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1648
    For some death in obscurity, unmarked but for the illusory earth.
   For some death for knowledge, to sate man’s eternal thirst.
  For some death in damnation, to pay the cost of an existence ill-gotten.
 For some life eternal,
The cruellest of the Fates.

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1649
 ✱✱✱

Somewhere in the Forest of Magic a bird was offering to the world its final good-nights.

 Alice Margatroid woke groggy.

 To say more, Alice Margatroid woke groggy, gum-eyed and afoul of a most awful headache, but none of it prevented her clambering to a sit among the blue light of an aging evening. The young lady of the house was not in the habit of allowing such circumstances much say in her decisions to go about the business of rising, and this day was not one where this changed. Alice Margatroid had seen to her rising in unlikely states many times before. Today was no different.

 She kneaded the tenseness in her temples and admitted a huge yawn into the stillness of her bedroom. Her voice sank in the soft upholstery of chairs and the silken drapes hung on the small westward windows. A whisper of a cold breeze was tugging at the edge of the flower-pattern fabric. Alice made a mental note to start closing the windows from this day. Fall was fast making its approach. Alice did not want a cold.

 She felt as one now, though.

 A hair-raising frisson shuddered down the length of her spine when she threw off the body-warm covers and her sweat began to chill. Alice tossed her legs over the edge of the bed and slid her feet into the slippers they found there. She could go with some tea. Hot tea, steaming hot, with honey and lemon, and perhaps a touch of spice or herbs. And food – yes, food, do not you forget, Alice Margatroid, she chided herself in her head. The rings on her bed stand were almost electrifying to the touch. She repeated breakfast inwardly once more, before slipping them on.

 The moment of connection was always the worst, as though the dolls grew indignant in the absence of their life-giver, the miniature soul-engines in their bellies starved of the mobilising energy. Alice winced as dozens of pinprick links penetrated her skin, joining with the arcane sigils implanted in the flesh of her palms which would translate the blabber of magic report into electric stimuli processable by her brain. She clutched the supports of her bed when the extrasensory information began imposing itself onto her still tenuous hold on her own five human senses. The headache throbbed and swelled triumphantly in the sides of her skull.

 The moment of connection was always the worst... but when the defiant screams of her brain died down, oh how liberating was it to feel her mind expand outward past the confines of her human body! To see, hear and taste everything which the legion of dolls, within and out of her house, did – filtered, of course, through the perceptions of their artificial sensoria, but keener still than her parched tongue or pulsing eyeballs. The world of sensation outside her bedroom walls excited her up to her feet. She watched herself stand from the twelve eyes perched atop the bookcase opposite of the bed, almost losing her balance when the dolls took flight to assemble at her back. The thought of having to see herself tumble like a sack of potatoes made her laugh.

 She laughed so hard blood began to drip from her nose.

 Alice wiped it with the back of a hand and quit the darkening bedroom on weightless feet, dimly remembering her human body’s need of sustenance.


 ✱✱✱
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1650
 ✱✱✱

The Yama, Eiki Shiki, signed the last warrant with a flick of the aching wrist.

 A hooded scrivener came and gathered the documents into their small, fair-skinned hands. Too young hands, thought the Yama as the secretary bowed below the other end of her office desk. She sat back in her throne, releasing the tendons in her own right hand. The scrivener turned and left via one of the two doors exiting the judgement hall. The back one. The door clicked close behind them.

 Eiki Shiki was free.

 That is not to say Eiki Shiki had been held prisoner until now. She would sooner condemn herself to the seventh hell than complain of her work. Eiki Shiki simply had an aching wrist. A Yama’s duties were, of course, too important to allow such a thing to interfere, but now that her duties were complete at last (for the day at least), Eiki might not help a quiet sigh of relief. She was free. More importantly the wrist was free, and sensibly grateful of the fact on the arm-rest of the Yama’s throne.

 This was not entirely related, but Eiki Shiki had a date booked for that night.

That night might be a thorny subject when speaking of the Underworld – its night was perpetual, courtesy of the absence of the Sun – but Eiki Shiki felt a little thrilled all the same. There was something naughty in pondering the locales in the Underground City to take her date while still in her work uniform, but this much the most diligent of the Yamas determined to let slip. There was no shortage of bureaucracy in the Underworld, but dates did not come as common. She had every right to be excited, no matter who the date was. The occasion alone merited a bit of sinfulness.

