Chapter 8: Saint Aptitude Test – Part 1
On this day, exactly one week had passed since Luna entered the Saint Academy ─ all the first year students of the Saint Academy had gathered at the entrance of a ‘certain forest’ located to the east of the royal capital.
Following the instructions of the teacher in charge of each class, students lined up in two lines from class A to class E and waited there for a while until the principal arrived.
“Wow… Look, Rho, it’s an amazing forest. I wonder how big it is.”
“The miasma is pretty thick. Besides… I can smell monsters everywhere.”
“Eh, you have a good nose. I can’t tell at all.”
As Luna and Rho were talking softly, a large man with a magnificent pure white beard appeared from deep within the forest and slowly walked out.
“He-hermit! The forest hermit has appeared!?”
“He’s not a hermit. He’s the headmaster of the Saint Academy and you met him before at the entrance ceremony.”
“Oh, is that so?”
The large man came out of the forest, took out a handkerchief from his pocket, and dabbed the sweat from his forehead.
“Phew… I’m sorry I’m late. The ‘preparations’ took a bit of time.”
He apologized for being one minute behind schedule before clearing his throat, attracting the attention of all the first years.
“─ Students, this is the first time we’ve seen each other since the entrance ceremony. Many of you probably don’t remember, so I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself once again. My name is Badam Rosenheim, and I am the principal of this Saint Academy.’’
Badam Rosenheim, 120 years old.
At 2 meters tall, a stout figure with plenty of excess around his waist.
His long white hair surrounded his face, almost blending with his magnificent beard.
Ultramarine eyes overflowing with intelligence, a high nose, and a calming, reassuring look.
Wearing unique magic spectacles and dressed in a dignified magic robe based on white, he began to talk to the students.
“First of all, great job enduring the strict classes of this academy for the past week. Your efforts are truly wonderful. However… I wonder if there are people who are starting to suffer.”
Badam looked into each student’s eyes as he continued his speech.
“Usually, around this time of the year, students who are ‘running out of steam’ appear one by one. Those who are overwhelmed by the level of the students around them, those who can’t keep up with the progress of the class, those who no longer have confidence that they are the Saint… well, there are various reasons.’’
With his left hand, he combed his long beard as he continued.
“However, most find it hard to say that out of the blue. After all, the expectations of your relatives are riding heavily on your back. Therefore─ every year, one week after the school term begins at our Saint Academy, we hold the ‘Saint Aptitude Test’.’’
Badam took a breath and continued his explanation.
“The content of the test is quite simple. The students from the Saint Department and the Support Department will form buddies and together they will traverse this ‘Miasma Forest’─ that’s all. The time limit is six hours, the starting point is the south exit where you are now, and the goal is the directly opposite north exit. Those who successfully cross the forest will pass the exam and will continue to study at the Saint Academy. Those who retire midway will fail the exam ─ and will be expelled on the spot.’’
In response to that harsh statement,
The freshman-year students were visibly tensed.
The Saint Aptitude Test is very famous, so of course they all knew about it, but… having it explained to them again caused them to feel a weight pressing down on the bottom of their stomachs.
Luna, on the other hand, had a slightly different take on it.
“But isn’t this quite a kind test? Because it would be hard for students to say ‘I quit’ on their own, the school provides an opportunity for them to do so?”
“No, that’s not true. The system at Saint Academy is extremely efficient─ and cruel. They will literally do anything to find the Saint. If they really cared about their students in the first place, there’s no need to impose a silly test of going through the Miasma Forest. They could just make time for face-to-face interviews and encourage them to leave school voluntarily.”
Rho, who knew the dangers of the Miasma Forest, said.
“Now that you mention it… that’s true…”
Luna agreed with her opinion.
“The upper echelons of the Saint Academy wish to see the ‘true value’ of the students by putting them in crisis situations. If that person has the qualities of a Saint, that’s fine; those who do not show such qualities will be removed from the academy immediately. The remaining students will then be put through the next screening test ─ all to thoroughly improve efficiency to find the Saint as quickly as possible…Well, considering the predicament humanity is in, I can’t help but understand their feelings.’’
“Sometimes… Luna-sama tends to take things positively. That is certainly a virtue, but the world is not full of such kind people. Please be very careful not to be taken advantage of by wicked people who wish to trick your purity.”
Receiving Rho’s kind advice, Luna nodded.
A little while later, when the commotion among the students subsided, Badam resumed his speech.
