Title: Soldier Boy

Author: SangOtaku6

Genre: Drama, Suspense

Rating: OT

Warning(s): Drama, Language

Word Count: 4214

-.-.-.-

True to Inuyasha's word, Miroku soon encountered Kagome. Although initially happy to see her, a frown slowly spread across his lips as he studied her form. The petite woman looked as if she had been in the middle of a serious fight. One of her cheeks was so badly bruised the color blended well under the stray wisps of her onyx hair. Both of her eyes were swelled with tears. Even so, she wore a small smile on her face, a smile surrounded by clusters of cuts. There was not any dirt on her face so he assumed that the wounds had, for the most part, been attended to. He was mildly relieved – that was, until he noticed a particular article of clothing on her that brought the blood in his veins to a blistering boil.

That familiar white and blue haori. The haori of that murderer.

Before he could stop it, the words tumbled from his surprised mouth. "Kagome-sama, what the hell happened to you? Did Bankotsu of the Shichinintai do this?"

The girl was taken aback by the curse that the monk had spluttered but she quickly recovered from it, smiling forcibly in response. "Hello to you too," she replied in a tired but happy tone. "No, he didn't, but really, I'm fine; I'm just a little banged up."

"A little, Kagome-sama? That is not a little banged up. What happened to you?" He rushed to her side, helping her slouched form straighten up. He scanned her over for any other wounds and noticed beneath her tattered skirt a cloth bandage, colored a deep maroon with dried blood. "And this wound?"

Kagome smiled, her eyes lacking the happiness that normally shone in them. For the first time in his life, Miroku did not recognize the voice that slipped from her lips and touched his ears. What came out was a wizened voice, one that was a witness to too many scarring experiences. "I'm really tired, Miroku. Can we please go to the hut? I'll tell you everything later…" The last part of her sentence faded as her eyes began to droop.

Not needing another word, Miroku crouched down and Kagome obediently adjusted herself on his back. Her arms wrapped around his neck; he held her legs with a tender firmness only a lover could give. In one hand, he clung to his clinking staff.

"Kagome," he said softly. "You can rest now. I'll wake you when we arrive."

Her eyelids slid down and a slight smile graced her marred, angelic face. She slowly drifted to sleep, like someone embracing the caresses of death.

It felt like only a moment later when a male's hand gently shook her arm. Even so, she could already tell that he lied; Kagome knew she slept more than the twenty or so minute walk it normally took to reach the small shelter. The sunlight that shone behind her closed eyelids was evidence enough. Morning. Still, she was happy he didn't wake her – the day's past events exhausted her, both mentally and physically.

"Such a pleasant day we have today, isn't that so, Kagome-sama," Miroku grinned, holding out an ordinary bowl, filled nearly to the brim. "Do be careful as I just finished cooking it. It is rather hot."

Kagome accepted the bowl, bringing it to her lips to blow away the steam that rose from the hearty meal. "Thank you, Miroku-sama. It smells delicious."

Miroku nodded his head. "Eat your fill and, afterwards, I will redress your wounds."

The edges of her mouth curved upward as she bowed. "Itadakimasu," she whispered, carefully sipping from the bowl's edges, where the broth was the coolest. "It is as good as it smells. I don't know why we don't make you cook more."

Miroku's eyes expressed the joy her compliment brought him. "Nothing a man prepares will ever amount to the worth of a woman's home cooked meal. However," at this his eyes twinkled, "Kagome-sama, you only need to say the word and I will cook whatever your heart desires."

"Oh really?" Kagome mused. "Why then I'd like some tamagoyaki, a couple of riceballs, and some yummy anmitsu to top it all off."

Miroku tried to suppress the confusion in his face. "Tamagoyaki? Anmitsu? I'm not even sure if I've tried those dishes..."

Kagome waved one of her hands at him, informing him to dismiss the thought. "I was just kidding!" she giggled. "Don't worry. This meal is much better than any of those."

A light chuckle escaped Miroku. "Now, my Lady, I know you are fibbing. Now, are you nearly finished?"

