Vandread Volume 1 Chapter 3

The Men Who Were Left Behind

Part 1

‘ZUZUZUZUZUZU……’

The shock wave from the flash, which had enveloped the Old Warship Section and the Pirate Ship, shook the hull of the New Warship Section.

“Confirm Muramasa detonation, there is a loss of mass at the specified coordinates.”

Receiving the crewmember’s report, the Prime Minister forcibly distorted his stiffened face and spoke.

“Hmph……that’ll teach them, those lowly women!”

As the light faded at the center of the flash that occurred, the situation gradually became clear. To say nothing of the guise of the Old Warship Section, already the silhouette of the pirate could no longer be seen there. However, the only thing that was apparent over there was a spatial distortion that had been formed where they had previously existed.

As for the female pirates, including Hibiki Tokai, they had vanished entirely from Taraakian space together with the warship

Part 2

The Taraak Empire was a country of only men. Having adopted a militaristic and chivalrous culture, they were a country whose values esteemed pride and honor. For that reason, even when it came to enjoying oneself during everyday life, nearly all the notions they held were orchestrated.

Also, the society had been formed with the Eight Virtuous Men of the first generation, including Gran Pa, being at the top of the pyramid. These values seemed to go beyond simply severe, to say nothing of enforcing them.

Nevertheless, under such a narrow societal environment an event referred to as a Festival was held a few times a year, showcasing sword dances and gallant parades.

Although, low class citizens like Hibiki Tokai were not permitted to personally participate in the Festival, and were only allowed to gaze at it from total isolation on the other side of a partition of emblematic paper lanterns. And even then because all the low class citizens were gathered there to watch the parade through the partition, due to everyone scrambling to see only a small number could get close enough.

“Move aside, let me past!”

Already short to begin with, Hibiki had been trying for a while to frantically trying to push his way forward through the crowd of third-class citizens who were gathered in front of the partition.

‘A little more……a little more and I’ll reach it.’

As he was losing himself as though possessed by something there was a voice that could only be heard where Hibiki was. It was Hibiki’s own voice.

On the other side of the partition the Festival parade was slowly passing by as though in slow motion, while on this side the factory workers Hibiki was familiar with were happily scrambling to get a good look. The other factory workers were laughing as they watched the stirring entertainment.

That scene would occasionally become dim, and occasionally become a hazy white. It was a dream it seemed. In it Hibiki was jostled by the crowd, his way was blocked by them, and while struggling he frantically reached out his hand in front of him.

‘……A hair more……no……even just a little bit……’

For a second time there was a voice from somewhere, and again it was Hibiki’s own voice alone. That voice was exceedingly calm, yet full of conviction.

‘If only I could become even just a little bit taller, I definitely should be able to see an entirely different view. Yes even just a……’

Hibiki frantically extended his hand, yet the partition that was his aim only got steadily further away.

While his anxious expression was already on the verge of tears, he nevertheless reached out his hand without giving up. As the scene before Hibiki’s eyes once again became wrapped in a white haze, an instant later it happened.

‘BAKI! BAKIBAKIBAKI!!’

Suddenly a large crystalline pillar had sprouted right before Hibiki’s eyes.

“UWAAH!?”

Hibiki reflexively jumped back as crystal pillars successively assailed him as though to surround him. By the time he noticed Hibiki found that he had been isolated on what appeared to be a mountain made of crystal.

“W-What is this, where is this, what is this place!? ……UH!!”

As Hibiki, who was already dumbfounded from the extreme transition, watched, without warning the crystal pillars took on the visage of human being. Their appearances were of Dita, the one who had been chasing after Hibiki, Meia, the Dread team leader, Jura the pilot, and even the Hi-type number six. They gathered together, each of their faces frozen as though with shock. Seeing this Hibiki instantly recoiled, but he immediately pulled himself together.

“You, you’re in the way!”

Shouting that, Hibiki started to climb in order to get passed the mountain of crystal.

So as to see the tall distant peak of that mountain, Hibiki grasped hold of it and pushed forward as though in a daze.

