summary: She was always curious about him—the man shrouded in dragon-like armor.
a/n: I have to put it out there that I am a Cloti fan, but I honestly had to write something Kain/Tifa-related after seeing her story mode chapter.
Dissidia 012 [duodecim] Final Fantasy © Square Enix
She was always curious about him—the man shrouded in dragon-like armor. He was often steadfast and silent, but occasionally professed moments of clarity and insight that was becoming of him. Upon first meeting the dragoon, she felt briefly intimidated by his stern and towering features but knew not to judge a book by its cover. There was more to this man—more to Kain, Tifa thought. That she was certain of.
Kain Highwind kept to himself more or less and disliked to openly rely on others—out of modesty or pride, Tifa did not know. When numerous warriors of Cosmos joined together, he would never be one in the crowd and instead preferred to take his distance. There he would be accompanied by Lightning, a fellow warrior. Occasionally, Tifa would catch herself stealing a glance at the two and wondered if Kain was closer to Lightning than to the rest of the warriors. It wouldn't be a surprise. Kain and Lightning had similar aloof personalities and cold tendencies. Perhaps he felt comfortable around her—around someone who didn't lecture or pry or constantly shove friendship talks down his throat like Tifa would. Tifa was well-aware of how abrasive she could be at times. She would like to believe that Kain and she were friends, but sometimes she was doubtful that the feeling was mutual.
Why she even latched onto him from the start, she was unsure of. Perhaps she was drawn to the man because he felt… familiar, almost as though he reminded her of someone—but whom?
"Tifa… Are you all right?" a familiar voice asked her.
Her eyes flickered and she turned to find Kain standing next to her. "Ah, Kain. Sorry about that," she apologized and tried to shrug off her little blunder with a smile. "Sometimes a girl's got her head too high up in the clouds, I guess."
Kain nodded. "Keep your head low or I'll have to clear those skies myself," he replied quietly. "Remember our main objective, Tifa."
"Right. We're scouting out this part of the realm for enemies." Vaan accidentally stumbled around here and had a lead that the warriors of Chaos might be lurking in this area, Tifa reminded herself. Lightning was going to investigate on her own, but she was summoned by Cosmos for some reason. None of us know why, but it must be important. Kain volunteered to take over the mission and I offered to come along. "Hey, Kain. Do you really think we'll find any of Chaos's soldiers… here?" she asked, taking in to their current surroundings—a tall rocky terrain reflected against a seemingly endless moonlit night.
"Isn't that what we're here to find out?" Kain reminded her nonchalantly.
Tifa blinked and laughed. "I guess you're right," she agreed. Stupid question. Sorry.
Kain took slow, careful movements, alert to the possibility that warriors of Chaos may be among them, even watching them—or worse, manikins. Those abominations…, he thought distastefully. The dragoon and the brawler had fought off several manikins on their way to this realm, but once they arrived none of the imitations were in sight. This bothered him. Kain gave Tifa a quick glance. He had been reluctant in allowing the girl to accompany him. But she was… insistent. Very insistent, he remembered. But why now? And for what reason?
Tifa Lockhart was a clever mystery. In spite of her rather provocative and showy appearance, the young woman was kindhearted, sweet-tempered, and timid to a fault in personality—a mixture of complexities that he didn't expect of her. Kain could never read Tifa's mind, but he knew something was off. There was something she wasn't telling him, but what? He finally decided the reason did not matter and it served no purpose to the mission itself. He could always question her motive later at a more appropriate time. Right now, investigating the area was their top priority.
The two warriors of Cosmos infiltrated the realm and scanned the environment, creeping past canyon formations and craters. Kain was in the lead while Tifa trailed not too far behind watching his back in case of enemies. Neither one of them spoke much during this careful process. They had to concentrate. They had to be cautious. A warrior of Chaos could be anywhere in the perimeter. As time began to dwindle, the thought crossed them the brawler and the dragoon that perhaps their mission was a lost cause.
"We've been searching this place high and low, but I'm starting to get the feeling that there's nothing here," Tifa admitted, placing her hands on her hips. "I could practically be a tour guide and show Laguna every inch of this terrain so he wouldn't get lost. What should we do, Kain?"