"Uh huh," Kagome lifted the bowl to her lips and downed the rest of the stew. "Why? Did you want to change the bandages now?" Her tongue licked the bit of broth lingering on her lips as she placed the container down.

Miroku's eyes caught the motion, temporarily distracting him but he quickly recovered. "Yes, I would."

Kagome placed the bowl beside her bedding and relaxed. He eagerly sat next to her, wraps in his twitching hands. She shot him a glare warning him of impending doom if she should be disrespected. He gave her sly grin. "Now! Where is that wound?"

Kagome blushed, pulling the blanket down with hesitance, exposing her bound thigh. "It's not that bad so you better not spend too long on it."

"Why, are you accusi–"

"Yes!"

He sighed in a dramatic fashion, feigning hurt. Seeing the disbelief on her face, he dropped the act and began to work seriously.

Kagome stared at Miroku's fingers tenderly undoing the bandage that the Shichinintai leader had wrapped. A part of her did not want the bandages undone – the foolish romantic aspect, of course, because she knew very well that, if not tended, the wound could become infected – but, as he placed them there, it reminded her of him. The tingling feeling Miroku's fingers left on her skin brought her to life, it was a sin yet she visualized Bankotsu's fingers instead of Miroku's, softly, tenderly, lovingly, caressing her inner thigh. In her dream, he would kiss her wound and look up at her with his gorgeous ocean sparking eyes and a confident grin on his face. His hands would be so assertive that it would make her entire body flood in a mad blush, leaving her begging for more. Her memory took her back to the events at the brothel, where Bankotsu had nearly been her first.

At that moment, Jakotsu broke through the door, a big grin on his face. "Roku loverboyyyyyy," he sang out, "I came bac – Ew! What the helllll are you doing touching her?!" he shrieked, dropping the logs he was inconveniently holding.

Kagome woke up from her daydream, dazed and blush still lingering on her skin. Miroku was also caught with a reddened face, his hands close enough to undiscovered territory for Jakotsu to freak out about.

"Shit! I leave you two alone for one minute! One fucking minute! And you guys are at it? Really, Roku! Really?! I thought you had more taste than that!"

Kagome was totally not insulted. Nope, not at all. "Stupid drag queen..." she muttered, irate. Not only did he interrupted the best dream I've ever had, he... I mean... Awkward silence. A mental curse flooded her mind as she realized the meaning behind her unspoken words. The schoolgirl part of her was trying to bury the words and feelings back into the recesses of her mind but the wiser part of her had already long accepted the meaning behind those words. She did not need to voice them; she already knew. She had felt the same with Inuyasha and past experiences taught well.

"It really wasn't like that!" Miroku cried out, hands raising in the air to show for his innocence. He paused, his mind clicking all the pieces into place. "Wait, why am I justifying myself to you?"

Jakotsu shrugged but went back to talking. "Roku-love, that was very disgusting of you, touching a female like that. Don't you know that vaginas are gross? Ew." He paused, stopping to sigh deeply. "Unfortunately, my sexy monk, I will have to leave your side as I can feel my leader calling for me."

"That's probably him celebrating," Kagome snorted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Jakotsu shot a sharp glare at her. "I will be taking that back to Bankotsu." Before he finished his sentence, he strode over to her and tore the haori away from her possession. "You won't be needing that anymore." Without waiting for her to respond, he draped the haori over his shoulder, and exited out the door, leaving both Miroku and Kagome blown away by his brief presence.

Miroku watched the male leave with such grace, carrying out with the haori of the Shichinintai's leader; he did not care for the fabric and, frankly, he was happy to see it removed from his line of vision. It was a simple yet forceful reminder of the battle that he had lost to a savage for the heart of his fair maiden. His violet eyes glanced at her still figure, slouched over, her hand to her chest. He knew her. He knew her better than anyone else. He knew that some part of her wanted to chase after Jakotsu and bring back the memory of her love. To her, it held significance, the same significance that Inuyasha's fire rat coat once did. He could recall with ease all the times how she could cling to the blood colored fabric, perhaps feeling safe just to be near the hanyou. She is a romantic but romantics do not belong in an era such as this, an era paved with blood shed and violence, he thought with despondence.

