The Extraordinary, the Ordinary, and SOAP! – Chapter 07

Lucia Searches for Something to Do

When you’re confused, start with what you can do.
My mother told me that when I was small. When you didn’t know where to start, just handle things one at a time, and it would all work out, she’d said.
Well then, what can I do now? What I needed to do was survive. To that end, I was probably best off following the instructions of the professionals. At the very least, that would be better than trusting my own amateur judgment. The knights and soldiers knew what they were doing when it came to monsters.
Where should we run? Was there a place we could go where we wouldn’t be in the way? Surely they were evacuating the people of the town to the castle because it was easier to protect people who were in a group, rather than scattered everywhere. They probably had things they would like us ordinary people to do.
I called out to the soldier, who’d waded into the crowd and was directing people, “Where should people who can’t fight evacuate to? Or is there something that we should do?”
“Noncombatants, you mean? We’re gathering the civilians in the ballroom, so go there!”
As I thought, they were gathering everyone in one place. I certainly would feel better if I were with everyone else, rather than alone.
Together with everyone else who had received the same instructions, I headed for the ballroom.
The ballroom was a dazzling place, used to host balls and other such events. On top of the extravagant design, it would normally have been filled with beautiful music and nobles dressed in all their finery.
But terror ruled the day today. Instead of music, it was filled with the cries of children, and voices that were shaking with fear. The terrified people didn’t even look around them, even though normally they would never be permitted to enter a place like this. They simply wrapped their arms around their loved ones, waiting for the crisis to pass.
Among those people, I stood completely alone. I didn’t have anyone to help me through this. I huddled up against a wall covered with pictures of seasonal flowers and wrapped my arms around myself.
I was scared. Was I going to die like this? If I thought of it as being able to go to where my mother and father were, it didn’t seem quite so bad, but I was still scared of dying.
I don’t want to die.
I’d promised my mother that I would live enough for her portion, and my father’s. She’d be angry if I broke that promise, right? And I’d promised Sir Celes, too — that we would meet in

the back courtyard again.
I missed him. I missed him so much. I didn’t want to be alone.
I was scared! I was so, so scared…
My thoughts were chasing themselves in circles. Mother, what should I do? Where should I start? I obeyed instructions and went to the ballroom. What should I do next to get through this?
Trying to find something I could do, I looked around.
They must have let us in here because the ballroom was big enough to hold a large crowd of people. After all, they could hardly let ordinary commoners go running around in the inner palace, where the royal family lived. Because of the rain, they couldn’t send us to the courtyards. And there were too many people in the capital to split us up into private rooms, even if we shared.
But the ballroom was supposed to be a place for entertainment. It even had a balcony leading off of it, where people could go to enjoy the night breeze and the beautifully tended gardens.
There was an open space in front of the large glass doors leading to the gardens. No one wanted to be there, not when there was only fragile glass between them and what was outside. The doors were perfectly clean and polished. Since there was no one in the way, I could see the thin lines of water from the light rain running down the glass from where I huddled.
Which was why we noticed so quickly. “Hey, what’s that!?”
I wasn’t sure who noticed them first. Visible against the low-hanging gray clouds, two winged shapes were flapping steadily closer.
“Those are…rocs!” an elderly man screamed, and that was enough to set off the same kind of panic I had seen in the dining hall.
Rocs were massive, white, bird-like monsters. They were so huge that they’d been known to carry off people and horses, even cattle, as their prey.
Ogres and ogresses could be stopped by the castle walls, and driven away with thrown weapons and bows. But none of that was any good against an attack from the sky!
In a single moment, we were all overwhelmed with terror.
One roc peeled away, as if aiming for a different target. But the other came flying straight towards us, as if mocking our useless terror.
“I don’t wanna die!”
The hall was filled with screams and shouting. In a great surge, everyone rushed to the exit. I wanted to run too, but my legs wouldn’t obey me. And I’d made the mistake of putting

myself next to the wall. The sheer force of people rushing past pushed me back until I couldn’t even move.
“Everyone! Please remain calm! The castle is protected by the Academy’s barrier. Even if they get through, the knights can handle a roc. Calm yourselves!” the guard shouted.
“Get out of the way, we have to run!”
“I’m not gonna die here!”
“That hurts! Get off me!”
The hall had descended into complete chaos. I’m scared. I’m so scared!
Even though I kept trying to tell myself that we would be all right, the moment I actually saw the monsters, I simply froze. As if pinned in place, I could only stare outside, not even able to look away. My heartbeat was so loud, it felt as though my heart had moved into my ears.
Help me, Sir Celes! I’m scared! Please, come!
The roc was right before my eyes now. Seeing us, it dove straight for us. Wham! Before it reached us, something threw it back.
“The roc… Ah! The Academy’s magic!”
“But how do we know it won’t break!?”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine! The barrier will protect us!”
As people shouted back and forth, outside the window the roc threw itself at us again and again, as if furious at being stopped.
They’d said it was a barrier made by the Academy, so we should be safe…right? Unable to join the people fleeing the hall, I clung to the wall, trembling as I watched the roc claw at the window glass.
Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham!
I don’t know how many times it took, but suddenly the sound of the roc’s attacks changed. There was a strange noise, like the thin ice of early winter breaking, like the crash of water, like glass shattering.
What was… I started to wonder.
With a thunderous crash, the window glass broke. The roc’s sharp talons dug deep gouges into the polished floor of the ballroom, glass shards showering down around them.
So it was true. When people were truly frightened, they couldn’t even scream. I hadn’t known that. I would have been happy to live my entire life not knowing that!
Paralyzed with terror, I sank limply to the floor. There was no strength in my legs. I couldn’t do anything but shake like a leaf.
As if dissatisfied with only clawing at the floor, the roc withdrew its talons, only to throw

itself against the window again.
What is it… I started to think.
With a crash of shattering wood, the window frame broke, and the roc’s fearsome beak crashed through.
Sir Celes, Sir Celes, Sir Celes! Frozen, I could only scream the name over and over in my mind, like a prayer. Without that, I would have been too terrified to even breathe. Death was right in front of my eyes.
I saw the guard who had been guarding the hall, the one who’d tried to calm everyone earlier, slashed down. Screaming, everyone ran like frightened rabbits. I saw them rushing to the exit, trying to get out.
I had to run. I knew that. But my body wouldn’t move.
The roc’s massive eye appeared right in front of me. With a tiny squeak, I stared as if mesmerized at the monster in front of me. All I could hear was the breath in my lungs and the pounding of my heart.
I’m scared.
I’m so scared.
This is a dream, right? Please, someone, tell me this is a dream. I have to wake up. I don’t want to be this scared!
I’d decided to live a long life, long enough for my mother and father as well. I’d promised my mother. I couldn’t die here!
With an ear-splitting cry that felt like an attack of its own, the roc turned towards me and raised its terrible talons. They swept down at me.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I used the only power I had. It wasn’t as if soap bubbles would actually do anything to a monster, but it was the only thing I had left.

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