Manga Read Along: Red River Vol. 13 – Bleeding Heart

Spoilers, spoilers, oh my stars and garters, there are spoilers. Need the prior volume commentaries? Check the archives.

Well, here we are in the first volume after Kail’s attempted rape of Yuri. I think my tolerance of this plot point was a lot greater back during its first release because A) there was a three month lag between volumes that made it easier to forget about, and B) that particular plot point has gone down the rabbit hole in the story to not remind you of what just went down. It’s like Shinohara decided quickly after she wrote that part that she probably shouldn’t have and in this volume, where Kail and Yuri are separated by the two-pronged war against Arzawa and Egypt, she makes up for it by making Yuri totally bad-ass.

The problem is by just pretending it didn’t happen, that just makes it all the more disturbing to me now. Especially when this is a volume where you can fully appreciate how clever and self-possessed she is. I’ve found it bothersome that Yuri, who is as close to a superheroine as a mortal woman is going to get, so passively accepts the mistreatment from the men around her and has from the beginning. It is downright alarming that she’s taking it from Kail.

It’s not really out of character for her to ignore his betrayal considering how quickly she forgave Zannanza and Mattiwaza. I think the real terror of Kail’s assault stems from the fact that he is supposed to be the hero. He protected Yuri from the ‘bad guys’ in this world. That’s why its a kick to the face for him to suddenly behave like the men that have tried to menace Yuri into submission.

Yuri has been on campaign for a while and is finally reaching Arwaza. With the first battle between their forces imminent, Yuri has qualms about launching a surprise attack on their cities as that risks civilian casualties. Ilbani, acting as tactician, overrides her concerns by assuring her that her generals will behave ethically and the sister’s lead her off to go strawberry picking. The men make their plans without her as Yuri’s authority is merely symbolic.

While goofing off in the strawberry patch, Yuri is overcoming by tears as she thinks of Kail and that his lips tasted sweet like fruit. We get a couple of panels were Yuri remembers acting lovey-dovey with him, which is odd because the last time they were ‘physical’ with each other, HE TRIED TO RAPE HER. Given how uncomfortable Yuri has been with petting and groping in general because of the multiple rape attempts she’s endured and how cold she was towards toward Kail after his assault, this complete reversal is really weird. As Yuri tries to calm her nerves, three Arzawan soldiers stumble upon the sisters and Yuri with ill-intent. But the girls draw their swords and capture them with easy.

Back at camp, they get one of the soldiers to give them some important information about Arzawan fortifications. He spills that the Hittite army outnumbers the Arzawans at a nearby fortress city by one thousand men. The fortress is also the meeting spot between an Arzawan general and a foreign collaborator. The soldiers were looking for girls they could offer the foreigner as payment for his help against the Hittites. Yuri suspects that the collaborator is someone they can tie back to Nakia and cooks up a plan to infiltrate the fortress by posing as a dancer.

Dressed in nothing but scraps of flowing silk, Yuri causes a commotion in the town by putting on a street performance. She has only Ilbani and the sister, posing as her musicians, as protection. Shinohara includes some really dynamic panels of Yuri’s dancing. The costuming looks incredible but in one of these shots the effect is ruined by Yuri’s abnormally large feet. They look like they belong on an elephant and not a willowy seventeen year old girl. The show has the desired effect and they are quickly invited to the fortress to meet the general.

The fortress is poorly guarded and Ilbani believes that they can easily overwhelm the half-drunk general. However, Yuri goads the commander into calling all his officers into the great hall to watch her dance. At first her companions are alarmed that she’s gathering all the highly ranked soldiers into one place because then the five of them will have to fight off many men. However, Yuri intends to secure a bloodless victory. Yuri dances as the sisters ply the officers with drink and discreetly steal their swords. When they are all good and ‘faced, Yuri gets the general to hand over her sword with the promise of preforming a sword dance in his honor. Boy, is he surprised the when she puts it against his throat and tells him the fortress now belongs to King Kail Mursili.

To save their own lives, the officers stand down and let the Hittites into the city. Yuri got her bloodless victory. Not a single Hittite or Arzawan life was lost. All of Kail’s people are more convinced than ever that Yuri must become Kail’s queen.

