"Yuffie, that wasn't very nice!" Kairi pouted and crossed her arms at the older girl, but she could only keep up her serious demeanor for a second before she started laughing along with the older girl.
"What are you doing sneaking around?" Yuffie asked when she finally stopped laughing. "Are you trying to be a ninja like me? I knew I was the best role model." She grinned and proudly struck a pose.
"You're a real ninja?" Kairi whispered excitedly, as if it were a huge secret she was being let in on. She was fond of stories of all kind, and could remember reading with her grandmother a story about the mysterious and stealthy people who could hide in shadows and sneak up on the bad guys without ever being discovered. The more Kairi remembered the cool tales about ninjas, though, the less her friend seemed to match the description. Which was why it occurred to her that it may have been a secret identity, like in some other book she and her grandmother had read together. So, instead of saying, "But you're not in the outfits they had in the books," -since, admittedly, her a green and yellow hoodie and white shorts were pretty eye-catching- Kairi imagined Yuffie being quiet and stealthy and wearing one of the body suits the ninjas had worn.
It was a little hard to imagine, but Yuffie had just managed to sneak up on Kairi, right? Kairi giggled all the same at the idea, or maybe out of an excited giddiness she suddenly had. Maybe, if she couldn't be a knight, she could be a ninja, like Yuffie!
Yuffie grinned and pointed proudly at herself. "Yup, I am the champion of the earth and the sky! I am the conqueror of evil! The single white rose of Radiant Gardens! The great ninja Yuffie!" she bragged. "Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"
Kairi clapped. "So you really fight bad guys?"
"Absolutely!" Yuffie lied, grinning even wider. "They'll run screaming when they see me! Radiant Gardens is safe in my hands!"
"Can I be a white rose, too?" Kairi asked, practically bouncing from trying to contain her excitement. "And Aerith, Aerith would make a good rose!"
"But I'm the single white rose of Radiant Gardens, remember, Kairi?" Yuffie reminded her.
"Oh..." Kairi said, standing still for a moment before regaining her excitement. "Then I will be a red rose! Or a blue tulip! Or a purple long-beaked filaree!" Kairi beamed as she managed to say the last flower's name just as Aerith had. Kairi didn't remember a lot about what Aerith had said about the plant itself, but the flower's petals had reminded her of her dress. Kairi imagined the three flowers growing side by side, the rose and tulip both taller than the little filaree.
As she was thinking about them, she decided that maybe she should make up with Lea and Isa after all... They would probably have a lot more fun if they were play together than if they were just running around like this.
"No, Kairi, you're too young to defend the town! It's my duty as the strongest and best fighter here!"
Kairi opened her mouth to argue that she thought that was Tifa or Leon, but closed her mouth and remembered what she was out there for in the first place. She didn't have to apologize to Lea and Isa- not now, anyway. Her goal- her duty, like Yuffie had said it, was to find her grandma and warn her about being kidnapped. She was somewhere all alone out there, after all! Kairi had to be brave and save her! "Yuffie, have you seen my grandma?" Kairi asked hurriedly.
"You mean you wandered off?" Yuffie asked, stretching. "No, I haven't, but I'll tell you if I do."
"I didn't wander off from grandma, but... my babysitters Isa and Lea were being mean and..." Kairi pouted and looked at her feet. "I wasn't being very nice either, I think, but then Lea broke my vase and I got in trouble for it, and there are kidnappers in town, and, and-"
"Whoa," Yuffie shook the little girl to calm her down. She had started speaking so fast that Yuffie could barely make out a word she was saying. "What about Lea?"
Kairi frowned and looked up at Yuffie. "Are Lea and Isa nice?" she said instead of repeating herself. Kairi had seen them around town plenty of times, since they were hard to miss, but the two of them never really paid much attention to her. "Because they're bigger," she was told, but Aerith and the others didn't seem to mind having her around. Isa and Lea, on the other hand, barely noticed her at all, even when she tried to play with them.
Yuffie thought for a moment about the two older boys. "Well, Isa can be kind of boring sometimes, but he's not bad. Keeps Lea in order. And Lea's almost as good at pranks as I am," she said with a smile. She got an almost dreamy expression as she went on. "Almost. They're both really cool once you get to know them! They're not really the type for kids, but if you were a little older, I'm sure you and Lea would make great friends. He's not hard to befriend, either –he's always 'picking up stray puppies' as Isa calls it. That's how we met, at least."