The thought was mutual, but Kain could not release the unnerving feeling he felt earlier. "We wait it out. Vaan may not be a credible source of information, but I sense something different about this realm," he told her. "If it turns out that I am mistaken, then we shall return to Cosmos's side in Sanctuary. Do you have any objections, Tifa?"
Tifa shook her head. "Not at all. If you can sense that there's something different here, then that's gotta mean something, right?" she reassured him. "I'm sure of it. We can camp out here for a while. I'm a little beat, myself." She stretched her arms and sat on a rock, resting her back against one of the rock formations. Kain leaned against it beside her, crossing his arms.
Silence fell. Tifa no longer had any idea how long they had been waiting around for. She was nearly dozing off when Kain caught her eyes and she managed to shake herself awake. She blinked in surprise. Even after all this while, Kain remained perpetually standing there without a single hint of fatigue taking its toll. Tifa couldn't help but be a little envious at how strong he was.
"Aren't you tired, Kain? You should rest," she suggested, pushing a loose brown lock of hair behind her ear. "You shouldn't overwork yourself. Why don't we take turns? You can sleep, and I'll be lookout."
"I'm fine," Kain replied solemnly without even looking at her. "You should take your own advice. Rest and regain your strength. If a warrior of Chaos were to attack us at this very moment, you would be at a grave disadvantage."
"Hm. Do you always look at things so… strategically?"
Kain stared at her wordlessly. "…"
"N-Not that it's a bad thing!" Tifa stammered, a little flustered by her second blunder. Don't tell me I insulted the guy… "I just thought… you could be a little weird sometimes…" Wait, I really did insult him just now, didn't I?
Again, Kain was silent.
Tifa frowned in disappointment. I'm not getting through to him, am I? She paused and looked at the night sky, the stars glistening above them. A soft breath escaped her lips as she warmly smiled. "The night sky… It's sure something, isn't it?" Tifa mentioned. The dragoon glanced at her. "I… I think… Maybe… I've done this before—stargazing with someone—in my own world. Or… it'd be nice if I did. But even if it's just wishful thinking on my part, it's a nice thought."
"Believe what you want," Kain uttered.
"That's easy to say, but I can't be certain. For only I know, it never happened." Tifa paused for a moment before she turned to face her armored ally. "Kain… Why did you volunteer to substitute this mission for Lightning?" she decided to change the subject. "I figured something like this wasn't really your thing." The girl didn't want to beat around the bush any longer or chicken out of asking. She wanted an answer.
Kain turned and met her gaze. "… Why did you volunteer to join me? It doesn't seem like you either."
"What do you mean?" Tifa questioned, feeling a little confused and offended by Kain's cryptic words. She stood up and placed one of her hands against her hip. "Wait, you can't answer my question with a question. You—You didn't even answer my question."
"Didn't you just do the same thing?"
Tifa looked appalled and let out a small impatient sound that amused Kain. She rolled her eyes and sat down in a huff. "Hmph. I guess you got me there. Fine, I'll answer your question. To be honest… I wasn't really thinking. When I heard you were going to do Lightning's solo mission, I just had to come along. Maybe I thought it'd be fun. I don't know. I'm not really sure why I got so worked up about it…," she admitted sheepishly, rubbing her arm.
Kain watched her. He wasn't expecting an answer of any kind, but he wasn't sure how to react or feel about to her current response. But there was sincerity in her voice—a truthfulness he knew was very much like her. She answered him honestly. Normally he'd refrain from being so open, but under the circumstances it was only be fair for him to do the same. "I took on this mission because I've been here before—to this place. I knew something was different about this realm, but I never sensed it up until recently," he murmured. "I thought that if a warrior of Chaos was here, then one of them must have some answer to ease my thoughts."
"Do you think… this place holds some sort of memory to you?"
"I do not know, but it feels… familiar."