 The only hope Eiki Shiki nursed was that the wrist would cease to hurt before too long.

 The great Yama rose, fully half the height of her stately throne, and, pulling off her office hat, gave the empty hall a girly smile. Nothing and no one counted more now than the shower back at her place, and the cool touch of clean clothes afterwards.

 She flew from the Palace of Judgement on invisible wings.


 ✱✱✱
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1651
 ✱✱✱

There was one thing Youmu Konpaku, server of the Saigyouji family, could not bear, and that was the whistling of her sword.

 To be sure this was no everyday worry – whistling not being something swords are wont to do – and in this aspect at least Youmu Konpaku took a bit of pride. She was a serious person, was the guardian of Hakugyokurou, and she did not irritate at any old little thing. This was a serious issue for a serious person such as she. Youmu Konpaku bit her lip very seriously.

 She switched her grip on the wrapped tsuka of her sword and swung a wide arc downward the vegetable garden.

 The shrill death-cry of sliced air made her cringe.

 This was not how it should be, and Youmu Konpaku confirmed just such a reality all over again as she looked down the previously perfect cutting arch of the sword. There was a kink somewhere. Her not seeing it made little matter; the sound it made was heavy evidence against the flawlessness of her weapon and mood. The Roukan-ken cut cleanly – the spirit-honed edge slipping between molecules of air in its path without disturbing any. It did not whistle. Should not whistle. Whistling was everything but serious.

 The dead princess’s servant tried once and twice and thrice more cuts, squirming hard as each filled her ears with the sound of utter unseriousness.

 Youmu Konpaku’s head would roll if lady Yuyuko heard her sword complain so of neglect. To begin with her head would roll if lady Yuyuko heard the sword had been wounded in the first place; not fixing it as soon as possible would only add to the sentence. Lady Yuyuko was a beautiful woman, true, and spoken softer than a bell. She was fair and kind, at once a queen and a mother; but lady Yuyuko despised one thing, and that was the wounding of her kind. The spirit of Roukan-ken was crying in her arms, and yet Youmu Konpaku did nothing. She should have taken it to the stone hours before.

The whistling, thought the young swordswoman. The whistling must have distracted her.

 She kissed the blade and hugged it to her breast. Whatever hours lady Yuyuko might yet be, those were hours might be spent grinding the kink away. Hakugyokurou was a large place, with a thousand nooks and even more crannies. A person may look for days and never find whom (or what) they seek. She did not need a whole day, naturally. The flaw could be out within an hour with luck. There was one problem, however.

 Cradling the hurt weapon, Youmu Konpaku seriously tried to remember where she had put her tools.


 ✱✱✱
 ✱✱✱

 We saw it walking, heavy as lead.
 We saw its limbs, wooden and dead.
 We saw its eyes, forever damned.
 We saw its teeth, bloodied and bared.

 Some say it still lives, but it does not.
 Human once, but human no more.
 The shadow of one – a ghost at the core.
 One not yet seen – not ever before.

 What might it be, this creature so strange?
 Why has it taken these woods to range?
 Whose blood is it that seeps from its mouth?
 Oh where and when have things gone so south?
Anyone have any idea what the answer is? Because I've got nothing.
>>1652,
1. Yuyuko, a ghost with a solid body
2. ?
3. Alice, she has become too clumsy at controlling her body with while using dolls to flee and is eaten.
4. When Youmu's sword got it's nick, distracting her from watching/feeding Yuyuko.
>>1654

Afaik, the first and last posts are just foreshadowing for the antagonist of this story. The first one is philosophical and the last one is a straightforward description and narration.

But, since writers love speculation, I'm going to assume the first part reffers to different Touhous. It's the least I could do after seeing that YAF actually started a new story, even if it is written in /copout/

I... suppose We could argue that those sentences are the justification for the 'enemy' to murder everyone (let's ignore all the faults and assumptions of that statement)

>For some death in obscurity, unmarked but for the illusory earth.
Saigyouji
>   For some death for knowledge, to sate man’s eternal thirst.
Margatroid or any other mage-like Youkai.
>  For some death in damnation, to pay the cost of an existence ill-gotten.
Yamaxandu. That's what she does.
> For some life eternal,
The cruelest of the Fates.
Konpaku.
So are you doing every requested character?
...Oh dear, you aren't truly going to write about yourself, are you?
>>1657
>Yourself
>Starts with Y

Clever girl.
>>1657
What sort of deranged coconut monkey wants to read about me? Get a brain, silly.