“Moving back to the Saint Aptitude Test I mentioned earlier, it would be way too easy to just traverse the forest. Therefore, I went into the forest ahead of everyone else and left about 100 magical beasts there. I want you all to advance through the maze-like miasma forest while defeating these magical beasts.’’
By the way… the pass rate for this aptitude test in previous years was 50%.
1 out of 2 students failed the exam─ and were expelled from school.
“Of course, we teachers must also consider the safety of our students. After this, scrolls will be distributed. It will include a special green-colored [Flame] spell that will act as a distress signal. In case of emergency, release it into the sky. The teachers on standby will rush there within a minute. Of course, in that case, the student will be deemed to have failed the test and you will be asked to leave Saint Academy.”
After explaining the basics of the exam, Badam showed a more serious expression than usual.
“And one last warning. In the center of the Miasma Forest, there is a huge 1,000-meter-deep area called the ‘Valley of Death’. If you fall from that height, you will most likely die. Even if many miracles overlap and you land safely at the bottom of the valley, it is a hellish land where heinous magical beasts run rampant. No matter how hard you struggle, you won’t survive.’’
Badam clapped his hands in that serious atmosphere.
“Now then, that’s all the explanation about the Saint Aptitude Test. If you have any questions… hmm, if there are none then let’s quickly decide on the pairs right away.”
He ran his finger in the air, activated space magic, and took out two sets of desks and wooden boxes.
“This is a lottery that I made last night. Students of the Saint Department will draw one lottery from the white box, and students of the Support Department will draw one lottery from the yellow box—those with the same number will form buddies. Now then, let’s start with first-year class A, shall we?”
Following Badam’s instructions, the students of Class A begin to move.
“Buddy huh, I hope I’m with Rho.”
“That is purely up to luck. I’ll pray for it.”
Divided into the Saint Department and Support Department, each student drew a lottery.
As a result of the strict lottery, Luna’s buddy was decided.
“… Lu-Luna Spedio. I-I’m looking forward to working with you…”
“The Layton family’s eldest daughter, Sarles co Layton! Nice to meet you, Luna-san.”
Luna from the Support Department teamed up with Sarles co Layton, also known as Sarco, from the Saint Department.
Sarles co Layton, fifteen years old.
She is 160cm tall, has a very fit figure, and beautiful vertical rolls of blonde hair.
She has clear lime green eyes, an expression full of self-confidence and unyielding spirit, very well-defined features, and wore the uniform of the Saint Academy Saint Department.
(Ah, how unlucky can I be? Of all the students, I’m forming a pair with that Sarco-san…)
Luna was more of an indoor herbivore and wasn’t very good at dealing with meat eaters like Sarco.
Above all, there was a possibility that Sarco had seen her ‘Saint power’. For that reason, she wanted to avoid contact unless it was really necessary.
As Luna sighed internally, Sarco peered at her face.
“Um, what is it…?”
“…I’ve been thinking about this ever since I first saw you on the day of the entrance ceremony… Have we met somewhere before?”
“I-I’m sure it’s just your imagination. Perhaps you’re mistaking me for someone else?”
“Hmm… but I remember seeing you somewhere…”
Sarco, unconvinced, began to scan her memories.
Luna, who decided that it would be bad if it continued like that, clapped her hands.
“Mo-more importantly, let’s quickly have a ‘strategy meeting’! All the other pairs have already started, so if we take too long, we might not have sufficient time, you know?”
Students who drew lots and formed buddies were given 30 minutes.
The students had to make effective use of that time and share their favorite magic and fighting styles ─ ensuring smooth communication during the actual event.
“…You’re right. Well then, let’s get started with our strategy meeting.”
“Okay! (Whew… that saved me…)”
Afterward, the two sat down on a nearby tree stump and checked each other’s belongings.
“I belong to the Saint Department, so I can use magic tools, potions, and scrolls, but we are not permitted to bring any auxiliary items. My only weapon is this rapier.”
Sarco said as she flashed the rapier attached to her left hip.
“I am from the Support Department, and I was handed quite some items during the lottery.”
Luna said as she took out the contents of the support set that had been distributed to her.
Medicinal herbs, pure water, and test tubes needed to create potions.
Three scrolls containing the lesser Support Magic [Agility Enhancement], [Barrier(Wall)], [Fog].
One scroll with the special [Flame] magic as a distress signal.
And finally, a shoulder pochette to carry all that.
