The closest that humankind has ever been to absolute extinction was during the 'Great Demonic War'. It is said that almost eighty percent of the entire human population was wiped out. If it weren't for the original nine heroes, the humans surely would've lost. After the Demon King's defeat, his final curse caused the entire demon world to vanish from this world, along with all of its inhabitants. The only trace of the demons that were left behind was us, the fakes that the demon lord's curse had created.
Naturally, mournings for their loved ones turned to suspicion which swiftly turned to fear and anger.
"Demons in disguise!" They would cry out, "In sheep's clothing!"
And so the "Demon Hunts", otherwise known today as the "Fake Massacre", began.
She tripped on a tree root and fell causing several sharp twigs to dig into her knees and hands.
"IT WENT THIS WAY!"
She got up. Ignoring the pain. She ran and ran. As fast as her bleeding legs could take her. She clutched her shoulder which had an arrow deep inside it.
In front of her, she could only see more trees and hopeless darkness. Behind her, were the merciless flames of torches that followed no matter how fast she ran. The words, "Demon!", "Monster!" were yelled out from the distance.
The previous group she was with. They were all dead. Killed. Burnt at the stakes. Hung by trees. She had seen it all. The cries. The screams of the people she traveled. The way they cried to her for help as she ran away. "HELP US, YOU COWARD!" the last words of one of her friends before a pitchfork was plunged into his back. It all kept repeating in her mind.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry." She whispered over and over to herself. What else was she meant to do? It's not like she could've done anything. That what she told herself at least.
She fell. A burning rush of agony coursed through her leg within seconds. She looked. Another fresh arrow had pierced it. Of all places, it was her leg, the one thing that kept her alive until now.
She heard the stomping footsteps come closer and closer.
She screamed. Begging for mercy as many hands ripped her hair, scratched her face and tore her clothes.
Her eyes were closed but she could already feel the noose wrapped around neck and the flames burning her legs.
She struggled, kicked and push but it was futile. It was all futile against the fiery cries of vengence that emitted from the humans whose loved ones had been slaughtered by the demons. Her voice was completely drowned out by the floods of the yelling and chanting. She could do nothing against of all it.
The cries for slaughter.
The screams of hatred.
The torches of burning malice.
The rising noose.
Silence? Was she dead already? She did not feel the noose go up.
Perhaps the pain she had built up over time had made her numb to the hanging.
She assumed she was dead.
Until she felt a pair of gentle, warm hands check her pulse
She opened her eyes and came face to face with a woman who looked exactly like her.
"It's ok...you're safe now."
Soldiers arrived at the scene. Many humans were found unconscious in the forest but fortunately alive. Pitchforks, farming equlipment and burnt out torches were scattered all across the area.
"Spread out! Find as many injured as you can! " An average sized young man with short black hair shouted as he stood among the aftermath. He wore a blue jacket with a badge. On his back was a pair of twin iron swords.
His name was General Ennard.
He listened carefully as one of the villagers cried out to him, telling him how an evil fake with demonic powers appeared out of nowhere and started harming her innocent friends. He expected nothing less from a demon although something about the testimony bothered him greatly. According to the crying woman, the fake that attacked them wielded a katana, which was a weapon that none of the nine original heroes used. He could tell the witness wasn't lying.
It most likely stole it from somewhere. He thought to himself. But that was the least of his concern.
"We must make haste!" He turned to his men once the innocent villagers had been secured, "There is an fake out there powerful enough to cause all this. We must find it. THE DEMON MUST BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE! FOR THE SAKE OF ALL HUMANKIND!"
The soldiers cheered as they raised their weapons into the sky.
"Will she be okay?"
"It's quite serious, but I don't think she'll die."
"So it's not serious then."
"Serious as in life or death. Stop nick-picking my words."
"Well we've done what we can. All we can do is let time do its job."
"How long do you think it'll take?"
"How am I suppose to know? I'm not a doctor."
"None of us are."
"We should make sure Yukari doesn't come near her. I know she just wants to be good healer but she might accidentally kill her."
"Which Yukari you taking about? Haha."
"You know which one I'm talking about."
"I know, I know. It was a bad joke."
"Hey Zeno. Could you please pass that to me that?"
