care where they are from, they're all the same! And I won't allow outsiders to walk out of my temple alive. How will that look to my men? I will look weak." 

"You won't look-" Dennis pinched his nose, "Citra please. We've won one war, and now we're fighting a civil war. We don't need another. Please, think of your people." 

That struck a cord. She was still angry, still wanted to see them die, but she couldn't risk it. As leader, the people's safety comes first. That's what she learned when she was a child, eavesdropping on her father and brother's lessons. "Fine." She huffed, "Then what?"

"Listen to what they have to say and once they have what they came here for they'll leave and no one has to die." He replied, relief evident on his face.

Reluctantly she nodded and turned her attention back to the group of foreigners. "Speak your purpose. My patience is thinning." 

"Thank you for your cooperation. This won't take long, I assure you." Valerie held out a vanilla envelope to which Dennis took it and handed it to Citra."Yalung was last spotted in Bangkok and we have intel that he came here next to visit Hoyt Volker. I'm sure you already know who he is." The content inside was a detailed drawing of Yalung, more specifically Yalung's mask. Even they didn't know what Yalung's face looked like, and a tiny part of Citra held some pride that she did. "Have you seen this man before?"

"Yes." She answered, handing the stuff to Dennis. 

"Can you tell me where and how long ago? It is vital we know his whereabouts immediately."

Citra placed her hands on her hips, "No, first you tell me why. Why are you seeking him?"

"That information is classified." The agent said.

"Hm." She hummed, "Then I can't help you."

Valerie's lips pressed into a thin line, "I don't think you understand the graveness of this situation. We must know where he is, and if he's on this island it is your responsibility to inform us." 

"I don't serve you!" Citra guffawed in disbelief at the nerve of that outsider, and if it weren't for Dennis' words Valerie and her friends would be dead by now. Valerie herself looked just as irritated as Citra.

The auburn haired woman let out a frustrated sigh. "Look, lots of people are in danger. All of you are in danger, and if you don't tell us what we need to know then people will die."

"Valerie." One of the soldiers standing next to her said in a low warning.

"No Zaman! You haven't seen what I've seen. This is an unknown island, and that thing probably thinks this is a best place to colonize."

"You don't know that." Another person spoke up. He didn't dress like the others, but wore civilian clothing. "Subject appeared to have retained free will over its state of mind, unlike its previous cousins, albeit consciously though. Sub-consciously? That's what we.. need to worry about." His voice faltered when he noticed the rest of his companions staring at him.

"You talk too much, you know that Archie?" An unnamed soldier commented.

"So I've been told."

Citra frowned, crossing her arms. "What are you talking about? What does this have to do with my island?" 

Valerie opened her mouth to answer, but Archie stepped forward, giving Valerie a pleading look. "Not your island technically. Well, yes, but the island is a convenient component. Not entirely relevant but significant. Do you understand?" Citra glared at him and Archie cleared his throat nervously. "Yes.. well anyways we think that it being here may trigger some deeply buried sub-conscious memories, and that is bad considering what happened to the last island." 

"It?" She said, "What is it? Are you talking about Yalung?"

"Yalung, Mayura, same person." 

"That is why we need to know where he is." Valerie spoke up, "He poses a threat to not only your island but the entire world and humanity with it."

"We think he does." Archie cut in, "If it contains some intelligence then it can be reasoned with."

"You can't reason with that thing." Valerie said, a haunted look crossing her face. 

"I still do not know why you must find Yalung." Citra said. All she heard was nonsensical gibberish and no actual explanation.

Archie bit his lip, "Um, how to put this in a 'simple' way for the.. lesser intellectuals."

"Hey Archie let's try not to offend the people with arrows and spears pointed at us, alright?" The unnamed soldier snarked.

Archie's lips pressed into a thin line, looking like he wanted to say something. "As I was saying, Yalung has.. a flu, or the common cold you can say." Valerie snorted, and Archie sent her an annoyed look.

"A flu? You mean he is sick?" Citra concluded, searching her memory to find a time where Yalung seemed physically sick. She came up with nothing. Yalung was fine, more than fine. She can't say so now though. 

"An infectee more like it." Archie corrected, "But don't worry. It's not contagious. The only way you can get infected is if it is administered through sub-dermal injection, which I'm sure hasn't happened to anybody on this island."

"Yet." Valerie uttered. "Now you know. So tell us where Yalung is." 

Citra raised a brow at the woman's tone of voice. "He is dead." She announced. "I killed him myself." 

The group didn't look ecstatic over the news. 

"You.. killed Yalung?" Valerie repeated. 

"I did." 

"Then you must know where the body is?" Archie said, the only person who looked excited.

Citra raised a brow at the odd request but answered anyways. "It's on the Southern Island, where Hoyt's compound is in the airport. You will find him underneath what is left of the radio tower. I will have some of my men escort you there only if you leave my island afterwards and do not return." Archie looked ready to protest, but Valerie nodded curtly in understanding. 

"We will."

Citra turned to Dennis, "Send some men to accompany them. Make it quick, I'm starting to change my mind." Her second in command clapped his hands and ushered the group outside. Valerie looked back, locking eyes with Citra. The agent didn't like her, and that was fine with Citra. But if they ever cross paths again disregarding the circumstances, she won't hesitate to lodge a knife down the outsider's throat.


Riley looked considerably better the next time she sees him. He's dragged out and left on the floor a mess. When he pushes himself up, he squints at the bright light. They're at the pond. Riley stood in the exact same spot where Yalung did, except before her was no agile deadly killer; just a kid who's way over his head. 

Citra studies him, watches his face with extreme interest as he closes his eyes and perhaps take in the heat of the sun. 

"Did I not say you would see the light soon, little bird?" She says it more in a patronizing way, something Riley picks up on with the way he's looking at her. Stubborn boy, refuses to say anything to her. Does he think his silence is an act of defiance? Either way it didn't bother her. It was more entertaining than anything else. 

Their locked stare was broken when two more prisoners were dragged in, catching Riley's attention. The two newcomers looked worse than Riley, suffering from severe malnutrition, and they hid from the sunlight by cupping their hands around their faces. A wooden tribal club was given to Riley, and he looked at her confused. The weapon was called a Macuahuitl, perfect for bludgeoning flesh and if used correctly, perfect for breaking bones, even skulls with one precise hit. She enjoys watching realization hit his face. His eyes flicker to the two men and then to her in disbelief. 

"I'm not going to kill them." He declared, throwing the club away. She smiled knowingly. It's so funny how she expected this from him, and he doesn't disappoint. 

"I know you're not." She said, "They are." The two prisoners were handed similar clubs. Riley froze in alarm, his relaxed defiant persona completely wiped away. "I promised them they can see their families again if they did one thing." The two men settled into fighting stances, and despite their weak bodies they had a crazy look in their eyes, all fixated on Riley. "Kill you." 

"WAIT! Wait!" Riley held his hands up to the prisoners, a frantic look on his face. "We don't have to do this." He said in a steady voice, "Can't you see? She's just making us fight against each other. This is just- some sick, twisted entertainment for them! But we don't have to. We don't have to give them what they want! We're not some, some fucking animals!" He turned to address Citra, fire burning in his blue oceanic eyes. "We are human beings! I will not be your fucking entertainment!"

The air was left with a heavy silence. Riley was red in the face, breathing in and out as if he just ran a marathon. It happened so fast, padding of feet and then Riley's knocked onto the ground dazed and confused. Luckily for him, the prisoner was weak, and had no experience in fighting or else there would be chunks of the kid's brain missing. Riley underestimated the length a person would go to be back with their family. Citra understood that all too well. 

Regaining his bearings, Riley rolled away just in time as a club smashed down where his head was. It was a hectic game of dodge the sticks and try to stay alive. Riley was fairing pretty well on the defensive side, but she knows he knows it won't last. He can't keep dodging forever, and they weren't going to stop until he's dead. The only problem which even got her frustrated was that Riley was dead-set on not fighting back. The fool was still trying to talk reason into his attackers.

Why though? She can't wrap her mind around it. Around how this child thinks! It's either kill or be killed! That is the Rakyat way! That's what she has been told everyday of her life. There is no peace.

She was so focused on the fight she barely noticed Dennis approach her. "I have news about our CIA friends." He said, standing by her side, clasping his hands behind his back.

"Did they find the body?" She said distractedly, not really paying attention to Dennis because Riley almost got hit in the head again. He's quick on his feet, she'll give him that. "Well? Did they?" She asked again when Dennis didn't answer.

"..Yes. Yes they did and as promised they left right away. But do you see, Citra?"

"See what." 

"See that resorting to violence isn't the only solution. It all went peacefully and no one had to die. No conflict, no death, no hurting. It can be that way.. with the rebels."

Citra snapped her head to look at him, "Peace with the rebels? There is no peace with the rebels! They must all die!" 

"But they have families! Children!" Dennis pleaded. 

"They are not one of us. Only the Rakyat should live on this island, it is ours!" 

Dennis looked hopeless, "But can't their be a way? Can't we live in harmony? If we only stop killing their loved ones we can work this out-"

A scream tore through the air, drawing Citra's attention back onto the battlefield. One of the prisoners was hunched over, grasping his head that had an indention on its side. Riley stepped back in horror, in his grasp a club, blood dripping from it. "I-I- I didn't mean to.. I didn't.." The man fell on his side dead, his eyes wide open staring at Riley. "Oh god. Oh god no. No, no, no." Riley looked like he was going to break down into tears. 

"Yaaaaghh!" The other prisoner screamed fiercely, charging at Riley. She saw the change. That change when instinct takes over you, and the only thing you can do is let it control you. That's what Riley did. In one quick motion, he sidestepped, letting the attacker pass him and before the man could even turn around Riley swung and hit him in the back of the head. The attacker's eyes bulged out of their sockets, and he made this choking noise. Riley didn't try to dislodge the club from the back of his head, and instead let it go, which let the man fall face flat on the ground. 

Riley stood there frozen breathing heavily, his hands shaking. And then he looked up at her, blood splattered across his haunted face. "Is this what you want!?" He screamed, and it was filled with so much anger and sorrow. He sounded like a broken man on his last straw. He waved at the dead bodies, tears slipping down his cheeks. "What do you want from me!?" A sob escaped his lips but he stood his ground. "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!?"

"Citra." Dennis whispered, "This is an opportunity. Riley is Jason's little brother, the rebels know that, and the villagers still remember all the good Jason has done for them. If we let Riley go he can convince some of the villagers to consider about a peace treaty."

"Silence!" Citra barked, standing up. "I don't want to hear anymore about peace and treaties! There will be none! There never will be! I will watch them all burn and when I'm done there will be nothing left but the Rakyat to rule!"

"NO!" Riley roared and ran at them, scooping a lone club from the floor. He raised it high, ready to strike, and he was looking directly at her! It wasn't the guards who got to her first, or the archers pulling back their bows. It was Dennis, the man stepping in front of her and tackling Riley to the ground, landing in the pond with a huge splash. The two men rolled around until the guards swooped upon them, beating Riley into submission until the boy went slack. 

Dennis fixed his skewed glasses and glanced at Citra in hopes to find her looking back. But her sight was set on Riley. Because for the first time she saw murderous rage in his eyes.

He was going to kill her. The little bird wanted to kill the big tiger.

"Prepare the arena." She smiled, "He's ready." 


"You know I had this saved for a long fucking time, it would be a shame to let this go to waste." Vaas opened a rectangle polished wooden box, and held up a neatly wrapped cigar. He brought it to his nose and inhaled deeply, exhaling with a satisfied sigh. "Fucking prime. Aye, smell this." He wagged it in Citra's face, but she didn't react, didn't even look like she noticed it. Her brows were scrunched together, worry plaguing her face. Vaas frowned and poked her with the cigar, catching her attention. "The fuck is wrong with you?"

She blinked and debated whether to tell him or not. Well it really wasn't a debate to be honest. If Vaas asked she answered. "It's Dennis."

"Ohh that fuckboy muchacho. Yeah I remember him. What, he bothering you or something?"

Citra raised a brow, "You care?"

Vaas scoffed, as if offended by her words. "Fuck yes I do! You're my little sister. It's my job to beat up boys who make you feel uncomfortable. Shit and I've been slacking for uh, how many years now?"

"Nine years." She whispered. Nine long years. He lit up the cigar and blew smoke at the ceiling.

"Fuck has it been that long? See I missed a lot of fuckboys that deserve a beating." 

Citra shook her head, "There was no man but you Vaas."

"'Cept Jason, right?" 

She bit her lip and looked away. Why did he always felt the need to bring the American up? She wanted to forget him, but Vaas is making that really hard to do. 

"So what's up with Dennis, eh? Try'na be your baby daddy for another child? Likes his women already knocked up?"

She frowned, "No. He.. When I ordered my men to kill these people.. they stopped when Dennis told them to. They obeyed him, and when I repeated myself they looked at Dennis. As if they were looking to him for some.. some acceptance? They disobeyed me and that's never happened before." It actually should never happen. And secretly, a small part of her was scared. Mostly angry, but scared that she was losing something among her people, her warriors. And she really hated losing.

Vaas shrugged his shoulders, "It's bound to happen."

"What's bound to happen? What are you saying?" 

Smoke flowed from his nostrils softly, "Insubordination. Usurp. He's stealing your throne." 

"That would never happen." She said, "My people love me. I am their leader." 

"And that is the fucking problem. You rule from love and respect. That shit never works. Hoyt knew that, fucker knew that very well." His face darkened at the mention of his old boss, and she couldn't imagine what was going through his head. 

"Then how should I rule?" She asked.

"Fear." He replied, "Fear is what kept Hoyt's Privateer's feathers all ruffled and ready to bend and take it up the fucking ass. Fear is what I personally like to use. It's easy. Better yet, it's quick. That's how you keep motherfuckers in line. There ya go, life lesson right there. Your welcome." She examined Vaas, trying to picture him as the violent, psychotic tyrant she's heard rumors about. And it was true, his men did fear him. Everyone knew that. Everyone feared the Pirate Lord. They were scared of him. She was scared of losing him

"Were you afraid of Hoyt Volker?" She asked quietly, peeking at him under lashes. Any emotion on his face disappeared, replaced with a blank slate. Even his eyes hardened, and his fingers curled without his notice. The air was so thick it was starting to suffocate her, and his silence was making her anxious. Finally, he cracked a smile and laughed.

"No. The only thing scary about that old fart was his taste in music." 

Citra felt her eyes burn and she took his face in her hands, her lips trembling. "What did he do to you?" Vaas' response was to take another hit from the cigar and blow smoke in her face. It didn't deter her. "Do you not think I would know when my own brother is lying to me?" 

