Chapter l: Reminisce

A single dark-haired male stood on a cliff, the night breeze whistling silently through him, causing him to shiver just the slightest. Lately the temperature was dropping; fall would soon become winter. Eyes the color of almond stared into the distance, at the lights below. Hundreds and hundreds of people down there, he imagined, bustled about – attending festivals in their cute yukatas; people confessing their love; couples sharing loving embraces, and much more.

His eyes pinpointed one area – a town whose bright yellow lights shone above all the others.

Hilkham.

His hometown.

It was this very day six months earlier that he'd chosen to leave Hilkham. A memory forever etched into his brain.

A Damer attacked Hilkham six months ago, nearly destroying it, but a group of kids had defended its residents. One of the teenagers was injured, and the dark-haired male, being the medic of Hilkham, had tended to her wounds. Upon seeing the birthmark on his forearm, the girl had confirmed his identity as one of their own. All four teenagers laid out the truth to him – the fact that he bore the mark of one of the original nine warriors – meant that staying in Hilkham any longer would endanger its inhabitants. So he'd left with them.

"Gilem!" He turned around, hooded cape followed suit. Ralela stood next to a carriage, hands cupped on either side of her mouth.

"The carriage is fixed! Come on!"

He – Gilem – couldn't help but smile at the sight of her. Ralela was sixteen, a year younger than him, but her wits were beyond that of a sixteen-year-old. Her fiery red hair was pulled into two long ponytails. She wore a beige top under a thin blue mid-waist poncho comparable to her blue eyes that have mesmerized Gilem from the moment they met. With that were maroon colored skorts and a pair of black laced up combat boots.

Even more, she was his. Gilem's and no one else's. She was his soulmate; this girl, who was the first person he opened up to, who'd stolen the first sight of his body, his first kiss, his first everything. Ralela Fua, the girl who'd stolen his heart.

Picking up his bag, Gilem swung it over his shoulder and walked towards her. "Ladies first," Gilem gestured at the carriage. "Be careful... I might see your panties."

"I'm wearing skorts, so you won't be able to," she replied, sticking her tongue out at him. Gilem was always teasing her, seeing how Ralela is so clueless at times. He chuckled, and climbed into the carriage after her, pausing midway to steal another glance back.

Closing his eyes in resolution, Gilem let the curtain go.

He sat back, leaning against the woodened window frame, and sighed.

The carriage had began to move.

Gilem felt a firm hand on his shoulder. Without looking, he knew who it was.

"You okay?" Calyin's deep, soothing voice asked.

"Mm."

He'd hated that voice, the voice that put all women in danger, the voice that could persuade anyone to do absolutely anything at any given time. He'd hated everything about Calyin, from head to toe, his appearance and right down to his personality.

But that was all in the past.

"'Mm?' And what the hell is 'Mm?" Calyin said with a bit of irritation in his voice.

"I dunno."

"You… " – Calyin grabbed the younger male by his collar – "I know it's still hard for you to accept this, but try and get a grip on it."

Gilem looked up into those sad, lonely green eyes he'd always mistook for coldness.

"…"

"What?"

"I love you, Oniichan…"

"…eh?" Although taken aback by the sudden statement, this wasn't the first time Gilem had said that. Calyin had heard that line only one other time – on the brink of his death over a month earlier. He'd known that Gilem has always hated him. Even so, he never ceased to befriend the younger male. Calyin knew deep down that angry exterior of Gilem's was a reflection of Calyin himself: lonely, confused, scared. Within the entire group, Calyin probably understood how Gilem felt best, for he too had left his hometown. Had left behind his family, friends. All due to a fate sealed upon them at birth, marking a bunch of adolescents as future heroes.

But that was all in the past.

Although the two had gotten off at a rough start, they were now closer than any blood brothers.

Hesitantly Calyin pulled Gilem into a hug. "Me, too, kid. Me, too."

"Oh, do I feel the love. And really, when did the two of you started dressing identically!"

Several giggles erupted. "Stop it, guys," Ralela said.

The two males broke the hug, looked down at themselves and at each other. Both had on a hooded berry colored cape, brown vest over a white flannel rolled up at the sleeves, jeans and equally dark blue boots.

Bimer Gorbylle, who'd made the sarcastic remark, wore his usual black clothing, fishnets under a v-neck long-sleeved shirt with leather pants and boots. He had shoulder length black hair and although it wasn't distinguishable, he was very muscular. At the age of five ten years ago, his aunt who was the only family he'd ever known, died under the talons of a Damer protecting him.