"Haha, which Zen-"
"Sorry, sorry. Last time I make that joke, I swear."
"That's what he said last week."
"I wonder what we're having for dinner today?"
"I'm surprise you still have a appetite after seeing how messed up this girl is."
"So! Anyone want to make bets on where her number is?"
"Back left shoulder."
"I say right in the middle of her back."
"That was such a delayed 'sshh'."
"No seriously guys! She's waking up."
The noisy conversations shifted into loud whispers as if it would stop her from awakening. But she was waking up. At first her sleepiness clouded her judgment as her eyes were still half closed and blurry. But soon the memories of the pitchforks and torches reignited through her memories. Panic boiled up inside her, causing her to start moving. Several hands went to pin her down.
"Whoa whoa. Hey, hey. Slow down...it's ok. No one is going to hurt you here."
Lily woke up to a sight that she did not expect to see. It was the last thing she expected to see. Faces. All looking down at her. There were about 9 faces. To be more precise: four Yukaris, two Lilys, one Aria and two Zenos.
The two Zenos waved while the others smiled awkwardly.
Once she had calmed down, she passed out again.
Lily awoke again in a more calm manner. For the first time in a while, she did not suffer from any nightmares in her slumber.
This time, there was only one person looking over her.
She was a Lily fake just like her. But she did not wear the original Lily's attire like most of her kind. Instead she wore simple brown clothing made of wool with leather sandals. By her waist were two long katanas resting within black sheaths. The two katanas looked different from each other as if they came from completely different places.
"Hello." She greeted, "Nice to meet you. I am a Samurai."
"H-hi." She attempted to get up but was met with a wince of pain. It was then she noticed the bandages wrapped around all her wounds.
"Take it slowly. You will re open your wounds otherwise."
Lily looked around. She was in a cave. A very large, wide open one. The atmosphere of this case was filled with the last thing she expected to hear: chattering, the sound of casual conversations and even some occasional cheering and laughter. And more surprisingly, they were all coming from a community made purely out of fakes. The numbers probably reached about 200. She had never seen so many fakes gathered in one place. You would have never been able to guess that there was a death hunt for fakes.
Throughout the place were campfires, tents, buckets of water, raw meat wrapped in leather, and even several tiny farms that looked like a work in progress.
There was even a small group of fakes trying to build a shack out of wood but seem to be failing miserably at it as she witnessed one of the small pillars fall on top of someone.
It was slightly comforting to see it all. Almost made her forgot about what was happening outside.
"What is this place?" Lily asked.
"An underground cave hidden beneath a desert mountain," The Samurai answered, "but if you mean by us...we are simply a group of fakes looking out for each other."
Lily had never even imagined a community of fakes could even exist. Yet here she was.
"Umm Samurai! Help please." One of the 'builders' called out to them, "Umm, I think we made a 'few' mistakes."
The shack they were creating looked as if it was on the verge of collapsing. In fact, it did collapse.
"Coming!" The Samurai chuckled before looking back at Lily, "Rest well. We are about to have dinner soon."
"Oh? Did the newcomer wake up already?"
"This is another win for the Lilys by the way."
"Hey, if I didn't know any better, the Samurai is being a bit biased here, hahaha!"
"Oh come on, you know she's not like that."
"The food is looking great as always."
"Oi! No eating yet! Wait for everyone else to gather!"
Lily could barely move from her sleeping mat, so 'naturally' the whole cave village moved dinner to centre around her, even going out to move their wooden logs over to her which they used as seats. They all expressed their warm welcomes and greetings.
Lily looked at the piece of meat. 'The meat of giant armoured crabs' she heard someone say. It felt fresh out of the fire. The heat of it almost burnt her hand yet she didn't care. She simply stared at it with shaking hands and eyes of disbelief.
A woman with the same face as the original hero Yukari smiled at her, "Go ahead. There's plenty to go around thanks to the Samurai."
So she did. It was as if colour had re-entered her life the moment the taste slapped against her mouth. A sensation she thought she was never going to have the chance of experiencing ever again.
Her past travelling companions. She suddenly remembered them all. All the times they ate together and worked together to survive. If only they had found this place earlier.
She continued to eat without saying a word, not realising the waterfall of tears flowing down her face.