“I see… judging by the magic contained in the scrolls, it seems that the teachers are expecting Support Department students to assist in battle from the rear.”
“That seems to be the case.”
After sharing their belongings, they discussed their fighting styles and their specialty magic.
“Well then, Luna, first of all, please tell me what you are good at.”
“Well… I’m confident in my physical strength.”
“That means you’re hopeless with magic and swordsmanship, right?”
“…Yes, something like that.”
That was basically a ‘declaration of complete incompetence’… but if she were to be honest and say that she was good at X, she might end up being called into battle.
Luna thought it would be better to be laughed at as incompetent than to take on unnecessary risk.
“Well, there’s no problem. A test like this would have been too easy if I was on my own.”
Sarco smiled boldly and brushed her blonde hair.
“Y-You’re so confident… By the way, Sarco-san, how do you fight…”
“Ah. So-sorry, that was, erm, a slip of the tongue, or …”
The general of the Mt. Monkey Alliance that ruled the mountain ─ hence Sarco.
There was no way she would explain it like that no matter what and as Luna stuttered…
“I see, Sarles co Layton… Sarco for short. That’s fine, call me whatever you like.”
For some reason, she smiled a little happily.
After that, the two spent the remaining time chatting to facilitate communication during the exam―and the 30 minutes of the allotted time ended.
“Let’s go, Luna!”
Thus, the two set foot in the Miasma Forest.
Two hours after entering the Miasma Forest, the pair of Luna and Sarco were making steady progress and were about to reach the center of the forest.
(Sarco-san is amazing…)
She liked to boast, but she was very talented.
Using her forte, Wind Magic, she perfectly read the flow of air and they traversed smoothly through the maze-like forest.
And above all ─ she’s strong.
Sarco, whose agility has been strengthened through Wind Magic, skillfully used her rapier to cut down the attacking magical beasts one after another.
“Ooo, great job.”
“Hmph, it’s nothing special.”
Sarco, who received Luna’s applause, smiled lightly with a pleased look.
The two of them traveled smoothly and finally reached the central part of the forest.
“Wow, so this is the Valley of Death? It’s so deep, I can’t see the bottom at all.”
“Luna, don’t look over the edge too much, okay? If you fall from a place like this, you won’t stand a chance. It’s dangerous, so keep your distance from the valley.”
“Yes (Sarco-san is kind and easy to talk to. I’ve always thought she was a scary person, but maybe she’s actually a nice person…?)”
Just as the two were about to leave the Valley of Death─ Luna and Sarco were attacked by blades of wind.
“This is…!? Hah!”
Sarco was the first to notice the attack and quickly intercepted it with her rapier.
On the other hand,
Luna, who didn’t even see the wind blades as an ‘attack’, was comforted by the thought, ‘The wind feels good’.
“Luna, are you okay!?”
“Eh, I’m sure I saw Wind Magic targeted at you too… Eh?”
Luna and Sarco tilted their heads in bewilderment.
A certain buddy pair stepped in front of them.
“─Ara, I’m sorry. I saw such ugly silhouettes that I thought you were magical beasts and attacked by mistake.”
Karen Ascort, 15 years old.
A student from the Saint Department with red short hair and belligerent eyes.
“Karen-chan, isn’t that too much? If you messed up, you have to apologize properly.”
Elaine Nostario, 15 years old.
She is a student of the Support Department with blue medium-length hair and a gentle atmosphere.
Hearing Karen and Elaine’s cheap excuses, Sarco shook her head.
“You say you made a mistake, but that’s a blatant lie… If you don’t like us, why don’t you just say so clearly?”
“Oh, did you find out?”
Karen didn’t try to hide it at all and revealed her true feelings without an indifferent look.
“You girls simply annoy me. A uselessly conceited monkey woman and an idiotic girl who stands out despite coming from the Support Department, you’re so irritating that I can’t stand having you in sight.”
“Karen-chan, you have a poisonous tongue.”
Without even trying to stop her partner who continued to spew abuse, Elaine just smiled wryly.
“But, I held back. You were in the spotlight, so if I messed with you wrongly, I might get in trouble. I suppressed my annoyance… and watched quietly. And finally, the day has come for the Saint Aptitude Test!”
With an evil smile on her face, Karen spread her hands and gleefully said.
“Anyone who fails this test will be expelled from school without any questions asked! If I beat you up here, I can eliminate two troublesome people at once!”
As she spoke happily with a triumphant look on her face─ Sarco, who had surprisingly been listening quietly for so long, nodded repeatedly as if she was convinced.
