Chapter 40:

Checkout + Afterword

Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper

Have you ever watched an anime where the protagonist tracks down a serial killer? Isn’t it strange how they’re always able to defeat him, even though they’re still in highschool? Have you ever wondered who –if anyone– would ever be able to win in such a scenario? …That would be me, Yuu Watanabe. (Of course, that isn’t my real name. That’s simply just the screen-name I chose when I began playing Utopia Online.) When I’m offline, I’m Yui Shiotani – Your typical everyday third-year highschool girl.Bookmark here

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-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

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EPILOGUE 2 – CHECKOUTBookmark here

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The familiar sound of a bell chimed throughout my humble little shop. I looked up from the book that was currently commanding my attention, in order to greet my latest customer. (I had began reading this book when I first met Rose_the_Deathbringer, but I never got around to finishing it. That felt like so long ago now…)Bookmark here

Satou Tajiri – Level 1 InventorBookmark here

“I’m here to perform another routine inspection,” she stated, “Although my methods aren’t going to be as ludicrous as my former employer’s…”Bookmark here

“Go ahead,” I smiled, “In case you’ve forgotten, I’m the one who saved Utopia Online from Zashiki-Watashi!”Bookmark here

“Defeating a serial killer does not automatically make you a great Shopkeeper,” she stated bluntly.Bookmark here

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Miss Tajiri is the proud owner of the ImagineTech company. After Nagisa’s suicide, she had inherited the company and released an update returning Utopia Online back to its previous, nonlethal state… although she had also made one small change to the game.Bookmark here

“Here you go, Watanabe,” she said, handing me a clipboard and a piece of paper, “This is a written test. Please answer all of these questions honestly.”Bookmark here

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, I don’t have a pen.”Bookmark here

“Oops, I almost forgot,” the Inventor blushed, reaching into her perky cleavage and withdrawing a pen, “Here you go.”Bookmark here

As she handed it towards me, the pen slipped out of her hand and onto the floor.Bookmark here

“Oh, my. I’m so clumsy,” she apologized, “I’ll get it for you!”Bookmark here

She bent down to pick up the writing utensil, her tight dolphin shorts jutting into the air. If one were to squint, they could probably make out the outline of her underpants. (Not that I’d know. Aheh.) It was almost as if she was begging for a slap, but I refused to stoop to such lows. Although I suppose it would be fine if I was testing out the new update…Bookmark here

-SMACK!-Bookmark here

“H-hey! What do you think you’re doing?! Are you trying to fail the test?!” Miss Tajiri scoffed.Bookmark here

“No, ma’am. I was just trying to test out the new pain physics,” I grinned, adjusting my avatar’s glasses.Bookmark here

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After taking over the company, Tajiri made significant changes to the game’s lifelike physics. More specifically, she made it so that the pain felt in-game was much less, well, ‘painful’ than in real life.Bookmark here

“That still hurts,” she groaned, rubbing her backside, “Did you have to spank me as hard as possible?!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, my bad,” I blushed, “Sometimes I don’t even know my own Strength.”Bookmark here

-SLAP!-Bookmark here

Miss Tajiri stood up and slapped me across my face.Bookmark here

“There, now we’re even,” she grinned.Bookmark here

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-DINGALING!-Bookmark here

Tajiri and I looked over at the Knight who had just entered the Fantasy Shoppe.Bookmark here

Dan Steele – Level 64 KnightBookmark here

“Hey, Watanabe! Long time no see,” he beamed.Bookmark here

“Hey there, handsome,” I winked.Bookmark here

“I haven’t seen you behind that counter for a while,” he remarked, “I’m used to seeing the batboy all the time, I was worried that you might have quit your job or something?”Bookmark here

“Nah, I was just busy with some stuff IRL…” I smirked, walking over to the Knight and giving him a light tap on the ass, “But I’m back now, babe.”Bookmark here

“Ah, I see that you’ve already met my boyfriend,” Miss Tajiri smiled smugly.Bookmark here

“Wh-what? D-Dan Steele is your b-boyfriend?”Bookmark here

“Is something wrong, Watanabe?” Dan asked me.Bookmark here

“Oh, n-nothing at all! I’m p-perfectly fine,” I said, gritting my teeth, “S-so anyway, did anything happen while I was away?”Bookmark here

Dan and Satou looked at each other and started giggling.Bookmark here

“What are you guys laughing about?” I pondered aloud.Bookmark here

“Oh, it’s a funny story,” Dan said, “Do you want to hear it? I know how much you like listening to your customers’ stories!”Bookmark here

“Dan, sweetie. Mister Watanabe is supposed to be doing a test right now,” the Inventor informed her boyfriend.Bookmark here

“Oh, c’mon! That can wait, Satou! Now then, let me set up the scene – It was two weeks ago…”Bookmark here

I sat back down at my desk, putting Miss Tajiri’s clipboard aside as I listened to Dan’s story. The smiles on the customers’ faces as they tell me all about their latest quests and achievements is the greatest high in the world. That is why I chose to be a Shopkeeper in Utopia Online.Bookmark here

