Manga Read Along: Red River Vol. 7 – Stand by Your Man

In the last volume Yuri nearly brought down an empire with her courage and clever thinking only to be overpowered by Prince Mattiwaza’s roofie incense. We now return to the attempted rape in process. Yuri struggles to no avail but she’s saved at the last minute by a conveniently timed palace coup. The Mitanni are on the verge of starvation and revolt against the royal family in a last ditch attempt to end the siege.

They have already murdered the king and think if they show the Hittites proof that all the royals are dead, they will spare the Mitanni common folk. They attack Mattiwaza and he puts up a fight. A naked Yuri regains enough mobility to try to crawl from the fray but a soldier notices her. Mistakenly thinking she is the prince’s lover, he tries to kill her but Mattiwaza leaps in front the sword.

Yuri couldn’t be more shocked that Mattiwaza, a callous monster of man, tried to protect her. To everyone’s surprise, Nadia, the concubine he abandoned at Wassuganni, jumps in front of him and takes the blow for him. She’s wounded but not mortally so. Yuri grabs some clothes and a sword and attacks – not Mattiwaza, the man who tried to rape her – but a soldier trying to finish him off as he is distracted by Nadia’s injury. As if they were the villains here! Then she gives him a pep talk about how he should value Nadia more since she stood by her man even though he treated her poorly. Extremely poorly.

Yuri may be smart about a lot of things, but she makes some terrible choices when it comes to trusting the men around her. Just as it was the earlier volume, the attempted rape is not presented in an eroticized manner but Yuri automatically forgives Mattiwaza like he is some kind of misunderstood woobie. Yuri forgives these men when they do little to no soul searching or atonement. That gets my goat more the actual assaults.

At least with Zannanza the queen’s evil magic compelled him to attack Yuri, but Mattiwaza is doing it just to be cruel. He wants to hurt Yuri and Kail for the role they played in his downfall. This is not me reading into the subtext. This is the text. As he tears her clothes off, Yuri questions why he’s doing this when he has no interest in her sexually. He blatantly admits that raping her is the one way he can strike at Kail at this point.

He is a straight up villain. His is selfish, a murder, cruel and cynical – his twisted nature stemming from his disappointment in being unable to continue his incestuous relationship with his biological sister. I think Yuri assumes that because he got between her and a mutineer’s blade that there is some tiny bit of good in Mattiwaza. But Mattiwaza is the source of Yuri’s trouble. Had he not been such a hated brute, the soldiers never would have attempted the coup. If he hadn’t kidnapped her, she never would have been in the middle of the siege.

All of this takes place in just a hand full of pages. I know I am spilling a lot of words on a small scene but I just find this so bothersome. It is a theme that gets repeated over and over in shojo manga. The heroines in these comics have an almost supernatural ability to forgive after suffering serious wrong doing. The message seems to be if you are pure of heart you never hold a grudge and ‘purity of heart’ tends to be a trait a lot of manga puts a premium on. Maybe that is good advice, but I think there is a difference between letting a grudge go and being stupid. Yuri is being stupid by saying ‘water under the bridge’ and continuing on as if these things never happened. Especially since she has no real guarantee that it will never happen again.

Getting back to the story, Mattiwaza decides to take Nadia, abandon the city and take sanctuary in her home country of Babylonia. He gives the jewel on his headband to Yuri and tells her to use it to bribe her way out of the city. It isn’t long before she runs into Kail. They have a passionate reunion with much kissing and some grab ass. With the Mitanni leaderless and the city on the verge of collapse, Kail is content to let Mattiwaza escape. Only because he didn’t sleep with Yuri. She holds her tongue on that last point. The important thing for Kail is get her back for Hattusa before the window for time travel closes in three days.

Nobody in Kail’s entourage wants Yuri to go home. Yuri is ready to return, so she says, but her feelings for the prince have grown deep and intense. Ilbani believes that the future of Hittite Empire rests on Kail marrying Yuri so he deliberately feeds the information to Urhi, Nakia’s henchmen traveling with the army as a priest, that Yuri has been rescued.

Urhi sets the bridge over the river on fire. With no way to cross the river, Yuri misses her deadline and is stuck with Kail for another year. Yuri collapses in tears when she realized she’s not going back. She misses home but she also fears what will happen to her if she is forced to witness Kail’s marriage to another woman. Kail is torn. He wants to keep his promise to Yuri but he fears that another year together (especially one without months long separations) will test his ability to follow through on that.