Kairi played with the front of her dress for a little while as Yuffie kept going on about Lea in particular. She wondered why she wasn't mentioning Isa very much if they were always together. But more than that, as Yuffie continued her reverie, Kairi wondered if she should have been a better friend. It wasn't very knight-like— or princess-like, as her grandma was always comparing her to a princess instead of a knight— for her to just run off on them like that. If they decided to apologize, she decided she would too.
But only after she found her grandma. "Thank you, Yuffie," Kairi said sweetly before she waved and walked off again. Where could her grandmother be if she wasn't there? Kairi thought about other places she and her grandmother had been recently.
"The fountains!" Kairi exclaimed.
"You're sure you haven't seen her run through here?" Lea asked again in exasperation.
Lea ran out, narrowly dodging a thrown wrench and ignoring more profanity from Cid. Rubbing the back of his head, Lea muttered, "A simple 'no' would have freaking sufficed!"
"Lea! You okay?"
Lea almost fell back when he recoiled from the shock of seeing Yuffie so suddenly. He tried to laugh it off and rubbed the back of his head nonchalantly. "No bumps or bruises. Either the old man's getting nicer or his aim is getting worse." Hearing another thud from behind him that sounded like it almost broke the glass on the shop door, Lea added quietly, "But his hearing's dang near perfect."
"Then let's get outta here before he hears anymore," Yuffie suggested, just as quietly. She took his hand and run before he could even reply, so he had to run just to keep up with the hyperactive ninja.
"Hey, Yuffie! Why are we running? We're far enough away now!" Lea argued, starting to pant. He hated being dragged along. Now that he thought about it, he was usually the one that dragged Isa along with him everywhere.
Yuffie suddenly stopped and let go of his hand, turning around quickly and starting with, "So, Lea—" and Lea struggled in a failed attempt to stop as quickly as she had, ending up almost falling on top of the smaller girl. He managed to catch himself at the last moment and straighten up after a moment of being awkwardly close to the younger girl.
Yuffie laughed, seeming to forget she had been in the middle of saying something. "Oh, oh wow, your face is as red as your HAIR!" she managed to say between chuckles, ignoring her own blush.
"Yeah, yeah," Lea said, glancing away indignantly. "Weren't you in the middle of saying something?"
Yuffie held her hand up and kept laughing. "Okay, okay…" She coughed and straightened up, making a show of how hard she had to work not to start laughing again. "You're like a tomato! Or a bell pepper!"
Lea rolled his eyes. "Well, that was a very enlightening conversation, but I really have to go. See ya around, Yuffie," he said, waving and turning around.
"Are you sure?" Yuffie said, having somehow rushed in front of him. He stepped back, startled, but she seemed a bit more serious now. "I've heard some whispers here and there, you know. It may not be safe to be alone." Yuffie grinned mischievously. "After all, people have been disappearing more and more lately, and what about that rumor of a monster seen running around?"
Lea rolled his eyes. "That's just some scary story. Ansem The Wise, himself, said it was nonsense."
"Did he? Or did we hear that from his lackeys?" Yuffie asked, as if this was a quiz. "Besides, I heard you and Isa certainly seemed to believe it. Why else would you—"
"You guys have got to let that die eventually!" Lea interrupted.
Yuffie held up her hands innocently. "Point taken, but you still did it, and you're even in hot water for it. All because you wanted to see if there really was a monster. Well, I heard some interesting whispers from people who live in the castle, and for the right price, I'll tell you everything I know. It might be the difference between life and death for you and Isa." Yuffie thought for a second and added, "And for Kairi, too, you know. You guys are babysitting her, right?"
Lea sighed. "Fine, what's your price?" he asked, just wanting to get rid of her quickly. "…Wait. How did you know we're babysitting?"
"Kairi mentioned it."
"Where is she?!" Lea demanded.
Yuffie snickered mischievously. "Top-class information like that would cost extra, you know."
"…Didn't you say she might be in danger, though?" Lea argued. "Didn't you say you were the great hero ninja of Radiant Gardens or something? It would be on your head if she's abducted, too, oh great hero."
Yuffie thought for a minute or so before relenting, "I'll collect my payment later, but she was at Central Square last time I saw her. I'd hurry if I were you, though. She's quick for such a little kid."
Lea was about to point out that Yuffie was practically just as much of a little kid as Kairi, but opted to rush to Central Square instead. Kairi was almost proving to be more trouble than this job was worth –almost.