At any rate, I’ll post the latter half of this short tomorrow or the day after. Stay frosty.
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1662
>>1659

>What sort of deranged coconut monkey wants to read about me?
>>1659
Damn you, Polishman, where is the second part?! I demand you deliver onto I the rest as you claimed you would!
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1668
 ✱✱✱

 Alice Margatroid employed the time her body fed itself to survey the surrounds of the house.

 The evening was quick fading to obscurity, and with it the last light; and any human eye would be soon dissuaded by the deepening shadows – Alice’s no different. The night took her sight as well as any human’s. Still, the preclusion zone around her home was all but bare before her. The light-supersensitive oculars of the effigies she had nailed to dozens of trees outside ensured so much. The mono-coloured visual feedback registered clearly in her mind, transmitted firstly to her dolls by way of set sigillic links, then to her brain through the translation engines in her arms. The poorer quality of those – admittedly less sophisticated – magic instruments had made for a lot of buzzing interference in the infancy stages of her research into the field, but Alice’s mind now filtered most of it out. It had learned how to do so.

 It had had a lot of time to, after all.

 Almost she did not notice when the last of the milk-soaked bread had been spooned into her mouth by her emaciated hand. The tinkling of the tableware on the empty bowl alone alerted her. Not the absence of the food, no – Alice’s sense of taste was as faded as the house dress she wore, and just as frayed by the long years of use. It was nothing in comparison with the pure reply of her creations.

 Taste was an easy thing to detect with artificial receptors, and would have been the plainest solution to this dilemma; yet Alice knew this would not feed her, and wasting the lightning strike rarity of a good magical sensorium to act as a proxy for the simple enjoyment of taste sat wrong with the puppeteer. Her dolls were precious things, and though sturdy, best not taxed overmuch. Unless...

 Unless it was to further her research.

 Alice stood, making naught of the unpleasant crunching in her hip joints. She delegated a latter part of her brain to washing the dishes, while her own body made toward the laboratory in the heart of the house.

 There had been many instances when Alice considered substituting her inferior flesh.

 The procedure was simplicity itself. Alice had gone over it amid many a sleepless night; she worked the harder part of it every time she made (or re-made) one of her dolls. Craft a suiting body, join the actuators, marry everything to the engine... Then power it. The essence of the soul surges, filling out the artificial nerves, animating the joints; the encasing wood-flesh is maintained by its radiance. There had been meals more difficult that Alice had made when she had yet retained hope for her own weak senses. She had done it countless times. She could do it in her sleep.

 And yet, the entire vessel must be vacant first before the substitute parts are connected, and Alice would rather her soul did not part with her body just yet. At least, not until she knew it could be returned. That day neared even now. Alice smiled at the vision of it.

 The smile jerked when she opened the door to her work room. The stench of spoiled meat was overpowering, even to her human nose.

 The puppeteer conjured a handkerchief from the pockets of her dress, and sprinkled it with counteractive perfume from one of the receptacles. She pressed it to her face as she approached the slab in the centre of the room. The glow-globe lights overhead flickered on at the touch of a thought.

 Alice Margatroid would rather her soul did not part with her flesh just yet... but to her advantage, there were those whose had done so already.

 To procure just such a specimen had been as easy as asking.


 ✱✱✱
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1669
 ✱✱✱

 “What is a curse, anyway?”

 Komachi’s voice was a beautiful but faint phenomenon, swamped by the unremitting din of the taproom. Though she was positive it had been a shout when it had left her friend’s cherry-pink lips.

 Eiki Shiki leant closer across the table, pretending ignorance.


 “What is what?” she launched over the noise.

 “A curse!” Komachi shouted back. She twirled a finger in the thick air. “That thing what you Yama sign. That thing!”

 “Ah.” Eiki shaped a tepid smile. “That thing.”


 Komachi’s interminable curiousness of the technicalities of her job never failed to sour their outings. The Yama being interrogated buoyed her tankard up to her mouth. She winced when her wrist flared up with pain.