Familiar, Tifa thought. A memory…
Though they were both fellow warriors of Cosmos, Kain was different from her. He managed to hold some memories from his home world—such as Cecil and Golbez. Tifa had no idea what other memories he grasped, but he probably recalled more than he let on. She was glad for her friend, but she could not help but feel just a bit lonely. She could hardly remember a single thing from her world—her family and friends, places and faces. Everything was a blur. Other than her stargazing fantasy, there was little for her to cling to. She only barely knew she made a promise with someone, but she knew not of the contents of the promise, and the promise itself could have been another fabricated memory. She had nothing to hold onto, nothing to give her the littlest shred of comfort. But she said none of these troubling feelings to Kain, for she did not want to worry him. Instead, Tifa smiled. Just as she always did.
"I think that's amazing," she said. "Before you know it, you'll find your crystal in no time! And then when this war is over, you can finally—"
"—You needn't push yourself to say such things."
"W-What are you talking about, Kain? I'm really happy for you. I mean it."
Kain narrowed his gaze. "That may be so, but there are things you're holding back, isn't there?" he pointed out. "I know you're not the type to openly express yourself, but you can. I don't mind." He looked up and their eyes met. "Tell me what's on your mind. Tell me anything… Tifa."
Tifa flinched and stared at Kain with wide eyes. He was as perceptive of her as she was to him. She never once considered that and it surprised her. "Are you this nice to all the girls?" Tifa teased him. "Lightning might get jealous."
She gulped. She never meant for Lightning's name to slip out. "You… You guys are close. I can tell," Tifa confessed softly. She lowered her head and sighed. "I thought… You volunteered for Lightning's mission because…"
"Tifa?" Kain asked, perplexed.
"Never mind. Forget it! I was just over thinking things," Tifa reassured him, forcing out a laugh. "Sorry, Kain. I'm bad company, aren't I? If I'm not being a nervous wreck, then I'm chattering away or handing out lectures…" She stood up and patted her skirt. "… You know what? I think I'll go and check out the eastern part of the terrain again. We might have overlooked something."
"I'll accompany you," Kain suggested, taking a step forward.
Tifa shook her head. "I can do it on my own," she insisted hastily, turning to leave. "But thanks for the offer."
"I do not think this wise."
"I'll be fine. I can manage."
Kain frowned. He knew it wasn't safe for his comrade to wander off on her own, but it seemed Tifa wanted space and he would allow it if that was what she wanted. But before she took another step, Kain abruptly grabbed hold of her arm.
Tifa was pulled back in shock. "Huh? Kain, what are you…?" she protested and attempted to jerk Kain's grip off to no vain. The girl looked over her shoulder only to stifle a breath. Kain were barely inches away from her. In all their time together, she had never been this close in proximity to him. It was a strange thing.
"What you said before…," Kain began. "Is that how you truly perceive yourself, Tifa?"
She turned away and refused to answer.
"I never once considered you that way."
A breath escaped Tifa's lips. Her heart skipped a beat. She was almost tempted to steal one last glance at Kain and ask if he was telling the truth, but she forced herself not to, waited until Kain released her, and walked quietly towards the eastern terrain.
Instead of investigating the area, Tifa passed back and forth with her arms crossed as she contemplated her dilemma. It wasn't her intention. She knew that if Kain caught her slacking on the job, he'd be reasonably peeved. But Kain wasn't here, and Tifa was left to her troublesome thoughts.
Why am I angry? I'm not angry, the brawler thought. Then… why did I have to bring up Lightning? Tifa exhaled, exasperated. It's not like I care—I don't. It's fine if they're close. Who am I to judge? It's not my place, and I'm not—
She stopped pacing and her hand automatically reached up to touch her abruptly warm face. Her fingers trembled slightly.
—I… I'm not… jealous… Tifa shook her head furiously. "No way!" she told herself, laughing it off. "There's no way… I could be…" A sudden gust of wind breezed past her, and the girl shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself. No way… It—It's impossible.
"That may be so, but there are things you're holding back, isn't there? I know you're not the type to openly express yourself, but you can. I don't mind. Tell me what's on your mind. Tell me anything… Tifa."
"I never once considered you that way."
Tifa closed her eyes. Kain…, she thought only of him.
"… A young lady on her own is always asking for trouble. Do you agree?"
Tifa's eyes widened as she turned around to find a man dressed in golden and purple armor from head-to-toe carrying a matching golden scepter. She did not recognize the man or know of his intentions, but she had a feeling that it was not coincidence that brought him to her. "Who are you?" the brawler asked him warily.
