Contrary to popular belief, I am not dead, incapacitated, or inconsiderate. I've just been busy. With too many writing projects at once, I tend to get a little bit blocked on all of them. But this story just begged to be written. There is only one more chapter, so it's going to be short. Enjoy!
My children's novel, DragonSpeaker, has reached the final stages of publication. It is now in the cover design phase. This my first book, so it's rather exciting. You can visit my website if you would like more information. There's a link on my profile page. I don't have a release date yet, but that should be coming soon.
Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha
TO CATCH A THIEF
"Kohana? Where are you, baby?"
Kagome paused in the search for her missing daughter to stretch and massage the ache in the small of her back. At eight months pregnant, it felt like she was carrying a bowling ball around all the time.
A childish giggle floated down the hall from the direction of her bedroom. Ah, so that's where the little terror disappeared to this time.
"Gotcha!" Kagome burst into the room. Her smile of triumph quickly faded. "Kohana! What did you do?"
"Kohana pretty!" The three-year-old beamed up at her mother. In one chubby fist, she clutched a tube of lipstick. Most of the contents were smeared liberally over her face.
Kagome struggled with herself, torn between laughter and anger. Laughter won, but just barely.
"You're a mess, baby." Kagome carefully lowered herself to the ground beside Kohana. Grabbing a fistful of tissues off the nightstand, she attempted to clean the child's face. "Hold still."
"No!" Kohana twisted her head away. "Kohana pretty! Just like Mommy!"
"Kagome! Where did you put my--" Inuyasha walked into the room, brow furrowed with the beginnings of irritation. Taking one look at his daughter, he closed his eyes and sighed.
"Daddy!" Kohana shrieked. "Tell Mommy no! Kohana pretty!"
Kagome gritted her teeth. "Hold still! Don't just stand there, Inuyasha!"
Inuyasha took a deep breath. "Shiro!" he yelled in the direction of the stairs. "Come here and clean up your sister!"
"Do I have to, Dad?" Nine-year-old Shiro's voice called back plaintively. "I'm looking for my lucky red soccer socks! Shippou and his dad will be here any minute!"
Grumbling only slightly, Shiro obeyed. Soon, Kohana's loud protests could be heard along with Shiro's commands to stop squirming.
"What happened this time, Kagome?" Inuyasha asked.
"I turned my back for just a second," Kagome explained as he helped her off the floor. "And she disappeared. I found her in here with the lipstick." Abruptly she started laughing. "And then she-- And then I-- But you know the funniest thing--"
Kagome took a deep breath. As quickly as the laughter had come, she started crying. Wailing, she threw herself into her husband's arms. "Waaah! I'm a terrible mother! I can't even keep track of one little girl!"
Oh, great. Mood swings. Gingerly, Inuyasha patted her on the back. "Don't be too hard on yourself. Kohana just never listens." Kagome sobbed harder.
Inuyasha panicked. What do I do now? How do I make her stop?
A light bulb went off somewhere in his brain. "Why don't I take Kohana with me today? We'll make it a father-daughter bonding trip." He pushed Kagome a little bit away so he could look into her face. "We'll find something for your birthday next week."
Kagome sniffed a few times. "Really?" she asked in a small voice.
Inuyasha nodded. "Yep. I'll take Kohana. Shiro's going to spend all afternoon at the soccer tryouts. You can relax, take a bath, do whatever you want."
Kagome flung her arms around his neck and kissed him. "You are so sweet! I'll go pack a bag for Kohana." She waddled out of the room as fast as her advanced pregnancy would allow.
Another crisis averted. Inuyasha grinned smugly. I am getting so good at this!
In a relatively short amount of time, Kohana and her surprisingly large day bag were ready to go. Inuyasha couldn't understand why one small child needed enough stuff to outfit an entire daycare center -- just for a few of hours.
Why, he used to take Shiro out all day with just his stuffed dog and a couple of extra diapers. Of course, several times he had found himself improvising with twist ties and a tee shirt.
Kohana was three already. Hadn't Kagome mentioned once that she was almost potty-trained? Real men couldn't be seen toting diaper bags around. Inuyasha wisely said nothing. Kagome was happy, looking forward to a child-free afternoon. There was no way he was going to start an argument over something this silly.
"Kohana ready!" Kohana appeared from her bedroom, free of lipstick and dragging her stuffed cat toy by one of its tails. The two-tailed cat had been a present from Sango. Kohana had christened it "Kitty." Kagome, just as entranced as her daughter, decided to call it "Kirara." Shiro and Inuyasha wisely agreed with both of them.
"Give Mommy a kiss," Inuyasha instructed. Kohana complied with a hug and a sloppy kiss. "Let's go!"
Inuyasha held tightly to Kohana's hand. The last thing he wanted to do was lose her in a crowd of people. When she first started walking, he had wanted to buy her one of those toddler harnesses like they sold in baby stores. Kagome had a fit and Inuyasha vowed to never bring up the subject again.
Right now, though, he would have given anything to own one.
Kohana chattered happily, a mixture of real words and nonsense syllables. They stopped to look at a display of knives in a store window.
