Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper
One of the biggest draws to the world of Utopia Online is that players can be whoever –or whatever– they want to be. If one were to explore one of the game’s many towns or villages, they would be likely to see a vast array of all sorts of avatars – Humans, youkai and other such fantasy creatures littered the streets. (I myself am playing as a High Elf, for what it’s worth.)
Out of all the fantastical and fictional races that are available in the game, the most often used by other players is definitely the Therianthrope – A cover-all term for a humanoid with various traits and aspects of an animal. Of course, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Roughly 59% of the world’s population owns a pet, so it’s rather apparent that human beings just have an innate love for animals. I personally don’t really understand the appeal of owning a pet, but I must admit that Therianthropes are almost always adorable. (Even the cocky and obnoxious ~Schrödinger~ looked cute whenever he was flustered.)
However, although not nearly as popular or favored by the playerbase, there was another human-animal hybrid Class in the game…
15th PURCHASE – A SHEEP IN WOLF’S CLOTHING
I placed my hands on my hips smugly as I observed the jigsaw puzzle that lay on my desk – 1,000 pieces, no reference picture, perfectly assembled by yours truly in less than an hour. But within seconds, all off my progress would be stripped away from me. I watched in horror as a rather bushy blue-green tail brushed the puzzle off of my countertop in one fell swoop.
I looked over at the tail’s owner – An ill-dressed, rather unique individual, and one of my regulars. (Although I wasn’t quite as fond of her as I was with Asami Usami or Aya Murphy…) She looked away nervously, fidgeting with her hands.
“S-sorry, Mister Yuu. It was an accident.”
Lyca Wolfgang Barker – Level 72 Lycanthrope
Lyca was certainly one of my more ‘eccentric’ repeat customers. She spoke in a Satsuma dialect, making her somewhat difficult to understand. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: “Satsuma dialect” refers to a dialect spoken in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima, Japan. It is supposedly difficult to understand, even amongst some of the Japanese population.] She also wore nothing but a button-up pajama shirt and a pair of plain underpants, the default outfit of every new player. It wasn’t as if she had only recently started playing the game either. In fact, she’s been playing this game even longer than I have! She also wasn’t lacking in Gold, as she frequently splurged on wares leaning on the more ‘expensive’ side. In other words, it was a conscious choice on her part not to buy any new Gear. Every day that she showed up here, I was half-expecting her to ask for something –no, anything– to cover herself up, but that day never arrived.
Although, to be fair, it did make sense that she never bothered to buy more ‘appropriate’ clothing. As a Lycanthrope, she was already fairly strong without the need for additional Gear (by default, Lycanthrope is the third strongest Class in the game, behind Princess and Berserker), so it was actually quite smart of her to reserve her Gold for something more useful, like weapons or Skills. But that didn’t mean I had to like it. I mean, put yourself in my shoes – How would YOU react if a Lycanthrope came into your shop in nothing but her underwear?! She isn’t exactly my type or anything, but it’s still rather hard not to let my vision wander off to somewhere that it probably doesn’t belong. Although I guess it didn’t really matter, since this girl was completely oblivious to the awkward looks that other players gave her.
I bent down to pick up the jigsaw puzzle, placing every piece into my inventory one by one.
“Again, I’m really sorry, Mister Yuu,” Lyca apologized profusely, bowing her head down, “Sometimes I don’t even know my own strength. Plus my Lycanthrope tail has a mind of its own.”
“It’s fine,” I sighed, looking up at my customer. My face quickly turned bright red as I caught a full, unobstructed view of her panties. I hastily stood up straight, looking away from the girl. She stared at me curiously.
“Huh? Is something wrong, Mister Yuu?”
“N-nope! Nothing’s wrong whatsoever, Lyca!”
“OK,” she smiled innocently, “Glad to hear it!”
I should probably explain what the difference between a Therianthrope and a Lycanthrope actually is. Therianthropes are a hybrid species, typically consisting of features from humans and small domesticated animals, such as rabbits, housecats, budgies or turtles. Lycanthropes are also human hybrids, but they are specifically fused with members of the canidae family – Dogs, foxes, wolves and the like. The differences between the two are more than just cosmetic though.
Therianthropes have rather low physical Stats, such as Strength or Defense, but they make up for it by having increased passive Stats, namely Luck and Seduction. In contrast, Lycanthropes have incredibly low passive Stats, but their Strength is a force to be reckoned with! Plus they start with Bloodlust, a unique Skill that allows them to restore some of their HP whenever they land a successful attack, making them a nightmare to take down in combat.