"Kagome-sama," he called out to her.

In a method lacking life, she turn to face him, the corners of her mouth forcing themselves to tilt upward. Her warm eyes, while still alive, did not have the usual fiery edge they were known for. She said nothing but he knew he had her attention. The atmosphere became an eerie muteness.

"You are in love with Bankotsu," Miroku susurrated, staring at her with tender eyes.

Tremulous feelings bubbled behind the brown of her eyes as she mulled over his words, despite knowing the answer. Her gaze drifted down to her lap where both hands rested. Her lips began to tremble slightly and, when she lifted her head to give him her answer, she realized that no sound came out from her mouth. Glassy gems dropped from her eyes, leaving darkened spots on the material on which they fell. "Mir... Miroku..." she cried softly, her fingers tracing the path of her tears on her cheek.

He moved beside her, enveloping her in his arms. Her tears now poured from her eyes and she was biting her lip down to suppress the mangled sounds that were trying to escape. Her arms wrapped around him, her fists clenching his robs. "Miroku..." she wept, a deep red bruising her cheeks. "Why... why does this always happen to me?" she asked, her voice showcasing all of her insecure emotions. He felt her body quivering.

It was a shame he could give her no definite answer. What could he tell her that would make her tears cease and allow her to smile again? Nothing. There was only one person who could do that now and he was not here. Miroku had already come to understand that, despite his wishes, she would continue to love Bankotsu. He only prayed that in the end she would be smiling and for that he would give up his life. But life was unkind and unpredictable and he could offer her only what she wanted of him. It was only a shame she did not want his heart as he wanted hers. Instead, he just smiled at her, running his fingers through her wavy, raven hair. "Kagome, let it all out." And she did.

-.-.-.-

"Kagome-chan, please do wait up on this feeble old man! He is not as young as he used to be!"

A wide grin spread across her lips as she watched the struggling monk carrying her backpack. "That's what you get for that stunt you pulled earlier!"

Miroku gazed at the girl, searching her eyes for a strand of pity to exploit, but he saw none. Her teasing smile offered him nothing. He groaned, readjusting the enormous backpack that strained his back. "But really, Kagome-chan, why must you insist on bringing your home?" he joked, feigning a whimpering tone.

She raised an eyebrow at him. "We're almost to the cabin! Come on!"

Miroku watched as she paced ahead of them, reveling in her new found vigor. It had been nearly one week since Kagome's breakdown but immediately afterwards, she had returned to her optimistic self. It had seemed that the past month's events were taking their toll on her and, not having an adequate outlet for her emotions, she could no longer contain it. Or that's what it seemed to be anyway as she never did tell him what happened to her that day nor did she ever give him the answer to his stated question. But by the occasional twinkle in her eye and her actions, namely her mid-break daydreaming, he knew her answer. Miroku was also well aware that she knew of his suspicions but she made no point in denying them. She simply dodged any questions regarding Bankotsu, preferring to change the topic to something mundane. As long as she's happy. He allowed himself a small smile.

"Miroku!"

Said monk snapped out of his trance. He looked up to see the girl (as well as himself) in front of the cabin that had become like a home for them. Where they really already here?

"You'd better not be thinking anything perverted," she commented, her straight face failing at concealing the slight curve of her lips.

"I can honestly say that, for once, I was not."

She nodded with caution – he still wasn't above taking advantage of her trust in him – and went inside of the wooden house, Miroku following after her.

-.-.-.-

They found themselves sitting where they had sat a week ago, in-between the two a large pot void of contents. Though the two dark haired people sat relaxed, their conversation regarded an significant, serious topic.

"I know that I haven't told you anything about what happened that night... the night I was hurt..." Kagome began with hesitance. It had been a subject she'd been avoiding all week but she needed to tell him. It was only right. Whatever was happening to her friend would not be revealed unless everyone could contribute whatever information they knew. "I had run into Bankotsu," here, she paused to look at Miroku whose resolve stayed firm, "and while we were arguing, Sango appeared."