"Ooooh! What an adorable little girl." A large woman stopped to coo at Kohana. The overpowering scent of too-much perfume accompanied her movements. "Aren't you just precious? Are you going walkies with your daddy? Oh, yes you are!"
Kohana wrinkled her nose. "Yuck! Too much stink! Lady needs diaper change!"
The lady turned red as several passersby snickered. "How rude! Hasn't your daddy taught you any manners?"
Inuyasha smirked. "At least my daughter isn't sticking her nose where it isn't wanted."
If possible, the lady turned even redder and stalked away in a huff.
"If it isn't Inuyasha and Kohana," a cheerful voice called out. "I should have guessed from the amount of laughter and the large, humiliated woman."
"Uncle Miroku!" Kohana released Inuyasha's hand to run to the tall dark-haired man who was coming toward them.
"Hello there, precious!" Miroku scooped the child up in her arms, giving her a tickle and a kiss.
"What are you doing here?" Inuyasha asked.
"Giving Sango a break." He bounced Kohana in his arms. "With Kohaku and Hiroshi underfoot as well as the new baby on the way, I thought I'd take a walk."
"You have no idea."
Kohana tugged on Miroku's hair. "We gonna buy Mommy a birfday present. Wanna come, Uncle Miroku?"
Miroku looked at Inuyasha. Inuyasha shrugged. "Sure. The more the merrier."
"Let's go." Miroku strode off in a random direction. "What are we going to get your mommy?" he asked the toddler in his arms.
"We'll find something nice, Kohana," Inuyasha told her.
They wandered through the shopping center, poking into shops or just looking in the windows. Inuyasha thought Kagome could use a sharpener for the kitchen knives. It looked like it might even work for the Tetsusaiga. Miroku was more in favor of picking up a little something in Victoria's Secret. Kohana wanted to get Mommy a giant cookie or a cake in the shape of Barney.
"I wonder what's going on over there," Miroku said sometime later, while they were all enjoying a frozen yogurt.
"Over where?" Inuyasha asked. Kohana had yogurt smeared on her nose, her chin, and both cheeks. He was trying to clean off the worst with a handful of napkins.
"Over there." Miroku pointed with his spoon. "At that jewelry store."
Inuyasha squinted in the direction of the store. "Looks interesting. Let's find out."
They dumped their empty yogurt cups in the nearest garbage receptacle and wandered over to the crowd gathered around the jewelry store.
Inuyasha tapped a well-dressed gentleman on the shoulder. "What's going on?" he asked.
"Didn't you hear?" the gentleman replied. "SJ Jewelers is displaying a rare jewel. It's going to be on display for a week and then it's being shipped to a high-security museum."
"Sounds special," Inuyasha commented. He turned to Miroku. "Wanna see?"
"Sure. You know, they might be having a sale. Maybe you can get Kagome a pair of earrings."
"That's a good idea. She's always bugging me to buy her jewelry." He checked to make sure Kohana was still nearby and grabbed her hand. "Come on, Kohana. We're going to look at some sparklies."
The three of them pushed their way through the crowd, stepping on several toes and earning rude comments and/or gestures. Inuyasha and Miroku largely ignored the people around them. Finally they got close enough to see what all the fuss was about.
A large marble-like object sat on a velvet pillow with guards stationed around it. Obviously, it had been brought out for the crowd to admire. An open glass case stood a few feet behind it. The jewelry storeowner was fairly bursting with his own importance.
"This rare jewel is a one-of-a-kind," he was telling a group of reporters and spectators. "It is called the Shikon no Tama and is absolutely priceless. Kings and pharaohs would give their entire fortunes to own it. Entire civilizations have been destroyed in pursuit of it."
"Nice marble," Inuyasha commented. "But I don't see what all the fuss is about. Let's find something for Kagome and get out of here."
"Pretty." Kohana tugged her hand out of her daddy's grip and toddled over to the display case. She wiggled past the oblivious guard and reached up to touch.
"Kohana!" Inuyasha grabbed for his daughter. "Don't touch!"
One of the guards snatched the girl off the floor, earning a shriek from the startled child. The pudgy storeowner came barreling over.
"Get that child out of here!"
Inuyasha yanked Kohana out of the guard's grip. Kohana howled. "Don't yell at my daughter!" he shouted.
The man went red in the face. "Nobody is to get within three feet of the Shikon no Tama! And that includes your ill-mannered brat!"
"What did you say?" Inuyasha shoved Kohana at Miroku. "Why don't we step outside and you can say it again?"
Alarmed at the thought of a fight around all these breakables, Miroku set Kohana on the floor and tried to calm Inuyasha down.
"He didn't mean it," Miroku insisted. "Let's just all admit it was a big misunderstanding, and we'll be on our way."
"Stay out of this, Miroku," Inuyasha snapped. "He insulted my daughter!"
Kohana stopped crying now that the attention was no longer on her. Daddy was arguing with the loud man who yelled at her. Uncle Miroku was trying to push them apart. Through the crush of people, she got sight of the jewel that started the whole thing. It sparkled so very temptingly. Mommy liked pretty sparkles. Unnoticed, she made her way back to the Shikon no Tama.