‘Just a little bit…………more, just……a small amount more…………’

It was as though it was the voice of Hibiki’s heart. The voice seemed to be telling Hibiki that he was nearly at the summit.

“Kuh……more, just……a second more……”

And then, his right hand finally reached to the summit of the cliff. As he glanced over at the other side of the mountain a dazzling light began to shine upon his body.

Hibiki’s expression became on of delight, and at that moment he leaned his body forward to receive that light’s grace. Something then appeared before his eyes, namely the space-faring torpedo Muramasa being fired at the discarded Old Warship Section. All of a sudden, without even enough time to be shocked, he thought that the surrounding crystal appeared to stir, Hibiki’s body was enveloped in its entirety.

“W-WA~!”

The crystal that had swallowed even Hibiki’s scream began to move organically as though it were a living thing, and like that it transformed as though to form into something.

The crystal, which was repeatedly overlapping and then branching apart, gradually took on a single form. One part of the cluster suddenly burst open, and then transformed into the shape of a person’s arm. That arm reached towards another cluster that gradually began to grow opposite it even as it began to unite with other clusters below it into a humanoid shape.

Facing the Muramasa that was plunging straight forward, a crystalline cluster that had formed into a giant humanoid had been roused. Subsequently there then appeared parts resembling cannons.

‘Viiiiii——n……ZUBAAAAAAA!!’

A flash was fired from these, as though it was enveloping the entire world as well as the Muramasa, brimming with power, and continued to spread exponentially.

Everything was sent back to ‘nothingness’. Everything blended into the white light, and the sound of silence dominated the world.

And then, at that moment, everything started.

Outer space is eternally expanding, and within this vast space that is said to be infinite there are various celestial objects floating. Stars that are being born, starts that are going extinct, and phenomenon frequently occur within this vast universe including many mysteries while simultaneously various miracles are brought into being.

Here as well, one such miracle has just taken place at this very moment. And it all begins with a sudden occurrence for which there was no advance warning.

Empty space had suddenly begun to deform, and from that rift light was pouring out. Subsequently, the rift spread in a flash, and simultaneously space debris began to spew out as though it had been blown by a strong wind.

From the wormhole that had suddenly opened, the Old Warship Section and pirate ship, which should have suffered direct hits from the Muramasa, were revealed. The wormhole then displayed a violent pulsation that expelled the two warships and then, as though it had accomplished its purpose, it rapidly closed and ceased to exist.

Once again, outer space became silent.

Whether it had all happened in an instant or whether it had taken place over a period of several days, the answer wasn’t at all clear. However, indicating the violence of the shock they had received, both the Old Warship Section and the pirate ship were drifting in outer space with the entirety of their systems functions having been interrupted.

Even on the bridge of the pirate ship the effects of the shock seemed substantial. Everyone had fallen onto their seats’ consoles, each of them having lost consciousness.

“U-uu……”

The one who was fastest among them to regain consciousness was Magno. Seemingly due to the effects of space travel, with her head was experiencing a headache and sense of paralysis that’d she’d never felt before, she propped herself up with her hand as she roused her unconscious body.

“……Ku, this doesn’t seem to be the netherworld……I say what the heck just happened?”

The bridge crew had regained consciousness in response to her voice, and were not focusing their eyes on the confusing data on their consoles. However, perhaps as a result of the shock, the console monitors were all projecting nothing but static.

“S-so sorry……I’ll repair it right now.”

Although still in a hazy state of mind the crew began working to verify their situation. Magno let out a single big sigh upon seeing this state of affairs, and then raised her eyes to look up at the sky through the window in the ceiling. As for what it was that caught Magno’s eye, that would be the light of the Pexis Pragma crystal growing out of the Ikazuchi that was floating above them and piercing into the pirate’s ship.

Magno had accumulated more than the average amount of life experiences, however this was a spectacle that she was witnessing for the first time. Thoroughly peering up with her wrinkled eyes, she murmured in a groan.