Miroku leaned forward, inclining himself on one thoughtfully posed hand. "Go on."

"Bankotsu told me to be weary of her because she was in a battle stance..." she frowned, her hands shaking in her lap. She cried out, "She looked like she was really going to attack us! Like we were her prey, Miroku! I... I couldn't believe it..." Kagome inhaled, continuing on, "She had been hiding a scroll from us."

"Do you know what the contents of this scroll were?"

Kagome looked up at him, turning crimson in shame. "I'm not one hundred percent sure since it was kind of poetic but... I... I think it said that Sango was to be married to a man," she swallowed, "a man named Hayate."

At this, Miroku's eyebrows arched. "Ah, does this explain your sudden interest in the 'Hayate the Slayer' legend?"

She nodded. "You mentioned that the Hayate of legend was a demon slayer so I thought that maybe that could be Sango's fiancé but the age gap would be really big so it wouldn't be possible."

Miroku leaned back, rubbing his chin. "Well, I believe I may have to disagree with you. You would not know this being as you are from a vastly different era but here it is common for a much older man to marry a younger girl, even when she has just entered her child bearing years."

Her body shivered. "But he'd be older, like forty or fifty now, right?"

Miroku sighed. "About, yes."

She just couldn't imagine Sango marrying an older man; not that there was anything wrong with marrying someone older, it was just that Sango had too much pride and vitality to be tied down to some older gentleman. But it was that determination which Sango directed on her scroll journey that confused Kagome the most. "Would Sango really want to settle down...?"

Miroku tensed. "Although she is a demon slayer and is proud, she is still a woman and yet... I feel that there is an important detail which I am missing." He stopped for a few moments then asked, "Tell me Kagome, what did the scroll look like?"

"It was the most beautiful scroll I ever saw," she began, a certain shine behind her eyes. "It was golden and it had two delicate red tassel-like strings and that's how the scroll was tied. There were engravings on it – it looked like it was carefully made, with a lot of time spent on it. And the writing inside was calligraphy, written perfectly in black ink."

"A very beautiful marriage scroll? Sango is from respected slayer blood, am I correct?"

"I'm not sure but I think so."

"Well, if she isn't than perhaps this Hayate was. During these times it is uncommon to use such resources for any ordinary person."

Kagome shook her head, "But how long did Sango have this scroll with her?"

"This I do not know although I suspect it is around the time she began to act strangely..."

"Which was around the time Naraku revived Bankotsu."

"I would say some time after his revival. I do not think that Bankotsu has had any previous interaction with Sango outside of Naraku's interference. But now that it is brought up, perhaps those times in which Sango was away from the group she was actually meeting with someone...?"

Kagome's body trembled as she recalled what Sango had shouted in her fury. How that she was with Inuyasha. Kagome turned her eyes to Miroku. He seemed ignorant of the thought. If he doesn't know, I don't want to bother him... I'm still not sure about it myself and I don't want to cause any fights. "I have no idea who it could have been."

Miroku nodded in agreement. "I will have to investigate this on my own."

"Actually..." Kagome began, "I also want to ask you something. Have you seen Kaede-sama recently?"

Miroku raised his eyebrow in question. "Not recently. As you know Kagome, we have all been unlucky as of late. The group is no longer together and have been in the midst of some... emotional confusion."

Kagome flushed, knowing she was right in the middle of it.

Seeing her apparent distraction, Miroku revived the conversation. "Why do you ask?"

Kagome gathered her thoughts before beginning. "See... Kaede-sama sent someone with a message to me a while back. They said Kaede-sama needed me there immediately. However, when I got there, she was not there." The girl paused, adding in, "That was when I read Sango's scroll."

Miroku scrunched his eyebrows. "Now that you mention it though, Kaede-sama has been unusually absent. I am slightly apprehensive now..."

