Chapter 9:

When the Customer is Sus

Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper

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, the man who was currently taking inventory in the Fantasy Shoppe’s seemingly-endless storage-closet, holding a checklist and a pen.

“…And check!” I said proudly, ticking off the last set of wares on the list. It was an arduous task, but everything in the shop had been itemized and accounted for. Suddenly, a bell icon popped up in front of me – A notification. But who would be contacting me? I opened up the notification and read it aloud.

Message from the developer:

Update in progress! Utopia Online will soon be updated to Version 4.13B!

Patch Notes for Version 4.13B:

- More realistic physics and gameplay.

- Various bug fixes.

- A new feature to make it easier for players to locate the elusive Demon King…” (I knew a certain someone who would be particularly interested in that last note.)

I was prepared to delete the notification until I saw a ‘Go to next page’ button. That was odd. What more could the developers have to add after listing the patch notes?

It has recently come to our attention that several players are using cheats and hacks to gain an unfair advantage in the game.

We are currently working behind the scenes to resolve this issue, but in the meantime please report any suspicious player that you suspect of foul-play.

Sincerely, the Utopia Online development team.

Hackers, huh? I hadn’t ever encountered any hackers while playing this game. But I suppose that makes sense, I am a Shopkeeper after all. I figure that a hacker could probably just generate any weapon or Gear that they wanted anyway. Why would any of them be dumb enough come to a Shopkeeper for assistance?



As I exited the storage closet, I found that a customer was waiting for me. Something about the man’s avatar seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. He had taken up residence in ~Schrödinger~’s leftover swivel chair, yet he still had the audacity to rest his feet atop my counter.

“Oi, feet off the countertop,” I scowled, “I just had that thing cleaned!”

“Whatever,” he sighed, using his feet to push himself away from my desk, “You have no idea who you’re talking to, man.”

Who did this guy think he was? ‘You have no idea who you’re talking to.’ What was with this boy and his inflated ego and sense of self-importance?

REX – Level 1000 Crusader

Level 1000?! That was the highest level in the game! The only character I’ve ever met with a level that high is Princess Kaguya Fujiwara, and I’m pretty sure that she was just programmed that way from the start! I’ve never actually seen a player who worked for their level as hard as this guy had! Someone who managed to reach Level 1000 has surely been on their fair share of Quests. There was definitely an interesting story or two hidden inside REX, but in that moment, that wasn’t my main concern…

If someone actually managed to reach the coveted Level 1000, then they probably would have racked up a lot of Gold along the way. And I highly doubted that someone of his skill-level would come here just to buy a cheap sword or get me to fuse their Gear with Ability Crystals. No, REX had probably come here for something very valuable. And it was my duty as a Shopkeeper to give this noble Crusader whatever his heart (and my wallet) desired.

“Terribly sorry. That was rather rude of me,” I apologized, “How can I help you today, Sir?”

“What’s that in your hand?” he asked, reaching over and snatching my clipboard out of my hands, “Hmm…”

“Did no one ever teach you basic manners?” I muttered under my breath, “You’re even worse than Rose…”

“Interesting,” he remarked, briefly flicking through all the pages of my checklist before tossing it aside. He removed two rather large bags of Gold from his inventory, slamming them both down in front of me, “I’ll take your entire stock!”

Was he serious?! Did this Crusader seriously intend to buy out my entire stock of wares?! I picked up the Gold bags, opening up a menu to inspect their worth. Sure enough, each bag contained TEN BILLION Gold! That was certainly enough to purchase everything that I had to offer, and then some!

“Do you really intend to buy everything?” I enquired, “Even the women’s Gear?”

“Why not?” he shrugged, “I can just sell anything that I don’t want for a higher price!”

Was this really happening? This was almost too good to be true! …And as the old adage goes, ‘if something is too good to be true, then it probably is’.

As I looked over the boy’s body once more with my avatar’s emerald eyes, the feeling of familiarity returned. His armor –red with a skull and crossbones painted near the left pectoral muscle– was the same kind as worn by someone that I’d rather forget.

“Hey,” I asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know a player called Rose_the_Deathbringer… would you?”