"I always wondered how you did that. As a kid I thought you could read my mind. Got me all paranoid for a while."

"Vaas." She chided, knowing that he was just avoiding her question. 

"Citrus." He mocked back, "You know I actually do like citruses." 

"Stop it. Tell me." She commanded because inside, her body was breaking as her imagination ran wild with thoughts of Volker hurting her brother. Intimidating him. The very thought of it made her so angry that someone made her brother feel that way. Her skin prickled and she wanted nothing more than to hurt Volker. Bring him back to life to make him suffer. 

He sighed and plopped down on his back, teeth holding the cigar. "It doesn't matter. The past is the past... Water under the bridge." 

"It's horrible." She muttered, knowing in her heart that something wrong was done to Vaas. 

"Nothing different with Dad." He said hollowly. Citra's breath hitched, and she curled up next to him, intertwining her fingers with his.

It was common for parents to discipline their children. Vaas made sure Citra never got hit. Maybe it was traumatic. Maybe it was child abuse. But to them, it was their culture. It was normal. Everyone did it. Pain is just an emotion.

And anyways, their father never made Vaas bleed. He was kind, yet strict. Like every other parent. Even Tane. 

"So what are we gonna do with Dennis?" Vaas asked, taking a strand from her dreads to chew on it. Citra let him, it was something he did all the time when they were little kids. She joked it was because he didn't have long hair himself to do it with. 

"We?" She echoed. 

"Yeah. We. Nosotros. You and I. Tom and Jerry. Jack and Rose. Luke and Leia." 

"Why would you want to help me?" Silly question, she knows but she knows that Vaas is just here to be here. She didn't expect him to care about her troubles. 

"Because we're family and we gotta stick together. If we don't have each other's back, then who will? Anyways, I think I'm the only person you can trust right now. From what I'm hearing, you can't even trust your second in command. Speaking of the little shit, what do you wanna do? Kill him the old fashion way, or do it the Sonny assassination style."

"I'm not.. going to kill him, Vaas." 

"But he's your competition. He's a threat." 

"Yes but Dennis is.. has been a reliable ally."

Vaas looked down at her, "I smell bullshit. What is it. What did he do that you can't kill him?" 

She pursued her lips, "He saved my life today. I don't forget things like that." 

"So suddenly you grow a conscious because of that?" Vaas grinned.

Citra punched his stomach, "I need to think about this clearly. I can't be reckless. It may work for you but not for me." 

Vaas snickered, "Yeah I know. You used to analyze shit all the time. Always so fucking cautious." 

"And that's why I never had a broken bone and you did. Three times." 

"Two. I twisted my ankle, not break it." 

She smiled fondly at the memory. Closing her eyes, she let his presence fill her mind, pushing out bad thoughts of murder, Dennis, and a certain little blue bird with blood in its eyes.


The arena was prepped and ready in two days. This will be the first time in years since the Rakyat's last used this place, and it is overdue on bloodshed. Men, women, even children filled the seats to watch the show. The more important people sat closer to where the action was, a tarp hanging overhead to provide shade for them. Citra would be seated at the very front, but she was oddly missing. 

Instead, she was inside the arena walls in one of the preparation rooms. The sacrifices had to be coated in pigs blood to attract the tigers, which she was doing so right now. Usually a servant would be doing this task, but Riley was special. She could tell the boy was hating every second of it, and when she got to his face, his eyes were dead-set trained on her. Red does make the color blue pop out.

"Jason was supposed to go to my pilot ceremony." He said after a while, his voice calm and collected. "He promised, but he never came. Brothers right? They just let you down."

She flickered her eyes to him, suspicious as to why he was sharing this with her. Dipping her fingers in white powder, she drew a tribal version of a skull on his chest.

"Are you afraid?" She said, curling a strand of his hair around her finger. She could tell all this was making him uncomfortable, but he smiled charmingly, as if none of this bothered him. 

"I jump off of airplanes to get a thrill. You're gonna have to try better than that."

Her face darkened, a frown gracing her lips. Where did this new bravado come from? And he even sounded cocky. She withdrew like a snake and walked towards the door. Before exiting, she look behind her and said, "Try not to die so quickly. It would be disappointing."

"I won't disappoint." He replied. Blue eyes clashed against green ones, ocean waves crashing against green land. Citra didn't like this new Riley. Didn't like the way his smile hid something that only he knew. Mischievous little bird should stay in its cage. Now he's being let out for the hungry tigers. 

She didn't exchange anymore words with him. It was time for the games to begin.

Returning to her seat, Citra gazed upon her people. Pride swelled in her chest knowing that she was the one who made it possible for the Rakyat to be joined here together as a strong, united tribe. She rose from her seat, and the crowd roared in cheers, stomping their feet creating a shaking similar to an earthquake.

"My people!" She boomed, raising her arms. The cheering died down to let her voice be heard by each and everyone. "We have one the war!" Applauding erupted and she waited for it to settle down again. It felt great, the air was alive with electricity and excitement hung in the air. "Now it is time to enjoy our victory!" She pointed towards the gates and it raised up, letting in thirty men coated in blood. They all looked alike, and it would be hard to spot Riley if it weren't for the white skull painted on his chest, and he was the only one to have it. 

"Let us remember our fallen brothers and may the blood of these sacrifices quench their thirst for vengeance!" Riley was stuck in the middle. She didn't know if it was done purposefully on his part, but either way it was a smart move. The animals won't get to him so quickly. "Give them their weapons!" Handed to them were flimsy spears, rusting knives, and aging clubs. "Any who survive will live to see another day until the next games! BEGIN!" Double horns on both side blasted, and the crowd grew louder. 

Citra sat down, never taking her eyes off Riley. Three gates opened, letting loose packs of dingos and boars and one chicken. As expected, the tight knit circle dispersed, all men running this way and that. Riley booked it too, and eventually started getting chased by a boar. Fools may think a boar is an easy animal to take down, but those sharp long tusks can pierce flesh as easily as a tiger's claws. 

Focusing on Riley, Citra also noticed that Dennis was fidgeting in his seat. From the corner of her eye, she could tell he seemed anxious.. impatient. But why would that be? She didn't ask though, and waited to see what he would do. 

The first wave of animals was over, only about eight men lay dead. Riley wasn't one of them. 

"Send in the dragons." She said, and the horns sounded again, announcing the beginning of the second wave. This time komodo dragons were released. Fierce, nasty creatures they wasted no time on slithering over to their prey. It was at that time that Dennis left his chair. 

"Where are you going?" She asked, making the man halt in his step.

"Oh, I'm going to check on the tigers. See if everything is ready." 

She nodded, and he left rather quickly. 

Komodo dragons were more tougher to kill, unfortunately the same could not be said for the humans. This time the death count numbered to almost half of the group, leaving about fourteen men or so. Riley didn't escape unscathed this time, sporting a bite mark on his leg. Fresh blood won't do him no good when he faces off against the tigers. Feeling generous, she let them have a period of rest before the next and final wave. 

Curiously, all the men crowded around Riley. With the noise of the crowd and how far she was, she couldn't hear what he was telling the group. Whatever it was she didn't like it, and she waved her hand, signaling to start. The horns sounded for the last time, and the crowd grew louder with excitement. This is when the tigers are released. There are only three, but one tiger can take down about five men. Rumors had it that Jason once lead a single tiger to an outpost and let the animal do all the work. That goes to show how strong these majestic predators are. 

This time, Citra stood up and went to the edge. Even from afar, she could tell Riley was looking straight back at her. He raised his knife towards her.. and tossed it away! The crowd reacted the same like her, surprised and astonished by his craziness. Foolish- crazy child! What was he trying to prove? That he won't fight for their pleasure? How stupid! He was going to die and all for what? His pride?! 

The gates opened, condemning his death. 

"Citra..." A weak voice sounded behind her. She turned around and gasped when Dennis stumbled inside and collapsed onto the ground. She went to him and cradled his bleeding head. He blinked lazily and mumbled, "Citra... the tigers..." Her blood ran cold, and she let her handmaidens take care of Dennis before throwing herself to the edge, gazing out at the arena. 

The tigers.. the tigers weren't coming out. The crowd started to boo, but she could care less. Because Riley is still looking at her, and he was smirking. 

Before she could do, or say anything, monkeys in the dozens emerged from the darkness of the gates. The sight was so bizarre that it left her utterly confused. That is until the monkeys started throwing grenades.

Chaos erupted faster than a wildfire. Confusion time was over, and the guards and any other warrior who happened to bring their gun started firing at the monkeys. Screams filled the air as a stampede of people tried to evacuate the arena. Following after the monkeys appeared trucks. Citra duck down as a spray of bullets flew in her direction. Crouching, she peeked over the edge to see the sacrifices climbing on board the trucks. 

"Yes! Go my monkey army, go!" 

For the love of all gods it couldn't be. 

"Thank you Gilbert!" Hurk hollered in his goofy fashion. 

If she weren't so pissed off right now, she would seriously wonder how that man-child is still alive! And just to spite her, he was the one helping Riley up into the bed of the truck. 

No!

No she is NOT letting Riley escape! He leaves when she allows it, either from her temple or from life itself she decides! In a flash, she hopped over the edge, and landed on the large steps below. Running she scooped up a gun from a fallen native and started shooting at Riley. But they were already driving out of there, and her bullets just hit the car, not the occupants. 

She growled in frustration and threw the gun on the floor. The rebels escaped. Riley escaped. Riley won. 

She was so mad her blood boiled. The warriors just standing there didn't help. "What are you doing?" She roared, "Go after them! Now!" They jumped and started running to where they stationed the cars. A part of Citra knew it was too late to, even by car but she was furious and she wanted to at least see them going after Riley. 

Riley.. Riley Riley RILEY RILEY RILEY!

"Citra."

"WHAT!"

Dennis flinched at her violent outburst. "Citra please calm..." He trailed off, his eyes going wide. Citra huffed and frowned at the way he was looking at her. 

"What?" She barked, this time more calmer. 

He opened and closed his mouth, "N-nothing.. I just thought I saw.. No never mind." 

She ignored whatever was going on with Dennis and said, "Spread the word Dennis. Tonight we are attacking Badtown!" 

"Badtown!?" He gaped, "Citra you cannot be serious. That is suicide! We will lose so many men for no reason and we don't even know what to expect from that place!"

"I don't care!" She shouted, "I want Badtown in flames tonight!" 

Gods just remembering Riley's smirking face made her see red. He knew. He knew. How did he know? How in the world did he know?

"No." 

Citra froze, and cocked her head. "No?" 

"No." He repeated, more firmly this time. "I'm sorry Citra, but I cannot allow this to happen. I won't let you."

Disbelief. Utter disbelief. She laughed, and when she looks at Dennis it's as if she's seeing him for the first time. "You.. you won't let me?" And that was when she realized, how was he talking to her? How was he standing perfectly fine talking to her. Wasn't he just minutes ago passing out from head trauma? And yes, there was dried blood on his head, but... something was not right.. something was not right.. 

"You went to check on the tigers." She mumbled, something horrible dawning on her. 

"What?" Dennis asked. 

"You went to check on the tigers." She said loudly. 

Dennis gulped and licked his lips. "Ah yes, and that's when the rebels attacked. They got me in the head and I managed to come back to you to warn you."

"Why did you take the prisoners down to the dungeon." She cut him off. "The servants could have done that. That is their job. So why did you do it?" 

"Citra-" 

Alone. He would of been alone with Riley long enough to tell him information.

"Traitor." She uttered, speaking more to herself than to this stranger. "You've betrayed me."

"Citra no, it's not what you think-" He tried to reach for her but she jumped back.

"You have betrayed me!" She snarled. This pain in her chest, she didn't know that it could be caused by Dennis. Dennis. 

"I didn't betray you Citra!" He shot back, "I love you! I only did what was best for you!"

"Best for me?" Incredulous. How in the world did he think this is what's best for her? How could he ever think that?

"Yes! For you, for the Rakyat. Everything I have done, it was all for you!" Dennis grabbed her shoulders but she ripped away from him. "Citra please just listen to me!"

Gods she felt dizzy and sick, or sick and dizzy she didn't know. Her own second in command.... She gritted her teeth. A foreign feeling swept over her, taking away her emotions and leaving her oddly empty inside. "Why?" That was all she wanted to know. Why? He held her shoulder gently, and this time she let him.

"Citra." He said softly, "This war against the rebels.. it's not a war against the Rakyat. It's a war against you. All the rebels want is peace. Your people want that too but you won't let that happen. You let your anger cloud your mind, and it's hurting people. Our brothers are dying and it can all be avoided if we stop all the senseless killings. They fight because we kill them. Their mothers and fathers and children." He cupped her cheek, making her look up at him. "And because... I need to protect you Citra. You're just a woman. One with a child!" 

Something... something deep inside her ticked.

"I love you Citra, and I know you may not share my feelings but I can't sit back and let you destroy yourself. You have saved me, given me a home and a family. Now it is my turn to save you." He leaned down to kiss her, but their lips never touched. She stepped back calmly. 

"I'm just a women to you." She said. No yelling, or crying or angry fits. Just a simple statement. 

"Citra you are so much more but.. Some of the generals are talking. It's not right. A woman with child to not have a husband. It is not right for the Rakyat to have a leader that is a.. woman. It's time for things to change around her Citra. The Rakyat is growing in strength and numbers. We need a leader that is strong, that can take care of his people and his wife." 

She chuckled sadly, "And that is you, isn't it?" 

They've all... they have all betrayed her. They were all against her... Right from the very beginning. She just can't win.

Dennis bowed his head, "I promise. I will love that child as if it were my own. You won't be alone anymore."

He just wants her for her body. Wants what he sees. 

"I am... not a woman." 

But nobody is listening.

When she looks into Dennis' eyes, what she sees back is her reflection. But she doesn't know who that person is. 

Fine.

Fine.

If she's just a woman, then she'll do what she does best. 

"Dennis." She cups his cheek and kisses him. When she pulls away, his lips follows hers. And when he opens his eyes, she knows she got him. "Do you want me Dennis?"

He nods his head, pure happiness on his face, his eyes twinkling. 

"Would you do anything to have me?"

"Yes." He breaths, "Anything for you." 

She stands on her tippy toes, whispering into his ears sensually, "Kill Riley." She draws away, brushing her fingers down his lips. "And then." 

They all want her. Oh Jason... Jason.. You don't even know my father's name. 

They aaaaalllll want Citra. 