Suddenly, Kagome was beginning to feel the depth of the situation. It was a small chance but if all of these events where interrelated, something horrible was in the works. The only one who could be behind something like this would be Naraku. She wasn't even sure if Naraku was involved or even if this was all just a part of his plan. However, knowing enough about Naraku's past plans, she had learned that merely dismissing the idea because it was unlikely was an issue all on its own. The hanyou was always vigilant, always aware, and always planning several steps ahead of the Inu-tachi. Would it even be possible to obtain this information on her own? No. But I do know someone who might know something.

"Miroku!" Kagome shouted, startling the still monk. "It's a bit far fetched but I have a feeling Naraku might be behind all of this."

Miroku sighed. "I suspected something of the sort but I cannot find a thought process that would connect them all in a way that Naraku would benefit."

"I can't either but I know someone I think might."

The priest tensed, his shoulders tensing, and his hands clenching. "Kagome, if it is who I think it is, you had better be careful. I do not know what his intentions towards you are."

There was a fear that Miroku failed to keep from seeping into his voice and it was this fear that made Kagome's heart begin to accelerate. She did not know Bankotsu's motives either. She did know that Naraku was the one that brought him back to life so his motives were most likely along the lines of eliminating the Inu-tachi. For the most part though, the times she spent with Bankotsu were favorable – he only tried to kill her early on before they had gotten to know each other – and he had even taken up the role of close friend, especially during that time she had caught Inuyasha and Kikyou together. She had been devastated and it was Bankotsu who was there for her. Yes, the thought of Inuyasha with another still saddened her but she had found herself drawn more to the optimistic mercenary with every passing day. Even though his feelings toward her were not yet known to her, there was no way he could still think of her as an enemy. Right? I mean, there were plenty of chances for him to kill me but he didn't.

"Kagome, I am going to go to the village to investigate Kaede-sama's whereabouts. I will also be on the lookout for any information regarding Sango as well as any possible plan Naraku may be conjuring." Miroku studied Kagome for a moment, seeing the resolve in her stance. "Am I correct in my speculation that you will not be accompanying me?" Miroku inflected.

Kagome nodded her head. "I am going to go find the Shichinintai and get any information I can about Naraku's plan out of them."

"You do realize the seriousness of this, right?"

"Miroku, I know. I'll be fine."

"I will trust your judgment on this, Kagome, but promise me you will be careful."

"Yes, of course."

The priest stood up from his spot and offered a hand to the girl. She took it, helping her rise from her position to her feet. "We will meet here after we have done as much as we can. If you have found nothing with no signs of any possible information, meet me here in a week's time. Best of luck, Kagome-chan."

"Good luck to you too!" Kagome beamed.

Together, they walked outside the hut and, before departing from each other's company, gave each other a reassuring smile and a farewell. The composed monk proceeded toward the road that lead downhill, toward the town, while the young priestess ventured deeper into the forest, already beginning her search.

-.-.-.-

She couldn't help the frenzied emotions within her. She was both frightened and fired up, both baffled and enlightened. No one knew what events laid before her but she felt as if she were ready to take on anything. She would find out why it was that Sango was acting the way she was, Naraku's reasons for reviving the Shichinintai, as well as straightening out her feelings for Bankotsu. She gripped the straps of her backpack in anticipation.

Her thoughts were derailed when she heard a disturbance in the trees behind her. Kagome's heart began to pound against her breast and she felt her throat go dry. She could feel its aura; it was a youkai. She allowed one hand to drop from the bag's strap, carefully maneuvering her now free arm to reach for an arrow nestled in the basket behind her. She felt her finger graze the arrowhead before her wrist was seized by a significantly more powerful hand.

Her heart slammed against her ribcage as she turned her head to see the face of her hunter. Her lips parted slightly and her voice came out a breathy tremor. "Is that you... Inuyasha?"

-.-.-.-

It's late (as usual) but here it is. It's really weird now that the story is unfolding and beginning to answer questions since prior chapters have asked more than answered. I'm starting to fell almost hesitant on how much I should really give away! Heh heh.