“Ah, so you’ve met her,” he stated, “She’s a member of my Guild, the Crimson Kings!”

Your Guild?”

“That’s right! I’m the Crimson Kings’ Guild Leader,” he boasted, “Me an’ Rose are the only two members, but we’re basically the strongest Guild in the game!”

That’s why he looked so familiar! He was the blond kid that Rose was talking to outside of my shop just a few days ago!

…But something didn’t quite add up. His Guild only had two members, and one of them was Rose? If I were as skilled a player as REX, why would I accept an inexperienced newbie into my Guild, yet alone as its only other member? There was probably a simple explanation. Maybe the two knew each other in real life? Or perhaps REX was just really generous and liked helping other players out? …No, neither of those theories seemed very plausible. If REX knew Rose_the_Deathrbinger in real life, he probably would have referred to her with her real name, rather than calling her ‘Rose’. And if he was really a nice and generous person, that wouldn’t explain his attitude towards me earlier.

“…Hey, REX? How long have you been playing Utopia Online?”

“About a month,” he replied, “But all the chicks already know my name, baby!”

A month, huh? Even if they spent all of their day and all of their night playing the game, there was no way that a player could reach Level 1000 that fast! I’ve played this game every single day of my life for the last few years! Shopkeepers gain experience for every successful sale they make, yet I’m barely even Level 50! So how in the Hell did this guy get to Level 1000 in ‘about a month’?! Suddenly, I remembered the message that the developer had sent out earlier.

It has recently come to our attention that several players are using cheats and hacks to gain an unfair advantage in the game.

We are currently working behind the scenes to resolve this issue, but in the meantime please report any suspicious player that you suspect of foul-play.

But was REX really a hacker? I didn’t want to report him without any proof. But how could I be sure? I mean, I could always just ask him directly, but would he really answer me honestly? As if to answer my question, REX spoke.

“You’re probably wondering how I got this good after only a month, right?”

I sighed. “Yeah, you read my mind…”

“I’ll tell you, but only if you agree to keep it on the down low,” he began.

“OK,” I nodded, “Your secret’s safe with me.”

REX smirked, leaning in close to me as he turned his voice into a whisper. “The truth is… I’m a hacker.”

I stared at him, mouth agape, completely dumbfounded. How could he have been so brazen about that? Hadn’t he read the message that the developer sent out earlier? That’s when it dawned on me. If REX was still a noob like Rose, then he probably also thought that I was just an NPC. An NPC can’t file a report against a real player, so he could be as brazen as he pleased around me. But that bravado would be his downfall. I smirked devilishly as I got an idea.

“Anyway, what’s the hold up, Shopkeeper? Are you gonna give me all of your wares, or what?!”

“I’m sorry, Sir. I’m afraid I can’t just give you all of my wares at once.”

“Why not?!” he barked.

“It would take a while for me to gather all of my wares,” I explained. Of course, this was a lie. A Shopkeeper was able to transfer all of their shop’s items to their personal inventory with the simple tap of a button, “I’ll head back into my storage-closet and start slowly putting my stock into my inventory, and I’ll give everything to you en masse.”

REX angrily tapped his metal boot on the floor. “And how long will that take?”

“A few days. Why don’t you leave the money here and come back to me later?”

REX scoffed. What other option did he have? I knew he wasn’t prepared to wait here for a few days.

“Fine,” he sighed, “I’ll be back in three days. You better have all of that stuff ready when I get back.”

“Of course, Sir,” I beamed, “Please come back soon.”


I waited for REX to leave the Fantasy Shoppe, before snatching his Gold and putting it in my inventory. I admit that was a rather scummy thing for me to do, but REX wouldn’t be needing this Gold when I was done with him. I never did figure out why he had decided to purchase my wares when he could probably just use cheats to make whatever weapons and Gear he desired. Perhaps there was an interesting story there, but I guess I’d never get to find out. I opened up a menu and scrolled down until I found the Report User button.

Please enter the username of the player you would like to report.

I smugly typed out REX’s name and waited. Cheaters never prosper… but Shopkeepers do.