"Are we forgetting our formalities?" the man uttered. "One introduces oneself before requesting the other's name."
"My name's Tifa. Now, who are you?"
"One who gets straight to the point, are we? I am Emperor Mateus."
Tifa eyed the armored man, uncertain what to make of her new acquaintance. Formalities…, Tifa thought. What's up with the manners? More importantly—another question remained. Was the Emperor a friend or foe? Likely the latter, but he didn't outwardly attack her, but that didn't mean he wasn't an enemy just yet. "Emperor, huh?" Tifa muttered, raising an eyebrow. "It's a pleasure to meet royalty."
The despot nodded his head. "The pleasure is all mine, milady," he replied. "You seem a wayward traveler. May I ask what brings you to, of all places, here?"
"I just kind of stumbled here, I guess," Tifa lied casually with an innocent shrug. "Those manikins can sure be annoying… Looks like we're in the same boat, huh?"
"So, it would appear," the Emperor acknowledged slyly. "The manikins were quite the trouble, were they?"
Tifa was about to reply when—for a second—she could have sworn she heard a distant sound. It was far-off and could very well have been a brush of wind, but it sounded almost like… Kain, she realized. I've been gone too long! Could he be in any trouble?
"Tifa, why, you look distressed. Penny for your thoughts?" the Emperor asked her.
"No… I… It's nothing…"
"Could you be worrying about your comrade, perhaps?"
"I'm…," Tifa began before she abruptly stopped short as she looked up to meet the Emperor's heavy gaze and took a step back. Her heart pounded. "I… never said I was with a comrade." It was only then that Tifa noticed that there was no sincerity in the man's smile or voice. There was only cruel, twisted satisfaction. "You're a warrior of Chaos… aren't you?" She automatically made her battle stance and held her fists out.
The Emperor only smiled as he raised his scepter, releasing an incantation. Tifa flipped back, giving herself distance, as she braced herself for a battle. Lavender balls of fire shot out as she narrowly dodged them, tumbling against the ground and rolling to the side. She faced her armored foe, jumping into the air and throwing an onslaught of punches and kicks. He evaded each one with ease. She jumped back and shot a blizzard spell at him, but he deflected the magic with his scepter.
"You are no match for me," the Emperor murmured. "You'd do best to accept that, lass."
Tifa glared and dashed towards him once again, this time a green light emanating from her fists. The Emperor shot more lavender balls of fire following a flare, but Tifa either dodged them or scarcely let them wound her as she ran and charged through his incantation without hesitation. Her attacks hit her target—the last punch went straight to his jaw. The Emperor slid back, but maintained his ground through the impact. He wiped blood from his mouth and chuckled as he turned and met her unwavering eyes.
"You meddlesome, little…," the Emperor said lowly as he readied another incantation.
Tifa fitted her gloves as she made her stance.
Kain inhaled the cold air. Tifa hadn't returned yet. She had been gone for a while now. The dragoon narrowed his gaze. Could something have happened to her? Perhaps a trap by Chaos's soldiers or the manikins? Kain's grip on his lance tightened. If I hadn't let go of her at that time, would she have stayed? Or would she have only pushed me away?
He found the girl's perseverant personality both admirable and irritating. She was unpredictable, and it was this unexpected quality that made her intriguing in his eyes. One minute she could be a dangerous foe, the next a docile young lady. He remembered women from his world were similar. Though he could not remember faces or names, he recalled fighting alongside women similar to Tifa in the past—head-strong and impulsive, but simultaneously patient and resilient.
He was confident that Tifa could best any fight that came her way, but he felt unsettled. It wasn't safe for either of them to be separated in a potential enemy territory. Kain knew this, and yet he let her go. Tifa… I should have never let her out of my sight, he thought, turning to leave.
"My, my. What a pitiful look on your face. Has it finally dawned on you that your damsel may be in need of rescuing?"
Kain looked up to find a woman dressed in a long flowing red dress standing on top one of the rock formations, taking pleasure that she was towering in superiority over her foe. Her silver hair glistened in the moonlight. "You wretched witch… What have you done?" the dragoon demanded, raising his lance at her. "Where is she?"