“What’s this now, the crystal isn’t trying to eat the ship is it!?”

The words Magno had spoken reflexively were proving to be an apt description. The crystal, having already grown through the Old Warship Section, was now once again carrying out an unimaginable transformation on the pirate ship.

Throughout the entirety of the warship, the crystal grew out of control every which way like a spider’s web, and with the partitions and equipment naturally included, even the Banagata and the Dreads that failed to escape were being enveloped.

Even in the hanger the crystal that had begun to dissolve had enveloped everything, forming what appeared to be a cave of fluorescent moss. As the turquoise-colored light of the Pexis was seen to eerily pulsate, the transformation had as yet only just begun.

The Dreads that had been swallowed up were connected to the crystalline branch like ripened fruit. Being faintly visible within the crystalline substance, the situation gave the impression of an insect’s cocoon.

Meia and Jura, who hadn’t escaped from the Old Warship Section, had been ejected from their vehicles without anyone realizing, and having fallen were now spread out on the crystalline floor that was like living blood vessels.

“……Mu……kuh……”

Meia who had fallen face down was regaining consciousness, her body stirring as her trademark hair ornament still pinned her hair down. Although her consciousness was still hazy, she was still the leader of the combat forces. She raised her voice in concern for the unladylike figure before her belonging to Jura who had lost consciousness.

“Ju, Jura……are you alright?”

“U, u~n……what’s going o~n……”

Instead of a direct reply, the seductively-built Jura responded as though she was seeing some kind of dream. It appeared that she at least had not suffered any severe damage. Confirming Jura’s safety, Meia let out a breath of relief as her consciousness became clear. Recalling her memories,  the anxiety she had felt before being hit by the impact filled her mind.

“Hah……Dita!?”

She reflexively looked behind herself. Then,

“Fa∼∼i……”

A reply lacking in motivation was heard from below Dita’s ship that had been swallowed by the crystal. Dita who was caught in the opening of a crevice was waving her hand with vacant eyes as though she had been drinking.

“Something went ‘BIBIBI∼∼’, and then ‘ZUBABA∼∼’ or something∼……either way, Alien power is so amazing∼……”

107

Feeling relieved at the safe albeit extremely exhausted figure of Dita, Meia, as she lifted her body that still felt as heavy as lead, spurred herself on as she lifted her fortitude.

“……What on earth happened……”

The warship known as the ‘Old Warship Section’ had already had it’s appearance changed distinctly. The large crystal pillars that had spread from the central part of the warship were growing in all directions, and for the left and right arm portions that had been pulled off when the New Warship Section had separated, the crystal growing from the column cross section had formed a symmetrical pattern just like a living creature’s blood vessels and nerve tissue. Even more amazing was that each crystal branch was drawing in nearby space debris, which was being made into hull material. As an example it was just like how the male bagworm builds it’s nest using nearby dead leaves and twigs. That is to say that the Pexis Pragma’s undertaking was similar to the metamorphosis of living creatures, to the extent that one could say it was instinctual.

Based on this fact, this was no ordinary crystalline structure. Well then, what the heck was the Pexis Pragma? As unfortunate as it may be, at this stage there wasn’t anyone who could answer this question.

Part 3

The pirate ship had been captured by one of the crystal pillars extending from the Old Warship Section, and was being slowly drawn in. With this pillar as a foothold, small crystal feelers continued to grow towards the pirate ship, securely connecting the ships to each other.

As she stared at this situation through the bridge window, Magno took a deep breath to compose herself and turned to face the monitor that was suspended in front of her.

“Gascogne! Yes or no, can you cut us loose?”

The monitor floating in front of Magno was displaying the area the crystal was invading. Looking to be somewhere in the mid-thirties agewise, the one there was older compared to the other crew members. Whether it was do to this or whether it was merely her personality to begin with, as indicated by the lack of excessive shaking by long toothpick she held in her mouth as she spoke, she appeared to be bored.

‘It’s impossible with beam guns. If we’re not careful this place will also be swallowed up.’