 Eiki Shiki had not expected anything else. She had hoped for it, might be even wished it, but she had certainly not expected it.

 The pub room where they sat, faced on the opposite sides of a table which as well might be but an oversized stool, was packed beyond sensibility. It hadn’t always been so. New Hell’s administration recognised well enough the work of the Yama demanded a clear mind, and no clear mind exists under constant duress. So the City had been allowed to accommodate those officials off-duty to relieve their accumulated tension. Taprooms and other such establishments rose so (and fell, like empires) in the torch-lit streets, and commerce enjoyed a healthy afterlife in the Underground City.

 This one, this loud place, had been one of many like upstart businesses when Eiki and Komachi had first found it. A quiet and intimate place – and as any quiet and intimate place, it soon saw a hefty influx of customers seeking just such a quiet and intimate place – missing the point entirely in the process.

 A sigh whispered between Eiki’s lips. The one touch of consolation was Komachi was wonderful tonight. So exquisite and princess-like had she looked when they’d met up, that immediately Eiki had known she had spent all the hours since off-shift making up her hair.

 The Yama wrote that up as a compliment.


 “That is such an ugly word,” complained Eiki, sniffing. “Curse!”

 Komachi grinned. “Isn’t it, though? What’d your rather call it, then?”

 “How about ‘punishment?’”

 “You’ve a cute idea about words,” giggled Komachi. “At any rate, any-old-body can tell what a curse—er, punishment—is – but what’s it about exactly? Why plant anyone such a rotten potato? Weren’t we of the Judgement call s’posed not to meddle with our clients? Or are the higher echelons aware of something I aren’t? All you’re supposed to do is judge them, no?”

 “Well yes,” allowed Eiki, “and no. Sometimes there’s no choice but meddle.”

 “Therein’s a story!” exclaimed Komachi. “So, like when?”

 “When our decrees aren’t being honoured, for one. Or when the... the client attempts meddling themselves. Trying to break the sentence, skip the cycle, this kind of thing. Anything that goes against the proper order, basically.”

 “Why not brute force it? That’s what our department does.”

 “Well, we,” said Eiki, “aren’t supposed to meddle. There’s rules out there, you know, Komachi? Your orders are regulated, too. You’re only unleashed when our methods fall short of delivering. You’re more of a... a later resort. Job-wise, I mean.” Eiki mentally sledged herself at that last remark, but continued, “To wit, our means are designed to be subtler. To see if we can be gentle about it, so to say.”

 Komachi playfully cocked her head to the side. “With a curse, huh?”

  “Well, it is better if they come back to us of their own fault, OK?” proposed Eiki. “We can’t be put to blame that way. The curse isn’t meant to kill – our zone is full of the sorts immune to that stuff anyway – only to influence. All it does is... uh, ease them onto a shorter path to us. Quickens things up, after a fashion. Urk.” She drowned her poor wording in a swig from her cup. “Well, this’ll have to do. There’s probably no better way to put it. That’s as much as the manual says, anyway.”

 “As much as you’re going to tell me, you mean,” Komachi smiled knowingly. “You sly vixen, Eiki.”

 “A Yama has to keep her secrets,” shrugged Eiki. “Too many ears, too many mouths – you know?”

 “A curse itself,” agreed Komachi. “And what a one. So-o,” she offered mock-chivalrously, “what does the great Yama you say we get away from those pesky ears? Go somewhere, ah... more private, say?”


 Eiki’s heart made a leap for her throat. She raised her chin to look her beautiful friend straight in the eye. Komachi looked straight back.

 The great Yama swallowed a globe of hot spit.


  “A—Anywhere you have in mind?” she stuttered out.

 Komachi made a show of considering. “Well,” she said at length, “one of my in-chiefs happened to nab a bottle of something real good off some poor soul just latterly. And, as it chanced, it made its way somewise into the fridge at my place.” She tapped the bridge of her nose conspiratorially. “What a mystery, eh? Just rubs your interest, don’t it?”

 Eiki Shiki wrestled to keep the corners of her mouth from quirking up.

  “It’s moderately intriguing,” she granted.

 “Well then,” said Komachi. “Why don’t we go about solving this puzzle? Now, Eiki.”