All the boys want Citra.

And she just wanted to be them.

"I'll be yours." 

Dennis doesn't even hesitate. All that talk of peace, of no more bloodshed. All gone. It meant nothing because Citra's going to open her legs for you and she is going to love it. She's going to love you. 

The sky turns dark when Dennis leaves, the new Rakyat leader leading his army to Badtown. 

Citra smiles.


"Dennis. Dennis wake up."

Dennis cracks his eyes open to see Citra. She was sitting down, gently brushing his cheek. 

"Citra.." He croaks, weakly cupping his hand over hers.

She smiles, "Did you do it? Is Riley dead?"

He freezes, and she could practically see the memories flood back into his mind. He squeezes her hand looking frightened. "Citra.. he's coming for you. He said that to me- to me- he, he let me live and he is- Oh god Citra he's coming for you!" 

"I know Dennis." 

It worked out so perfectly. 

Dennis wants to stay awake, but exhaustion is taking a hold of him. "Citra.."

"Go to sleep Dennis." She says, getting up. On the other side of the bed, Vaas smiles cheekily at her and she smiles back. 

After all, they are family. And family stick together.

Vaas is the first one to stab Dennis, followed by Citra and then it's just a frenzy of blood splatters. Dennis isn't even allowed a scream. He's dead before he can. 

"Told you Citra." Vaas says, running his tongue up the bloody knife. "I got your back." Vaas looks way more excited than he should be, but hey, it's been a long time since he murdered someone the old fashioned way.

"I love you, Vaas." She says, adoration in her eyes. 

When he looks at her, he looks at her. Truly. Deeply.

He's seen it all. He's seen all of her and he just grins right back. 

"Love you too, sis."

Chapter Text

Up. Down. Curve. Circle. 

"We lost control over the South Island!"

Interlacing lines, crossing and overlapping. 

"Amanaki town has been overrun. We must take in refugees, we have space in the temple." 

Beautifully carved.

"This is a sacred temple! We cannot allow non-true Rakyat blood inside this holy ground!"

The Silver Dragon Knife truly is a remarkably crafted weapon.

"Where is Dennis? We need him."

"He is the one who led our brothers to their deaths!" 

"What do we do?" 

Finally, the heated discussion quieted down, and all the generals in the circle all turned their heads towards Citra. Their Warrior Goddess was busy examining the Silver Dragon Knife, tracing its intricate lines with the tip of her fingernail. Despite the tension surrounding the group, she was perfectly calm. Apathetic, really.

"We do.. what our ancestors have done time and time again." She ran the blade gently over her fingers. "We fight. We fight to the very end. That is the Rakyat way." 

"Where is Dennis?" One of the generals spoke up, and the rest murmured in agreement. 

Her fingers curled around the knife tightly, just enough for a thin line of blood to appear on her skin. "Brother Dennis passed away last night. His wounds were too great. His soul is free now. Do not be saddened, he is with the gods, watching over us. He was a great warrior, a brother of the Rakyat, and we honor him today with a drink." She waved a hand and her handmaidens came in giving everyone a cup of wine. Citra raised hers up, "To Dennis."

"To Dennis!" They all repeated and drank.

Citra didn't drink from hers though, and instead tipped it sideways letting the liquid drain and once the cup was empty she simply let it roll from her fingers, clattering on the stone ground. A deep, resounding thud sounded when she slammed the Silver Dragon knife into the table, catching everyone's attention.

"I have.. sacrificed so much for this tribe. For my people. I considered you family, loved you as one. I have been an understanding and good leader." Her voice raised an octave, dragging her fingernails back and forth on the wooden table. "Have I not been?" The generals shifted uncomfortably at her sudden change in mood, and none dared to answer the question. Citra chuckled and rubbed a hand over her face that pulled at her skin roughly. "Then why must you betray me?"

The generals erupted to the beginning of a protest but she raised a hand silencing them. "Please, listen. Everything we've been through, we have been through together. When you suffered, I suffered. When you mourned, I mourned. And when our island was finally freed I felt your joy, your happiness. We are family." Her smiled dropped. "And when I found out that you were all planning to replace me behind my back..." There was a deadly silence, every eye on Citra waiting to see what she would do next.

"It hurt." She said quietly. "And as I have felt your pain, you will feel mine." It started with one man, and then the rest were coughing, hacking up blood, their bodies shaking in small spasms. In a matter of seconds they were all slumped over dead. Citra looked around at her handiwork and sighed. "I hoped you all learned your lesson. I did."

She left the bodies to rot under the sun and went back to the inner temple. A smile was already plastered on her face when she entered Vaas' room... only to find it empty. Before crippling anxiety could seize her, something red on the floor caught her eye, and when she looked down it revealed itself to be red arrows leading outside the room. It guided her into the hallway and lead outside where she found him standing at the end of the long walkway. As she walked towards him, she passed carcasses of dead monkeys left half-haphazardly on the floor.  When she stopped by his side, he was staring at particular spot at the slab of stone, his brows pulled into a deep frown, the tips of his lips curled downwards.

"What do you see?" He didn't answer. Lowly she said, "When I didn't find you in your room.. I thought you left me."

"Nah." He shrugged, "Just felt like I've been cooped up for so long in there. Going a bit.. crazy, you know?" She knew what that was like. When the shadows start playing tricks on you and the walls whisper something strange in your ears. "Anyways that's why I left you this to find me." He said, motioning to the bloody arrows. "I knew you would freak the fuck out." 

He hopped onto the slab of stone and sat crisscrossed. She joined him, curling up against his steady frame, resting her head on his shoulder and intertwining their fingers. They sat in peaceful silence, gazing at the sparkling ocean. After all the chaos that happened not so long ago, it felt nice to sit here and do nothing but be with her brother. Just.. feel him. She wished this moment can last forever. Right here, right now, just them two. But nothing lasts forever. 

Vaas sniffed and got off. "Let's go." 

"Where?" She asked, getting off too. 

"I don't know. Anywhere- anywhere but here."

"You mean leave.. the temple?" Citra glanced back at the temple structures and shook her head. "I can't... they need me. I have to stay here. It is my responsibility." 

She blinked in surprise when Vaas suddenly grabbed her shoulders. "No it isn't. You know what, no. Screw them." He jabbed a finger at the temple. "FUCK YOU! Forget all this crap, it's just nothing. Nothing! None of this bullshit matters, Citra. The warrior, the tribe, the gods- it doesn't matter."

"It matters to me." She shot back. "And it should matter to you."

He cupped her cheek and pressed their foreheads together, staring deep into her eyes, almost frighteningly so. "And I'm here to tell you that the Rakyat isn't the only thing in this world. I know! I've been out there and I have seen so much. The world is way bigger than this island. It's opened my eyes to realize that everything right here.. it just doesn't matter." 

"They need me. I am their leader and soon you will be." She whispered, wanting to look away from his penetrating stare but she just can't.

"They don't need you. I think they made that pretty obvious. They were ready to replace you and for what? Because you have a fucking punani?" Vaas seethed, an anger that she should be feeling but all she felt was failure. "They don't need you and they don't deserve you. They call themselves your family but I'm right here. I am standing right in front of you."

I'm your family.

"I-I can't.. I don't know." Why was she suddenly feeling so conflicted. Shouldn't the obvious decision be to follow Vaas and in his words, 'Screw them' and leave? But.. she slowly realizes... This has been her dream ever since she can remember. Being tribe leader, being strong and powerful and having people look up to her. This is what she wants. This is what Tane believed she can be. Believed in her when no one else did. 

Can she really just leave it all behind? For Vaas? 

The internal battle she was having must have been obvious since Vaas' lips pressed into a thin line and he stepped back. 

"You know what? I'm gonna make this easy for you." He points to the temple, "Them or me. Me or them." She froze. Those familiar words... her eyes flickered to the scar running down his head. And after all these years, she still regrets doing that. Regrets letting her anger consume her. Regrets ever hurting him. She doesn't want to hurt him anymore. 

In the end, it all boils down to a choice, and every choice has consequences. 

When she looks back at the temple, she sees the Warrior Goddess standing regal, the giants head raised in one hand, and the Silver Dragon Knife in another. Honor and glory. A hero. 

When she looks at Vaas, she sees two children with galaxies in their eyes and Wanderlust in their souls. Just kids playing games and running through the trees. Nostalgia, and a promise yet to be fulfilled. Freedom.

As if she needed to make a choice.

It's been Vaas and Citra since the beginning. That was all she had and that's all she needs. 

She realized Vaas is still standing there waiting for an answer and she gives him one.

"Where to?"


They climbed over the temple walls like a bunch of kids sneaking out of their parent's house. Citra is the lookout while Vaas hot-wires a car they find close to the temple grounds, which means Vaas got the car going in fifteen seconds while Citra laid on top of the hood watching the clouds move slowly by. 

He pounded the top of the car, "Aye let's go!" 

"Where are we going?" She asked when they take off down the road. Looking back, the temple gets smaller and smaller. She found it funny how some distance can make something disappear. Maybe not disappear, but she is definitely not there anymore and if she's not there then it no longer exists. 

Poof. Gone. 

"You'll see." He reached over and opened the glove compartment and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. When he popped it open it's empty. 

They drive on for a long time, Citra watching the scenery fly by. The island was beautiful.. it was always beautiful. 

"You know what I find fucking hilarious?" He said, one hand on the wheel and the other sticking out the window, feeling the rush of cool air. "If you were to walk into Badtown right now, no one would even fucking recognize you." He chuckled, wiggling his fingers through the air. "It's funny how that works, the people who are responsible for everything: the killing, the pain the suffering. And yet no one knows the face of the person they hate the most. I mean, do you even know what Hoyt looked like." It was something she never thought about, and thinking about it now, she realized.. She didn't know what Hoyt looked like. Hoyt Volker was just a name slapped onto an invisible attacker. "They don't get their hands dirty. That's what fucking mindless cocksuckers are there for."

"And me?" She asked. He chanced a quick look at her.

"Citra Talugmai is just a name. Just like Vaas Montenegro is just a name. Names only hold meaning if you fucking want them to." She looked away, resting her forehead on the glass window. "Why Talugmai?" He sounded off, and when she looked at him, his face was professionally neutral, but the tight grip he had on the wheel which made his knuckles turn white betrayed his inner feelings. 

"Because her name had meaning." She answered honestly. "Because it mattered." 

"YOU DON'T-" He cut himself off, blowing air from his mouth angrily. "You don't deserve to take her fucking last name." 

"Who says I don't deserve to?" She frowned.

"I do!" He exclaimed, hitting the wheel which produced an abrupt honk. "You don't even know what you two have done to her!"

She felt her face burn, "What I have done!? I know what I did! I killed our mother! I know! So just finish what she started and drown me in a river!" 

The silence that followed after her hot outburst was a tense one, and both the Montenegro siblings stubbornly decided to ignore the other. But it didn't last long. Citra cracked first. She didn't want Vaas sour at her, not when it's their first time spending time together after.. after everything. She opened her mouth, an apology on the tip of her lips, but Vaas beat her to it.

"Dad said.. that you looked a lot like her." He said hoarsely. "We both did, but you especially. Same eyes. When I was a kid I used to believe that mom was watching me through you." He chuckled, "Fuck.. I wouldn't want her to see me now. I hope she never was."

She agreed quietly, because despite what Vaas thinks, they share identical eyes, and the thought of their mother watching her... terrified her.


Vaas stopped the car some ways away from Churchtown. They got out, but when Vaas started walking towards the town Citra pulled his arm back. 

"What are you doing? We can't go in there." She said in alarm, wondering if her brother truly lost his mind. More than half the island now was overtaken by the rebels. Knowing that knowledge, Citra thought she and Vaas were going somewhere secluded, or at least somewhere where they wouldn't be seen and walking into a town is a bad way to start. She was the leader of the Rakyat and he, the recently dead but not really, Pirate Lord. 

"What did I tell you back in the car? No one is gonna recognize your face. But these might give you away." He said, referring to the tatau's littered obnoxiously on her body. He took her chin and gave it a little wiggle. She swatted his hand away, unamused.

"And you? I'm sure people will recognize you." 

Something peculiar shined in his eyes and he grinned slyly. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine. Now c'mon, we gotta cover that shit up." He walked off and Citra wanted to stop him but she knew he wouldn't listen to her. He never has, and she doubted he was going to start now. Huffing, she followed after him. This was just like old times and she didn't know if she was glad about that. She forgot how reckless Vaas was and how it was usually him who got them into all sorts of trouble. Despite what he likes to think, he's not invincible! 

They half-snuck, half-jogged to the nearest house. At the back, Vaas took down some clothes hanging pinned on a wire to dry off. He threw pieces of articles at her and she got to work changing into them while Vaas slipped on a white tank. Using a random bush to throw her old clothes in, Citra examined what she was now wearing; a simple shirt that hid her shoulder and belly tatau, and a loose knee-length cotton pant that covered the tatau trailing down her thigh. It felt.. different wearing 'normal' clothes but she refused the sandals Vaas held out to her to which he simply shrugged and tossed them aside. 

"Alright now take all of this shit off." He gestured to all the jewelry she had on. Citra simply gave him a look and got to work removing the stacks of bracelets on her wrists, followed by the unwinding of the neck ring. She left the tooth necklace on, that was more than a simple piece of aesthetic. It held meaning. With everything off, she felt.. lighter.. freer, and not in a physical sense. 

They strolled down a road away from the house, heading towards the town square. 

"What is it?" Citra asked when she noticed Vaas looking at her intently. 

"You look more like yourself. Not all that... bullshit on you." 

"It was traditional wear for a woman. It was expected of me." She confessed, rubbing her free neck absentmindedly.  

"You never cared about that." He said, looking away. "You were better than that." 

"A lot of things have changed since you were gone. And I didn't have you to make it any easier." She said bitterly. There was so much more she wanted to say, so much more she felt they both had to talk about, but she didn't want to, and knowing Vaas, neither did he. Not yet, anyways. 

The dampened mood was lightened when Vaas cracked a smile. "Here we are. Ta da!" 

Citra looked up at the glowing neon sign which read Rex's Burgers. She didn't understand his excitement until she recalled faintly a memory of the same name, but located somewhere else. "I remember this place." She said softly, "We tried to get in but dad never let us, and we never had any money... We don't have money, still." 

Vaas hummed, grinning impishly as he pulled out wads of bills from his pockets. 

"Where'd you get that?" She demanded. 