“So anyway,” I asked, “What brings you here today, Lyca?”
The wolfgirl leapt into the air, jumping over my countertop and opening the door to the storage-closet.
“Hey! What are you doing back there?” I demanded, “You need to get permission from the Shopkeeper to step behind the counter!”
“Eh,” she shrugged, sticking a hand out into the air and waving it up and down as if to say ‘whatever’.
I sighed as she opened the door, following her as she entered the storage-room.
I walked behind Lyca Wolfgang Barker as she looked in all directions, perusing my various wares. The view from back here was somewhat awkward, what with her being in her underwear and all. (I was actually in a similar situation not too long ago, although Dan Steele was a lot more attractive than Lyca.) I had briefly considered giving her backside a playful smack, but I decided against it. With her Strength, if she decided to return the favor, I’d be done for! I stared at her wolf tail, wagging happily in front of me like a hypnotist’s pendulum. Wag, wag, wag… No, now wasn’t the time to get distracted. I had to fulfill my duty as a Shopkeeper.
“Hey, you didn’t answer me earlier,” I said, “What is it that you’re looking for, exactly?”
The wolfgirl shrugged yet again. “I dunno. I guess I’ll figure that out later?”
So she was just here to impulse buy whatever tickled her fancy. Of course, why was I not surprised? …Well, if that was the case, I suppose I could help her with her decision.
“Maybe you could buy some clothes” I suggested, “A skirt or a pair of pants, perhaps?”
Lyca walked over to a nearby mirror and looked over her body.
“Why would I need new clothes though? My Strength Stat is already through the roof!”
“Well, maybe you could increase some of your other Stats, too? Besides, you look like a noob wearing nothing but the default outfit,” I stated. I had also wanted to add that she ‘looked like a pervert’, but a certain Rogue’s iron gauntlet had taught me a valuable lesson about using the ‘P’ word to refer to my customers. If a punch from a Rogue was enough to dislodge my glasses, imagine how much damage a Lycanthrope punch could do!
“Hmm… I guess I have been wearing the same outfit for a while,” she said, “Maybe it’s finally time that I got a new look?” She paused for a moment. “…Besides, my current apparel kind of makes me look like a bit of a pervert.”
Gah, so she had already realized that?!
A couple of minutes later, the two of us emerged from the storage-closet. When she had picked out her new outfit, I was initially surprised. I expected an eccentric individual such as herself to go for something a little bit more… bizarre, but all things considered Lyca’s new Gear was actually quite normal. She was now decked out in a sleeveless sweater, a pair of sunglasses and some skinny jeans. (Dare I say that she actually looked rather stylish?) Of course, such a designer outfit wasn’t exactly cheap, but she didn’t seem to mind and, quite frankly, neither did I.
“Thank you, Mister Yuu,” the wolf beamed.
“Don’t mention it,” I smiled back.
I watched as she exited the Fantasy Shoppe, her tail wag, wag, wagging happily behind her. Hidden underneath her tail, I could see that her new pants were a tad too small for her, revealing the waistband of her underwear (the same shade of blue-green as her avatar’s hair, in case you were wondering), a rather humorous reminder of how the girl was dressed mere moments ago.
As I stared at Lyca from outside the shop’s window, I realized that she didn’t look so different from the other players around her anymore. Perhaps she was never really all that different from them to begin with? Her Satsuma dialect, her peculiar fashion-sense, her airheadedness – Sure, she’s a bit eccentric, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing? After all, isn’t everyone in this game a bit eccentric?
As I sat in the comfort of my armchair, I couldn’t help feeling like something was a bit… off. Yeah, helping customers find the wares of their dreams was a Shopkeeper’s raison d’être, but there was usually more to it than just suggesting an outfit and sending the customer on their merry way. Where were the usual high jinks? Where was the customer’s entertaining story? I should probably consider this a blessing, a break from my usual chaotic life as it were, but I just can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss. This feels like the calm before the storm, the breather chapter in an isekai light novel before things get serious… [TL note: Isekai = Otherworld. Here it refers to a genre of fiction (especially prominent in Japanese media) where a protagonist is trapped in another world or dimension, such as a videogame.]
Ah, well. It’s probably just my imagination.
END OF PURCHASE