Chapter 9: Fail
When Sarco woke up after being knocked out by the ogre mutant – she saw a fiery sunset sky.
“…Uh… uh… ha, the magical beast!?”
She literally jumped as she woke up, quickly pulling out her rapier and was wary of her surroundings.
However, the magical beast was nowhere to be seen.
“Where is this place…?”
A voice as gentle as the sun echoed in Sarco’s ears while she was still in a daze.
“This is the goal end zone after passing through the Miasma Forest. The magical beast is no longer here, Sarco-san.”
When she turned around, she found Luna sitting flat on the grassland.
“Wai… you’re strangling me…”
“Thank goodness, you’re safe…”
Tears were slowly forming in the corners of Sarco’s eyes as she hugged Luna tightly.
The fear of death she faced for the first time, the remorse she felt for not being able to protect her buddy, and the relief that the two of them had made it out alive were all mixed up and she couldn’t control it.
After a while, Sarco took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry, I was so distraught over what happened to us.”
“No, no, don’t worry.”
When Luna said that and waved her hands lightly, Sarco suddenly remembered something and started touching her body.
“I wonder why… I don’t feel any scars from the magical beasts anywhere.”
“Ah, then I fixed it for you.”
“You mean… that potion?”
Luna was stared at.
“Y-yes. My potion is extremely effective even when sprinkled on a wound!”
She smiled awkwardly and told a little lie.
Actually, at that time, Sarco’s wounds from being attacked by the magical beast were deeper than expected.
With a shattered sternum and ribs and multiple ruptured vital organs, every minute counted.
Luna noticed that after three seconds, after she slaughtered the magical beasts that were attacking them.
Luna, initially thinking that Sarco was simply knocked unconscious from the strike to her stomach, panicked and immediately used high-level healing magic, wasting no time in creating an elixir.
However, she couldn’t just tell the truth, so she lied and said that she had been cured with the potion.
Sarco, on the other hand, didn’t seem convinced.
(… Such a serious injury healed by a low-level potion…?)
Because she was the one who had been hit by the magical beast, she understood her condition very well.
The unpleasant feeling of having an organ that should never have been harmed destroyed, the feeling of despair as something like ‘life’ was drained from the depths of her body… that was without a doubt a fatal injury.
It would be believable if it was a simple sprain, but a potion that can completely recover damage to important organs.
It had gone beyond the level of a low-level potion.
When Sarco thought that much, an electric shock ran through her brain.
(…No doubt, Luna is…)
Sarco, feeling confident, firmly grabbed Luna’s shoulders.
“Y-yes, what is it?”
“As expected, you are ─”
Naturally, Luna felt a shiver run down her spine.
“As expected, you have an incredible talent for making potions!”
Sarco was just as hopeless as our Saint.
“If you have such skill, you will be able to open a shop in no time. Your talent is wonderful and will make everyone happy!”
“Th-thank you very much.”
Luna, who was seriously prepared to be found out as the Saint, patted her chest in relief.
Anyway, once Sarco had safely regained her composure, the conversation between the two reached the heart of the matter.
“Hey, Luna, could you tell me about what happened ‘after that’? If I’m here, you must have carried me here, right?”
“But, how could you do something like that in front of that terrifyingly strong magical beast―an ogre mutant?”
It was an obvious question.
Did she defeat it or did she run away?
Either way, the fact that Luna successfully dealt with that magical beast was a given.
In response to Sarco’s question, she replied with the answer she had prepared.
“Of course— I gave it the slip.”
“You gave it the slip!?”
“Yes. That magical beast didn’t seem to have much stamina, so I was able to escape by running as hard as I could.”
“With me on your back…?”
“S-see, I told you at the beginning, right? I’m confident in my physical strength!”
Luna said, patting her chest.
“I… see… Then how did you climb that cliff while carrying me on your back? Some special magic…”
“─ No, I went with my bare hands.”
Sarco’s brain froze at the unexpected answer.
“Barehanded… um, like a climber…?”
“Yes, I did my best with spirit and guts.”
“Y-you really have amazing physical strength… I was underestimating you a little.”
Sarco, who was pure at heart, believed Luna’s little lie and expressed her gratitude.
