Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper
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? …Yeah, we’ve been through this a couple of times already. So let me ask you something else – Isn’t it strange how said game almost always contains a seemingly-sentient AI character who helps the heroes out on their quest?
When I first started playing Utopia Online, I had doubted that such a feat were even possible outside of anime. Could someone really program such an advanced AI, one capable of thought akin to a human being? That question used to plague my mind, until I met her…
4th PURCHASE – THE GENIUS AI LACKING LOVE AND BRAINS
Utopia Online takes place in a fantasyland called, you guessed it, Utopia. And the ruler of that land is Princess Kaguya Fujiwara, the woman who just so happened to be standing in the Fantasy Shoppe’s doorway right now. She was one of my regular customers, and she was also a highly-advanced AI.
Kaguya Fujiwara – Level 1000 Princess
Many new players refused to believe that Lady Kaguya was really an AI, convinced that she was just one of the game’s admins pretending to be a robot, or one of the game’s players pretending to be an admin... Or one of the game’s players pretending to be an admin pretending to be a robot. ‘An AI couldn’t possibly be this advanced,’ is what they always told themselves. But I can assure you, the Princess is the genuine article. At a glance, she might appear the same as any other human player if you were to pass her by in the street, but once you’ve spent enough time around her, it becomes painfully obvious that she’s nothing more than a glorified CPU.
“Good evening, Your Majesty,” I beamed, taking a bow. Although she wasn’t a real person, I still treated her with a grace befitting of her royal position. Lady Kaguya didn’t understand monetary-value, and as a result she was my highest paying customer by far. The last thing I wanted to do was get on her bad side.
She ran over to my counter, tears welling up in her eyes. “Oh, Yuu Watanabe! I’m glad that I ran into you! I need your assistance urgently!”
“Wh-whoa! Slow down there, Princess! Why don’t you calm down and tell me what’s wrong?”
I removed a handkerchief from my inventory and handed it to the artificial intelligence that was currently crying in front of me.
“Th-thank you, Yuu Watanabe,” she smiled, completely missing her eyes as she wiped her forehead with the kerchief. (I guess she hadn’t been properly programmed to deal with this kind of situation?)
“M-my crown,” she sobbed, “My crown is missing.”
“…What?” I stared at her blankly, pointing at her head, “It’s, uh, on your head, Lady Kaguya.”
“Oh,” Her mood completely changed in the blink of an eye, “Thank you, Yuu Watanabe. How can I ever repay you?”
If any other players saw Lady Kaguya right now, any doubts that they had about her authenticity as an AI player would have instantly been quashed. While she was the strongest character on the entire server, she lacked basic human intelligence. I mean… seriously? Who struggles to find an article of clothing that they are currently wearing on their head?! Perhaps 'Artificial Lack-of-Intelligence' would be a more fitting descriptor of her character?
It was actually quite a shame, too. Princess is easily the best Class in this game, but it’s unique to her. It was like the developers were tasked with giving nuclear launch-codes to someone in a crowded room, and they chose a freaking toddler! Sure, that toddler would instantly become the biggest threat in that room, but he’d have no idea how to use his newfound power, yet alone that he even had it…
“Well, Lady Kaguya. If you want to repay me, you could always buy something from the shop,” I told her.
“An excellent idea. What’s the most expensive item that you have?”
I smirked, reaching under the countertop and retrieving a bronze sword (worth about 100 Gold) that I had ready for this very occasion. This thing was easily one of the weakest weapons in the game, and a normal player would know that. But Kaguya Fujiwara isn’t exactly a normal player. I believe that I stated earlier that she has no concept of monetary-value, and that fact hadn’t stopped being true within the last five minutes. No real person would be stupid enough to buy this sword. And indeed, Kaguya was ‘no real person’...
“You see this sword? To be honest with you, it’s an overpriced piece of junk,” I chuckled, “I’d feel awful selling it to you for the full price. But since you’re Her Royal Highness, I can give you a special discount…”
“Really?” The Princess’s eyes lit up. If she were human, perhaps I might feel guilty about scamming her like this? But she wasn’t, so it honestly didn’t bother me in the slightest.
“Of course, Lady Kaguya. I’ll give you… let’s say… 27% off. That brings the total down to…” I pretended to do some sort of calculations in my head, “10,000 Gold. Does that sound fair?”
Lady Kaguya smiled, withdrawing a large bag of Gold from her inventory and slamming it down on the countertop, before proceeding to snatch the sword from my hand.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” I snickered. Kaguya had just paid one-hundred times the amount of money normally required to purchase a bronze sword.
She hummed happily as she skipped out the door, swinging her new sword around aimlessly. It appeared that my earlier comparison to a toddler was even more accurate than I had thought. I smugly rested my feet atop the counter, when I saw a bell icon pop up in front of me – A notification from another user. How strange, I hardly ever got messages from any of my friends; they usually just visited the store in-person (or whatever the closest thing to ‘in-person’ was when playing a VRMMO). I curiously opened up the message and read it.
Dear Yuu Watanabe,
Thank you so much for the bronze sword, I will cherish it forever. In fact, I’m going to test it out right away! I'm going to kill so many monsters! :D
Maybe I'll even take down the Demon King...
Best regards, HRH Kaguya Fujiwara.
Yikes. That sword was gonna fall apart the second she tried to kill something with it. I know it’s weird to admit it, but now I kinda felt bad about conning her. She wasn’t human like you or me, but I still considered her to be a friend. Even though she was just an AI, she seemed to respect and trust me, and in turn I respected and trusted her. I sighed as I removed my feet from the counter, my bravado crushed by Lady Kaguya’s message. Next time I see her, I’m going to have to give her a full refund and give her a weapon with actual value. It’s what a proper Shopkeeper would do. I guess the old saying is true…
There is no such thing as easy money.
END OF PURCHASE