"If you want a hug that bad, then ask for one," Gilem said, turning towards Bimer.

"You don't have to be so nasty about it, Gorby," Calyin nodded in agreement.

"I'm not being na – wait, what did you just call me!"

"'Gorby'. You know, short for 'Gorbylle'."

"'Gorby'… Pfft."

Bimer turned his head. "Don't laugh, Toh!"

Toh Sizhan, the youngest of the group and possibly the girliest. On her head crowned a tiara that went well with her chained knee-length knitted pink dress, similar colored arm warmers and platform boots. The only non-pink item of clothing on her was the pair of dark gray cotton leggings. Toh was barely thirteen. When she turned eight, those large and innocent gray eyes which contrasted her personality had witnessed the murder of her entire family.

"Why? It's such a cute nickname."

"It is not!"

"But you respond to it..."

"I do not!"

"Don't yell at me...!" yelled Toh, fists in front of her.

"Hey, Gorby!" a voice called from the front.

"What do you want, coachman?"

"Nothing, Gorby," the new voice said.

"Don't say my name unless you've got something to say, Saehil, " Bimer half-growled.

"See? You responded," Calyin, Gilem, Ralela, and Toh said in unison, smirks on their faces, followed by chuckles and giggles.

"He even admitted it to being his name," Saehil added in a sing-song tone from the front.

Black orbs widened, Bimer obviously realizing his slip. "Gah! Whatever! Call me whatever you want!" exclaimed Bimer as he slouched, crossed his arms, and pouted at his stupidity.

"Don't be like that, Gorby. We still love you," reassured Toh, placing a kiss on his cheek that caused his pale face to turn scarlet.

"So where are we heading?" Saehil heard Ralela ask. The nineteen-year-old blond male glanced at the scar on his hand before replying, "Ytevai."

"Wouldn't that take us a good day or so to get to?" Gilem questioned.

"Yes. And in time for the anniversary of Ut – of someone I wish to pay my respects to. Afterward –"

"Wait, you started to say – " Toh interrupted, when Bimer's hand covered her mouth. A somber expression was on his face, and he told her to ask no further with the shake of his head. Toh nodded, showing that she understood. And not just her; they all understood: Calyin, Bimer, Ralela, and Gilem.

"Ahem," – Calyin clears his throat – "you were saying...?"

Saehil smiled to himself, realizing the diversion from an uncomfortable subject. They were so adorable at times! Before Saehil had found them – had found each and every one of them and brought them together – they all had made choices, each having a past. Saehil knows them, and he too has a past, though not to the others' knowledge. But what is known is that his choices were too great; sacrifices too many; the scars he bears too deep. To the group, Saehil was their savior, the father in their home whom they trust and highly respected. They know better than to ask what he does not wish to answer.

"I was saying, that afterwards we should pay the high priestess a visit, to see if she will be able to help us locate the other Kooketsu members."

"Couldn't we do that?"

"We could, Toh, but such rites require energy, and right now we need all the energy we have," answered Calyin.

Legend has it that a group of individuals separated themselves from the rest of the world upon the first prophecy of the apocalypse. They sought out and sold their souls to the devil, in return obtaining immortality and dark magic. To keep their immortality, there must be sacrifices. For this reason, countless lives, young and old, were slaughtered. This group of soulless beings came to be known as Damers. Damers' acts drove fear into every human, and as time passed, Damers multiplied, for greed and fear of dying has clouded the human mind and heart. Even so, there arose a group of nine brave hearts who desired an end to such heinous deeds, called the Kooketsu. Unfortunately, the Kooketsu were defeated, as they were greatly outnumbered. Conversely, their souls are said to live on, found in nine people scattered around the world who bears a mark of integrity. So for millennia mankind has held on to the shred of hope that one day the Kooketsu will be again.

"And if the priestess isn't of any help, we'll just go where the wind leads us!" Saehil grinned.

Today, six out of nine have congregated; there is hope for mankind once more, and the ray of light peeking out from beyond the horizon represents just that.


A/N: This sounds like it could be a prologue...but maybe that's just me? Even if it does, it really is a chapter, whose name kind of sucked... All in all, tell me what you think – what I could improve on, mistakes anywhere, what you liked or did not like, blah blah blah blah. You know, the usual.

A few other things: when I say "everything", no, I don't mean she took his virginity, so for those of you with your mind in the gutter, get out of it.

Also, Dark Hope was not something I thought too long or too hard on. If there are any suggestions for the title, feel free to tell me. Thanksie!