“I’m alive thanks to Luna, thank you very much.”
“No, I’m the one who should thank you. If Sarco-san hadn’t saved me then, I’d be a red stain at the bottom of the Valley of Death.”
Luna said that jokingly, then straightened up and bowed her head.
“So… I’m sorry, Sarco-san. Because of me, you were expelled…”
Yes, Luna didn’t make it in time.
It was fine until she climbed the cliff with Sarco on her back, but then… she got lost.
Without detailed senses to read the air currents like Sarco, she wandered around in circles in the maze-like Miasma Forest.
By the time she managed to reach the exit, time was already up.
Sarco, who received a sincere apology from Luna, rolled her eyes and smiled.
“Hehe, I don’t worry about such trivial things. The Saint is a state of mind. Even if I am expelled from the Saint Academy, the fact that I, Sarles co Layton, am the Saint doesn’t change in the slightest!”
She said that and after laughing out loud, ‘Oh ho ho ho ho!’ she smiled softly.
“And above all… I’ve found a good friend.”
While Luna tilted her head, Sarco blushed and cleared her throat.
“H-how should I say it… it’s really embarrassing to say this to someone’s face, but… Luna, if you don’t mind, would you be my friend?”
“Yes, of course!”
Sarco’s face softened after receiving a pleasant and immediate answer.
“Thank you… Actually, I don’t have many friends, so I’m very happy.”
“Huh? Sarco-san, don’t you have many friends?”
As Luna said, Sarco was always surrounded by multiple students who were like her entourage.
“Those girls… are not real friends. They all just stick around me according to the policies of their respective families.”
Luna didn’t really understand the meaning of those words.
“My Layton family is an upper rank aristocratic family with the status of a marquis. Well, if that’s all there is to it, it’s not all that unusual but… My father is a famous businessman and has tremendous business acumen. Using the outstanding ‘Foresight’ gift he has, he made a huge fortune. I don’t know much, but it seems like he has strong connections with important government officials, and even though our family is a marquis, we have special powers that are even greater than that of a marquis.”
“Wow, you have an amazing father.”
Luna’s reaction was very subdued.
She didn’t really understand how much power Sarco’s father had.
As she said, the only thing she could think of was ‘What a great father’.
“All the people who hang around me are seeking a tiny share of the Layton family’s profits. That’s why I don’t have any ‘true friends’ there…’’
“But─ Luna is different. You didn’t consider my house or anything. You looked straight at me. That made me very happy.”
Luna, who had only been reincarnated in the present day, didn’t know a single thing about the Layton family.
That’s why she just looked at Sarles co Layton as who she really was, without any colored lenses.
That made Sarco very happy.
“Luna is a truly mysterious person. Even though you don’t dress special in any way, you have a mysterious charm that attracts others.”
“Sarco-san’s assertiveness and self-confidence are very attractive too.’’
“Oh, maybe that’s sarcasm?”
“Hehe, what do you think?”
“Hah, you’re pretty good!”
While Luna and Sarco were laughing, the school principal, Badam Rosenheim, appeared quietly.
Just moments ago, the pass/fail determination of the Saint’s Aptitude Test and the student list was completed.
“─ Students, first of all, I would like to congratulate you on your hard work. You did a great job of traversing the miasma forest without losing a single person. What a wonderful, splendid job.”
When Badam clapped twice, the teachers gave a round of applause.
“Now, let me give you a general review of the exam. The teachers summarized this year’s results and found that 82 out of 100 pairs passed. The average pass rate for previous years was about 50%. Considering that, this is an amazing number and it can be said to be outstanding. It is a brilliant achievement for the generation of the Saint’s 300th-year reincarnation.”
Badam was smiling happily, but… the next moment, he had a sad expression on his face and shook his head.
“But that’s why it’s such a shame. It’s such a shame.”
He let out a deep sigh and declared in a grave tone.
“Now, I’m announcing the ‘penalty’.”
“Eh, what does he mean…?”
While the waiting students suddenly became noisy,
“─ Karen Ascort, Elaine Nostario, stand up.”
After receiving instructions from Badam, both girls slowly stood up on the spot.
Although they were trying to remain calm, their hearts were pounding loudly inside.
