Chapter 15:

Epitaph Erased

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. 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. And that is why I chose to be a Shopkeeper in Utopia Online.


…Of course, as I’m sure you’ve probably already guessed, I don’t spend all of my time playing this game. When I’m offline, I’m just your typical everyday highschool student.


I had just returned home after a long day of surprise tests and exams. I kicked off my shoes at the genkan and called out to my father, letting him know that I was home. [Author’s note: A genkan is the entrance found in most traditional Japanese buildings, usually consisting of a porch and a doormat where one can place their shoes before entering the rest of the building.]

“Dad, I’m home!”

…No response. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. He was usually still at work around this time, but it was worth a shot. I stepped into the living-area and reached for the nearby television remote, turning on the TV. My heart immediately sank as I saw today’s news. Yet another murder. And once again, the culprit had eluded capture.


I exhaled solemnly, turning off the TV and heading to my bedroom. This was the reason that I had gotten into Utopia Online in the first place – To escape from the harsh reality that we all live in. I arrived at my bedroom, flinging myself onto my bed. I reached over and grabbed the nearby VR headset, throwing off my glasses as I put it on over my face.


12th PURCHASE – EPITAPH ERASED


As I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the comforting familiarity of a quaint Utopian village. As usual, I had spawned right outside of my shop. I grabbed the Sorry, we’re closed sign that hung on the Fantasy Shoppe’s door, flipping it over to display the Yes, we’re open message written on the other side. Finally, I opened up my inventory and withdrew the door key, ready to take my mind off of reality and start another shift as a virtual Shopkeeper. I put the key inside the keyhole and--


-DINGALING!-

How unusual. The door opened by itself, without me even turning the key. Did I forget to lock it up yesterday? No, I’d never forget to do something like that, locking up my store always came as second nature to me. I slowly, cautiously, quietly entered the shop, and that’s when I saw him – The muscular man with a turban and facemask who was currently in the middle of raiding my cash register in broad daylight.

Smooth Criminal – Level 1 Necromancer

His red breastplate covered his avatar’s pectoral muscles, but left his six-pack abs completely exposed. Even though he was currently stealing from my shop, I couldn’t help but stare awkwardly at his chest. (Come on, can you even blame me? He was a freaking dreamboat, for crying out loud!) And then I noticed it – The skull that was painted on the left breast of his armor.

“Of course,” I sighed, “Of course you’d be a member of the Crimson Kings Guild. Why is it that whenever something goes wrong in my life, it’s always one of you nutjobs?”

The thief immediately stopped looting my cash register as he quickly turned to face me.

“Gah,” he gasped, “Wh-what are you doing here?!”

“What am I doing here?!” I barked angrily, “This is my shop! What the Hell are YOU doing here, jackass?!”

“I’m taking back what’s mine,” the Necromancer yelled as he hastily removed a smoke bomb from his inventory and threw it to the ground.

-POOF!-


“Hey! *Cough, cough!* Where are you?!” I sputtered, “Come out and fight me like a man!”

-DINGALING!-

Crap! That was the sound of someone leaving the Fantasy Shoppe! That means that he got away from me! I fumbled around haplessly in the smoke-filled room, groping the air around me until I eventually found the door handle.

-DINAGLING!-

He couldn’t have gone too far, I’d wager he got a ten second headstart at most. I looked around in all directions until my gaze eventually focused on the musclehead who was sprinting down a nearby alleyway.

“Hey, get back here,” I yelled as I gave chase.

But it was no use. He must have had a much faster Speed Stat than I did. After about 5 minutes, I stopped in my tracks as I gasped for air.

“Dammit… There’s no way… that I… can catch up… to him,” I panted.

Just then, I felt someone tap me on the back of my avatar’s shoulder.

“What is the matter, Yuu Watanabe?”


I turned around to see a familiar girl wearing a red cheongsam dress and a silver crown.

