Chapter 25:

The One Where Yuu Watanabe's Voice Breaks

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 third-year highschool girl.Bookmark here

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-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

I was dusting off the Fantasy Shoppe’s countertop when a familiar Villager entered through my newly replaced door.Bookmark here

Kiran – Level 23 VillagerBookmark here

“H-hey, Yuu! I heard you defeated the D-Demon King,” Kiran smiled, “I bet you’re s-super rich now, right?”Bookmark here

“I wish,” I squeaked, “Aya got most of the reward money.”Bookmark here

…Wait a second, something was off. I blushed, quickly covering my avatar’s mouth. Just now, I had spoken with my voice. My real voice. My real, female voice. Dammit, was my voice-changer broken?!Bookmark here

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Kiran stared at me with a look of confusion.Bookmark here

“Is s-something wrong, Yuu?”Bookmark here

Hadn’t she noticed that my voice sounded different? (My real voice is rather deep for a girl, so perhaps it just easily passes as being a man’s voice?) Even if she did figure out that I was really a girl, would it even matter anyway? I mean, Kiran’s also playing as the opposite sex, so I doubt that she’d mock me or think that I was a creep.Bookmark here

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…No, even if she wouldn’t judge me for my avatar, I still couldn’t let her know that I was actually a girl IRL. I am a professional Utopia Online player. And as a professional Utopia Online player, I refuse to break character.Bookmark here

“N-no, Kiran. Nothing’s wrong,” I said, my voice was muffled underneath my avatar’s hand.Bookmark here

“Th-that’s good to know,” the Villager smiled, “S-so, wanna tell me about your battle with the D-Demon King? I heard that he was actually a w-woman! Isn’t that crazy?!”Bookmark here

“Not particularly,” I mumbled, “Being female isn’t exactly a rare trait or anything.”Bookmark here

“W-well, yeah,” Kiran said, “But she looked exactly like you! I couldn’t p-possibly imagine coming face-to-face with a female Yuu!”Bookmark here

You don’t need to imagine it, I thought, you’re already standing next to a female Yuu.Bookmark here

“Y-yeah,” I replied awkwardly, “A female Yuu, that would be c-crazy, huh?”Bookmark here

“…Wh-what’s up with your voice, Yuu?”Bookmark here

So she finally noticed it?!Bookmark here

“I’ve, uh, got a bit of a cold,” I muttered, lifting my hand away from my mouth.Bookmark here

“Y-you think I’m gonna fall for that?” Kiran asked, raising an eyebrow as she placed a hand on her avatar’s thick hips, “That’s the exact s-same excuse that I gave to Lyre and Inferno. D-do you really think I’m that d-dumb?”Bookmark here

“Well, it was worth a shot,” I chuckled, “So I guess you’ve found out my little secret? You’re not going to tell anyone… are you?”Bookmark here

“Not if you don’t w-want me to,” she smiled sweetly.Bookmark here

“Thanks, Kiran. I appreciate it,” I smiled back, “It’s Shiotani, by the way. Yui Shiotani. Since you now know my real gender, I suppose there’s no harm in letting you know my real name as well.”Bookmark here

“Aww, th-that’s such a cute name! Do you mind if I call you Yui?”Bookmark here

“Not at all,” I shrugged, “…So, since I told you my real name, are you going to tell me yours?”Bookmark here

“I-I-I couldn’t possibly do that,” the girl stammered.Bookmark here

“It’s OK, I’m not going to force you to or anything. I was just curious is all.”Bookmark here

“…H-hang on a second, Yui.”Bookmark here

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Kiran’s avatar momentarily disappeared, before reappearing again in the same spot.Bookmark here

“S-sorry about that, Yui. I was just t-turning off my voice-changer,” she (he?) apologized in a more masculine voice than before, “I-it’s Ryuuhei Miiki. That’s my name. But my friends call me ‘Mii’.”Bookmark here

The two of us just stared awkwardly at each other for a while.Bookmark here

“So, uh… wh-what do you want to do now?” the Villager finally asked me, breaking the silence.Bookmark here

“I could help you to find whatever Gear you’re looking for, Mii” I suggested.Bookmark here

“Oh, I-I didn’t come here for Gear. I j-just wanted to ask you about your encounter with the Demon King M-Mao,” Mii replied, “B-but I guess I’ll come back another time once you’ve f-fixed your voice-changing headset. It just feels weird hearing a g-girl’s voice coming from your character.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, that’s probably for the best,” I sighed.Bookmark here

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-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

I had waited for Mii to leave, before flipping the sign outside the Fantasy Shoppe to read Sorry, we’re closed and locking the door. I removed my VR headset and flumped down on my IRL bed. I stared at the headset that was currently in my hands and sighed.Bookmark here

“Farewell, old friend. You served me well.”Bookmark here

“Yui, I’m home,” a voice called out.Bookmark here

I stood up and rushed downstairs to greet my father.Bookmark here

“Dad, you’re home early,” I smiled, wrapping my arms around the man.Bookmark here

“Yeah,” he sighed, “We still don’t have any leads, so we called it quits for the day.”Bookmark here

He placed his police cap on the nearby coatrack and took a seat, unbuttoning his police shirt and tossing it behind him.Bookmark here

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As I’m sure you’ve probably already figured out, Dad is a member of the local police force. His squad is the one that’s been tasked with finding the serial killer that the media has dubbed as ‘Watashi’, but they currently haven’t been able to find any leads. Whoever this killer is, he or she definitely knows how to cover their tracks – The police are still none the wiser as to who they are or what –if anything– connects their unfortunate victims.Bookmark here

“Don’t worry, Dad,” I smiled, placing a hand on my father’s exposed shoulder, “I know that you’re going to find Watashi and bring him or her to justice!”Bookmark here

“I wish I had your confidence, kiddo…”Bookmark here

I could tell that my dad was upset, but there wasn’t much that I could do to cheer him up. (It’s not like I could just catch this killer and make all of his worries go away or anything.) I removed my hand from his shoulder and walked back upstairs. Now probably wasn’t the best time to ask him to buy a replacement headset…Bookmark here

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END OF PURCHASEBookmark here

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