“These two intentionally pushed the pair of Sarles co Layton and Luna Spedio into the Valley of Death, so they have failed the exam ─ and will be expelled from the school.”
At that moment, the students were shocked.
“Pushed into the Valley of Death…!?”
“N-no way… isn’t that murder…”
“Horrible… I can’t believe it.”
In the midst of the spreading turmoil, Badam, who had a gentle and kind face, took on the appearance of a demon.
“You are disqualified as Saints ─ no, you are disqualified as human beings! Shame on you!”
After receiving a severe reprimand, Karen and Elaine flared up and filed an objection.
“W-We are friends with Sarles-san and Luna-san! There’s no way we would do something like that…!”
“Principal, that’s what you claim, so of course you have ‘solid evidence’, right?”
Seeing the two trying to escape responsibility at this point, Badam’s feelings moved beyond anger and turned towards pity.
“Haaa… Mr. Jural, please.”
Upon receiving the request from Badam, Jural drew letters in the air and activated a certain magic.
“ ─ [Zoan Rule]”
[Zoan Rule] is a spell that employs creatures with less magical power than the caster.
He used that to control the small animals that live in the Miasma Forest, and used their eyes and ears to check on the students’ actions ─ if there was any danger, Holy Knights were on standby to react immediately.
“Hmm… thanks for gathering.”
Many small animals such as small birds, squirrels, owls, moles, and snakes lined up in front of Jural.
He carefully examined each one by one, searching for the one that retained a certain memory.
The striped squirrel that was staring at Jural quickly climbed onto his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, but I have to share your memories with the students ─ [Memory Share].”
Through [Memory Share], the memories of what the squirrel saw and heard were shared with everyone present.
‘─Ara, I’m sorry. I saw such ugly silhouettes that I thought you were magical beasts and attacked by mistake.’
‘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?’
‘You know, a ‘misunderstood woman’ like you— I really hate it.’
The squirrel recalled the whole story of Karen and Elaine’s incident vividly.
“I-I can’t believe it…”
“A person who aspires to be the Saint committed such an inhuman act…”
“… The worst… I can only feel contempt for such a person from the bottom of my heart.”
Sharp gazes filled with disgust rushed towards Karen and Elaine.
And ─ even after the two of them were shown the irrefutable ‘solid evidence’, they still didn’t give up.
“P-please wait, Principal…!”
“There are deep reasons behind this…!”
They tried to think at full speed to find an excuse to escape their predicament, but Badam was not so naive that such nonsense would convince him.
“I no longer see any value in exchanging a single word with people like you. ― Holy Knights, please.”
The Holy Knights, who were on standby just in case, arrested Karen and Elaine.
“Damn, let me go! Are you sure you want to behave this way knowing that I’m from the Ascort family!?”
“Don’t touch me… I’ll tell my father!?”
The two desperately tried to resist, but…
“Don’t worry, we will contact your parents.”
Forcibly pinned down by the Holy Knights, their hands were cuffed behind their backs.
After Karen and Elaine were captured, the school principal cleared his throat and attracted attention.
“Now, then, finally, I will announce the ‘special successful candidates’.”
“Special successful candidates…?”
While the students tilted their heads in confusion, Badam said with a somewhat proud expression on his face.
“First of all, Sarles co Layton. Without concern for your safety, the act of jumping into the Valley of Death to save your friend’s life ─ was an act of splendid courage that can truly be called an act of the Saint.’’
After he clapped to that,
“Jumping into the Valley of Death, even if it’s for your buddy… that takes an amazing amount of courage!”
“She surely moved subconsciously. If I were in the same position, I wonder if I would have taken such action…”
“It’s hard to admit but I have to say that is praiseworthy.”
The students showered her with words of praise and looks of envy.
“And then, Luna Spedio. She didn’t abandon her injured friend and climbed the Valley of Death with her bare hands ─ that courage could also be called the spirit of the Saint and a great display of willpower.”
After Badam clapped again,
“With bare hands… climbed over?”
“What, wait… she climbed that cliff with her bare hands, without using any magic!?”
“No, no, that takes way more than just willpower, isn’t it!?”
The students looked at her with surprise and fear.