Everyone watched in silence as each of them could sympathise with every tear that fell from Lily's eyes.
The Samurai placed a hand on her shoulder, "Welcome home."
The night continued. What was meant to be another regular dinner gathering turned into a full blown welcoming celebration. They sung songs, danced, cried together, told stories, and laughed.
"Thank you again for supplying all of the food, Samurai." Said one of the Lily fakes as they were packing up.
"Hahaha! We really would be dead without you." The Zeno fake from earlier laughed.
"There is no need to thank me. All of this is the result of everyone's collaborative effort after all." The Samurai replied.
"Oh come on! Learn to take some credit will ya?" An Arthur fake laughed as he lifted one of the logs with the help of another Arthur fake, "We all own you a huge debt."
"You better not rely on the Samurai for everything though! Get to work!"
"I know I know!"
Once Lily had finally healed enough to walk, she was given a tour around the entire cave system. While the large opening where she originaly woke up in served as the main hub, there was a series of "side caves" that lead to other smaller area that the community had inhabited. What she assumed was just a community of a few hundreds turned out to be a lot more than she originally thought.
"Not everyone joins the gatherings..." The Elizabeth fake who was giving Lily the tour told her, "Many prefer to be left alone..."
She looked around. She saw many other fakes cowering in corners, hugging their knees, and still shivering despite the blankets and fires. Some were repeating the same phrase over and over again. Others looked as if the life had been sucked out of their eyes. Amoung them were other fakes who tended to their needs, providing them company and food whenever they needed it.
Their injuries were a different story. Lily was quite used to the sight. Bloody bandages, broken bones, and missing body parts.
An Arthur fake who was originally laying silently nearby on a mat suddenly began screaming and frantically throwing his arms and legs everywhere, "PLEASE! PLEASE NO! PLEASE!"
Two Aria fakes and a Zeno fake got up from making fires to calm him down.
Before Lily could see the what happened, her tour guide gestured her to move to another section of the caves.
"The Samurai... provides for everyone?" Lily asked, referring to all the supplies that she keeps seeing scattered all around.
"Some have began "night farms", while others have been training to be hunters or scouts in other to lessen the Samurai's workload," The Elizabeth began before then admitting, "But other than that...yes. She's quite amazing isn't she? I don't how she does it but each day she'll comes home when enough monster meat for everyone. To add onto all that, she still manages to save other fakes who are out there and bring in a whole bunch of other useful items like tents, cooking equipment and so on."
"She saved everyone here?"
"For the most part, yes. Especially when this all started. Later on, there were some who stumbled across this place by pure luck, however, many others began appearing here once the community grew large enough. Oh and on some occasions, we've had some beast-man stay here for a short while."
"Yeah but it's highly rare. The beast-men were also hunted by certain groups of humans so their kind are probably still in hiding or...you know... but now that the human's eyes are mostly set on us fakes, many captive beast-men took the chance to escape, which is how some of them ended up staying here for a while. They all left though."
"Hello. How have you been? Settled in already?"
Lily turned around and almost jumped in shock when she saw it was the Samurai. She assumed the Samurai was always too busy.
"Y-yeah. It's been good- no... wonderful, actually."
"I am really glad to hear that," She smiled, "I apologise for not finding the time to talk with you since the day you woke up."
"Oh no, don't be, I know how busy you are." She replied nervously, "Umm... By the way..."
She gave the Samurai an awkward, rigid bow.
"Thank you so much for saving me! I-I... honestly can't thank you enough. "
The Samurai said nothing. The only audible sound was the surrounding chatter from other nearby fakes.
Receiving silence as a response sky rocketed Lily's nervousness. Anxious thoughts filled Lily's head. Was the Samurai expecting something more? Was she being impolite in some way? She was overthinking it. She couldn't see the Samurai's face since her head was still facing the ground.
Instead, she felt a hand, softly place itself on her shoulder.
"I could not save your friends back at that barn. So I do not think I deserve your thanks."
Lily found her entire body to tense up at that exact moment. She instinctively raised her head and stared her straight in the eye. A feeling of deep remorse has flooded the Samurai's eyes. Remorse that shouldn't be hers to feel. From her tone, it sounded as if their deaths were her fault.
