Manga Read Along: Red River Vol. 21 – Walk Like An Egyptian

Spoilers! Need to know what’s happened in earlier volumes? Check the archive for previous recaps.

 

Now that Nakia has been revealed to be conspiring against Kail with the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, Kail has had enough. Aiding a foreign power against the Hittites is treason and the charge is serious enough that he can force the senate to strip her of all authority. First, he has to gather more evidence. The tablet he got from Zora is unsigned and he only has the soldier’s word that he was sending it to her. Kail’s case has to be air tight as she will talk her way out of the charges if there is any ambiguity as to her guilt. Neither will he risk the legal structure of the empire by ignoring the law and decreeing her a traitor without a fair trial.

Back in Memphis, Ramses’ mother outfits Yuri in an Egyptian wedding gown. This dress is probably the most intricately drawn one she’s worn in the series so far with all the bead work on the waist and collar. The folds of the skirt alone must have taken hours to draw. Nefert has a keen eye for reading people and she is skeptical that Yuri wants to go through with the marriage. Yuri tells her that she desires it, but she doesn’t say out loud that she’s only doing it to meet Nefertiti.

Yuri, of course, has no intention of going through with it and she is a little worried that Ramses will try to force her to be his wife for real. Ramses takes Yuri by boat to Thebes to meet the queen and all the people gather to see what kind of woman he is marrying. She is dressed to impress and walks into the palace the very picture of poise and calm even though she knows she about to face a woman as treacherous as Nakia. Perhaps more so.

Unfortunately, the pharaoh briefly saw Yuri once before with Kail and mentions that she looks familiar to him. Ramses distracts the pharaoh and introduces Yuri as Naptera. Nefertiti questions if Yuri is really a suitable bride to Ramses and he assures the dowager queen that no one suits him better. Nefertiti then accuses him before the court of acting like he plans to overthrow the pharaoh and take the throne by force since he’s declined to marry into the royal family several times. Ramses denies it with a laugh but Nefertiti isn’t fooled.

Later, Ramses explains that Nefertiti has way too much power – more so than their weak pharaoh even though there is little legal basis for her authority. He believes that it is best that he removed her immediately, take over the country and install Yuri as his queen. Then he throws her on the carpet and tries to molest her again. What is this? The tenth time? She complains of stomach pain and Ramses relents to go get a doctor for her. As he leaves, she sticks out her tongue to indicate she was faking it to get him to stop.

I’m actually proud of her. Yuri is politically savvy but this is the first time she’s been able to manipulate a guy outside of pure political context. It only took her twenty volumes to learn so I’ll say it again. She’s smart about a lot of things but when it comes to men, she can be really stupid.

In the days leading up to the wedding, Nefert takes Yuri to see all the temples in Thebes to pray for her marriage’s success. While they walk around the city, she sees all the beggars and refugees in the marketplace, all dirty and half starving. She wonders if it would be good for the country if Ramses was in charge and tried to clean up the corruption and neglect. A hungry urchin gets caught stealing food from one of the temples and the priest orders his hand cut off. Yuri intervenes. First she tries reasoning with them that a punishment is too harsh for a small child, but when they refuse to show mercy, Yuri draws her sword and fights her way to the kid. Four cloaked people keep the other priests from overwhelming her and Yuri returns the boy to his mother.

Her rescuers whip off their disguises. It’s the sisters and Ilbani. They have a warm reunion and Ilbani explains to Nefert that they are traveling musicians sent by Yuri’s family to play at the wedding. The high priest threatens Yuri but she throws some shade on him to tell him he doesn’t scare her. The other people at the bazaar throw rocks at him. The merchants and other common folk praise Yuri for her brave deed as they are tired of living under the tyrannical, self-serving clergy. Yuri’s popularity only enhances their regard for Ramses.

Back at the estate, Ramses threatens to have Ilbani and the sisters arrested as spies but Ilbani talks him out of it by dangling the possibility to prove Nefertiti is a traitor. This will give Ramses a pretext for her removal. Ilbani promises that Kail is willing to offer his assistance to stop Nefertiti because if Nefertiti falls, so shall Nakia. Ramses agrees to cooperate but he warns that this doesn’t mean the Hittites and Egyptians will call off their war.

Just as they are making plans to isolate Nefertiti, General Djoser, one of Ramses’s rivals in the military, shows up to arrest Yuri. The priest she fought in the marketplace squealed and pharaoh wants her brought in for subversive activities. Ramses refuses and ends up getting arrested instead. The general seems to forget all about Yuri and when she protests, Ramses tells her not to call attention to herself and make them arrest her as well. He thinks that Nefertiti really wanted to jail him all along and that making him defend Yuri would give her the pretext to do it.  

As Djoser leads Ramses away, his family starts turning on Yuri for getting their brother arrested. Nefert stands up for her and reassures them that the dowager queen doesn’t have a case she can convict him on. Before Yuri can go running off to the palace to testify to his innocence, Ilbani stops her and tries to get her run out on Ramses and return to Hattusa. Yuri has to think for a moment. One hand she really wants to return to Kail, but on the other, she feels like she owes Ramses. Of course, like a chump, she decides to save the dog rather than herself.  

Nefertiti has Ramses tied out in the sun and whipped. She offers him a chance to get out of his situation by pledging loyalty to her, but he refuses. Nefertiti plans to kill him before his trial as she views him as the only thing standing between her and complete control of the country.

Ilbani, ever the clever tactician, tells Yuri that the only way to free Yuri is to stir up a rebellion. The Egyptians are hurting for military leadership and if the city starts rioting, the pharaoh will have no choice but to let Ramses go so her can put it down. There is a town not far from Thebes that has had several food riots and Ilbani tells Yuri to go there and stir up trouble. Yuri gets boat from Nefert and sets out to create a rebellion against the pharaoh. She doesn’t have much time. Ramses is strong but the sun is mercilessly baking him and Nefertiti allows him no water.

As Ilbani promised, the town is a powder keg ready to go off. The locals are forced to slave in the mines even though there is no food. The man who led the last uprising is about to be executed. The mayor thinks it will make everyone too scared to fight, but it’s only making them madder. Yuri quickly finds a bunch of malcontents and organizes them to disrupt the execution. She manages to put together a small army of angry, hungry laborers and quickly overthrows the mayor and his underlings. Then she begins marching toward Thebes, her army growing at each town she passes. Hunger is widespread and people are ready to demand better from their leadership.

Pharaoh blows a gasket when he hears that a mob is coming to his doorstep. He demands Nefertiti release Ramses so he can take care of the problem, but she refuses. She tells him not be such a coward that he’d show fear to a rabble. This makes him quiet angry with her.

Yuri and her rebels face off against General Djoser. Her ranks seem to fall apart quickly, but it was a ruse. Yuri had half her rebels sneak up behind the Egyptian army. Caught between her two units, the rebels make quick work of Djoser’s men. After claiming the victory, Yuri sneaks back to Ramses’ estate. She learns that the plan ultimately failed. Nefertiti still refuses to release Ramses even though the city is at risk of being overrun by the uprising. Yuri resolves that she has no other option but to confront the dowager queen directly.

 

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