"Chill, I didn't steal it. It was in a chest at the house where we uh, stole clothes from." She crossed her arms, and he patted her cheek playfully. "Ah, don't look so grumpy little sister. You remind me of that cat on the internet. Such a cute little fucking thing." He did a funky motion with his hands as they walked to the entrance of the joint. Citra expected the place to be empty, but inside it was mildly packed with people. Specifically tourists. That's when it clicked in her head. The reason Vaas wasn't so worried about people recognizing him. 

"This is a tourist spot." She said out loud. This is where the rebels bring in outsiders to get money. There's no rebel squadrons stationed here because Churchtown was located so deep in rebel territory they didn't need to worry about the Rakyat attacking them. This town was far behind the battle zone, the front lines. Here, Vaas and Citra blended in well with the other young adults. But there was something still bothering here. "How did you know?" 

"Know what?" Vaas chirped, giving a secretive smile as he headed to the counter, leaving her perplexed. He came back shortly, and before she could say anything he snatched her wrist and tugged her along. "C'mere I wanna show you something." He pulled her towards a corner of the joint where a group of outsiders were surrounding what looked like an odd machine. Citra wasn't surprised when Vaas shoved the guy at the machine away, taking his place.

"What the fuck, man?" The guy said heatedly, puffing out his chest. 

Vaas cocked his head, and straightened up to the face the guy. It was as if the outsider was a balloon, and at the sight of Vaas he deflated. "The fuck you say, hermano? Huh? You got a problem pussy fucker?" 

Citra took a quick glance around the joint in case there were rebels around. Last thing they needed was more trouble. If neither of them backed down Citra was going to have to step in. The male ego was a wondrous thing. This wasn't the case since the guy backed up and left tail between legs along with his friends. Vaas stared them down all the way, even when they left the place.  

"You know, I think that's the second time I let cocksuckers go free. First one was a mistake." He muttered, turning back to the machine, and just like that his entire mood changed back to that light-hearted boy she remembers from when they were kids. "Check this out, I got the highest score in this game." The screen title glowed in neon pink Blood Dragon, and some retro music started playing. Vaas moved the joy-stick onto highscores. He looked so giddy that even though Citra had no clue what he was talking about, she smiled anyways. 

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Vaas said, as the list of top scorers appeared on the screen. Citra looked away from his face and to the list, and raised a brow. Vaas the Destroyer was on the list like he said, but it was listed as number 2. Number 1 was taken by a certain Snow White. "Even in death motherfucking cunt is still messing with me. Really Jason, really? You come to my island, disrespect me, burn my weed, murder my boss, and fuck my sister but this? This is some evil shit, hermano." 

The time was spent trying to get top score again. Sadly for Vaas, their burgers were ready and he had to quit the game, but not before pulling out the plug and sticking it back in, resetting the scores. He grinned, pleased with himself.

"Are you two brother and sister?" The lady behind the counter asked when she handed them their burgers. 

Vaas smirked and hugged Citra from behind. "We get that a lot, no?" He surprised the lady, and even her when he kissed her neck. "Yeah we are." He said with a wink. Citra barely had time to see the face the lady made when Vaas pulled her outside laughing. "My incest senses are tingling." He muttered under his breath as they looked for a place to sit, finding refuge under the shade of a tree. Vaas was already digging into his burger, but Citra didn't pay hers any mind. She was distracted by the tourists. 

They all looked young, maybe around their ages. Most if not all reminded her of Jason and his group of friends. Was this how they would have looked like? Strolling by happily with not a care in the world? What was it like? To have no responsibility, no pressure from a culture that demanded it. They looked so.. free. It was bizarre, because all her life she's been surrounded with war. No one on Rook Island smiles anymore, and the ones who do have lost their minds. 

For a moment, a brief fleeting moment, she imagined that she wasn't Citra, Goddess Warrior of the Rakyat, and her brother wasn't Vaas, Pirate Lord. Instead, they were Vaas and Citra, just two people eating burgers. Nothing more, nothing less. 

"Are you gonna eat that?" He asked, already finished with his own burger. Citra shook her head and handed it to him. Vaas frowned, but took it anyways. "What? What's wrong you don't like it?" 

"I prefer hunting my meals as our people have done so for centuries." She replied, giving him a side-glance. "Unless, you have forgotten the ways of the jungle Vaas. Tell me, can you still kill a deer without scaring it?" 

Vaas guffawed and tossed the burger behind his back. "I was the best. Better than you anyways and that's all that counts to me. Anyways, who took on a bear one-on-one?" 

"I fought a tiger." Citra quipped. 

"Tiger's are pussy cats, everyone knows that." He said with a devilish grin, making her scoff and hit him on the arm. 

"Well then let's see if you've still got it."

They went to the nearest store, and Citra was amazed that this one didn't contain any weapons. Just products like the little hula girl bobblehead that Vaas had fun making them bounce all in a row. Luckily there was rent-a-bow. Vaas paid what's left of the money they had for two bows, including the arrows. Their bows expired in a day, but Citra had a sneaking suspicion they weren't coming back to return them. 

Half-way back to their car, Vaas stopped and nodded at a truck parked with the engines on, door open, a familiar group of tourists standing at the back laughing. 

"No-" Citra starts but Vaas is off already making a beeline for the truck. All she can do is follow him. He jumps in, and Citra doesn't have time to go around since Vaas caught the tourists attention by charging in like a wild bull, so she dives on top of him and once she's inside Vaas steps on it. It's a struggle to maneuver herself to sit on the passenger side, and she may or may not have elbowed Vaas on purpose, but she finally settles down. Vaas is hollering and sticking his head out the window, giving them the finger. Caught up in all the excitement, Citra too sticks half her body out the window and blows them a kiss.

They're laughing like little kids, a good, long laugh that reverberates in her chest, cheeks flushing and ribs aching. Vaas blasts the radio and starts singing along to the songs as he rummaged through the stuff the tourists had in their car. "Oh shit. Naughty kids have the best fun." Vaas held up a plastic bag containing a familiar green mush. Citra snatches it from him and without warning throws it out the window. "What- no!" Vaas whined, "Citra whyyy. Fucking partypooper." He continued his rummaging and made a sound of delight. 

"Fuck yes! Citra take this and sit on the window." He shoved what looked like a flare in her hand, rolling down the window for her already. She easily slid half her body out the through the window and sat, shifting to find the most comfortable spot. She examined the thing, and popped off the cap. Clouds of red smoke puffed out in billows. Citra's eyes widened in fascination, weaving her fingers back and forth in the gas. From the other side of the car erupted green smoke which curled with the red until the two disappeared together in the sky. The colors were so vibrant, and when one ran out, Vaas would hand her another in a different color. 

Eventually they used it all up, but by then they were already pulling to the side to park. Citra hopped out of the car and slid the arrow case over her shoulder. The bow itself was not finely made, and it was obvious the craftsmanship wasn't one from the Rakyat, but it will have to do. The rush from before disappeared, replaced with a calmer attitude. The hardest part wasn't killing an animal. It was being one with the jungle. 

Years of training kicked in, and as they made their way deeper into the jungle, her footsteps remained light, leaving barely a footprint in the recently wet soil. She walked with a steady stride, ears piquing at the many sounds, and if you were truly a master, you could pick out distinctive ones, and follow that. Deer barely make any sound, and only do when startled. 

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Citra stopped abruptly and slapped Vaas' arm sharply. "Ah! Fuck was that for?" 

"Your shoes. Take them off. They're making too much noise." She hissed disapprovingly. It was like dealing with a child, and even a Rakyat child would know better! "Tane taught you better than that." 

"If I remember correctly Tane gave you special lessons. He didn't teach me most of the stuff he taught you. Fuck he spent more of his time on you than the rest of us." he said, kicking off his shoes.

"He thought I needed more help. You didn't."  

"If that's what you think." He muttered. 

They continued on, Vaas making significantly less noise. She noticed he had a hard time adjusting at first, having to actually remain silent instead of stomping around shooting bullets in the air. But eventually he started moving just as swiftly as Citra. She smiled. There are things ingrained into you that you cannot get rid off. This is his jungle, and it's welcoming him back into the hunt. 

Citra spots deer first, and crouches down immediately drawing her bow, Vaas following her lead. 

"Lost your touch, brother? One second more and you would have walked right into them." She whispered, the tips of her lips curling upwards. 

"Nah, I'm just better at hunting humans." 

Citra inhaled air quickly when Vaas suddenly picked her up and pinned her to a tree. In order not to fall, she wrapped her legs around his waist all the while still having the arrow pointed at the targets. They don't move a muscle when some of the deer raised their elegant fragile heads, their poor eye-sight trying to see what caused the noise. Excruciating seconds ticked by before the deer relaxed again.

She meant to send an annoying glare at Vaas but that died when she saw the look in his eyes. The jungle is constantly filled with noises, and if it isn't, that means you're not trying hard enough to listen. But right then and now, the world around her fell quiet, and the only thing she could focus on was him. He moved his face closer to hers, the only thing between them was the arrow winded up, prepped to fly. She became hyper-aware of the sound of their breathing, his breathing. His lips that parted softly and his hands that were wrapped around her waist. 

The screeching of Macaques broke the silence, and the sounds of the jungle came rushing back like a tidal wave. They both looked up at the tall trees, up, up at where the leaves shuffled as something inside it moved. 

She knows this type of calling. It's a specific screech the Macaques use to signal a predator in the area, thus unintentionally warning the deer. 

"Leopard?" Vaas guesses. 

"Tiger." She corrects him. 

Their only safe bet is to stay still and watch the show. All the deer are on high alert, their ears pointed upwards twitching. They know a tiger is in the area, but if they can't see it, then they won't run. Citra tries to spot the tiger first, but it is an experienced hunter, and stays hidden from sight. 

It happens, as always, without warning. Without even a sound. The ferocious animal emerges from seemingly out of thin air, lunging at the closest deer. Everything breaks into chaos, and the group of deer scatters. All except one. The tiger already has its fragile neck in its powerful maw, shaking it vigorously.

She would've been focusing more if Vaas didn't have his body pressed flush against hers the same time the tiger attacked, his lips brushing ever so gently against the side of her neck. 

"I got you." He sighs, sending chills down her spine. 

The tiger drags its catch off, probably back to its dwelling to eat in peace. Citra exhaled in relief and unwrapped her legs from his waist. Vaas stepped back, looking at the spot where the tiger was. 

"That's never happened before." He said.

"I know." Not once when they were out hunting did a tiger appear and catch their prey. It's a pretty rare experience, and to see a fearsome predator at work was amazing. 

"Fuck, there goes our dinner." He laughed as they walked the opposite direction the tiger was going. 

"There are many more animals out there. If you can find them." 

His brows shoot to the top of his forehead, "You doubt me? I'll show you, c'mon."


Vaas gets a clean shot straight through a boar's lungs. He heaves the dead animal onto the back of the truck and they're off again, heading somewhere only Vaas knows. 

He cupped a hand over his mouth and said, "And if you look to your right you will see the stinkhole of hell. Also known as Badtown where the girls come cheap and the liquor even cheaper." 

Citra sat up and peered out the window. He was right. From where they were passing, Badtown was in full view. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, a tiny voice wondered if Riley was there. 

They drove past the rebel headquarters and down the road following the waterfalls. From there she could see the rebel ports. It reminded her of Yalung, and how easily the demon had sneaked in and stolen a submarine. She wondered what those CIA people wanted with the demons dead body. She guessed she will never know. 

Vaas pulls off road and into the beach, the drive becoming bumpier under sand. He slows down to a stop before a lone wooden house with a small pier extending out into the sea. They leave the car and everything in it, with the exception of the boar that Vaas flings over his back, and walk down the pier where a patrol boat was left tied to one of the poles. 

He throws the boar in the back as they clamber on. It's a short trip to the two mini islands in the distance. They passed the first one, and Citra spots a cliff that looked perfect for diving off of. When they reach the second island, Citra blinks and gives Vaas a strange look. 

"Why are we here? This place is haunted." It's an old childhood scary story she and Vaas knew about. The story goes that the people who worked at the station on that island vanished one night without a trace. Notes from the workers revealed there was a tiger prowling in the area, and at night they would hear it clawing at the door. Nobody knows what truly happened to the workers, but no one dared to set foot on that island in fear of encountering the tiger from the story. Not even Vaas and his friends in all their bravado. 

"That's just a story. Although we do have a tiger loose on the island but Rajah keeps to himself. He doesn't like the sound of dubstep and that's what we usually play. Poor fucker." He chuckled. They get off the boat and she follows him down a small path that lead right up to the old factory. When they reach a huge red sliding door, her eyes widen in realization that Vaas had lead her to his hideout. The eye spray-painted on the door an obvious give-away. 

This is where you have been hiding all this time. She thinks. 

Vaas hands her the boar and slides the door open. "Hello MTV, my name is Vaas Montenegro. Pirate King and natural herbalist and I welcome you to my crib. Please, come inside, come inside." 

It's like walking into another world. There's graffiti art all over the walls of the building, and even on the floor. She frowns curiously at the burned down building right at the entrance on the left side. 

"You can thank Jason for that." Vaas commented, taking the boar from her hand. She strolls after him, taking everything in. This is where her brother has been. Sleeping, eating, resting, anything she could think of. He was so close, just  half a days trip across the island and she could've been here with him. She wondered what he did all these years except the obvious, such as killing, torturing, and being a complete menace in general. No, she wondered what he did to make the time pass. 

Looking at her surroundings, she noticed that the place seemed off. As if a battle a been fought here. Dead bodies were strewn around. Did Jason do this? 

For a bitch? For Citra!?

"Look what Snow White did to my home." Vaas said, setting down the boar to pick up a flame thrower, using it on a huge bonefire. Citra sees all this destruction, and envisions the battle, sees Jason fighting his way through hordes of Pirates.. all to get to Vaas. "He did this for you, you know that?" 

"He did this for his brother." Vaas killing Jason's brother was the only reason he came to her. "He wanted revenge."

"Who? You are Jason." 

"I never wanted revenge." She said firmly.

"Are you sure about that?" Vaas had his back faced towards the burning bone fire, his face cast in shadows. Citra doesn't answer that. They get to work skinning the boar and cutting strips of flesh off to hang in the fire to cook. She's hungrier than expected, and she devoured dinner quick, secretly tempted to eat the rest of the boar raw. After dinner Vaas got up and tapped her shoulder, signaling she should follow him.

"What's in there?" She asked, nodding at the building at the far end of the station. It had a huge sliding door with a pirate's eyes painted on it. 

"Oh no, no we're not going in there yet. Not just yet. No we're going there." He points a finger at the huge tower in the distance. "See this is where I let my men stay, have fun, relax but not me. Like they say, a man doesn't sleep where he works, right?" 