Kaguya Fujiwara – Level 1000 Princess

“Ah, Lady Kaguya! Boy, am I glad to see you?”

“…Are you glad to see me, Yuu Watanabe?”

“It’s a rhetorical question, Princess,” I sighed, “A-anyway, that isn’t important right now! Do you see that guy over there?” I asked, pointing in the direction of Smooth Criminal.

“Indeed I do,” Lady Kaguya affirmed, nodding her head.

“He stole all the Gold from the Fantasy Shoppe! Can you help me catch up to him?”

“Sure, grab on,” the Princess smiled, offering me her hand.

I grabbed her hand as she began to walk... slowly… very slowly… very, very slowly.

“Uh… Lady Kaguya? Can’t you go any faster?” I complained.

“Faster?” she asked, stroking her chin thoughtfully, “Oh, of course I can!”


Within a millisecond, her speed had increased from that of a snail’s pace to a rather implausible Mach 20! I desperately held onto Lady Kaguya’s hand as she zoomed down the alleyway. In a mere moment we had caught up to the thief… Only for the artificial lack-of-intelligence to immediately run past him.

“This is so much fun, Yuu Watanabe!”

Fun?! This is serious, Lady Kaguya,” I shouted, “You ran past the thief, you moron!”

“Oopsie,” she replied, sticking her tongue out, “I’ll get him next time!”

She turned around at lightning-fast speed and bolted down the alleyway once more.

“I’ve got you now, Criminal,” I yelled as we caught up to him once more… Only for Kaguya to once again run past him.

“This is too easy,” Smooth Criminal smugly called out from a distance, as we sped past him.


“You have to be doing this on purpose,” I sighed.

“I’m sorry, Yuu Watanabe. It’s just really hard to control myself when moving around at such high speed.”

“Okay, I get it. You can stop now.”

Lady Kaguya did as instructed, coming to an immediate halt, flinging my body halfway across the alleyway in the process.

I picked myself up off the ground, making sure not to catch a glimpse up any nearby female players’ skirts or dresses. (It seemed that I found myself in that exact scenario so many times already, to the point that it was no longer comical…) I looked ahead, searching for Smooth Criminal.

“Dammit, Fujiwara! You let him get away,” I scolded.

“Do not fret, Yuu Watanabe. This alleyway only leads to one location, so he couldn’t have gone too far.”



The two of us walked together, exiting the alleyway and arriving at a cemetery.

“This is the place, Yuu Watanabe,” the girl beamed.

“This is bad, Lady Kaguya! That guy was a Necromancer! We’ve walked right into his trap!”

“A Necro… what?”

The Princess was hopeless. How did she, a highly advanced AI created specifically for Utopia Online, not know about every single Class in the game?!

“A Necromancer, Lady Kaguya. Someone who can revive the dead.”

“L-like skeletons and stuff?” the Princess stammered. I guess someone decided it would be a good idea to program her with a fear of the undead?

As if to prove my hypothesis correct, a bony arm reached out from the ground and stroked Princess Kaguya Fujiwara’s leg.

“EEEEEEEK!” the girl screamed, quickly wrapping herself around my avatar’s body, “Hold me, Yuu Watanabe!”

I blushed as she shoved my face deep into the cleavage of her B cup breasts.

“L-Lady Kaguya, there’s no need to be afraid,” I sighed, “You’re the strongest character on the server. You could easily take out a couple of skeletons!”

“Huh?”

She lightly tapped the skeletal arm and watched as it poofed out of existence, leaving nothing but a few Ability Crystals.

“Oh, aheheh,” she blushed, “False alarm.”



The two of us continued onward going deeper into the cemetery. I hacked down a few skeletons with a sword from my inventory, but Lady Kaguya did most of the work. As we drew closer to Smooth Criminal, I couldn’t help but think about what he had said earlier. ‘I’m taking back what’s mine!’ What did he mean by that? What had I taken from him? I didn’t even know who he was, for flip’s sake!


“So, you actually made it past my undead army?” a voice asked.

