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.
I was dusting off the Fantasy Shoppe’s countertop when a familiar Villager entered through my newly replaced door.
Kiran – Level 23 Villager
“H-hey, Yuu! I heard you defeated the D-Demon King,” Kiran smiled, “I bet you’re s-super rich now, right?”
“I wish,” I squeaked, “Aya got most of the reward money.”
…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?!
17th PURCHASE – THE ONE WHERE YUU WATANABE’S VOICE BREAKS
Kiran stared at me with a look of confusion.
“Is s-something wrong, Yuu?”
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.
…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.
“N-no, Kiran. Nothing’s wrong,” I said, my voice was muffled underneath my avatar’s hand.
“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?!”
“Not particularly,” I mumbled, “Being female isn’t exactly a rare trait or anything.”
“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!”
You don’t need to imagine it, I thought, you’re already standing next to a female Yuu.
“Y-yeah,” I replied awkwardly, “A female Yuu, that would be c-crazy, huh?”
“…Wh-what’s up with your voice, Yuu?”
So she finally noticed it?!
“I’ve, uh, got a bit of a cold,” I muttered, lifting my hand away from my mouth.
“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?”
“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?”
“Not if you don’t w-want me to,” she smiled sweetly.
“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.”
“Aww, th-that’s such a cute name! Do you mind if I call you Yui?”
“Not at all,” I shrugged, “…So, since I told you my real name, are you going to tell me yours?”
“I-I-I couldn’t possibly do that,” the girl stammered.
“It’s OK, I’m not going to force you to or anything. I was just curious is all.”
“…H-hang on a second, Yui.”
Kiran’s avatar momentarily disappeared, before reappearing again in the same spot.
“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’.”
The two of us just stared awkwardly at each other for a while.
“So, uh… wh-what do you want to do now?” the Villager finally asked me, breaking the silence.
“I could help you to find whatever Gear you’re looking for, Mii” I suggested.
“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.”
“Yeah, that’s probably for the best,” I sighed.
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.
“Farewell, old friend. You served me well.”
“Yui, I’m home,” a voice called out.
I stood up and rushed downstairs to greet my father.
“Dad, you’re home early,” I smiled, wrapping my arms around the man.
“Yeah,” he sighed, “We still don’t have any leads, so we called it quits for the day.”
He placed his police cap on the nearby coatrack and took a seat, unbuttoning his police shirt and tossing it behind him.
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.
“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!”
“I wish I had your confidence, kiddo…”
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…
END OF PURCHASE