Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper 2 - Re:Tale
[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This novel is a sequel to one of my previous novels, and as such will contain unmarked spoilers. It is highly recommended that you finish reading Tales of Virtual Shopkeeper before reading this sequel.]
The familiar sound of a bell chimed throughout my humble little shop, taking me away from my morning brew. This place was known as the Fantasy Shoppe, essentially an all-purpose convenience store located somewhere in the virtual world of Utopia Online, the most immersive and realistic VRMMO ever created. Using revolutionary (and patented), state-of-the-art technology, the developers were able to create a virtual world that felt real.
Two years ago, this world almost became a real-life death game due to the meddling of a certain serial killer named Watashi. As fond as I am of reciting and listening to stories, now isn’t the time for me to regale you with such tales, for I have a customer to attend to.
I looked up from the novelty coffee mug that had commanded my attention moments prior and stared at my latest customer. Her head was topped with an oversized jester hat, her body draped with a jagged robe resembling a witch on Halloween. Her legs were adorned with a pair of opaque velvet tights and her feet were covered by pointed elf shoes. But the most striking (and garish) feature of her avatar was her nose, which had been replaced with a big red sphere – However you slice it, this girl was definitely a clown in the most literal sense. And I’d suspect in the most metaphorical sense, too.
April Summer – Level 401 Fool
Fool, huh? Ever since Mrs. Tajiri took over her former-employer’s company, she had slowly begun to introduce new features to the world of Utopia Online, including new Classes. So I had heard, the Fool Class is the weakest in the game, making even a Villager or a Shopkeeper such as myself look powerful by comparison.
ADDITIONAL PURCHASE 0 – PRANKSTA’S PARADISE
“Heeeeeeeello,” the pantyhosed Pierrot beamed in a singsong voice, interrupting my train of thought. “I’m here to buy some stuff, m’kay?”
“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific than that,” I sighed. I could already tell that this girl was to be one of my more… eccentric customers, which I suppose was fitting of her clown archetype.
“I want…” The girl hopped over to my desk like a child playing Leap Frog, before slamming her arms on my desk. “I want a pack of condoms and your finest sex toy!”
“Wh-what?!” I stammered, adjusting my avatar’s red-framed glasses as I tried to regain my composure – A professional Shopkeeper such as myself should be prepared for any and all requests that my customers and clients might make. After a brief pause, I cleared my throat. “There, um, aren’t any contraceptives or sexual objects in this game, Miss.”
“Relax dude, I’m just messin’,” April breathed, her cheeks puffed up like a hamster’s as she tried to contain her laugher. “April Fool’s, my guy. You totally should’ve seen the look on your face!”
Of course, today is April Fool’s Day! In the western world, people from all walks of life come together on the first of April to pull small, relatively harmless pranks on each other. Of course, we have this tradition in Japan too, although it isn’t nearly as widespread.
“I see,” I chuckled. “So that’s why your avatar is dressed like a fool!”
“I always dress like this,” April pouted. “Anyway, speaking of how I dress, I want you to take a look at these.”
The japing jester opened up her inventory and removed a piece of strawberry-print fabric, waving it around in my face.
“Are those… underpants?” I asked, snatching the delicates from her gloved hands. “Is this another joke? Are you familiar with the proverb that goes ‘fool me once, shame on you’?”
“Nah, dude. This is mad legit,” she smirked. “I want you to enhance those bloomers with some Ability Crystals.”
I’ve been in this situation many times before. A lot of Utopia Online noobs come to my shop to request that I enhance their gear for them, completely unaware that they can do that themselves for free. Still, I would never to turn down a paying customer. The morality of the transaction is irrelevant, as long as I can make a profit from it – That’s the Shopkeeper’s raison d'être. And in the event that this harlequin does figure out that I’m conning her, I’ll just say that it was an April Fool’s Day prank. It’s the perfect scheme!
“Ahem,” I began, “what kind of Special Skills are you looking for, exactly?”
“Doesn’t really matter,” the girl shrugged. “Anything goes, as long as it will aid me in pulling sick pranks!”
“Ah, so that’s what this is about.”
“Well, of course! I’m a Fool! That’s part of the job,” she winked playfully.
“I suppose that I could equip these bloomers with a teleportation or invisibility Skill. Those could certainly come in handy,” I explained. “How much Ability Crystals do you have, exactly? I need to know what I’m working with.”
“Oh, uh, aheheh… Y’see, here’s the thing,” April laughed sheepishly. “I don’t… have any Ability Crystals right now. I was… hoping that you could use yours? I’ll pay you!”
My Crystals? Well, I suppose that I don’t really have much use for them anyway, since a Shopkeeper doesn’t need to have any fancy combat abilities. And since she was paying me to doing this for her, it wouldn’t be a total loss.
“Alright,” I nodded. “I suppose that I can use my Ability Crystals, although next time you’ll have to bring your own, OK?”
“Thanks so much, Mister Shopkeeper,” the girl beamed.
“No need for formalities,” I smiled. “You can call me ‘Yuu Watanabe’. Everyone else does.”
April Summer chuckled to herself as she pulled her newly-enhanced bloomers on over her purple tights, probably plotting all of the pranks that she’d pull using her upgraded underwear. The Fool briefly shifted between states of visibility and invisibility, making sure that she had gotten the hang of her new Skills.
“I trust that everything is to your satisfaction?” I smirked.
“Uh-huh, you betcha,” the clown giggled.
“Great, that’ll be…” I withdrew a calculator from my inventory and pretended to work out a sum in my head, although in truth I just pulled a random figure out of my ass. “About 5000 Gold. Does that sound fair to you?”
“Gold?” she asked almost inquisitively. “But I thought that you could enhance Gear for free, can you not?”
“You… can,” I sighed, disappointed that she hadn’t fallen for my ruse. But something didn’t quite add up.
“Earlier, didn’t you say that you’d pay me?” I questioned.
“Oh, teehee! Whoopsies, that’s my bad,” she grinned. “Now tell me, Watanabe… Are you familiar with the proverb that goes ‘fool me once, shame on you’?”
“Wait a second, are you saying that this was all just an elaborate trick to get me to waste my Ability Crystals on your stupid strawberry-print bloomers?!”
“You got it,” April winked, placing her hands on her hips. “April Fool’s, Yuu Watanabe!”
I lunged forward in an attempt to prevent the Fool’s escape, but she teleported away in the blink of an eye.
I exhaled in resignation, sitting back down behind my wooden desk.
“Fool me once, shame on you,” I muttered to myself. “Fool me twice, shame on me.”
END OF ADDITIONAL PURCHASE