As Gascogne said, behind her members of the construction crew were using large construction us beam guns and drills to sever the crystal that was corroding.

“I see……. Today’s just not our lucky day……BC!”

Sighing at the inconvenient report she heard from Gascogne, Magno pulled herself together and again turned to face the monitor. In response to Magno’s call the multi-monitor opened up another window, this one projecting a different area where Buzam was.

‘BC’ was Magno’s name for ‘Buzam A. Calessa’ and was taken from her initials, but as an additional reason, Buzam, due to holding the concurrent positions of Executive Officer and Chief of Staff, was as a result both the second and third in command after the A-ranked Magno.

‘The corrosion has already spread throughout the whole ship.’

Hearing this report of Buzam’s, yet another new window opened. It was the goggly-eyed spectacled Chief Engineer, Parfet. With a destroyed supply valve dangling in her hand, she was semi desperate.

‘The main engine won’t start up either∼.’

Magno let out yet another big sigh at the critical state of affairs and spoke.

“It seems there’s no other choice but to cut the problem off at the source……. BC, Parfet! Come, we’re going up there together!”

The stern of the pirate ship that was located below the Old Warship Section opened, and a small shuttle emerged. The shuttle took a wide lap around to confirm the status of the two ships, and then proceeded to enter through the rear catapult that Meia and company had broken in through.

Having arrived in the hangar the shuttle’s hatch proceeded to open, and from inside emerged Magno relying on the staff in her hand who was in turn followed by Buzam and Parfet.

Signifying that she had originally been a priestess, Magno’s entire body was covered by by the priest’s robes she was wearing. The staff she held in her right hand was reminiscent of that belonging to a bony mountain hermit. Hypothetically, it seemed that no one would find it strange if magical flames were to be fired from the staff’s pointy end.

Towards Magno who was gazing with her mouth agape at the transformed hangar, which now resembled a limestone cave that was releasing a pale light,

“My apologies, Captain. For you to have to specially come up here……”

Meia who greeted them apologized thus. Behind her was Dita who in her nervousness was standing stiff with tension. This wasn’t an unusual reaction for someone who was a new recruit like Dita. While displaying such an appearance, Magno slowly strode towards the hangar’s interior.

“You don’t have to apologize……in any case, I needed to see this with these eyes of mine. ……Hmm!?”

Having passed the shuttle Magno had drawn near the Bangata that had been swallowed by the crystal when she suddenly noticed something. Over where she was looking, there was the form Hibiki, who was unconscious, stretched out awkwardly with the Hi-Type Number Six serving as a pillow.

“It’s the man Dita was chasing.”

From beside her Meia inserted that explanation. Magno, who had until then maintained an air of indifference, peered intently at Hibiki’s face as she muttered in apparent amazement.

“What’s this, he’s nothing but a child……. Nevertheless, it has been a while since I last saw a man, but for them to have been this stupid looking……”

Despite Magno’s cruel words Hibiki didn’t react at all, his consciousness having flown off to another world entirely.

|

That place was a mysterious space. Although it seemed to be underwater, it was also like being inside of a crystal. There was turquoise brilliance, will flowed and swelled easily through the entire space. While up and down were indistinguishable, nevertheless that space was mysteriously not uncomfortable.

Hibiki had calmly surrendered his body as he floated in this place.

“Hmm……?”

At this point Hibiki heard a voice from somewhere. When he looked back in surprise, the Hi-Type Number Six, Dita, Meia, and Jura were all currently floating aimlessly there.

“W-hat’s this,  who are you guys!? Where is this!?”

In contrast to Hibiki who had been startled, they weren’t agitated at all. Although the appearances were the same it was though something else was manipulating them.

As though to support that idea mysterious words flowed from their mouths.

⌈Who are you……⌋

To them who seemed quite strange, Hibiki replied somewhat hesitantly.

“Eeh!? ……Me? ……I’m Hibiki, Hibiki Tokai.”