 They did, leaving the unpleasantness of death and curses for another night altogether.


 ✱✱✱
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1670
 ✱✱✱

 It wasn’t Youmu Konpaku’s first time pouring tea, but it felt one, and she did not like it one bit.

 Lady Yuyuko took the cup in gingerly hands, nodding her silent thanks and inhaling wisps of white steam. Youmu Konpaku sketched a quick bow, which she was certain her mistress did not so much as note, and took the seat opposite of the dead princess. Lady Yuyuko was of an appropriate disposition that evening, and her face remained as grave as befit her station.


 “You will forgive my asking, but have you found it, my lady?” Youmu asked.


 She readied for a rebuke from her mistress, but oddly none came.

 Instead, Yuyuko drank of the tea. Youmu took that as a no.

 The sword at her hip itched in its scabbard, the fresh sores from honing aggravating its spirit. Youmu had put her own slant on the events of the day (mentioning naught of her dropping her sword in shock when the missing ghost had zoomed past her chamber’s windows), but the lie stuck in her stomach, and the swordswoman thumbed the Rouran-ken’s brass kashira, trying to appease her mood as well as the sword’s.

 Youmu Konpaku toyed with the thought of doing the same to her mistress, but dismissed the idea as the dictionary antonym of serious.


 “Shall I search on the morrow?” she offered helpfully. “I may go over the farthest areas in your stead, my lady.”

 Yuyuko waved a hand. “No matter now,” she said.

 “My lady?”

 “No matter,” Yuyuko said again, her voice taking on an unaccustomed edge. “The push-quills below will care for it. It’s out of our hands now.”

 “Very good, my lady Yuyuko. As you will. Out of our hands it is.”


 The swordswoman took her restless hands to the tea urn, pouring another cup for herself. There was a pregnant pause when her master continued to brood in silence.

 After a long while the pause gave birth, and what came out was a sigh on Yuyuko’s pale lips.


 “Youmu,” she moaned. “I am... the master of Hakugyokurou, yes?”

 “Yes, my lady,” said Youmu, surprised. What had brought that on? “You are the master of Hakygyokurou.”

 “I govern the spirits of the dead, yes?”

 “Govern you do, my lady.”

 “One ghost run away does not a bad master make, yes?”

 “Does not, my lady!” Youmu exclaimed. The crestfallen expression of her mistress unmanned her more than any criticism ever could. “Absolutely not! The ghost is to fault, running from you, not otherwise. Why, I was surprised myself—” She bit her tongue and shook her head. “But the point remains my lady is the greatest master Hakugyokurou has seen! No better has lived or died!”

 Yuyuko looked up, and for the first time that evening, she looked anything but depressed. “You really think that, my Youmu?”

  “On my honour as a Konpaku, my lady!” Youmu slammed a fist on her chest. “No ghost would quit my lady’s warm care of its own sane will!”

 The dead princess smiled, this time fully. “You know how to make me feel alive, Youmu.”


 She set her cup down and twined her fingers below her chin.


 “Now,” she said, smiling still, “why don’t we talk a bit about your sword, hmm?”


 Youmu froze, her previous words suddenly turned bitter on her tongue.


 “Yes, my lady,” she said, hiding her grimace behind an obedient bow.


 It seemed there was no running for this ghost at the least.


 ✱✱✱
 ✱✱✱

Who had it been then
We saw in the woods?
Twice killed and once damned,
So far from its roots?

Two legs and two arms,
Though none were its own.
A face similar,
But know it we don’t.

The story ends now,
The question remains.
You’ll furrow your brow,
Yet answers are plain.

The hints were all there,
All clues were there too.
The right conclusion is,
The monster was... who?
Not much interest in riddles, huh. Pity. I had fun contriving this.
>>1677
Oh it's interesting enough. The problem is I have no concrete guess right now and don't feel like typing up my half-assed theories for someone else to look at.
I had no idea this updated since it looks exactly the same as the previous update.
Well, considering the only true undead that isn't a ghost or evil spirit is Yoshika, but I have the feeling we don't quite have everything.

I am not a smart man.
Maybe it's Anon? Alice's corpse is the body of our avatar, and our soul is fleeing Hakugyokurou because it does not belong there.
>>1681
Warmer!
>>1682
The monster was you.
>>1688
Almost, but on the acceptable territory.

