Chapter 1:

The Crimson Battleaxe

Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper

-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

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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.Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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…Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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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.)Bookmark here

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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…Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Rose_the_Deathbringer – Level 1 CrusaderBookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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

“Ah, I see.”Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

“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?”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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

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

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!”Bookmark here

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

“Wow, that’s incredible, Yuu!”Bookmark here

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

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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.”Bookmark here

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?”Bookmark here

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

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-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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END OF PURCHASEBookmark here

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