⌈……Hibiki⌋

⌈The organic lifeform’s designation……? Or else is it the title of a solid being?⌋

⌈For what reason are you here……⌋

⌈Is your purpose instinctual, or else perhaps out of obligation……⌋

From theirs lips questions were successively thrown at him. Hearing this Hibiki, in his confusion, rather than answering began monologuing to himself.

“That’s wrong!! I……I was just fed up with it!”

In the mind of Hibiki who shouted this, the memories of how he had always been abused and discriminated against until now reemerged.

“Being scorned solely because of my looks and occupation, being made fun of……I was just escaping from such an environment!!”

Towards Hibiki who had unexpectedly revealed his inner thoughts, the ones he was facing, without showing any reaction, continued to dispassionately raise questions.

⌈……Incomprehensible……⌋

⌈What is Hibiki?⌋

“W-what, what do you mean by that!?”

It seemed that even Hibiki who had been asked didn’t understand the intent of the question.

⌈Why do you exist……⌋

⌈What makes you different from other solid matter?⌋

⌈For you, what is the proof that you even exist?⌋

Reacting sensitively to the word ‘proof’, Hibiki objected as he became emotional.

“Proof is it!? You should be able to tell just by looking!!”

Whether it was his hotheadedness that was no good, or whether it was his reply that was bad, upon hearing Hibiki’s answer they, leaving behind words with a nuance close to disappointment, they quickly began to withdraw from that space in a manner similar to ghosts.

⌈……That reply, it’s primitive, three dimensional……⌋

As they were departing into indistinctiveness Hibiki who was facing them tried to pursue, but he wasn’t able to move his body from there.

“W-wait! What are you supposed to be then!? Answer me! Where is this place!?”

Frantically reaching out his hand in protest, Hibiki gave his complaint, but without answering him at all they disappeared into the light. Nevertheless Hibiki didn’t give up, as he deliriously reached his hand towards the now empty space.

“Where are you going!? Wait! How can I do better!?”

Their guises transformed into pale light, which then spread through the surrounding area. Confronting this Hibiki was at his wit’s end, however he repeated their words like a spell that had opened his eyes.

“Who I am, what I am……” {TN: Hibiki speaks twice using two different personal pronouns, Watashi and Ore}

With that the pale light covered everything, and once more the surroundings were enveloped by silence.

|

‘GAN!!’

“OUCH!!”

Hibiki raised a shout after unintentionally hitting his head too hard on something.

“Oww∼∼∼. ……Hm?”

When he subconsciously tried to rub the place he’d been hit with his right hand Hibiki was surprised. What he saw was that, though he had tried to raise only his right hand, his left hand was attached to it. The reason however was immediately made clear. Hibiki’s hands had been tied together with handcuffs.

“Hwah……”

Starting with what was nearby he looked in order to understand the situation. To that end he timidly surveyed his surroundings. This was a place that was familiar to him, namely a cell in the Old Warship Section that was serving in place of a storage room.

“Ah man…………I ended up back in prison again……”

Crestfallen, Hibiki who had lowered his head was suddenly addressed by a hidden voice.

“……So you have regained consciousness.”

Having believed that he was alone Hibiki was startled.

“Who’s there!?”

Taking a posture, he focused his eyes in the direction of the voice, where he saw someone’s foot sticking out of the shadow of some stacked packages. Remaining vigilant, Hibiki leaned forward to peer over to where Duero was leaning against the wall with his hands bound by identical handcuffs.

“?”

For Hibiki this was his first time meeting Duero. Perhaps judging as much, Duero spoke first before Hibiki could say a word.

“I’m Duero McFile. ……Do you have a name? Third class citizen-kun”

“Kuh……, don’t look down on me!! My name is Hibiki Tokai! I’m no ordinary third class citizen!!”

Having perceived from Duero’s clothes that he was an upper class citizen, Hibiki crossed his arms, took his standard pose with his chin sticking out, and glared over at Duero without saying another word. At Hibiki’s strange behavior, Duero seemed to become increasingly more interested. Leaning forward he again raised a question.

“You were the one who went wild at the ceremony right? How did you sneak aboard? And for what purpose?”