“I see, I see… In other words, you’re feeling inferior?”
At that moment, a dangerous color welled in Karen’s eyes.
“I can understand the feeling of being irritated by students who stand out more than you, but─ if you are truly an excellent student, you would naturally gain attention too? Since that didn’t happen, you came to sulk and resort to violence… the Ascort family’s heiress sure is pathetic.”
Sarco grinned nastily,
Karen blushed and clenched her fists.
The preliminary skirmish was a complete victory for Sarco.
That was expected… she entered the world of the evening party and remained undefeated in countless mounted battles against countless fierce and cunning foes ─ she was unbeatable in this kind of battle.
On the other hand, Luna, who saw the cutthroat battle up close,
Was trembling like a small animal.
“You little chick of the Layton family… I’m going to kill you…!”
“Fufu, try it. I’ll teach you the difference in status!”
Amidst the tense atmosphere, Sarco and Karen slowly pulled out their swords and charged at the same time, as if they had planned it.
Flashes from the sword clashes danced in the air, accompanied by red sparks and metallic sounds.
“In that case, have it back―[Gale]”
The shockwaves of the wind slammed into each other, forming a distance between them.
Surprisingly, the two of them specialized in the same wind attribute magic.
“Hmph, I thought you were all talk, but you’re surprisingly good.”
“Ara, I’m still only exerting the strength of the tip of my little finger, you know?”
“Just how annoying can you be, woman…!”
The two, wrapped in the power of wind, once again threw themselves into a fierce sword fight.
Meanwhile, at that time, Luna and Elaine were facing an unexpected development.
“─Hey, you’re Luna-chan, right?”
Luna didn’t lower her guard and nodded with just her neck.
“I’m Elaine Nostario. Since this is a great opportunity, would you like to talk for a while?”
It was an unexpected suggestion.
“Look, after all, we’re the ‘Support Department dropouts’, so there’s no point in fighting so desperately, right?”
“W-well… maybe so.”
Although she felt some biting words in her speech, Luna nodded.
Since she is not very good at holding back, she thought it would be best if they could settle things peacefully.
After the temporary truce, the two walked slowly side by side and chatted.
“Karen-chan and I are what you call childhood friends.”
“Yeah. Our parents were close and our homes were nearby, so we used to play together all the time when we were little… Back then, we used to play ‘Pretend Saint’ and we would both insist that ‘I am the Saint reincarnation!’ and fought many times.”
Elaine spoke slowly, as if reminiscing about the old days.
Luna was just a little curious about what kind of game it was.
“But… I was no good, I wasn’t the Saint. I found out when I measured my magical power right after I entered kindergarten. Karen-chan… her magical power was more than ten times mine.’’
“More than ten times…”
Magical power is the ‘source of power’ that can be applied to anything.
Wrapping yourself in it will improve your physical ability, adding it to magic will increase its power, and applying it to a wound will cause it to heal faster.
The total amount of magical power an individual possesses is mostly determined by innate factors, and it is difficult to increase it through training and practice.
The reality of being outnumbered by a close friend more than ten times greatly distorted Elaine’s personality.
“I gave up. No matter what I do, I can’t stand out from Karen-chan, and I can’t beat Karen-chan. I’m… a failure.”
From the depths of Elaine’s heart, a lot of dark emotions well up.
“If you’re a failure, no matter how hard you try, nothing will change and you can’t change anything. In the end, you’ll still be a failure. That’s why, against the strong opposition of my parents, I enrolled in the Support Department. I could enter the Saint Department, but it’s pointless since I can’t become the Saint anyway.”
“I-is that so…”
The conversation between the two stopped there,
A heavy atmosphere began to drag.
A few seconds later, Elaine whispered to herself.
“How should I put it─ you’re vexing.”
At this point, her tone clearly changed.
From calm and quiet to dark and scary.
“Yeah, vexing… People have no talent at all and yet get noticed just by luck, people who don’t have any great ability but just happen to stand out by chance, they disgust me.”
Elaine said with a bright smile.
“You know, a ‘misunderstood woman’ like you— I really hate it.”
The next moment,
Luna’s body was shoved.
Immediately after feeling a faint sense of floating, her body fell into the Valley of Death.
Luna didn’t notice at all because she was preoccupied with Elaine’s heavy personal story. That she was being guided right next to the Valley of Death.
Elaine far above her waved her hand with an innocent smile.