Deserted Street Corner

"I am the Ring Soul, Will of the Cosmos and Supreme Administrator of Fate..."

"Daddy, look, look! I'm a weverse wing!"

He sighed and turned to look just as his daughter ran backwards into his room only slightly more awkwardly than she normally ran forwards, tripped over a laundry basket and upended the whole thing on top of herself.

"Daddy has an important meeting at work today and he's trying to prepare. Can't you play with Mummy?"

"I twied! She said 'I'm busy, go and annoy Daddy instead!'" she told him, pushing the basket up so she could crawl out from underneath. Miyabi's always busy these days, he thought, what's she up to?

"How would you like to help Daddy? It'll be like a game!" he promised, "You have to pretend to be Yuri while I pretend I've just met you, and I have to make my speech."

She ruffled her hair, which was already fairly messy, presumably due to her spending the entire morning running around the house backwards, and pulled a sour face that reminded him of the one she used to express how she felt about eating vegetables.

"I'm Yuwi!"she growled, waving her arms around to convey some kind of dramatic tension, "I'm mean and wude and I turn into a BIIIIIG scawy monster! I punch baddies 'cause I'm a hewo!"

"Yup, that's exactly like him," he agreed, trying his hardest to look serious, "Okay, I have to do my lines now. Ahem. I am the Ring Soul, Will of the Cosmos and Supreme Administrator of Fate! I have been watching your actions..."

"Daddy! Look! I'm a Blind Wing!"

He looked around to see that she had stolen his tie and wrapped it around her head as a blindfold.

"That's very nice. Could you give Daddy back his tie and not crease it any more? Please?"

She immediately pulled it off and hid it behind her back, a serious look on her face, "Which hand?"

"Um... that one?" he pointed to her left arm. She smiled evilly and showed him her empty hand.

"Nope! I'm a Fake Wing!" she burst out laughing, "An' now I'm a Fast Wing! Bye!"

She bolted out of the door as fast as her stubby little legs could carry her, cackling at the top of her voice. He sighed. That had been his only good tie – the rest were in the wash. How was he going to keep up appearances without a tie? Taking it back from Aya would only waste time, exhaust him and make her grumpy for the rest of the day. He didn't need stress before a meeting with Yuri, his most difficult customer. He felt he should probably encourage his daughter's latest obsession, as it would be useful for her future career as a Ring Soul and/or method actor.

Besides that, a smart appearance was wasted on Yuri. Humans generally couldn't even see what a Ring Soul was wearing under the flames and eternally spinning wheel that were standard equipment for the job. Yuri cared even less than most humans about formalities. It was mostly for his own benefit to make him feel more confident – if he couldn't take himself seriously, there was no hope of ever getting Yuri to understand the significance of their exchange and therefore to play his own role properly – and to avoid the chance of an inspector catching him violating the organisation's strictly formal dress code and reporting him to the manager.

He finished adjusting his collar, picked up his briefcase and walked into the front room. He called over to his wife but she was busy picking up the washing-up bowl after Aya had run straight into it, spilling water everywhere. He could sense an argument brewing, so he hurried out of the door.

Halfway down the street, he was met by his colleagues, Auto Ring and Gamble Ring. They had worked in the same department for years, so the two of them were his closest friends in the organisation. Auto Ring, the only one of them who could drive, parked their company car so that he could jump in the back with Gamble Ring. The man looked depressed. Without being told, he immediately started explaining his plight to the Ring Soul.

"I blew all yesterday's wages on Lottery 7 last night," he told him, "I was so sure I had the red! I must have been, like, half a second off! Its tight, man, tight."

"My wife doesn't let me gamble any more," he replied.

"You're so lucky, man, having a wife and a kid!" exclaimed Gamble, "Nobody would date a deadbeat loser like me!"

"You're not a deadbeat loser," said Auto, glancing back over her shoulder for a brief second before returning her attention to the road, "You're a Ring Soul."

"We're all Ring Souls! Everyone we know, everyone we see on the street, almost everyone in town! How's that make us special?"

"It means we're all special," she said, "Those words on your script ain't for show. 'Supreme Administrator of Fate'. Fate's huge. It needs a lot of Administrators. That doesn't change the fact that we outrank the Gods, or that we can change the destiny of an empire in the time it takes for a human to blink."

"You know we're not allowed to go off on power trips! The Boss'll murder you!"

"Because we're here to maintain the Universe. To serve it. Not to rule over it," she said, "But still, an entire Universe depends on us. So I don't want anyone on my team saying that they're losers."

"Still, I wish I could get a date..."

"You think you've got problems. I've got Yuri," the Ring Soul sighed.

"Holy Sacnoth, not him again," Auto groaned, "I thought his soul got eaten or something!"

"That was last week."

"Its better than paperwork," said Gamble.

"You don't know Yuri," said the Ring Soul, "I'd happily trade my appointment for your paperwork."

"Is that a promise?"

"I'd better not. I'd only worry if someone who doesn't know him tried to deal with him," he said, "After all, you're supposed to watch everything the client does before you decide whether to hand the prizes out. He's easy to miss as well. You find a nice corner to yourself that he can't possibly not see, then wait, but the idiot walks right past you!"

"I hate it when they do that," said Auto, "They know we're supposed to appear in corners and do they check the corners? No! They just do anything they can to make our life difficult!"

"Could you drop me off here? The script says he should be somewhere around here quite soon... if he's actually sticking to it this week..."

"Sure thing! See you back at the base this evening?"

He nodded, then jumped out of the car. The door slammed behind him, then they moved on. Staring out of the window, Gamble watched him settle down on a park bench. He alternated between scanning the faces of every passer-by in case it was one of Yuri's party and staring at the town hall clock.

"Hey, Auto, I don't suppose you want to go on a date?"

"Get stuffed."

"Thought not..."