“Well, there were a couple of impurities mixed in, but… this year’s harvest was truly bountiful and the results were truly spectacular. I pray that the reincarnated Saint is among one of you. Well then ― that concludes this year’s Saint Aptitude Test.’’
As soon as Badam finished speaking, the teachers gave a warm round of applause to the students.
On the other hand,
“Hey, stop your futile resistance and just walk.”
“We don’t want to do anything too harsh. Please follow the instructions.”
Karen and Elaine were being taken to the Holy Knight’s station,
“It’s their fault…! This is all because of those two…”
“This is absolutely strange. Why did we end up like this…? Actually, it was all those two’s fault…”
She turned her gaze filled with hatred towards Luna and Sarco, but…
(E-even if you glared at me so much, I can only say it’s ‘karma’…)
Luna was taken aback and smiled bitterly.
A little less than three hours from the time Luna and Sarco passed the Saint Aptitude Test.
Two Holy Knights, who received an emergency dispatch request from Jural, were running through the Miasma Forest.
“I can’t believe it… falling into the Valley of Death. This year’s students look like they’re hopeless.”
“According to Jural-dono’s message, one of the students is that Marquis Layton’s daughter. If anything happens to her… our heads will fly.”
“Hey now, we didn’t have anything to do with it?”
“It’s a well-known fact that Marquis Layton dotes on his daughter. If we fail to rescue her… I don’t know what sparks will come. Maybe, in the truest sense, our heads will fly off.”
“Heee, I don’t even want to think about it…”
While they were talking about that, they arrived at the center of the forest.
“…This is it. According to the information, it appears that the two students fell around here.”
“Kaa, as usual, it’s deep… I can’t see the bottom at all. Are you serious about this? If they fell from a place like this, they’re definitely dead.”
“Even if that’s the case, we still have to deliver the body to the family. Stop complaining and let’s go. [Float].”
“Sheesh, it can’t be helped─ [Float]”
The two of them floated up into the air and began to descend at an appropriate speed.
Shortly thereafter, they landed in the Valley of Death and were speechless.
“H-hey hey…what is this…!?”
“What kind of fight happened to lead to this…!?”
What remained were the remains of magical beasts that looked pitiful.
Some lost their heads, some had holes pierced into their chests, and some of their original forms were no longer recognizable ─ it was a hellish scene.
“This is a ridiculous splatter scene…”
“What on earth happened here…”
The two commented and began investigating the scene.
“Hey, look. These three are that ‘mutant species’, right? I wonder if even a Sword Saint can win against something like this…”
“Hmm… there are no residual magical powers on the corpses. It looks like all the magical beasts here were killed physically.”
“…Ah? Are you trying to say that all of these guys were ‘beaten to death’?”
“Don’t snap at me like that. I’m just stating the facts in front of me.”
An indescribable silence flowed between the two of them.
“It’s … not possible that those students who fell here did this, right?”
“Impossible. As I said earlier, there are no residual magical powers in the corpses. If a student did it, she accomplished it with her bare hands. Even the proud Kong species – the king of the species, Greater King Kong – can’t do this.’’
“Perhaps the world’s greatest Saint Academy is raising a ridiculous female gorilla?”
“That’s not funny.”
As the two Holy Knights made difficult faces in front of the extremely mysterious scene, they heard the high-pitched chirping of a bird from far above.
Almost at the same time, they looked up and saw a scroll falling.
“Well, this is… from the Saint Academy.”
“What does it say?”
“Eh, let me see…”
To all the Holy Knights,
Thank you very much for responding to our sudden dispatch request.
However, we recently confirmed that the two students who fell into the Valley of Death made it back safely.
Therefore, we would like you to return to the examination headquarters once.
“Tch, what is it? So it was a waste of time?”
“Don’t say that, we’ll get a dispatch allowance after all. And above all, isn’t it great that the students are safe?”
After being released from their emergency mission, the two faced the ‘biggest mystery’ left behind.
“So, how are we going to report this strange scene to the top?”
“…Hmm, you’re right…”
In the end, the badly damaged remains found in the Valley of Death were signed off of as a ‘conflict between magical beasts’.
Arc 3: Saint’s Aptitude Test Edition ─ Complete.