The way to the tower is that they had to exit the station, and go around a bend and up a hill. They approached a warehouse first. There was no pirate eye painted on the door to this one. Inside, Citra's mouth hanged open in amazement. If she thought the station was where Vaas lived, then she was so very wrong. Everything in here was treasures untold, objects of this and that with stories she wanted to know all about. There was even a car in here, a nice looking one, not the ones on the island. 

He grabbed her arm. "I want to show you something." They pass random clutter of stuff that would've been garbage to other people, but to her it was what Vaas liked and that meant it was precious. He pulled her all the way to the end of the warehouse and waved a hand at the wall. 

Citra blinked. 

"You like it?" He grinned boyishly, walking up the graffiti portrait of her face. "It's like Picasso, no?" 

"Did you do this?" She asked. Why do you have this? 

"Of course I did!" He confirmed, sounding offended. She gave him a look and he shrugged. "OK. It was one of the prisoners but I commissioned it, so basically I did it." 

They exited the warehouse and went to the front steps of the tower. Gazing up, the tower was tall, way taller than the radio towers, and unlike the radio towers, this was in good condition.  

Vaas suddenly took off, calling over his shoulder, "Race you to the top!" She shook her head at his childish antics, but that didn't stop her from racing after him. It was always a competition between them, but she liked it that way. The steps seemed endless, and when they finally broke onto the final platform Citra couldn't slow down her momentum and her body crashed against the door seconds after Vaas' did. 

They were huffing and sweating, grinning like maniacs. Vaas leaned back on the railing to catch his breath, tilting his head back exposing his long neck. She could see his adams apple bob up and down as he gulped in air. He swung his head back, their eyes locking onto each others. The sun was setting, casting soft warm colors on his skin. It made him look surreal, otherworldly, and all she wanted to do was touch his skin. 

He swallowed and busied himself with opening the door. "Caballeros first." He said cheekily. She smiled and entered the building. The inside was spacey, and looked like it served some form of manufacturing in the past, but under Vaas' care, it has gone under reconstruction. Different colors of neon light lit up the place, purple and chrome pink clashing against one another to fill up the room. 

Vaas headed over to a side of the room where a desk was placed. He tapped a button on a computer and music started playing from the large speakers shoved into the corners of the room.

~Ooh I love my ugly boy, so rough and tough don't care about anything but me. Yes I just love him cause he's so crazy, just crazy about me!~

Citra looked around in a circle, taking everything in. Guns of all sorts and sizes hanged from the walls like trophies. Distorted, almost demonic looking graffiti drawings covered every inch of space the walls could offer. From hellish looking creatures to eyes, eyes, eyes, so many eyes that seemed to stare at her unblinkingly. Peering closer, there was writing scribbled in small messy words. 

She read a few, but she didn't understand what any of them meant. Each was more nonsensical than the next, and some of it didn't make any sense at all, such as the cake is a lie! or Greedo shot first

"This is my private sanctuary." Vaas said, watching her like a hawk. "I've never brought anyone else in here." 

This place, it was like stepping into Vaas' mind. This is his world, his mind. 

There was one spot on the wall that was left empty, only a small sentence dominating the space. 

I miss my sister. Are you out there, Citra?

She touched the words, her heart twisting violently. 

MOVE! A voice in her head screamed. It was as if her instincts exploded, something taking a hold of her body and making her jump to the side. 

BANG! 

The bullet barely grazed her cheek, and left a small hole through the wall where her head should have been. 

"WOW!" Vaas exclaimed happily, waving the gun in his hand around. "You got that Spidey-shit happening!" He aimed the gun at her again, and pulled the trigger. Citra moved to safety just in time and swiftly pulled out her knife, flinging it with deadly accuracy in his direction. It was Vaas' turn to twist his body unnaturally in order to avoid getting hit, the blade flying past him and lodging deeply through the wall right above the bed. When he turned back to face Citra she had already closed the distance between them, smashing her body into his at the speed of a freight train. 

~You and me make the whole world jealous. God knows I know my homegirl's precious!~

They tumbled onto the floor limbs tangling, biting and scratching.

"What are you doing?!" She managed to yell.

"We're playing! We used to do it all the time! You stabbed me so I get to shoot you!"

The gun was knocked from Vaas' grip and slid a few feet away. With all her might she lunged for it but Vaas snatched her ankle, making her fall. He yanked her back, dragging her body across the floor. Citra struck out with her free leg, kicking him square in the face making him release her. She took the opportunity to grab the gun and fire all the bullets into the ceiling until it clicked empty. 

Breathing heavily, she discarded the weapon, staring at Vaas wearily. His lip was busted, and he wiped the blood away with the back of his hand, paying it no mind.

"So you wanna a fist fight, huh? Come on adik perempuan. Show me what you got." He huffed tauntingly, using his hands in a come at me gesture. It was a challenge, the playful look in his eye hiding the malevolence underneath. You play with Vaas you're bound to get a few boo boos. Play with Citra and you get scars. 

~You fuckin' mental, my crazy little girl. Maybe the most psycho chick in the world! You mystical shit just's not physical. What you and me got's unfuckwithable!~

Like a tiger she pounced, taking a swing at him. He dodged it easily and tried to sneak in a quick jab to the side of her ribs but Citra saw that coming and recoiled her arm, elbowing him in the face, followed by powerful kick to the abdomen. Vaas staggered backward clutching his nose, strings of curses flying from his mouth. 

He chuckled at the sight of his own blood coating his hands, and wagged a finger at her. "You can do better than that, Citra." He charged at her like a mad buffalo. She prepared herself for the impact, and yelped when he smashed into her and picked her up. She forgot how strong he was, a mistake she learned as he slammed her back on the wall, making the guns hanging shake upon impact.  

A painful groan escaped her lips as he swung her aside and dropped her on a desk. Random things on the desk went flying: money, cocaine, papers, and other indeterminable stuff. Blinking back into focus, she saw Vaas kiss his knuckles before striking her hard. Her head whipped to the side, her skull banging against steel and the taste of blood flooded her mouth. Another hit made her see stars. 

"You know, this is therapeutic. I should do this more often." He commented, speaking as if he were discussing normal matters with her over tea and not in a violent fistfight with his sister. Citra used his momentary distraction to wrap her fingers around a lamp and smash it across the side of his head, the light bulb shattering into tiny glass pieces that rained down on them. That felt good, really good, and she smiled baring her bloody teeth. 

~Respect me! Receive my protection, I'm always right by your side like a weapon. Love me! I grant you there will be love, fuck with my girl there will be blood~

She rolled off the table, landing like a cat. Something struck her shoulder, making her topple over onto her back. Her eyes widened as the bottom of Vaas' feet descended down on her feet but she moved away in time. She was on her feet in an instant, settling in a fighting stance, Vaas doing the same. He looked bad, small cuts from the glass littered all over the side of his face where he got hit, but she probably didn't look any better than he did. 

They circled each other slowly, bodies tense and nerves high as they expected the other to make a move. Citra hissed and shuffled forward in a mocking bluff, making Vaas jump back. She laughed at his response, and Vaas cracked a mischievous smile. 

"Scared Vaas?" She breathed. 

"Do I look scared?" He laughed, patting the bulge in his pants. Citra exhaled, her lips parting in disbelief, her focus momentarily broken. She snapped out of it right as Vaas swung at her. She barely dodged his fist, her mind thinking fast as punch after punch came at her non-stop, unintentionally backing her up to the edge of the bed. Vaas punched, and this time Citra blocked it and latched onto his arm. She used it to swing behind him, hooking a leg under his ankle and with all her might, she swept him off his feet and onto the mattress, she landing on top of him. 

Now it was her turn to release some pent up frustration she didn't know she had inside her until right now. 

Punch

That's for leaving her! 

Punch

That's for joining the pirates and terrorizing their island!

Punch

That's for getting along so well in his life without her while she struggled everyday without him!

She wiped sweat from her forehead, catching her breath. "And this is for never coming back for me." She made to hit him one last time, but Vaas finally regained his senses and caught her fist mid-flight. In a blur of motion, he somehow pulled his legs under her and launched her up and over with his feet. Instead of falling flat on her back, she used the momentum to roll to a stop on her knees. 

The knife she threw before caught her eye, and she made a grab for it. It took two hard tugs to pull it out the wall. She turned to face Vaas, only to see him on the other side of the room, taking a pistol of the rack. She moved faster than she's ever had, diving from the bed and breaking into a roll to cushion her landing as gunshots rang loudly in the room. 

It happened all too quickly, and before she knew it she was standing in front of him, blade pressed against his neck, the barrel of his gun nestled under her jaw. Their chests heaved in unison, and their faces were so close she could feel his breaths. The look in his eyes knew that she knows they were in a standoff. A draw. A stalemate. 

If she made even a hint of a move, then Vaas blows her head off. If he shoots her, the blade is positioned correctly so that it would slice his neck. 

Vaas' eyes flickered down to see their current predicament, and his lips twitched in a smile. "I guess you don't get to win this round." 

"I don't mind losing." She found herself saying. Maybe it was something in the air, or maybe it was the way the neon light colors splashed on Vaas' skin, the way his eyes darken with a deeper, more primal desire that threatened to consume her whole. He flung the gun away and smashed their lips together in a desperate, wild hungry kiss. Citra inhaled sharply through her nose, letting the knife fall from her fingers in favor of pulling him closer. 

Without breaking their kiss, he lifted her up and she wrapped her legs around his waist instinctively. This time when he slams her into a wall, it sends tingles of pleasure down her back. They break apart finally, Vaas setting her down and walking backwards, taking of his tank top and tossing it to the side. He has a playful smirk on his face, his eyes screaming get over here. 

And that's exactly what she does. 

Like a predator going in for the kill, Citra sauntered over to him and shoved him onto the bed roughly, his body bouncing a little bit. He props himself up with his elbows to watch her remove her shirt, letting it crumple on the floor beside her feet. She crawls on top of him, their lips locking in a passionate battle for dominance, something that she wins. He moans under her, the sound vibrating to her mouth and she withdraws laughing, Vaas joining along.

He flips her over, his huge frame engulfing her smaller one. Time escapes her, and there's only Vaas- His lips, his skin, his smell, his sighs- it's overloading her mind. They know what each the other likes and don't likes, they had years of experience getting to know their bodies. Like how Vaas remembered how sensitive her collarbones were, as she remembered how riled up he gets when she runs her hands over his ass, scrunching his pants down. They get each other out of their pants quickly.

When he enters her it doesn't hurt, not like her first time. 

Their bodies move as one, and she has him moaning her name in a mantra. And when their eyes lock, everything outside this room didn't matter. Their past, the Rakyat, the great Warrior, the war, the island. 

None of that mattered anymore.

She stopped caring, and her soul felt lighter.

Citra was free. 

She's come back home, back home to Vaas. Back to the little girl who went on adventures with her brother, back when their love was innocent. They have become so estranged but now the rip between them has mended, the stitches the intertwining of their fingers. 

For the first time in a long time, Citra felt ultimately happy. 

Their bodies are slick with sweat in the after glow. The music was turned down so Vaas can play his ukulele in peace. "I asked her if she'd play a song for me. I knew a song would set my spirit free. Could she be an angel sent from up above? Maybe this is ukulele love." He sang softly, strumming the strings expertly. Citra had her eyes closed, enjoying to listen to him sing. "Hey Citra?" She opened her eyes. "Do you remember when we used a banana and pretended it was your penis?" 

She threw her head back and laughed heartily. "I remember that! Dad got so mad at me when he found out that we never did that again." 

He smirked at the memory, "Well I'm glad you didn't change.. not that much." He added as an after thought. 

"Vaas?"

"Mm."

She bit her lip. "I'm sorry... about pushing Tipene off a cliff." 

"Really?" Vaas said incredulously. "That happened fucking looong time ago." 

"Yes, well I'm sorry." 

He shrugged nonchalantly, "Is OK. I would've done the same thing if you liked him. If you liked anyone, really." 

Vaas placed the Ukulele down and Citra nestled closer to him, their bodies fitting together perfectly as if some god molded it to be that way. "I'm such a fool." He whispered into her hair. "I should've done this earlier. We could've ruled the world, you and I." 

"We can still. We have all the time in the world." 

He laughed, holding her tighter.

"Prometes?"


.......Citra........Citra......CITRA-

You killed me!

I miss my sister.

youleftmeyouleftmeyouleftme

Have you no love in your heart? 

You're taking him away from me

The Jackal never returned to the Peacock HEWASALREADYDEAD

You can't hate me! Why are you doing this?

WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME!

Are you out there, Citra?

Thunder boomed as her eyes flew opened. She sat up in a cold sweat, the voices fading away, leaving her in a quiet room.

"Vaas." She muttered, reaching out for him, for his comfort. He can make the bad thoughts go away. He can make everything better. But where he was supposed to be, there was only empty space. "Vaas?" She called, scanning the dark room. The neon lights were turned off, the glow from the TV the only thing lighting up the room if barely.

"I wanna tell you my secret now." A boy under the covers whispered from the TV.

"OK." Replied a man.

She slipped off the bed and silently got dressed.

"I see dead people."  

Citra went to the door, picking up the discarded knife from before and slipped it through the strings around her waist. Something wasn't right, she could feel it. She reached for the door knob, and paused. The back of her hairs stood up. She could.. sense something... something behind her. Steeling her nerves, she slowly looked behind her. Nothing. 

She stood frozen, waiting. Her eyes roved over the walls, and it was like someone dropped a bucket of ice cold water on her because the eyes- the eyes all of them were staring at her. Staring and blinking. So many green eyes judging her, angry, evil eyes that looked at her with so much hatred it burned!

Her breath quickened, and she swung the door wide open and hastily exited, slamming it shut. Outside she was hit by freezing cold wind that whipped at her face, and greeted to a heavy rain shower complete with big dark clouds that filled the sky. 

"Vaas!" She yelled through the storm, squinting her eyes to see if he was out here. There was no sign of him. Worry filled her. Where was he? He can't be out here in this storm! Hugging herself, she cautiously made her way down the tower stairs. The steps were wet from the rain, and more than once she had to steady herself on the hand-railing. When she finally reached the bottom, she jogged to the warehouse, her bare feet splashing in the soggy mud. 

She was soaking wet by the time she entered the warehouse. Inside was no warmer, but it offered comfort from the rain. 

"Vaas?" 