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Meanwhile…Bookmark here

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Have you ever wondered who, in a world of endless possibilities, would ever choose to degrade themselves by playing the role of a bunnygirl? Huehuehue… That would be me, Asami Usami, the narrator of the second half of this chapter of Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper. (Of course, that isn’t my real name. That’s simply just the screen-name I chose when I began playing Utopia Online.) When I’m offline, I’m Bonnie Rabbitte – Your typical everyday foreign exchange-student. I was sitting at the Town Square, where Homura Usami and I always used to hang out.Bookmark here

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-STOMP, STOMP!-Bookmark here

My bunny-ears twitched as I heard the familiar footsteps of a certain someone’s metal boots. I groaned, rubbing my ears. (Regardless of how much I play this game, it always feels weird whenever my ears twitch on their own.) The footsteps drew nearer as I finally caught a glimpse of their owner.Bookmark here

“Well, well… If it isn’t the Usami Twins,” a familiar voice called out, “…Wait a second, where’s the other one?”Bookmark here

Chris Hacksaw – Level 612 BarbarianBookmark here

“Oh, uhm,” I muttered, looking to a side, “Homura isn’t here…”Bookmark here

I hadn’t yet told my Guild Leader about the Witch’s passing. I was waiting for the right moment, y’know?Bookmark here

“Well, where is she?” Chris grumbled, “She’s supposed to incinerate the Orcs while you distract them with your high Seduction Stat!”Bookmark here

“I… I know that, but she’s,” I paused, choking on my words, “She’s not available right now.”Bookmark here

Chris took a seat next to me and twiddled his thumbs.Bookmark here

“I’ll wait here until Homura arrives.”Bookmark here

I placed a hand on his knee and started to sob.Bookmark here

“I’ll wait, too,” I murmured, “I’ll wait, too...”Bookmark here

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I looked up at the sky and wondered – Is there something beyond death? Heaven, Valhalla or ’Ariba perhaps? Mayoi Oda was living proof (although ‘living’ mightn’t be the right word) that a consciousness could live without a body, so maybe it wasn’t such a stretch to believe in an afterlife. Maybe all of Watashi’s victims were still out there somewhere? Maybe she was still out there somewhere… It was probably pointless to dwell on such things. There’s no need to be worrying about what happens after death. I’ll find out what happens after death eventually, and maybe even be reunited with Homura, but for now I should just live in the moment.Bookmark here

“Hey, Chris. There’s something that I need to tell you…”Bookmark here

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END OF SERIESBookmark here

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AFTERWORDBookmark here

Hello there! I’m Kuru, the author of Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper! Thank you so much for checking out my novel! :)Bookmark here

I’ve been writing stories for most of my life, but this is actually the first one that I’ve ever published. (I hope that I did a good job! ^^;) I wrote the series as an episodic, slice-of-life story because I thought that it would make the earlier chapters easier to write, although I always knew that the story would eventually become more ‘plot-heavy’ during the second act. (In fact, Ghost in the Machine was actually the first chapter that I planned out. I really liked the image of someone in a VR game telling the protagonist that they were standing outside their window, and I kinda just worked out the rest of the details of the story from there.)Bookmark here

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The story itself went through several changes during development. For example, Yui and Nagisa actually had their roles swapped during development. In the original plan, the protagonist was the son of the game’s creator, whereas the antagonist was, ironically, the daughter of the police chief who would have kept her identity secret by posing as a man online. The fact that ‘Yuu Watanabe’ and ‘Yui Shiotani’ still contain syllables from the killer’s pseudonym is a leftover from when Yui was intended to be the villain. (If I didn’t point that out, I wonder if anyone would have ever noticed? LOL.)Bookmark here

Another example is that Dorothy and Mii were originally just one character – An Irish student who was struggling to speak Japanese, but also played as the opposite sex in Utopia Online. In the end, I decided that ‘struggling to speak Japanese’ and ‘playing as the opposite sex’ were probably interesting enough concepts on their own, so I spilt them into two separate characters.Bookmark here

…I’m kinda rambling on here. Oops! ^^; Basically, I’m really proud of the finished product and I think it flows a lot better than my original project plan!Bookmark here

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I don’t really have anywhere else to say this, but the character Jackie is named after Jackie Wordsworth, the main protagonist of the Honeyfeed webnovel Two Beings, Or Not Two Beings?, written by my best friend L. Moonlight. They gave a shoutout to Virtual Shopkeeper in the final chapter of their novel, so it only felt fair that I returned the favor. So please check out Two Beings, if you haven’t already! (Or don’t, I won’t force you to or anything! ^^;)Bookmark here

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I’ve already said a lot (even if the stuff I’m saying isn’t even all that important…), so I guess I’ll go now. Thank you for following my first step into the literary world, and I hope to publish many more novels in the future! :D (Although I’ll need to take a long break first… U_U)Bookmark here

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– Kuromaru (Kuru), someone who’s already planning out their next novel.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.