I looked over to a nearby hill and saw the Necromancer posing menacingly against a full moon.

“There’s nowhere to run, Smooth! Give me back my Gold and we’ll spare your life!”

“This isn’t your Gold, Watanabe! It’s mine! Don’t you realize who I am?”

“Um… some hottie who steals people’s Gold while they’re offline?”

“H-hottie?!” the thief stammered.

“Oh, my,” Kaguya giggled, turning towards me, “Is Yuu Watanabe… Yuu Watana-gay?” When did the AI girl become so snarky?

“Yuu Watanabe is Yuu Watana-bi,” I corrected her.

“Hey, up here,” the Necromancer called out, “Did you forget about me? I was about to reveal my true identity!”

“Look, man. I honestly don’t care,” I said, “Just give me the Gold back, dude.”

“Hmph! You may not care right now, but what if I…”

Smooth Criminal paused for effect, but the dramatic effect that he was going for was immediately ruined by his struggle to remove his facemask and turban.


“H-how do you take this stuff off?!”

After a few more seconds, he had unmasked himself, revealing a familiar avatar.

“What if I removed my disguise? Do you care now?!” he shouted.

“Y-you’re… REX?!”


The hacker walked down the hill and stared me in the face.

“That’s right, Watanabe. It’s me, the Crusader that you stole from,” he barked, “I just wanted to take back the Gold that was rightfully mine!”

“That Gold was never rightfully yours,” I jeered, “You obtained it through hacking. And speaking of which, didn’t I report your account to the development team?”

REX’s face turned to that of a grimace. “Yes, yes you did! Why do you think that I’m playing as a Level 1 Necromancer?!”

“Because you changed your Class?” the Princess asked.

“No, you moron,” he yelled, “I had to create a new account from scratch, since this jerk terminated my old one! And I can’t even use hacks anymore, or else I’ll get ban--”

“Hey,” I interrupted, “No one calls Lady Kaguya a moron, except me.”

“Oh? And what are you gonna do about it?” REX scoffed.

I looked over to Lady Kaguya and nodded. “Finish him.”


The artificial intelligence opened up her inventory and withdrew a sword – A bronze sword… The same bronze sword that I had pawned off on her a few months ago. Oh, great. She wouldn’t be able to defeat REX with such a flimsy weapon.

-SLASH!-

…Or so I thought. With a single swing of her sword, REX’s avatar fell to the ground. I guess I shouldn’t have underestimated the Princess’s Strength.



Lady Kaguya Fujiwara and I stood over REX’s unconscious body as we waited for him to respawn. After what felt like forever, his avatar’s eyes slowly began to open.

“Urgh… what happened?”

“We defeated you, Smooth Criminal,” Lady Kaguya replied, “Now return the Gold that you stole from Yuu Watanabe.”

REX’s eyes widened.

“W-wow, Princess,” he muttered, his cheeks reddening, “I can see up your dress.”

“Oh, my. Do you want me to kill you again, Smooth Criminal?” the girl chuckled.

REX frantically got up onto his feet. “N-nope! Definitely not! Pl-please forgive me, Princess!”

“She’ll forgive you if you return my Gold,” I smirked.

“Fine,” he sighed, removing a bag of Gold from his inventory and tossing it by my feet, “Now what? Are you gonna report me again?”

“Huh? Why would I do that?” I questioned.

“Because I… raided your cash register?”

“So? That isn’t a bannable offense,” I stated.

“Yuu Watanabe is right,” the Princess added, “Stealing from other players is a completely natural part of Utopia Online.”

“Wait, so you’re really not going to report my account?”

“Nope,” I smiled, reaching out a hand, “Water under the bridge, REX?”

“I guess,” REX blushed, looking away as he shook my hand. After a couple of seconds, he broke off the handshake, walking away as he held up his hand and performed a v-sign.


“Peace and love. No hard feelings, or whatever.”



END OF PURCHASE