The only reply was the echoing of her voice. She moved on, glancing at the portrait of herself. It remained the same, except her eyes were crossed out with red crosses, tears of blood trailing down her face. 

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE

Was written in bold red letters under the portrait. A statement.. or a warning. She moved quickly through the warehouse, not wanting to stay in there a second longer. Outside again, she trekked down to the station where she could only hope to find him there. She slowed down to a walk once inside. The huge bonfire was out, the long wooden logs bleached darker in the rain. 

Citra looked around. There were many buildings, and Vaas could be in anyone of them. Lightening flashed in the sky, illuminating the doors of the building at the end. She went over there and stopped at the entrance. She looked at the large white eye, and the large white eye looked back at her. A feeling of dread pooled in the pits of her stomach. Something was telling her to go back, turn around and leave while she still had the chance because whatever was in there, whatever was waiting for her in there, was something she didn't want to see. Something she can't come back from.

She wanted to run away, but she couldn't do that now. Not this time. 

Stepping inside, Citra was greeted to large shipping containers, empty and forgotten. There was an opening to the other side of the room to her left. In there were piles of rusting old cars. She walked to the middle of the room, looking up at the bright neon light sticks stabbed into tiger carcasses that hanged from the ceiling. 

"I never liked tigers. They always reminded me of you." A voice said from behind her. It was Vaas, and he was wearing his pirate attire. His eyes were trained intently on the floor, looking at something. She followed his gaze to dark pools of dried blood that stained the floor in between them. She crouched down, placing her fingers on it. 

"Why did you send him to kill me, Citra?" The sound of his voice cracking prompted her to look at him. "I knew you were mad. I.. I hurt you real bad but kill me? I never thought-" He swallowed, hiding his face away. "I never thought you would ever want me dead. Because- because even though I've become a monster, I knew you were the only one who would still be at my side, even after everything."

He became a monster but he was still my brother.

He looked at her, indescribable sadness in his eyes. "Why Jason, Citra? Why him?" 

"He wanted to kill you." She replied weakly. She can't- she can't answer this, silently begging for him to stop. Just go, they have to leave. "Vaas let's go-"

"NO!" He roared making her flinch. "You're lying Citra TELL ME! TELL ME WHY!" 

"I can't!" She cried, her eyes watering with tears, shame flooding her body.

"TELL ME!"

"BECAUSE I HATED YOU!" Finally she said it. Let the anger course through her veins, let the bitterness shrivel her heart. This is the real Citra, rotten to the core and exposed for all the world to see. She's the broken-hearted giant with a vengeance to exact. "I HATE YOU!" 

"But you couldn't kill me yourself, could you Citra?"

you needed Jason to do that

"You use people Citra. You never- you never loved me. You were only in love with the idea of owning me but little sister what did I tell you." He smiled, spreading his arms, a tear slipping down his cheek. "I'm free." Spots of blood blossomed all over his tank and to her horror grew more and more in size. When blood started leaking from the corner of his mouth all the anger in her dissipated. 

"Vaas!" She cried out, reaching for him but the lights in the room brightened, blinding her. She was struck by a powerful pain in her stomach that had her curled up on the ground. From her place on the floor, Vaas stood over her, a wild, deranged look in his eyes.

"It's eating you alive, Citra." He chuckled, "It's eating you alive."

She blinked and he was suddenly exiting the building. The pain- the pain! It hurt so much! But she grit her teeth and pushed herself up. She ran after him because she knew if she didn't, if she let him go, she would never see him again.

The jungle greeted her outside. No longer was she at the station, but in the middle of the wilderness. Vaas was far ahead of her, walking slowly down a path. She cried out his name and shot after him but it seemed no matter how fast she ran, she couldn't catch up. He was far, too far! But she won't give up, she won't lose him again!

From afar, a temple rose from the ground like an angry volcano, red orange clouds swirling around its peak. He disappeared into it, and Citra didn't think twice about following him inside. Burning torches cast wicked shadows on the statues of old warriors and legends lining the walls, the chanting of her ancestors following her down the hallway. 

"Who are you?" Her father said, stepping out of the shadows, his chest riddled with bullet holes that still bled. She passed him, eyes wide with fright as she ran even faster.

"What kind of man are you?" Tane emerged from the darkness, blood trickling from his sliced neck, holding in his hand a beating heart. 

"REPENT! REPENT! REPENT!" Vaas' voice seemed to come from every direction. "DO IT WHILE YOU CAN BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE! SAVE YOUR SOUL!"

Behind her, the torches started flickering out one by one, the darkness encroaching upon her accompanied with the wailing of a thousand tortured souls. The sound was so terrible it would surely drive her mad! Freedom came when she dove from the hallway and out into an open grassy square. 

From out of nowhere, something big and white rammed into her taking the air straight from her lungs. She landed back with a thud, and yelped in terror as a tiger's jaw invaded her space. Instinctively she raised her arms, shielding her face from those razor sharp teeth that chomped down on her arms, violently shaking side to side tearing at flesh, its teeth scraping at bone. 

"Tiger Warrior." A bitter voice said into her ear. "More like Snake Warrior."

No.. gods no she knew that voice!

The tiger broke down into small white snakes that slivered over to her and started biting her. Citra screamed, withering in pain as it felt like her entire body was burning up. 

"That's what you are! You're a snake! You're nothing but a fucking snake!" 

Fingers wrapped around her neck and lifted her up, her legs dangling in the air. Jason's eyes burned like the flames of a thousand fiery halos, his body and the area around his face an inky black.

"Ja-son!" Citra choked, clawing at his fingers weakly. The sound of her saying his name made his grip tighten, cutting off her airway. 

"You betrayed me!" His voice grew deeper. "After everything I've done for you!" He threw her at a wall. Citra crumpled to the ground clutching her ribs, took weak to move. Jason picked her up again and threw her around like a rag-doll. "I trusted you! I killed my friends for you!"

"No!" She snapped, staggering to her feet. "It was either me or them and you chose me. It was a choice I didn't force you to make!"

Jason's face twisted in anger, and he let loose a screeching furious wail that rocked the very ground! "SHUT UP! I DON'T WANT TO HEAR THIS! THIS IS YOUR FAULT! ALL YOUR FAULT!" Lava like veins spread like spiderwebs throughout his body, and Jason threw his head back roaring, making the sky turn red. Fireballs fell from the clouds and hit the earth causing mini-earthquakes. 

"I'm gonna make you pay!" He said, his voice demonic. 

Citra drew her knife settling into a fighting stance. Faster than the eye can see, Jason advanced with a punch. Citra wouldn't have been able to dodge that if it weren't for the primal instinct deep inside her taking control of her body. His fist punched through the brick wall, making parts of the structure collapse. Swooping in, she sliced underneath his arm. His response was to slap her, sending her rolling away. 

Blood drooled from her mouth, and she opened and closed her jaw to make sure it was broken. She was abruptly lifted off the floor and came face to face with Jason. He opened his mouth wide enough she could see down his throat where fire boiled, waiting any second to erupt and melt her face off! Desperate to get away, she raised the knife and swung it down, lodging it in Jason's left eye.

The result was almost instantaneous. She was thrown to the ground, Jason clutching his head shrieking. She watched him yank the Silver Dragon knife out, fully intending to toss it aside but something made he pause. 

"I killed your brother with this knife. It's only fitting it takes your life too." He growled, posing the knife over his head. 

"No you didn't!" She said quickly. "You didn't kill Vaas." 

Jason cocked his head. She didn't believe her eyes when he dropped the knife. 

"I don't need to make you suffer." He said, his voice returning to normal and the sky above them calming down. "You're already doing that yourself." 

When she blinked, he was gone. Exhausted, she dragged her beaten body up, scooping the knife off the floor. Clutching her sides, she limped to the only entrance that didn't lead back to where she came from. There were no torches in this hallway, and it was shorter than the previous one. She could see the end from here, a bright white light contained by the outline of the door.

Each step she took she felt her strength return to her, as if the closer she got to the light was healing her in some way. Right before she crossed through the door, she halted and looked to her right. Dennis sat with his head hung low, a cup of alcohol in his hands but it looked untouched. There was nothing to be said, and she left him, stepping into the light.

For a moment, all she could see was white. Then it faded, revealing sandy ocean shore, a salty breeze blowing against her skin softly. She heard the cawing of seagulls, but didn't see any. At the edge of the shoreline, Vaas stood with his back facing her. It started with a brisk walk which turned into a fast jog then she was running to him. Vaas turned around just as she threw her arms around him, hugging him with all her might. She pulled away and cupped his face.

"I love you." She breathed. 

He didn't say anything but dip down and kiss her. It was soft and chaste, and he poured everything he couldn't say into that kiss. It was broken by a painful gasp that tore from her lips. She collapsed on her knees, excruciating pain ricocheting through her body. Vaas fell with her, holding her close, placing a hand on her stomach. Citra started convulsing, coughing up blood as the pain traveled from her abdomen up to her chest near her heart. 

"It's killing you." He whispered. 

Despite the pain, she laughed weakly, brushing her knuckles against his cheek. "It's OK. You're with m-me."

He shook his head, "I can't let that happen." He reached for her waist and took the knife, positioning it over her stomach. 

"No." Citra mumbled, pushing away the knife but he took her hand and wrapped it around the handle, his hand covering hers. 

"You have to let me go." He said, and when she looked into his eyes, she knew. "Trust me." 

Vaas didn't help her slide the knife in, he was just there for her. She expected more pain, but the opposite happened. The pain stopped. 

"I left.. because I did something.. something wrong and I can't- I couldn't bear to watch you hate me." He squeezed his eyes shut. He looked so distraught, so tormented. 

She cupped his cheek, "I could never hate you Vaas. I don't think I can." 

He smiled and reached behind him, unclasping the necklace she made for him so many years ago. He clipped it around her neck,  brushing his fingers over the leaf one last time. "Look in my safe, you will know the code. I'm sorry, Citra." He gazed at the ocean. "I need to go." 

Her smile faltered and she grasped his wrist. "Don't leave me. I need you." 

Vaas looked back at her, and leaned down, pressing their foreheads together. "You don't need me, Citra. You never needed me." When he straightened back up, her grip on his wrist loosened. 

He stood and took two steps towards the sea. Without looking back he said, "I guess it's my turn to wait for you." 

Everything begins to brighten. Vaas walks into the water, a little boy going off on an adventure. He doesn't look back, but that's ok. She knows he will wait for her to catch up. The light blinds her, and when it dims down she's all alone.

She can't stop the falling of her tears. The knife slides out easily, her shaking fingers making the knife slip from her hold. A crushing, hollow pain engulfs her chest and she cries and cries, hugging herself. 

He's gone. He's gone. But no matter how many time she says it, she can't accept it in her heart. 

Was he even real to begin with? 

But that thought made it worse. 

Look in my safe, you will know the code.

This isn't the end. There was still something left to do. 

She has to go back. 

Back to the jungle. It welcomes her like an old friend.

Chapter Text

You're supposed to run the other way when you see your impending doom, flee from the ultimate destruction of your soul. If she was someone else, anyone else, that is exactly what she would've done. She was destined to be born into this body, destined to enter this world as Vaas' sister. Her life was already planned out, and everything that happened, happened to lead to this very moment. If there was something she could've done to change things, it was too late now. 

There was no point in running away from her fate. 

The temple she once called home became a foreign land to her. When she stood before the stone doors, all courage abandoned her. 

Look in my safe, you will know the code.

Those words pushed her onward. What she wanted and what she felt didn't matter anymore. There was a time when she had a choice, but that time is over. Vaas told her to look in the safe, and she will, she must. She had to and if she didn't she will live on with no closure. Restless forever. 

Victims of the war took refuge inside, as if the walls could protect them from death. She sees them, and she is reflected in their eyes, to scared, cowering from their doom. How once she walked with such pride in this temple... how wrong she was. She wasn't some Warrior Goddess. No great being. She was just one of the masses, her existence in this life but puny and insignificant. 

Rakyat warriors rushed up to her, telling her of the death of all the generals and the rebels advancing closer to the temple, but their words fell on deaf ears. Nothing they say can stop her from reaching the safe. It was all too soon when she entered Vaas' room. It came as no surprise to see the safe placed at the edge of the bed, as if it were expecting her.

With her thumb, the numbers on the lock clicked up and down. 1-9-9-6. The year Vaas lost someone that shouldn't have been taken from him. 

Breathing in to calm her nerves, Citra opened the safe. 

There was small trinkets inside, including the beautiful feather from a boy with glitter for a heart. It was the folded up paper at the very bottom that caught her attention. She picked it up gently, and unfolded it. 

Citra

The day when I told you what happened to your mother, I was glad when you said you were fine when I asked you if you were ok. I knew you were not, but I was a coward, and I am ashamed. I could not tell you the truth, even now I cannot. But I hope writing this I will someday find the courage to face my demons and receive my judgment, even if it meant losing you. 

It is my fault your mother is dead. My love for her killed her. I loved her so much. But your mother was a free spirit. The world beyond this island fascinated her, and she always wanted to run away. I think.. she hoped to find something out there that this island could not give her. The d ay your father came with the missionaries, they came with hatred in their hearts. They slaughtered our people, but your father turned against them, and helped us. He became part of the Rakyat, and I considered him my brother. Your mother fell in love with him, but I could not give her up, and neither could she.

I should have stopped but love is powerful. It makes people do things they know are wrong. The first child she birthed belonged to Anaru. The second child, you, Citra, you are mine. You are my child. Your mother was driven mad from the guilt over her betrayal. Know this Citra, your mother never hated you. She hated herself, and I couldn't save her. I didn't know how. 

I told your brother the truth, he deserved to know that much and his hatred for me did not break me the same way it would if you knew. He might blame you for your mother's death, but he is angry Citra, and when people are angry they say and do things they don't mean. You two have to stick together. Do not forget you are family. They are the only people who will love you the most. Keep him close, protect each other. He will need you as much as you will need him.

I was content watching you grow up, and I was happy to be able to be close to you even if not as your father. I am so proud of you. You have potential inside you to become the person I wasn't strong enough to be. I do not deserve your forgiveness, but I will always yearn for it. I love you, Citra. You are a good person. Never forget who you are.

- Tane

How is it a simple paper with words on it could destroy Citra's life? She collapsed, pressing the note to her chest, as if she pressed hard enough those words would seep into her heart. 

so proud of you-

strong enough to be-

potential inside you-

I love you, Citra. Never forget who you are. 

A ragged scream filled with so much pain and torment tore from her throat. IT'S OVER! IT'S OVER!