Meanwhile, Kail is doing well on the Egyptian front. The Egyptians flee each time the Hittites close in on them, but Kail suspects this might be some kind of trap. He gets a letter from Ilbani reporting that Yuri’s campaign is going well too. She’s single handed captured several cities and is in the process of forcing the Arzawan queen to agree to a peace treaty. Yuri also has sent a personal note telling him that she will always love him but the morning star will appear in the sky soon. Then it will be time to say farewell and return to her own time.

The desperate Arzawans make one last ditch attempt to fight off the Hittites, but the Hittites are in good spirits and still at full fighting strength. The battle quickly goes in their favor. They capture the general and make one last attempt to convince the Arzawans to agree to their peace treaty by asking him to withdrawal his troops from the field and speak with the queen. As night falls, the Arzawan’s princess, Alexandra, arrives in the camp. Alexandra thinks she is going to be abused by the enemy commander until she discovers that Yuri is also woman. When the princess starts weeping in relief, her attendant says that the queen was told by Hittite that came to her court that Kail was a cruel war-monger who would lay waste to their lands and execute the royal family. The Arzawans believed that they have no recourse but take down the Hittites by attacking first.

Yuri treats it like it was all a misunderstanding and says that Kail is a just and merciful king. She assures Alexandra that if the queen surrenders, no harm will come to the kingdom. The next day, Alexandra convinces the queen to surrender without fear and to enter into an alliance with their empire. There is no two ways around it. The Arzawans are pretty stupid. They launched a war based on the advice of some rando that showed up one day and told them the Hittites were going to hurt them. They started the war over hear-say. At least Yuri’s promise to not harm them has some credibility since she bent over backward to keep deaths low.

The celebration over the peace lasts until dawn. Just as everyone starts going to bed, Hadi points out the morning star shining in the sky. Yuri, who has been waiting up every night for its first appearance, is conflicted to see it. With the war over, she’s completed everything she wanted to do for Kail. Yet her heart is torn about leaving.

They set out to return to the capital but discover Princess Alexandra has stowed away in the supply train. She is impressed by Yuri and wants to stay by her side. The queen personally comes to retrieve her and scolds Alexandra for running off on her own. Yuri can see that a mother’s fear and love lays under the censure and thinks of how her own mother must be feeling. Yuri has been gone from her timeline for over two years and thinking of her family only makes her realize how badly she needs to return.

Ilbani receives a report for Hattusa that indicates that Yuri might be permanently trapped in the past if she doesn’t return to the capital soon. Nakia has ordered a temple be built over the spring Yuri emerged from. After that’s bricked over, she will be permanently cut off from her home.

The thought of being stuck is so traumatic that Yuri loses all composure and cries for someone to bring her horse. It was one thing to consider maybe one more year, but now her decision is final. In her heart of hearts, she wants to go home. With only the sisters, Ilbani and Kash as her escorts, Yuri tears off at top speed for the capital.

However, it’s already too late. Nakia has the spring destroyed. Not only that, she has reconciled with Urhi, back in Hattusa after manipulating the Arzawans. Her master plan was to try to goad Kail into sending part of his army back to stop her from demolishing the spring. When his army is smaller, she is going to tell the Egyptians to attack him with everything they have.

When Kail gets the report, he thinks of ignoring Nakia’s actions. If the spring is gone, then Yuri will have no choice but to be with him. (In light of what he did to her in the last volume, this idea is more creepy than romantic). But his better nature (and his saving grace is does have one) wins out and he sends half his troops to stop Nakia. Kikkuri tries to dissuade him but Kail tells him that he made a promise to Yuri. He will keep it even if it goes against all of his desires. Unwittingly, he steps right into the queen’s trap.

The Egyptians attack. The Hittites are overwhelmed but Kail turns the tide by leading the Egyptians into a trap of his own. Just when victory seems all but assured, Ramses comes riding over a ridge with bow in hand. He fires an arrow that strikes Kail in the heart. As this plays out, Yuri stands at the banks of the Red River preparing to cross it one last time. To give the volume a nice dramatic finish, she gets a bad feeling just as Kail’s headband snaps in half and falls from her forehead.

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