OK, let’s up the stakes. The first one to summarise what happened to the “monster” in 1-2 sentences decides the character(s) and theme(s) of my next short if I do one. Any takers?
>>1691

Alice helped a ghost escape the netherworld in exchange for helping her research. She put the soul inside some kind of doll as an experiment in taking direct control of her dolls through soul transfer. The Yama finds out about our wayward soul and curses him/her so that they'll quickly return to the afterlife. Am I close?
>>1692
Halfway there. Still, I see this piece has failed to meet my expectations. EGO COMPROMISED, I REPEAT, EGO COMPROMISED. PLEASE TRASH EVERYTHING IMMEDIATELY. COMMENCE GET DRUNK OPERATION.

At any rate. Since you were the only one to reply closest, though, I guess the grand prize goes to you. Take your time if you will. I will check back soon.
>>1694
I type this not to soothe your 435th shattered ego but because I feel like I can do better than the current winner.

The monster was once a human who sought immortality and so created a body to inhabit after death. After dying, the human's soul left Hakugyokurou to inhabit the construct, which procured a human corpse at Alice's request. As a result, it was cursed by Shiki so that the soul will return to the natural cycle more quickly.

Wait, that sounds like reincarnation. Maybe it's the newest incarnation of Akyuu?
>>1695
Sorry, that’s cold. The other poster was closer.

Here’s a hint: the opening lines can all apply to a single person metaphorically.
Shot in the dark, Medicine?
>>1697
Sorry, that’s a wide miss!
I take it that no one else wants to guess?

If so, I guess that means I win the prize. I'm pretty much fine with anything, so write whatever you prefer, YAF. If you don't have anything you feel like writing, then do something with Futo and adapting to, or coming to terms with, the modern world/Gensokyo. Or you could just pick another scene from my post back in >>/shrine/37379.

So what was the half that I missed?
>>1700
My idea was that >>1688 was right. The monster was you, as in, a human from the outside. You will remember how outsiders usually end up in Gensokyo and why. Hence Alice’s “asking” for a specimen. She then killed them and began replacing the human parts with dolls parts. Hence the soul’s presence in Hakugyokurou.

Then Alice revived the finished body, “returning” the soul from afterlife. This, of course, breaks the natural cycle of reincarnation. Hence the Yama’s curse. The human-doll hybrid goes insane, attacking Alice (hence blood in its mouth) and escapes to wander the Forest of Magic, where the villagers see it.

Finally, the lines from the first post all metaphorically apply to the unfortunate human. Death in obscurity = getting abducted to Gensokyo. Death for knowledge = for Alice’s research. Death in damnation = cursed un-life, courtesy of the Yama. Life eternal = with the magically enhanced body, presumably they will not die for a long time.


I feel like a right pretentious cunt, explaining this. I’ll wash it down with some zombie shootan, methinks.
>>1701
>I feel like a cunt
Why? It makes sense.

Good riddle, YAF. Appreciated.
>>1701
Does that mean that I get a prize for getting who the person was right?
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1704
>>1703
Those weren’t the winning conditions, were they? But hey, you know I am an idea slut. Just toss it my way, and maybe I’ll bite.

>>1702
Something about authors not interfering with the interpretation of a piece once it is finished, which offends my personal view on the matter. Irrational, seeing as this was a riddle, not a full story... At any rate, I’m not very keen on going back to TiTS (how many times have I said this now?), so Futo sounds like the more likely route. Would you mind terribly if I wove it into the quasi-continuity I’ve got over at >>752? That would spare me the effort of building everything from scratch.
>>1704

>At any rate, I’m not very keen on going back to TiTS (how many times have I said this now?), so Futo sounds like the more likely route. Would you mind terribly if I wove it into the quasi-continuity I’ve got over at >>752? That would spare me the effort of building everything from scratch.

>>1702 isn't me, YAF. But yeah, I said I'm fine with whatever, so I'm fine with whatever. Go ahead.
>>1705
Easy mistake, man. You've all got the same name!
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1707
>>1704
Looking forward to it.
>>1704
>Would you mind terribly if I wove it into the quasi-continuity I’ve got over at >>752? That would spare me the effort of building everything from scratch.

I'd love that
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