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" She cried, sobbing so hard she felt like she was going to throw up. She's failed. She never became the person Tane believed her to be. LOOK AT HER. LOOK AT WHAT SHE HAS DONE. 

"I killed you!" She wailed, her nails digging into her skin. She killed her own father! She murdered the only person in the world that believed in her! And for what?! For- for her grandiose delusions of happiness?!  

told your brother the truth-

deserved to know-

With a startling jolt, Citra realized Vaas knew. He knew he knew he knewheknew- He knew and he didn't stop! He knew Tane was her father and he killed him anyways. How- how could he? Her father, her own father!

blame you-

he is angry-

they say and do things they don't mean-

"I left.. because I did something.. something wrong and I can't- I couldn't bear to watch you hate me."

Citra wanted so badly to throw all her rage on Vaas, but she couldn't. Because Citra killed his mother, so Vaas killed her father. And she- and she couldn't hate him for that. The only thing she felt for Vaas was the stinging knowledge that he. Is. Gone.

Is that all she can do? Is this what she was born to do? Hurt the people she loves?

Tane was wrong. She's not a good person.

I'M A FOOL! 

All her life, wasted! MEANINGLESS! Everyone she loves is gone! She has nobody!

The odds were staked against her from the start. She was never meant to win. She was destined to lose.

It felt like her entire being was shattering into pieces. This pain she was feeling was overwhelming, it was suffocating her! She screeched in despair, clawing at her head, face arms, leaving angry red marks. In a fit of hysteria, Citra stormed into her room and began throwing anything she can get her hands on at the wall, and when that wasn't enough she started punching the wall until her knuckles made sick crunching sounds. 

The reflection of herself in the mirror caught her attention. Look at her! LOOK AT WHO SHE HAS BECOME! She can't bear to see herself. It disgusted her, made her even more angry and sad. The person in the mirror is a stranger, a repulsive monster! SHE HATED THIS BODY! She couldn't stand it and in her rage she punched the mirror, smashing it to pieces.

Taking a shard of glass, she hacked off all her hair but she didn't stop there. It was a blur, but when she was done, the person in the mirror finally looked like her, with cuts all over her face, arms, thighs, everywhere! Blood! Blood so much blood. It was painful to move, but she relished in it. Smiled so wide, the slices on her face burned!

Loud booms shook the ground, gunfire erupting outside. Numbly, Citra grabbed the purple desert eagle from the table and went outside. As if in a dream, she walked outside into a warzone. From the peak of the dais, she could see fire blazing as trees burned, smoke curling into the night. The entrance of the temple had been struck, the rebels knocking at the doors with bullets. 

This is the end. 

There is nothing left anyone can do to change that. 

It's judgement day.

"And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them." A voice said from behind her. Citra whipped around, pointing the gun at the intruder. Nothing could prepare her when she saw who it was. 

"Above all, a living being seeks to discharge its strength. Life itself... is will to power." Yalung said, pulling down a cloth that covered the lower half of her face. 

Citra shook her head in disbelief. She must be hallucinating. "Are you fake, too? Have you come to haunt me demon?"

Even without her mask, Yalung's face betrayed no emotion. Maybe her face is the mask. "I am as real as death." The demon took a step forward and Citra moved back in fright

"I killed you!" She yelled. "I saw you die!"

"NOBODY kills me!" Yalung bellowed, "Nobody!" She advanced frighteningly so that Citra shot her, making sure to hold the powerful gun with both hands this time. Yalung halted and cocked her head, looking down at where the bullet pierced her chest. Then, to Citra's growing horror, the demon's eyes bleed a bright yellow, and she continued her advancement, shrugging off the bullet wound like it was nothing. Complete and utter terror filled Citra to the very core, and she shot the demon two more times but Yalung kept coming!

It can't be possible! She thought. Yalung must be wearing a bullet proof vest! She just had to be! 

Citra screamed when Yalung twisted her arm, and with a mighty push, shoved her away. She tumbled but caught herself from falling. Yalung held the gun know, and aimed it at the native.

Citra was mistaken. Yalung wasn't a demon. She was death, and death is pointing its bony finger at its next victim. 

Her eyes widened with fear because despite it all, she was scared to die. Yalung sees this.

"I'm not going to kill you." The demon turned her head and looked at something in the distance. "It is not me who determines your fate." 

Citra followed her gaze. From the night sky, a black airplane materialized from the darkness. It flew through the air like an angry beast, suddenly dipping downwards toward earth. Her jaw dropped when the plane crashed into the doors of the temple, destroying it and everything with it. Fire lit up everywhere from the destruction, revealing someone floating away in a parachute.

And she knew only of one person who can fly a plane. 

Citra couldn't believe it. Riley crashed an airplane into the temple doors. 

he's coming for you. Dennis' words surfaced up into her mind and she didn't feel the chill of it till now. She was so distracted with Riley crashing an airplane that she temporarily forgot about Yalung until the demon spoke again. 

"What happened to the child?"

She blinked, "I killed it... Why do you care?"

"It should be the choice of its creator to live or not. My mother was never given that choice. I was at the mercy of a man who had every right to kill me, but instead he spared me, and for that I am indebted to him." Yalung lowered the gun, running gloved fingers over it almost possessively. "I cannot say what you have done is the right thing. It doesn't have to be right or wrong. It is simply survival. I live in a world where it is kill or be killed. Now you do, too." 

"They say you are sick." Citra uttered. 

"We're all sick." The demon replied darkly, bitterly. "There is a disease in this world, and the people who are infected must die so the innocent will live." 

"I don't understand." She frowned, trying to make sense of everything. "They said they found your body. Why would the agent lie to us?" 

Yalung's eyes flashed dangerously, "When the people panic, they flee. They spread. It is better for the masses to remain ignorant. Ignorance is bliss, and no one will try to escape the island."

Citra bit her lip. There was one more thing that still bothered her. "Why?" She began, "Why did you really help me. Before I betrayed you. Why did you want to help a bunch of savages. You knew one way or another we cannot run a business. It was bound to fail."

There it was again. That calculating look on Yalung's face, determining what to say and not to say. "The Privateers would align themselves with Kyrat's king. If I got rid of that opportunity, it is one ally down, decreasing the strength of the Royal Army, even if by a little."

"You would betray your own King?" Citra said, confused.

"I have no King. My allegiance is to myself." Yalung stated. "The Royal Army and the Golden Path have the disease. They spill the land with the blood of the innocents. They all must die." 

"Must they?" She whispered, gunfire and screams filling the night sky. Death was approaching like a mad god, sweeping everyone under his black cloak, whisking them away into eternity. She looked Yalung in the eye, wide with dread. "I am scared to die, yet I cannot live anymore. Will there be something waiting for me in the after life, or will there be nothing but emptiness? If emptiness awaits me, then all that I have done in my life does not matter. What is the point of good and evil when judgment is only an illusion." 

"Is judgment of yourself an illusion?" Yalung asked, "No one but you can decide that." 

Citra's eyes watered with tears, "Then I deserve death, and I cannot run away." 

"If that is your decision." Yalung cocked her head, as if something caught her attention. "My mask. I can hear it calling to me." The demon moved swiftly to the entrance of the inner temple, but didn't enter. She turned around and said, "One more thing."

Citra gasped when a bullet entered her shoulder, close to her heart.

"Get used to the taste of bullets." Yalung put the gun away, her eyes gleaming a bright yellow. "It's survival of the fittest out here. Welcome to the top of the food chain."

The demon vanished inside, and Citra had a feeling this would be the last time seeing her. If there will be a next time, it would end in death. Grunting, she dug into her flesh with shaky fingers, and took out the bullet, throwing it away afterwards. Gunfire draws her attention, reminding her of the battle taking place not too far away. Staggering to her feet, Citra knows he is coming. Riley is coming. She can't seem him, but he's somewhere in the battle, fighting and breaking through to get to her. He wants revenge, and she won't deny him that. 

He's the hero in this play, and she's the villain. They are just actors on a stage, filling in the roles of previous fools, ready to be replaced with their successors. An endless cycle.

So let him come. She is ready to face oblivion.


Citra waits for him at the very end of the temple. The ocean is strangely calm, indifferent to the suffering of so many people. Why should it care? It has been in this world longer, and it will continue existing even when they stop. 

One time, long ago, Citra saw a dog get run over. The wheel hit its head, and she thought it had to be dead. But as it laid there dying, the dog's legs kept moving, as if it wanted to keep running. It struggled to keep living. That day Citra learned that there was nothing she could have done to save it. It was beyond her. 

Citra cannot save herself. It is beyond her now. 

Here he comes, she can feel it. When she turns around, Riley is there. He looks ages older than the last time they have met, his once soft eyes now hardened. Just like his brother's. Under his watch, she feels a shame so deep that it made her want to hide from it. Hide from the boy who she wronged so much.

"Are you going to kill me, Riley?"

Why did she do all those evil things? What did it accomplish in the end. Pain? Suffering? The loss of innocence? She took away the life he deserved. She is a monster. 

She does not deserve mercy. She does not deserve to beg. All she can do is accept it. 

Citra took out the Silver Dragon knife, and approached him. Riley tensed; she doesn't blame him. Slowly to not startle him, Citra placed the knife in his hand, and raised it to her chest. 

There is a war battling inside him, she can see it in his eyes. The anger, the hatred. She wants to tell him it's OK. She wants to say sorry, fall to her knees and tell him she is so, so sorry. But the villain never apologizes. That would take away the purpose of the hero. 

Riley shook his head, and threw the knife away. "It's over, Citra." 

Shaking, Citra stepped back in disbelief.

No. No.

"No!" She picked up the knife and tried giving it back to Riley but he refused to take it.

No! no no no! This can't be it! He can't do this to her!

"Kill me!" She screamed, "You've won! KILL ME!" 

But Riley does nothing, and that is the worst thing he can do to her. "I'm not going to kill you Citra. This isn't some game.. We are not some- some characters in a video game. I didn't win anything. I won't.. win anything killing you. I-" His voice faltered, but he is not uncertain. "I'm not Jason." 

Citra realizes her mistake. How foolish of her... to ever think Riley would stoop down to her level. He is better than that. So much better than that.

There was nothing she could do but drop the knife, and curl up against the slab of stone, silent tears running down her face. "Why.. why won't you kill me? I- I killed your brother. I killed Jason. I lied, he is dead."

"I know." Riley said, surprising her. "Dennis told me everything when you sent him." Pain flashed across his face, "I.. wanted so.. so bad to kill you when I found out." His fingers curled up into fists. "He was my brother, and I wanted to avenge him. I wanted revenge. I didn't realize I was only trying to keep who he used to be alive. I refused.. to accept the truth. That the Jason I knew is gone. It wasn't my brother anymore who killed our friends."

"It hurt. I thought I did something wrong. We were family, brothers." Riley's voice wavered, "I know what he felt... killing, all this death and chaos. It felt good to release my anger. It felt great. I felt strong, invincible. Free. But it's not who I am. I won't let this, this anger consume me."

"I'm sorry, Citra. I'm sorry about your brother." She breaks inside when she sees true sympathy in his eyes. Real compassion. "The only way to let go of this hatred, is to forgive you." He blinked, tears in his eyes. "I forgive you."

A choked sob left her lips. How is it possible... for one person to hold so much goodness in their heart. This young boy who had everything taken from him, experienced so much pain and torture. The boy whom the jungle could not break. And here he is, forgiving her. Forgiving her. Riley is, and will always be, the person she dreamed of being. But where she failed, he succeeded.

He is wrong. Riley won the best prize of all. Being a good person, a better person.

That was all she wanted. To be.. a good person.

Citra hid her face in shame. She did not deserve to be looked at from him. She did not deserve anything from him. Especially his forgiveness. 

A loud boom shook the ground. She forgot they were in the middle of a battle. 

"Citra, you have to go. They're coming for you. They will kill you." Riley said, and there was actual worry in his voice. How can he be worried about her? He reached out with his hand to touch her shoulder but she jerked away. 

"NO!" He can't touch her, she won't let him. She won't let her evilness stain him. "Leave! Leave me alone!" As she says it now, she finds it ironic. All her life she feared being alone, being abandoned. And now she's demanding for it. "My brother is dead." She was so scared of losing Vaas, that she drove him away. "Everyone I care about are gone. Everything is meaningless without them. Please... leave me alone. Just leave me alone." 

"Citra," Riley took a step to her.

"Go!" She screamed.

Citra curls into a ball and blocks out the world. She can't move, can't breath, can't think. This overwhelming sorrow numbs her. She cries out for comfort. Cries out for Tane, Vaas, anyone but no one comes to save her. She truly is now, all alone. The only person she can blame is herself. 

Someone tapped her shoulder, and Citra looked to see who it was. Her handmaidens stood silent, and one of them bent down and gave her a sack. Confused, Citra opened it to see what was inside. Her tears ceased, and she forced herself to stand up. She looked at her handmaidens in a new light. 

"Was he real?" 

They didn't answer her, and she knew, it was only for her to decide.

Into the darkness, Citra fled.


The trek up the mountain was long. When she finally reached the top, the sun was rising, lighting up the world into a new day. In the distance, smoke rose from where the temple resided, though she was too far away to see the aftermath. 

Using a shovel, she dug a small grave. She worked in silence, and when she completed her task, she pulled out the objects inside the sack. Vaas' safe is the first to go into the grave, followed by Jason's skull. There is a moment when she does nothing but stare at the things belonging to ghosts.

She had hurt them. Broke them beyond repair. Citra wished she could turn back time, and undo all her mistakes. 

She doesn't cry when she fills the hole with dirt. It's only after, when she lays down and curls on top of the grave, does she let the tears escape. 

When she left, she placed Dennis' glasses on a rock so he can watch the island, his home, forever.

As she walked through the jungle, she sees plants flourishing, animals thriving. Her world has ended, but life goes on anyways. On her path, she scooped down and picked up a tiny green snake that weaved in between her fingers. 

The beach is beautiful today. The sand is warm and the water sparkled like diamonds. It is a shame she never fully appreciated the ocean before. 

"You promise?"

"I promise Citra. Together we'll discover all the secrets in the world. It'll be our adventure. Just you and me."

Walking to the water, she takes out the Silver Dragon knife. It used to hold so much meaning to her. Now... it was just a knife. She flung it done, the blade lodging upright in the sand. Citra stopped right where the waves can still touch her feet. 

He is waiting for her.

" I'll take you far, far away from here."

With two fingers, she grabbed the snakes head, and wrapped its body around her wrist. Nature favors the smaller animals. Such a tiny body, filled with such deadly venom. It is the only thing its got to protect itself in this big, cruel world.