"Shut up, you pompous windbag! I've seen better looking glass at a carnival!"
"Try to control yourself, Inuyasha! Let go of him!"
The jewelry storeowner stumbled back, red in the face and rubbing his neck.
"Get out of here!" he screamed. "Take your friend and your child and leave! And if you ever enter this store again, I will personally see to it that you go to jail!"
"Fine!" Inuyasha snarled. "I don't need any of your overpriced trinkets anyway! My wife has much better taste in jewelry!"
Inuyasha snatched up Kohana, who was just beginning to enjoy the argument. People made the funniest faces when they were yelling. She wondered what a pompous windbag was. Maybe Mommy would explain it.
Miroku rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. Never a dull moment. He trotted after his friend. "Wait up, Inuyasha!"
Inuyasha had worked off most of his anger by the time they reached the parking lot, but he was in no mood to continue shopping. Might as well go home. There were still a few more days before Kagome's birthday.
"Say goodbye to Uncle Miroku," Inuyasha instructed.
"Bye-bye, Uncle Miroku." Kohana held her arms up so she could be picked up to deliver the traditional hug and wet, sloppy kiss.
Miroku responded with a slight squeeze before placing the child back on the ground. "Be a good girl." Of course, Kohana's idea of being good and her mother's often differed wildly. Still, she was a sweet child.
"See you, Miroku," Inuyasha said. "If we're lucky, that scene won't make the six o'clock news. All I need right now is for Kagome to find out that we've been banned for life from yet another store."
Miroku chuckled and waved as he headed for his car. Sango was probably starting to wonder where he was.
A dark-haired blur streaked out of the family room and crashed into him. Kohana giggled while Inuyasha tried to disentangle himself from his son.
"Guess what, Dad?" Shiro didn't stop long enough for his father to guess. "I scored three goals today! That's one more than Shippou did! The coach said he might make me center this year. I guess all that practicing you and I did finally paid off."
"That's great, Shiro!" Inuyasha beamed, as proud as if he had scored the goals. "Did you use that special move I taught you?"
Shiro nodded. "Uh huh. Coach said that if I promised never to use it again, he won't call you for a conference."
Inuyasha grimaced. Coach Jinenji was a hulking brute of a man. Conferences with him were something to avoid. Not because he was violent -- he abhorred violence. He used logic and common sense to get his point across, which made for very boring talks.
"Mommy!" Kohana toddled over to Kagome who was coming out of the kitchen. "We went shopping! And Uncle Miroku came! And we ate yogrit! And then--"
"That's enough, baby," Inuyasha quickly interrupted. "Why don't you go watch TV before dinner? What are we having, Kagome? It smells good!"
Kagome gave him a strange look. "It's just macaroni and cheese, Inuyasha. Cousin Taro said that Shiro and Shippou did well at the tryouts, and I told Shiro he could have whatever he wanted for dinner."
"Macaroni and cheese is my favorite," Shiro enthused. "And Mom's making cream-style corn, too. We're having a yellow meal!"
Kohana wandered into the living room. The television was already on. It was showing the news. She sat down to watch the pretty news lady. Rain and clouds appeared as she pointed to various spots on the big map. Kohana hadn't figured out how she did it yet.
"What are you watching, squirt?" Shiro asked, flopping down on the couch. He idly bounced a black and white soccer ball on his knee.
"The news is boring." Shiro made a face. "Why don't we watch some cartoons?"
"No fighting before dinner," Inuyasha admonished, coming into the room. "Kohana got here first, so she can watch what she wants. Go put your ball away, Shiro, and wash your hands. It's almost time for dinner."
The weather forecast ended abruptly, to be replaced with the serious face of the news anchor.
"This just in. The Shikon no Tama has been stolen. This priceless jewel has been on display at SJ Jewelers en route to its final destination at the Miko Museum. It disappeared sometime after two o'clock. We have been unable to pinpoint the exact instance of its disappearance because of some sort of disturbance just prior. Because of the crowds present, the security cameras were unable to get a clear picture of the thief. We take you now to our live correspondent at the scene of the crime."
The pudgy face of the storeowner filled the screen. "This is preposterous. We have the highest security available. There is no way a thief could walk in and just take the jewel."
The camera switched to show the reporter. "Several eyewitnesses claim that there was some sort of disturbance about the time the Shikon no Tama went missing."
"Just a couple of idiots," the man scoffed. "The security guards were watching them closely the entire time."
"Idiots?" Inuyasha clenched his fists as he glared at the screen. "I'd like to see him call me that to my face. I'll show him who the idiot is!"
"Huh?" Inuyasha looked down to see Kohana playing with something. He crouched down to get a closer look. "What'cha got there, baby?"
"A pretty sparkly." Kohana grinned at him. "Give to Mommy for her birfday!" She opened her chubby hands to show her prize.
Kohana had the Shikon no Tama.
Food for thought: The shortest distance between two people is a smile.