Chapter 1:

The Crimson Battleaxe

Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper


The familiar sound of a bell chimed throughout my humble little shop. I looked up from the book that was currently commanding my attention, in order to greet my latest customer.

“Hello, welcome to the Fantasy Shoppe, how may I be of service?” I spoke with a friendly cadence to my voice, trained by years of dealing with all kinds of customers and clients.

I knew from a single glance that this girl was going to be one of “those” customers, but there wasn’t much that I could do about that. As long as they’re willing to pay, a customer is a customer, no matter how difficult they may be…

“Can it!” she yelled aggressively, slamming her double-bitted battleaxe onto my newly refurbished countertop. “I’ve got a job for you!”

I rolled my eyes as I inspected the weapon. One of the blades appeared to be heavily charred, negatively affecting the weight distribution and rendering the whole axe nigh unusable.

“Did you try to take down a Dragon all by yourself? That’s a rookie mistake. You’re lucky that your armor is still in one piece.”

“Shut up! I didn’t come here to be chastised! Just fix my stupid battleaxe,” the girl scowled, angrily placing her hands on her hips.

“Must be that time of month,” I chuckled to myself.

“H-hey, I heard that! Do you think I’m just gonna take abuse from some stupid NPC?!”

I stared at the girl blankly, adjusting my glasses. “You must be new here,” I grinned.

“…You’re aware that the Shopkeepers in Utopia Online are real players… Right, Miss?”

…Oh, right. Did I forget to mention that this was a VRMMO?


Have you ever watched an anime where the protagonist is playing a highly-advanced virtual-reality RPG? Isn’t it strange how there’s always one player in the hero’s group who has the role of a Shopkeeper? Haven’t you ever wondered who, in a world of endless possibilities, would ever choose to play the mundane role of a Shopkeeper? …That would be me, Yuu Watanabe. (Of course, that isn’t my real name. That’s simply just the screen-name I chose when I began playing Utopia Online.)

Before me stood a female Crusader clad in red armor. Her Gear didn’t look very valuable, so I assumed that she was still a newbie. That, as well as the fact that she had thought that I was an NPC…

“I’m SO sorry!” The Crusader’s face was as red as her armor, as she apologized profusely for her earlier misunderstanding.

“It’s quite alright,” I affirmed, “I’m well used to it by now.” I paused, offering out my hand. “I should apologize for my earlier remark as well. That was highly unprofessional of me.”

The girl took my hand into her own and shook it. “No problem! Guess that makes us even!”

I let go of her hand as I picked up her axe, temporarily placing it in my inventory.

“This thing’s badly damaged. Do you want me to replace the blade, or should I give you an entirely new axe?”

She leered at me as if I was a total idiot.

“…Right, of course. You want a replacement blade. It is the cheaper of the two options, after all…”

I must admit that I had hoped that a noob like her wouldn’t have known that. Any extra cash is a win in my book, regardless of the underhanded methods I have to use to get it. I sighed as I opened the door to the storage-closet, located behind my countertop.

“Follow me, Miss. There should be a replacement blade back here somewhere…”

She walked in as I closed the door behind us. “Hey, I never got your name,” she stated rather matter-of-factly.

“Watanabe. Yuu Watanabe. You can call me Yuu,” I smiled.

“Well, nice to meet you, Yuu-chan. I’m—”

“There’s no need,” I interrupted, opening up a menu. “Utopia Online allows you to see the names of fellow players with the simple touch of a button.”

I scrolled through the menu, stopping on the View Other Players’ Usernames and Levels section and selecting 'Yes'. I then looked over at my customer, a name and level now appearing above her avatar.

Rose_the_Deathbringer – Level 1 Crusader

“Rose, huh? Is that you real name? …You don’t have to answer that, if you’d rather keep that information private,” I smiled. “I wouldn’t want to make a paying customer uncomfortable.”

“Nah, it’s just a dumb nickname based on the color of my armor. Don’t overthink it.”

“Ah, I see.”

The two of us continued to walk as we perused the rather large room behind the counter.

“…If you’re asking me questions, then I can ask you something too. Right, Yuu?”

Oh? Perhaps I had misjudged Rose? Even if she did have a temper on her, she seemed eager to engage in conversation. I always did prefer it when the customers talked to me, it made the job more interesting.

“Go ahead,” I said, “Ask me whatever you like and I’ll try to answer it.”

“If this game allows players to be anything that they want to be, why would someone choose to be a Shopkeeper? Isn’t that kind of boring?”

Yes, finally! In all my years playing Utopia Online, no-one had ever asked me that before! “To be honest,” I began, “…I just really like hearing other people’s stories.”

I adjusted my avatar’s glasses. “As a Shopkeeper, I get tons of customers with interesting tales to tell. The smiles on their faces as they tell me all about their latest quests and achievements is the greatest high in the world.”

“Aw, you’re actually kinda sweet, Yuu,” she smiled at me.

“Huh? I’m just doing my job,” I informed her, “And speaking of which…”

I removed Rose’s battleaxe from my inventory as I walked over to a nearby shelf, picking up an axe blade and opening up yet another menu. “Watch this, Rose!”

With the simple tap of a button, I replaced the once-charred blade with a shiny new one.

“Wow, that’s incredible, Yuu!”

I smiled, handing the axe back to its owner. “That’ll be 200 Gold.”

I closed the door as the two of us exited the storage-closet. “Feel free to stop by if you ever need anything. I’ll always be online from 5PM to 11PM.”

Rose_the_Deathbringer smiled at me as she prepared to exit the shop. “Since we know each other, you’ll give me a discount right?”

I chuckled. “Don’t bet on it, squirt.”


My shop was once again filled with the familiar chime of a bell as Rose departed for her next adventure. I never did ask what she had planned to do with that battleaxe next.

“Ah, well…” I sighed, returning to my seat behind the counter, picking up the book that I was reading earlier, “That just gives us something to talk about the next time that she visits.”