"Don't play with snakes, Citra."

She inches the snakes head to the veins in her wrist, but something stops her.

Don't.  

It is the deep, primal monster inside her demanding to stay alive, but Citra's humanity wins. She doesn't even feel the pinch of its fangs, or the burn of the venom. Her legs give out first. She fell to her knees, and then to her side. The waves crash against her face gently, but she can't feel it. 

you and me I promise

Her eyelids are getting so heavy, and she is so, so tired. 

you and me

Citra is not scared anymore. As the darkness enveloped her, she faced oblivion knowing one thing.

She is free.


Seagulls cawed, followed by the faint sound of music. 

Inhale.

Exhale. 

Inhale-

Citra opened her eyes. The first thing that greeted her eyes was white. She stared at it.

Is this oblivion?

She thought the after life would feel... less real. Tangible? 

Blinking, Citra sat up to discover she was on a boat, and the white thing above her was the tarp that shielded her from the sun. The first thing that caught her attention was the bandages wrapped around her arms. She touched her face, expecting to feel cuts, but all she felt was smooth skin. There was a small mirror on the wall, and she used it to see her face. The cuts were still supposed to be fresh, but it looked like faint scars, probably months old.

The next thing she noticed was a man sitting at the wheel. She did not know him. The man wore shades that hid his eyes perfectly, and by the clothes he was wearing, a floral button up with shorts, she assumed he must be a tourist, or looked like one at least. 

"Am I dead?" She asked him. He did not reply, but someone else did.

"Citra!" Riley reached out to touch her but retracted his hand quickly. "Don't, don't strain yourself. Your body must be numb still."

Whatever he was talking about flew over her head. The only thing processing in her mind was that Riley is right there. "Riley?" Her mouth parted in confusion, and she looked between Riley and the unknown man. "I don't- I don't understand." 

Riley ran a hand through his hair, "I know this must be.. weird. It's- it's weird for me, too-"

"I'm dead. I killed myself." She blurted, cutting him off. None of this was making any sense. She raised her hand, flexing her fingers. Is she alive?

Riley frowned, "Yeah, I saw."

Her head snapped up, "You did? How?" 

He bit his lip and looked away, "I followed you after you left the temple. I didn't know you even had a snake with you until you collapsed on the beach." 

"You saved me?" She said, bewildered. There was absolutely no reason for Riley to do that, no reason at all! Has this boy gone mad?! Did he somehow forget who she is? He must have, and when he remembers he will surely kill her- or not. Riley would abandon her in the ocean, that seemed more likely.

"It wasn't me who saved you." He looked at the unknown man, who had been quiet throughout their whole exchange. "He did."

Citra stared at him wearily. "Why did you save me?" 

The man gave no response. 

"He doesn't talk much." Riley said. 

Citra grit her teeth, and abruptly stood up, walking quickly to the edge of the boat where she started pacing back and forth, trying to let her mind wrap around things. Riley followed her but kept his distance, standing awkwardly looking unsure of what to say or do himself. "Citra please, stop. You need to lay back down, your body needs to heal. It needs rest."

She stopped her anxious pacing. "Why do you care?" She snapped without any real heat behind it. She was just really distressed. 

"I care because the baby needs to heal, and that's by you getting some rest!" He exploded, and closed his eyes, inhaling and exhaling deeply. "I just want the baby to get better." 

"The baby?" She echoed. 

"Yeah, Jason's baby. Your.. baby." He said the last part uncomfortably. 

Citra felt like she was going to throw up. Being dead sounded real good right now, if only to escape Riley forever. "Riley-" She began, but she never got to finish what she said when suddenly a helicopter passed over them, followed closely by six more. Citra stared wide-eyed as the copters headed straight for the island. 

"What's happening?" She breathed in alarm, running to the edge of the boat. 

"They're quarantining the island." Riley answered, "There's some kind of outbreak. Jack told me about it." He nodded towards the man. "He's ex-spec ops. He heard about what was going on. He's helping us escape detainment." 

Citra frowned, glancing at Jack. "Why would he do that. We might be infected." 

"We're not. The virus, whatever it is has to be injected into your skin." 

"How did you find him?" She asked, watching Jack from the corner of her eye. The man opened a cooler and popped open a cool beer. 

"I didn't. He found us. When he saw you were dying, he sucked out the venom and took you back to his boat. He then told me all about the outbreak and said he can get us off the island. Well, you. He said he can get you off the island for free. Said something about helping out the fledgling. Anyways, I had to pay."

"With what money?" She asked. 

Riley smiled mischievously, and walked off, coming back with a suitcase. He popped it open, revealing hundred dollar bills that filled the inside of the case. "All this money was lying around in Hoyt's airplane. Erm.." Riley brushed his hair back, "About the airplane.. I'm sorry. I destroyed your temple... that hurt me too, emotionally. I like art history, and I destroyed probably a hundred year old architecture."

Citra stared at Riley intently. All her time with Riley was spent torturing him, so the only emotion she got from him was extreme despair and torment. Seeing this side of him now, it felt surreal. He acted as if she wasn't the person who just killed his brother and put him through so much suffering. It felt wrong to Citra. He should be angry at her, or at least not this- this friendly

What is wrong with him?

"What is wrong with you?" She said out loud, backing away. "I killed your brother. I tortured you. Why are you doing this?"

She doesn't need to specify the question. Riley knows what she is asking. His brows knitted together, "I want the baby. After that, you and I will go our separate ways, I promise."

A pang of pain hit her chest. She placed her hand over her stomach, trying to feel anything in there, but nothing stirred. It's... gone. Citra inhaled shakily, walking away from Riley. She can't tell him... but she has too. But it will hurt him more, maybe even crush him, and she's done enough hurting people. She doesn't want to lie to Riley, but she doesn't want him to know that there is no more baby. That she killed it.

She has to. She has to tell. She turned around, ready to reveal the truth, but she saw the look on his face, and her voice left her. 

Riley blinked away tears, "Please. It's all I have left of him. His baby is my responsibility. I know.. I know he would've wanted me to take care of it." 

"Riley.." But the words get stuck in her throat, refusing to come out. She can't lie to him. There has to be another way... She has to tell the truth. But in his eyes she sees his desperation, and she knows the truth will break him. Maybe this is a sign. Citra was supposed to die, she knows it was her time, but instead she's here, living and facing the boy she has wronged so much. 

She regrets so much, and there's no way to fix what she has done. All the apologies in the world won't be enough to repent her sins done to Riley. The only thing she can do is try. 

Citra will stick with Riley. She will be there for him, and she will try to mend the cracks in his soul for as long as time permits. When Riley will leave her, and he will, either because of the truth of the baby or something else, she will hope he will leave a stronger person.

It's all she can do for the injustice she's done against him. From here on, Citra lives for Riley. She owes him that much. She owes him so much more. 

"Ok." She whispered. It almost kills her when hope filled his eyes. 

"Ok." He repeated.

Citra turned away from. She can't bear to look at him, so she goes to the edge of the boat, gazing at the island she once called home. There is nothing left for her there but painful memories that will haunt her forever. 

She grasped the tooth necklace. It's time to let go. 

Taking it off, Citra let it hang over the water. She didn't become the person Tane believed her to be. But she will try, starting with Riley.

She let the necklace go. It dropped into the water, disappearing from sight. Without it on, it felt like a heavy weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Citra touched the leaf necklace. He's still waiting for her, and she will come back to him one day. It has always been Vaas and Citra from the beginning, and it will be to the end. 

"I almost forgot. Jack's providing passports, so when we get back to the inland, we'll need new identities. I already have mine. He needs to know yours." Riley said. 

"You're not going home?"

He looked away, "No. I.. I can't. Not yet." 

The island may not have broken him, but it left deep cracks. 

"Citra Montenegro." She said finally. Riley nodded and went back to Jack.

Riley will hate her when he finds out the truth, but she's willing to risk that if it meant taking away the scars she left on him. This is a second chance. She had wasted the first, but she won't this time. She owes it to Jason.

As they sailed into the distance, Citra closed her eyes, listening to the sound of the waves. She is finally leaving the island, and she won't miss it. 

When she opened her eyes, they glowed a bright yellow. 

Chapter Text

Kyrat

15 minutes prior arrival to Ratu Gadhi

Up in a tall tree, a Macaque lazed around on a branch enjoying the spring season weather. The tranquility was broken when the sound of air being beat in submission startled the monkey. It crawled deep into the tree's foliage, peeking its tiny head out to see the retreating form of a helicopter. The copter flew fast, faster than any eagle in the area. The forest gave way to a huge lake, and residing in the middle was the Jalendu Temple. The copter dipped down, flying closer to the lake's surface, the force of its blades disturbing the water. 

The door of the helicopter slid open, and Hurk looked outside in wonder. "Aw man, this place is a-mazing! Hey, why are we flying so close to the laaaaAAAAAAKE!" He fell from the copter, landing with a splash. Seconds later he emerged, spewing out water. "Thanks for the lift!" He yelled, waving goodbye to his travel buddy whom had actually pushed him out. The helicopter rose back into the air, continuing its destination after dropping off the unwanted cargo. 

Ratu Gadhi came into view and the helicopter slowed down, landing outside the fortress walls. The door slid open, and Yalung stepped out of the flying vehicle. She strode toward the entrance with purpose, passing by Royal Army soldiers stationed there who stared at her. It was rare to see the demon of Kyrat, and most do not know what she even looked like. They only identified her by the mask she wore; the mask of Yalung. 

Entering the fortress, Yalung headed to the main building, passing by another helicopter. Guards posted by the doors opened it for her when they saw her approach. They are familiar with the demon's presence. Yalung has come on occasions to report to her master, be it here or at Durgesh Prison. It seems today Yuma is not alone. Talking outside her office stood Yuma Lao, Warden of Durgesh, and Pagan Min, King of Kyrat. Yalung made her presence known by walking up to the two.

"Ah! Well if it isn't the son I never had." Pagan Min announced, slinging an arm over Yalung's shoulder. "My boy it's been too long since the last time I've seen you. Tell me, how are tea productions coming along? I do like the Nappa Blossom, but I think the Ginger Caraco is a bit strong for my taste. Too bitter."

Yalung, aside from being Yuma's personal one-man army, was the CEO of the K.T.C; the Kyrati Tea Corporation. Because of the limited space in Kyrat's region, and being less popular than the opium manufacturing, Yalung received a portion of land in the Kyratese Uttar Region specifically for tea productions. Along with owning the land, Yalung can house the tea workers, keeping them in a small village separated from the outside world. Many conscripted workers sign to transfer over to work under Yalung. Anything was better than working in the mines, but unfortunately, all spaces in the Tea Corp are taken and don't seem to be opening anytime soon.

"The Ginger Caraco is a medicinal tea, sir." Yalung informed the King of Kyrat. 

Pagan pursed his lips, "Mh, that makes a lot of sense now. I gotta tell Gary to start reading the back before buying whatever. And what did I tell you about calling me sir. We are past all that formality nonsense." His tone of voice sounded like he was chiding a little kid. "Anyways, it is absolutely perfect timing you are here. I was on my way to see the 'Masked Man'. They say it's going to be the last time he's fighting in the arena. It will be like taking your son out to the ball game. Only I need the player arrested. I don't understand why they break the rules. I specifically told that promoting Golden Path propaganda is illegal, yet they still do it. And they wonder why they get arrested, ha!"

Pagan glanced at Yuma, "But I suppose you're busy with my sister." He waved his hand dismissively, "Oh well. They won't start the show without me anyways. I am, after all, their guest of honor. But don't take too long. It's rude to make a King wait."

The flamboyant king left to wait outside, and Yalung followed Yuma into her office. "Report." Yuma ordered, sitting behind the desk. 

"Hoyt Volker is dead. The CIA has finally terminated him, and his business. The Rook Island is now under 24 surveillance by the U.S government. There is nothing left to salvage."

"Nothing at all?" Yuma asked, unperturbed by the news. "Then that means all Indochina is available for trade. The Golden Triangle will profit from this, and Kyrat gets free shipping. What happened to the rest of the team?"

"Killed by natives of the island." Yalung answered. 

Yuma cocked her head, "Anything else?"

"No, sir."

"Good. Ms. Nadira has asked for you to tutor a student of hers, so after your time with Pagan get some rest and tomorrow you will head to U.M.E.C."

"Yes, sir." 

"Dismissed." Yuma said, picking up a clip of papers she needed to read through. Yalung just reached the door before Yuma called for her again.

"Lakshmana."

Lakshmana halted and turned to face Yuma.

"Your father might be in a murderous mood. If he asks you to perform a public execution of the Masked Man, I want you to try and keep the man alive and tell Pagan I personally order for the Masked Man to be transferred to Durgesh and serve a term of five months. It won't look good to the public if their King starts murdering their entertainment. It is better to keep the masses happy than bored. Boredom leads to complaints and then revolts. We don't want to give the Golden Path more recruits."

"Yes, sir." Lakshmana nodded, and left the office, just as an elderly man in a white suit with a walking cane entered. 

"Oh, Yalung, any luck finding the four Thangkas?" Sir Nigel asked, and lowered his voice so the person in the office won't hear their discussion. "I'm afraid Yuma is starting to get agitated. You know how she gets when things take too long. I pity the poor men in the mine, she's having them work non-stop."

"I haven't yet." Yalung answered. She was lying. Of course she found the Thangkas already, she knows Kyrat like the back of her hand. The only reason why Yalung didn't bring it to Yuma was because the Shangri-La Thangkas belonged to the Ghale family. She will keep them safe for Mohan, she owed the dead man that much. 

Sir Nigel hummed disappointingly, "Kyrat's a big place and full of secrets. I'm sure it is out there somewhere. I think Yuma is waiting for me. It's good seeing you." The old man patted her shoulder and entered the office. "Yuma dear..." The door shut closed, cutting off whatever Sir Nigel was going to say. Yalung was tempted to stay and eavesdrop for a short while, but the King was waiting for her. 

Exiting the building, she headed towards the helicopter she passed earlier. As he said, Pagan was waiting for her, and smiled when he saw her coming. 

Yalung stared hard at the King, the man who is her father. Pagan and Yuma have the disease, the disease of violence, and they are infecting the people of Kyrat with it. Sabal and Amita are no exception either; they too are sick. 

The Jackal made the perfect cure for this disease. Isolate the infected, and let them destroy each other. No matter the cost... even if that cost meant sacrificing his life. 

Lakshmana will do the same. She will purify the land, and save the innocents. 

For him; for the Jackal.

No matter what.