Being fed up with the continuous barrage of questions, Hibiki grumbled a forceful reply in response.

“……Geez, sure have been a lot of questions today……well whatever! I……”

Then, just as Hibiki had started to speak,

‘PI———,GA———, ZEZEZE……’

A strange electronic sound being emitted from near his feet, and when he looked there was the Hi-Type Number Six lying on the floor clattering as it trembled.

“OH!?”

Having been under the impression the thing was certainly broken, Hibiki subconsciously inclined his body forward, and then the Hi-Type Number Six all of a sudden levitated into the air, and the next moment,

‘BUFU∼∼∼N……’

Together with a comically strange sound its one piece body separated forming hands and feet. Hibiki gazed open mouthed without saying a word.

And yet the surprise didn’t end with just something to that extent. Having grown hands and feet, the monitor that was the equivalent of the Hi-Type Number Six’s face switched on, on which a pair of large comical eyes precisely like those of a cartoon character were displayed. And despite the fact that a camera-eye function ought to be in use, the lump of pixels in the form of pupils wandered around the surrounding and were surveying the situation.

“Pyoro? Where is this place? Who am I?” {TN: The robot’s lines use Katakana in place of Hiragana. I haven’t decided if I’ll use some method to convey that.}

To the Hi-Type Number Six that like a human was performing the human-like action of scratching its head in confusion, Hibiki was amazed beyond astonishment.

“……You, were you like this before?”

“Pyo?”

|

Due to Magno having come up to the Old Warship Section, the Pirate Ship’s operations crew was also transferring in order to control the situation. The Pexis, having undergone abnormal growth, had spread throughout the entire warship, though conversely the interior portion near the hangar and such had been the first to achieve a stable condition. As proof of this the crystal that had been releasing a strange pale light until now was losing its transparency and turning cloudy, and the parts had had expanded irregularly were dropping with a clatter like a scab peeling off. Since the female pirate crew members had gone to the engineering sector and main computer room, the hangar had returned to being uninhabited.

In the hangar that ought to be abandoned there were sounds for some reason. The sound was coming from inside the statue of Gran Pa that had been entwined with crystalline branches. Indeed, it was Bart who was still hiding in there.

A cover on part of the pedestal was the knocked outwards. Subsequently, Bart emerged cautiously like a cat looking to move the a new home.

“Hya∼∼∼, well this turned out just great huh∼……”

Rising unsteadily to his while with a dumbfounded expression, Bart’s breath was taken away at the transformed sight before him. Though it was due to his own actions, the result was that he had been left behind. However, in front of the crystal that had achieved unusual growth, even for Bart who was always ready to flee, at that moment the sight that had been produced made even him forget all about escaping.

“……This ship, how did it turn out like thiiis……”

He had unsteadily risen to his feet with his mouth gaping open, and then it happened.

‘BEKIBEKIBEKI……ZUZU∼N!’

Meia’s Dread that had been captured by the Pexis came crashing down after losing its crystalline support, and was now sliding towards Bart.

“NOWAH∼∼∼!!”

Having leapt back in confusion, Bart stumbled backwards and unceremoniously fell onto his rear.

“Tch∼∼∼……what the hell, all of a sudden……geez, that startled me……”

The one who was spouting such abusive language towards the fallen dread was Bart, but he was also the one who was so scared by the unexpected occurrence that he couldn’t get back up. He looked to the side while crawling away on all fours. It happened when Bart had only gone one or two steps like that. His face touched something soft.

“N……?”

In surprise he turned back to face what was in front of him, where glaring at him in silence was Meia wielding a ring gun.

“UGH!!……”

While crawling on all fours, Bart’s facial expression had frozen in a stupid pose.

Glaring down at him expressionlessly was Meia whose ring began to pull the trigger on her ring gun. She had prepared so as to be able to shoot with just the smallest of motions. Even Bart seemed to sense this, as he strained to smile in spite of his trembling and spoke.

“……H-hey, hi there, nice to meet you……”

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