"Y-you...were in the barn?"
"Yes... One of your friends took their last breath on my lap... If you do not mind me asking. What happened?"
Lily's head stared down at the dirt ground. Her eyes went wide as her hands trembled, "We... we met kind humans. An old couple. They gave us food and shelter without a second thought. But then one of us accidentally exposed themselves...and then... we... eventually the...the whole town knew... the old couple, they... they were... they were... beaten and hanged just because they-"
She was interrupted when the Samurai placed her index finger on top of her lips. The Samurai didn't need to hear the rest to know what happened after that. She had heard this story too many times.
"... Your friend left a final message for you..."
That was something Lily didn't expect to hear, "R-really... wait... W-was he a Baron fake?"
"What did he say?"
Despite it already being a few weeks since the incident, the Samurai remembered it quite vividly. The way he cried with blood flowing down his face. The way he trembled as death slowly took him away. The Samurai could almost still feel the blood that oozed out the gaping holes in his back and onto her hands. He was the one who told the Samurai about Lily who had managed to get away.
"PLEASE SAVE HER!..." He begged, he coughed viciously between each sentence, "She managed to get away but the soldiers went after her! Forget me please! She's like a sister to me... Tell her... please...tell her that I'm so sorry! IM SO SORRY!"
Unknown to the Samurai, this Baron fake was also the same friend who called Lily a coward, during what Lily thought was his final moments.
Placing her hands over her mouth to subdue a scream, Lily fell to the knees. Once again, she cried. The Samurai hugged her in silence, letting her to cry over her shoulder.
Even those around them who were initially watching, went away to give her space.
They stayed like that for almost an hour until eventually Lily fell asleep.
One day Lily, whose number is 4339, decided to follow the Samurai on her many walks, wondering what some of her day to day activities were like. The Samurai was more than happy to let her do so.
"Samurai, are you sure these plants will grow?" One of the Jack fakes in charge of the 'farms' asked as the Samurai was walking by.
They were in a section that laid on the very edge of the area where the ceiling was slanted. A place where the light of their torches could barely reached it.
"Yes. In fact, 'night plums' aren't able to grow in the light so make sure to keep them in complete darkness. Nor do they need trees. Funny enough, they grow like strawberries. But do be patient. They take a significantly longer time to grow than usual plants."
"I see... How do they taste?"
The Samurai smiled, "They are known to be quite nutritious."
"Yeah but what about the taste?"
"...This is not a time where we can be picky with our food."
"I know. I know. I'm just curious. Do they taste like normal plums?"
"Well... they are quite nutritious."
The Samurai and Lily walked through the several tunnels inhabited by fakes. As they did, every single person they walked by greeted them.
"Her Samurai! Taking the newbie on a walk I see."
"She has been here long enough to not be considered a 'newbie' anymore, Eve." The Samurai replied playfully.
"Hahaha, true! I guess time just flies as the humans like to say."
"Greetings Samurai. Morning." Another different fake Eve called out, "It's a lovely day today isn't it."
"Morning Samurai!" Said a passing Arthur fake, "Another busy day? We'll be counting on you again!"
"Samurai! Good to see you again! How is everything!"
"Good morning, sister!"
"Aye Samurai! How's hunting been like lately?"
"Yo Samurai! Don't push yourself alright? We all appreciate you!"
"Sister samurai! Just the person we love to see!"
"Oh helle there, Samurai!"
What was even more impressive than the countless of greetings was that the Samurai swiftly managed to reply to everyone. It seemed like the Samurai personally knew every person that greeted her. Even some fakes who shivered from unbearable traumas would suddenly light up at the sight of the Samurai's presence. It also occurred to Lily that she probably would have to start remembering everyone's numbers and their tones of speaking.
"Samurai! Samurai! Samurai!"
A Baron fake called out to the pair walking by.
"Check this out!" The Baron raised both his arms in the air and faced a wall, "Fireball!"
Despite how dramatically he yelled that word, a small flame that looked half the sized of a torch light shot out from his palm. The flame gently caressed the wall before disintegrating.
"I can only use it once every 30 minutes but its so cool right!"
"Oh wow! Was that a new skill?" The Samurai complemented.