Ultimecia tilted her head. "What a rude boy. You dare accuse me without proof?" she asked him. "It appears your time in this world has influenced your sense of justice. I am not the only warrior of Chaos who holds an interest in your precious friend."
"What? Who?" Kain questioned her.
The sorceress laughed knowingly. "Another time, another story. You will not live long enough to see either of them, so let us return to our tale," she murmured, making a gesture. "We are enemies, oh, hero of Harmony. Do you expect me to hand over answers on a silver platter? Your naivety is your downfall and the princess your tragic sacrifice. We shall end you warriors of Cosmos one by one… starting with the girl."
"No need to sulk. You'll be joining her soon."
"Enough of your games, witch!" Kain yelled, turning to leave. "I grow weary of your tricks. I have no time for this… or for you."
The witch only smiled. "Time?" she repeated darkly. "My dear knight, we have all the time in the world."
Kain ignored her words and leaped into the air, ready to save Tifa, when he suddenly felt himself slow down in midair. What? Ultimecia appeared before him and with a wave of her hand, purple darts showered the dragoon, drowning him in pain as he causing him into the ground, a crater surrounding him.
Ultimecia appeared yards to his left. The dragoon jumped, prepared to attack his foe, only for her to disappear and reappear somewhere else. He followed her, whipping his lance left and right, but his weapon did not even touch her. Kain's patience dwindled. If he tried to attack her, she would disappear. If he tried to escape, she would prevent him from doing so. This woman was toying with him, treating him like her plaything when his comrade was in danger. He despised her for not only supplying a distraction but for treating him like a puppet. He looked around. Ultimecia vanished. Another trick… Where are you?
In that moment, the sorceress appeared at his side and smiled mockingly at him. "You underestimate me, child…," the warrior of Chaos hissed before unleashing another attack. Kain dodged it and soared high in the sky. In the corner of his left eye, he saw something—moving objects and flashes of light. He turned and saw across the terrain two figures battling.
Kain flinched. Tifa…! For a second, he could have sworn that she looked right at him. But the moment passed and her opponent struck her with a spell. The dragoon could only watch as she was rendered unconscious and her limp body fell from the sky. "No!" he yelled and was about to hurry to her when Ultimecia blocked his path.
"You fool. Ignoring your enemy shall be your last mistake!"
"Getting in my way will be yours!"
Ultimecia's eyes widened as Kain slashed through her without a second thought. He landed nimbly and did not bat an eye at his foe. The witch growled in anguish as her fingers clutched onto her body. She slid back to the ground, where she staggered a few steps back. Her breaths grew heavy. Even so, she managed to smile. "How… intriguing. What an interesting knight indeed," she sneered before disappearing.
Kain looked over his shoulder. "I am no knight… I am a dragoon," he replied before hurrying off to help his friend.
Tifa plunged from the sky and crashed onto the earth.
She staggered onto her feet and felt the toll of her fall that pained her body. She ignored this and looked up, only to see the Emperor had appeared yards away from her as he called out a command. The brawler gasped as an incantation appeared below her, and before she could react, multiple surges of pain engulfed her body. Looking back on this event, Tifa could not recall if she was thinking of anything or trying to free herself from the trap. All she remembered was that she screamed. When the pain creased, she attempted to stand, only for the Emperor to hold her by the throat, his scepter raised.
"It seems this droll fight has come to an end," the Emperor said. "Pity that you couldn't have been more entertaining."
Tifa struggled in his grip, gasping for air. No… Not yet…, she thought. A flash of light emanated from the scepter. I…
The Emperor glanced to his left and vanished. Tifa was about to fall to her knees when she felt her weight being carried and weakly opened her eyes to see a man shrouded in dragon-like armor by her side. She panted dryly. "Kain…?" the brawler asked. "Is it… really you?"