Once they return to the Hittite capital, Yuri and Kail are celebrated as heroes. With his uncle, the Gal Meshedi, quietly killed off screen, everyone anticipates that the king will award Kail the position as the empire’s most powerful general. Yuri decides that she must start putting distance between herself and Kail. He is already well out her league and as his reputation and power grows, he will only be more so. She starts rejecting even casual touches. Zannanza gives him the rather dubious advice that giving the old in and out will make her forget about her homeland, but Ilbani advises that he should redouble his courtship efforts. If he expresses his love and makes her happy, Yuri might be willing to stay on with him.

Kail doesn’t get very far with his romance plans. A messenger comes from Egypt bearing a marriage proposal from a newly widowed queen. She seeks a suitor who will rule beside her as king and refuses to take a man from her own court as she suspects a traitor was behind her first husband’s death. The Hittite court convenes to talk it over. At the meeting, Yuri meets Juda, the son that Nakia is desperate to put on the throne. He is an innocent kid of thirteen or fourteen, honest and upright. Nothing like his scheming mother and actually adored by Kail.

Nakia lobbies hard for Kail to be the prince sent to Egypt. If he were to become king of a foreign land, he’d be neutralized as a rival for power in Hattusa and he’d have to leave Yuri behind. Fortunately, the king is suspicious of the offer and hesitant to offer up one of his sons. They have long been rivals and he suspects there might be some treachery afoot. They don’t come to a decision but Kail is the likely candidate if they agree to it.

Yuri angsts and becomes distraught. Her panic grows worse when Kail has her move to a separate bed room. This is something she actually proposed earlier but the sister talked them out of by saying they had too much work to do and couldn’t handle cleaning another room. After some more exchanges with the Egyptian ambassadors, the king relents but he believes it would be fair to offer all his sons, legitimate or illegitimate, a chance to marry the queen. Urhi tricks him into holding a chariot race to decide who will be the groom.

On the face of it, this seems like a neutral contest, but Kail is best charioteer among the princes. Unless Kail throws the race, which Ilbani believes he won’t, it is a foregone conclusion he will be going to Egypt. Juda is also participating in the race and corners Yuri before it begins. He asks her to slip some powder into Kail’s wine. He says it is mild sedative that will make him a bit sleepy and cause him to lose. Yuri has her misgivings but does it anyway.

Kail fails to perform under the drug’s effects and Zannanza wins the race. Yuri fesses up about the drug and everyone agrees that this outcome is for the best. Zannanza, with no hope of inheriting the crown, is just savvy enough that he might survive the Egyptian court intrigues and cement peace between the kingdoms. Juda, who was originally banking on winning, is too young and inexperienced to be an effective political player and Kail is needed in Hattusa. Nakia decides that Zannanza has to die. If she can make it look like an Egyptian trap, when war breaks out she can stage a coup and put Juda on the throne.

With the Egyptian issue out of the way, Kail is appointed Gal Meshedi. Preparations are made for Zannanza’s departure and Yuri asks to be part of the escort up to the Egyptian border. On the day of the journey, Kail and Zannanza share a farewell as it is unlikely they will ever see each other face to face again. Juda notices his mother is up to something and alerts Kail that Zannanza and Yuri are riding into a trap.

Kail intercepts a group of Nakia’s personal guards that ride out after the wedding party and makes them turn back. Unfortunately, this is a decoy and Nakia has put some of her loyalists in with the outriders in Zannanza’s procession. On their last night in Anatolia, Yuri has a heart to heart with Zannanza. Zannanza confesses that he wants nothing more than to be with Yuri but since she is already Kail’s he might as well marry a stranger. Yuri tells him that he must make an honest effort to love the queen or neither of them will ever be happy. Zannanza agrees that he should at least give it a shot.

The next day, Nakia’s henchmen make their move. They poison everyone’s wine and start killing them once the toxin takes effect. Only Yuri hasn’t drunk any. Zannanza fights the soldiers off long enough for Yuri to get to her horse, but as she breaks away from the caravan, they fire arrows at her. She is unharmed but Aslan (her horse) goes down for the count. With his last bit of strength, Zannanza gets between her and a thrown lance, getting skewered through the heart. Yuri barely has time to process his dying words before an arrow shanks her from behind. Nakia’s henchmen, believing there are no survivors, ride away from the carnage so the wreckage of the caravans can be swallowed up by the desert sands.

It’s no spoiler to say that with twenty-one volumes left in this adventure, Yuri isn’t dead. In the next volume she is going to have a tall order in crossing the desert and stop the Hittites and Egyptians from going to war. Unfortunately, the next volume should also be the one that introduces the worst character in the series: Ramses.

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Manga Read Along: Red River Vol. 16 – Every Breath You Take « Vivi Writes Books


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