"Yep! All the other Baron fakes still can't do this. I tried teaching them how I think I unlocked the skill but none of the Baron can unlock it."
"That's just how skill trees are. But that must mean something quite special."
The Baron fake placed his hands on his hips and puffed his chest up high, "I know right! One day, I'll be just like the real Baron."
For a split moment, Lily saw a look of concern flash across the Samurai's eyes before returning to normal.
"Then I'll be able to fight along side you against all the bad guys!" He grinned widely, revealing many missing teeth.
"Thank you Baron, but I honestly pray the day you have to fight for your life will never come."
Near a corner, Lily spotted three Elizabeth fakes, attempting to fan their wooden fans in the same manner as the Original Elizabeth. Further ahead, she caught a single Jack fake posing with his starter wooden pistol and then near him was an Aria fake, looking at her tiny wings in disappointment.
Being close to death's grasp had caused Lily to forget about that desire: her desire to be like the original Lily. She remembered constantly repeating a phrase that was "allegedly" said by the real Lily. At least, that is according to what other Lily fakes had claimed. She still wasn't sure whether it was something she wanted to continue pursuing.
This time the Samurai was approached by a group of four Arthur fakes. All of them had huge grins on their faces while one of them was hiding something behind his back.
"Guess what?" He asked excitedly.
"What it is boys... and why are you covered in scratches?" The Samurai asked, slightly concerned.
"Well... Tada!" The Arthur fake in front The four of us revealed what was behind his back.
In his hands, wrapped in a piece of dirty cloth was a small piece of what seemed to be monster meat.
"We managed to kill a desert weasel!"
Judging from their scratches, it looked like the four of them went to war with that weasel. Despite that, the proud grins on all four of their faces were filled to the brim with glee. It was hard for Lily not to feel happy for them. The Samurai on the other hand:
"So... you went outside then?"
All four of them froze at those words. One of them nervously laughed out loud while the two others scratched their heads with awkward smiles on their faces. They had broken one of the rules after all. While the main exit was in the main area where everyone could see, Lily was later shown that these deep caves did have several hidden passages to the outside. Passages that everyone was made aware of in case of emergencies.
"It was his idea!"
"I just followed them!"
"It wasn't my fault!"
"It was him! Not me!"
They were interrupted when the Samurai, much to everyone's surprise, wrapped her arms around all four Arthur fakes in one big bear hug even though they were taller than her.
"Thank you," Said the Samurai, "It warms my heart greatly that you four would go through such lengths for me. But please understand that there are many people out there hunting us down. We only established that rule for yours and everyone's safety. If you want to go outside, you're free to come with me. That way I can at least assure your safety."
They all looked down at the ground. One of them dragged their foot across the dirt.
"We know. But we feel like coming with you would only slow you down and we wanted to lessen your burden as much as we can."
"And for that, I am incredibly grateful. But I beg you, at least let me know next time."
"... okay... We're sorry."
"Haha, don't be." The Samurai chuckled, "That aside, shouldn't you boys get that piece of meat cooked and ready for celebrating."
Their spirits were revived almost instantly at the sound of those words.
"Alright then! Come on my brothers! 'Arthur hunters' move out! Ready, 1, 2, 3. Go!"
As a group of four, they then marched in unison on their way to another area. It looked as if they had rehearsed that march just so they could step forward in perfect timing.
Lily watched them as they left. When they were out of sight, the Samurai quietly said, "Did you know that... those Arthur fakes are not even 3 months old yet?"
"In fact, many fakes here haven't reached over 1 month yet... some are only a week old... quite sad to think about it, is it not?"
"Yeah..." Even Lily herself was surprised that she managed to live this long. Perhaps she was just lucky.
To be continued.
A/N Been a while. As I said in my profile, just assume that updates will come once a decade but yes, I'm not dead yet. Life has just been busy. Apologise for the long wait. This chapter was originally around 8000 words and so I decided to split it so chapter 14 will come out soon. This whole Samurai arch thing was actually meant to be only be one chapter long but it looks like it'll take at least 3 chapters. Apologies for any typos, I will do my best to get rid of them all.
This Chapter was finished on the 01/07/2022ns220.127.116.11da2