Chapter 10:

Kiran's Story: Dummies and Dragons (Part 1)

Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper

Y-you know how basically every protagonist s-seems to have that one awkward f-friend? The sh-shy girl with the glasses and the st-stutter, for example? …Th-that would be me, Kiran (although that isn’t my r-real name or gender), the narrator of th-this chapter of Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper.

Sl-slaying a Dragon – A cliché as old as time. I-it was somewhat common for RPG creators to place a D-Dragon as the first boss of their game. But l-lemme tell you – A Dragon is definitely not just s-some low-level boss monster that grants ch-cheap EXP! Th-that was the assumption that my Guild had made when we agreed to take the risk of f-fighting one. And l-lemme tell you, we definitely weren’t pr-prepared for how tough it would be…

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: For simplicity, the remainder of Kiran’s narration will henceforth be written without her trademark stutter, but please assume that it’s still there.]


Our Guild, Justice Hellfire, stood in a pitch black cave – The Dragon’s lair. We had agreed to take on an NPC’s Quest to retrieve rare Dragon eggs. Allegedly, the eggs can be used to make one heck of an omelet. (Although I’m not quite sure what, if anything, an NPC would have to gain from eating an omelet…) I squinted as I adjusted my eyewear, trying to look over to my teammates, obscured by the pitch blackness of the cave.

Inferno Jones – Level 100 Crusader

Lyre Sonnet – Level 57 Bard

I had worked together with these two higher-level boys to take out the various Bats, Spiders and other such bugaboos that lurked within the shadows. All the while I was trying to make as little noise as possible – Partly because I didn’t want to alert the Dragon of our presence, and partly because I didn’t want my teammates to hear my new voice.

At the recommendation of a Shopkeeper named Yuu Watanabe, I had decided to purchase a voice-changing VR headset to make my character sound more ‘feminine’, to match her physical appearance. But neither of the boys had heard my new voice yet, so I had no idea how they’d react. As members of the same Guild, they had heard my old voice countless times before, so perhaps they already knew that I was a man in real life? Or maybe they just thought that I was a girl with a rather unladylike voice? Regardless of what they may have thought, my secret wasn’t going to last long…

As I walked in the darkness my foot snagged on a nearby rock, causing me to lose my balance and fall face-first onto the cave floor. “Ah--”


In that moment, I definitely didn’t sound ladylike as I swore and cursed like a sailor. A light shined over my body, illuminating my avatar's butt as it jutted out into the air. I looked over to see Inferno holding a flashlight that he had removed from his inventory.

“Are you alright, Kiran?” he asked, “A good Guild Leader must look after his teammates.”

“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” I replied as I tried to pull myself up from the ground, but the combination of my heavy armor and thick body made that nigh impossible.

Lyre bent down and offered me his hand. I blushed, catching a glimpse of his clef-print boxer shorts underneath his Bardly robes, as he pulled me off of the ground.

“Th-thanks,” I said sheepishly.

“Hey, Kiran,” Inferno began, “What’s up with your voice? Didn’t you used to sound more… butch?”

Crap. If my teammates found out that I was actually a male playing with a female avatar, I’d never be able to live down the embarrassment! They’d probably make fun of me for the rest of my life!

“H-huh,” I stammered, “O-oh, my v-voice? I, uh… h-had a bad cold before, but it’s all better now! Heheh…”

“Well, I think your voice sounds lovely,” Lyre winked.

“Now’s not the time for flirting,” Inferno informed the other boy, “Besides, she’s already told you that she’s not into you. Give it a rest already…”

“I-I don’t mind,” I interjected, “Th-this is only a game after all. He’s just p-playing a character.”

“See? She gets it,” Lyre smirked.

The three of us continued exploring the Dragon’s lair, looking for eggs. We now had Inferno’s flashlight to guide us (I’m honestly not sure why he didn’t just whip that thing out hours ago), but it wasn’t of much help. This cave didn’t seem to end and we hadn’t even found a single egg yet!

“This is hopeless,” I sighed.

“That’s quitter talk,” Inferno pouted, “We’ve come too far to give up!”

“Hey, guys,” Lyre pointed forward, “It looks like the path splits here…”

Sure enough, the cave split into two separate tunnels in front of us. If I know a thing or two about videogame design, one of those paths is probably home to the Dragon eggs. And the other definitely contains the Dragon herself. But how would we know which path was which?

“What now, Jones?” the Bard asked.

Inferno sighed, crossing his arms. “I guess we’re going to have to split up.”

“Works for me,” Lyre chimed in as he wrapped his arms around me, “I’m sticking with this cutie!”

“Sure thing,” Inferno said, “Just don’t do anything too crazy without me.”

We parted our separate ways – Lyre and I travelling down the left path, while Inferno departed into the right one. With him gone, we were once again shrouded in pitch darkness.

“Don’t worry, babe,” Lyre said, holding me tighter, “You’re in good hands.”

“Th-thanks, I feel so much safer now,” I chuckled sarcastically.

As we continued to walk down the dimly lit path, Lyre refused to let go of me. I guess I couldn’t exactly blame him. Bard and Villager were by far the weakest Classes in the game, so it made sense for us to stay close to each other. But the longer we walked, the more I began to suspect that there was another purpose to his embrace. I blushed, trying to dispel the thought from my mind, but it wouldn’t go away. That was ridiculous, I told myself, Lyre was a bit of a flirt, but he was just playing a character wasn’t he?

He flirted with a lot of the female players in Utopia Online, so I probably wasn’t anything special to him. I mean, he could probably tell that I was a boy in real life, right? My old voice did make that fact rather obvious. Was he even into guys? I could just ask him, but what if he really didn’t know that I was a male? I wasn’t just going to expose my embarrassing secret to him, if there was even the smallest chance that he hadn’t already figured it out yet!

“Hey, Kiran,” he asked, interrupting my train of thought, “Do you look like your avatar in real life?”

“Aheh,” I scratched my player character’s dark brown hair nervously, “N-not really…”

“That’s a shame,” he grimed, “Your avatar’s kinda hot, you know that right?”

Either he was just teasing me, or else he really did think that I was a girl. Regardless of which was the case, it was a good thing that this tunnel was so dark, otherwise he would have been able to see how red my avatar’s freckled cheeks had gotten.

“Wh-what about you,” I asked, “Do you actually look like your avatar, Lyre?”

“Hahaha,” the Bard chuckled, “I’m far more attractive in real life!”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever you say, R-Romeo…”

After what felt like forever, we eventually spotted a light at the end of the tunnel. Was this an exit? Had we travelled along this dark path for naught? …No, upon closer inspection it appeared to be the flickering light of a flame. But why would there be a fire in the middle of a cave?

“Looks like the developers have a flair for the dramatic,” Lyre stated.

Indeed, that was the only reason I could think of to explain it. If my deduction was correct, this could only mean one of two things – Either there were eggs at the end of this tunnel… or we were about to stumble into the Dragon.