Kain placed her down carefully. "Forgive me," he muttered, kneeling by her side. "If only I had come sooner…"
"You came now. That's all… that matters to me," Tifa replied, smiling wearily. "You… kept your promise…"
Tifa blinked, perplexed by her words. Eh? Promise? She opened her mouth to speak before she spotted something from the corner of her eyes and yelled, "Watch out!" Kain could only turn as a flare tossed him aside. Tifa trembled slightly as she watched the flare disperse in front of her eyes. Her skin rattled as the flames took hold of her mind. She saw hazy images of fire engulfing a town. Peoples' bodies slain in pools of their blood. The very sight made her shudder. What… is this? No… No… NO! She fell to her knees, clutching onto her head as she screamed.
Kain freed himself from the rocks that toppled over him in his fall. He stared at Tifa. "T-Tifa?" he asked, confused. The dragoon turned to the Emperor, who was not too far away, floating in the sky. "What did you do!" he demanded the Emperor.
He glanced at Kain curiously. "Why, I did nothing. That bug started screaming noisily on her own," he replied calmly. "If I had to guess… perhaps she is remembering a memory? From the looks of it, it must be quite traumatic."
The dragoon's glare intensified. He leaped to Tifa's side and placed his hands on her shoulder. "Tifa? Tifa! What has taken hold of you?" he yelled, shaking her. "Memories or no memories, you're stronger than this! I need you to come back now! Tifa!"
Tifa was jerked awake, her eyes widening. "Kain…?" she whispered hoarsely.
Kain sighed in relief, though their union was cut short. The Emperor unleashed another spell, and it tossed both of the warriors of Cosmos into different directions, Tifa into a crevice and Kain across the battlefield. Seeing that the brawler was unconscious, he turned his attention to Kain, who was conscious and struggling to move. He had been injured twice-fold and could barely stand.
"You have been wounded far worse than the girl, and yet you refuse to falter?" the Emperor hissed. He swung his scepter and knocked Kain aside. "Insects need to learn that they can only be crushed!"
"We're… not insects!" shouted a voice behind him.
The Emperor could only turn before he was struck with multiple punches by a very awake Tifa. He slid and jumped a distance away from his two foes. He clutched onto his armor and smiled grimly. "It seems I've toyed with both of you far too long for my liking," the Emperor muttered as he disappeared. "Until we meet again…"
"Hey!" Tifa called out to no avail. She sighed and placed her hands on her hips. Remembering Kain, the brawler hurried to his side. Kain was attempting to stand when he stumbled and Tifa held onto his arm and carried his weight. "Kain! Hey! Easy now, don't strain yourself," she told the dragoon and handed him a potion. "Here. Take this. I already used one on myself."
Kain nodded and stepped away from her. He let the potion heal his wounds and replenish his strength. "… Thank you," he finally said to Tifa, meeting her gaze.
Feeling uncomfortable, Tifa looked down. "Kain… About before, I…," she began hesitantly, rubbing her arm. "I'm sorry for running off like that. You were ambushed too, weren't you? I was being careless and I almost got both of us killed. I'm really sorry. I'll sure get a mouth load from the others when you tell them…" She turned and began walking. "I guess we better start heading back, right, Kain?" She blinked and turned. "Kain?"
"Tifa. Tell me, why did you bring up Lightning earlier?" Kain asked her. "Why did you think I volunteered for Lightning's mission?"
She blushed and stammered, uncertain of how to express herself. "S-Sorry… I think I was a little… jealous," she muttered uneasily.
"Jealous?" he repeated. Kain took quiet steps towards Tifa until he was right behind her. Tifa looked over her shoulder and her eyes widened in surprise. "That shade of color suits you," he said, smiling.
Tifa grimaced, feeling her face redden. She turned towards Kain and glared, but she couldn't help but slowly return Kain's smile, for it was that single smile of his that gave her his answer—"But you have nothing to be jealous of."
"By the way, Kain. Thank you for saving me," Tifa told him. "You were really cool back there. You were like a knight!"
"A knight, hm?" Kain repeated. He chuckled. It was strange. Only moments before he detested the witch Ultimecia for calling him such a thing, but he didn't seem to mind it when Tifa called him that. He extended his hand out towards Tifa. "Come. Let us return to the others together."
Tifa tilted her head. "Come on, Kain. I can walk just fine," she insisted.
Kain smirked. "Shouldn't a knight escort his princess properly?" he replied.
The princess rolled her eyes and smiled as she took her knight's hand.