5.45
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5.45

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Holy crap, it’s done, haha. This chapter was so hard to draw! If you want, go back and reread, some of the scenes might have a different weight now~

Some fanart to celebrate: Meek sketches by Kelsey and a lovely Angora by Depleti. *edit* AND a Luca by James :D

Here is the PDF of the original Chapter 5 comic for Patrons~ The Patreon will continue updating with Meek notes and preliminary sketches as I prepare for Chapter 6!

What’s next? Chapter 6 is likely going to begin in 2018, I was hoping to get to it faster but I think I really need to finish up my scifi comic Mare Internum first, so I’m going to prioritize a bit. If you haven’t already, the Meek mailing list will send you an email as soon as updates begin, and the generic Shingworks mailing list (emails rarely) will let you know of any other upcoming news, books, special sales, etc for the upcoming holiday season.

I also launched my first anthology called Alloy (accepting submissions through 10/27): an all-ages comic anthology about mixed-race experiences. If you’d like to submit a story, both myself and my asst editor Kiku will be working with chosen contributors to create a beautiful and meaningful book for all types of readers… hope to be working with some of you soon.

Until then you’ll just see this page upon landing, and I’ll be making improvements to the site behind the scenes as well cuz I do that. You can still buy Meek books and such at the store. I might update here with a bold *edit* text at the top of this box in case of some pressing news, but if not, hope to see you at Mare Internum for as many updates as I can handle until the story is done: then after that it’s just Meek updates for the forseeable future :]

Hope you enjoyed this chapter, and thanks again for reading.

 

120 Comments

  • I can’t tell you how relieved I am that this chapter ended this way. You told us “one page to go,” and we see her running up the steps to an open balcony – what’s a poor reader to think?!?

    Such brilliant storytelling, and so beautifully brought to life. Thank you for all of this!

    (And now back to The Processor!)

    -pablo (back aboard the NBP in Valparaiso)

  • Gaboris

    Wait… Who dat?
    *runs through the chapter backwards*
    Ohhh, right there he is… Still who dat? O_o

    Anyways I already can’t wait to see the next chapter. If I’m not mistaken we’re finally getting back to Soli’s story? Poor thing has been in between-chapters limbo for so many years. XD

      • Gaboris

        Awwww. Now you’re just mean.
        Cool, but still mean. XD

      • Nicosar

        Much respect for the Look Around You joke!

        This is indeed looking interesting as a development, though – for all his faults, I think Luca’s not as straightforward as Rana believes him to be. Her paranoia might turn itself into reality with this, though :/

    • Da Rat Bastid

      *grins from ear to ear as his begins tapping his fists rhythmically on the table*

      SO-LI-SO-LI-SO-LI-SO-LI-SO-LI…

      • Gaboris

        YEAH! That’s what I’m talkin about! XD

    • skudplastr

      Who is he? Well, he is the same person we saw with Rana in the opening of this chapter. And here, when Rana is talking about her father and says “*He* hates me,” this person replies “*I* don’t, Rana. *I* love you.” This seems to imply that this is a version of her father that Rana has in her mind, which makes the interaction she has with him at the beginning of the chapter reeeeeeeally interesting….

      Anyway, this is one of three versions of the emperor that we’ve seen in this chapter alone: this one, the real man himself, the version the real emperor argues with before his chat with MeltyTiger. It makes me wonder just how vividly Rana perceives this imagined character, ranging from a fantasy she consciously indulges in as a coping strategy, to a full-blown delusion/hallucination serving as another of several devices supporting the theme of Rana being like her father in some unsettling ways.

    • weezact7

      I THINK, but am not sure, that he might be a manifestation of what Rana used to see her father as. Much like how Luca has conversations with his “old self” regarding Dagre. Though, if I recall, they DO have a pretty romantic first scene, so maybe not. However, I think his sudden hi/bye tendency and the fact that he only shows up when nobody else is around suggests to me it’s a similar thing to what Luca sees on the bridge and in front of his bedroom door.

  • indedipal

    Dun Dun DUNNN!!

    • indedipal

      As an aside: This feels just little too… perfect. I suspect “He in the Strip-ed Pajamas” may have his drooly nose in this.

      Or… this guy is a hallucination.

      Either way, I don’t like him. (And not just because he wants to off our favorite Violent Madman.)

      • Sandy Noname

        It seems suspious, yeah… Untrustwhorty… :(

        • Sandy Noname

          HE seems…

      • Esc

        You don’t casually discuss regi/patricide with your lover?

        How probable is that this guy simply loves Rana and wants to do whatever she wants and believes that Luca killed his wife?

        VS

        How probable is that this guy is angling to get close to the emperor’s daughter for nefarious means?

        Rana has misinterpreted information, he thought Luca was beating Phe and then killed her, when we know it wasn’t like that. Also the Caris emissaries would have been IDIOTIC to assassinate Phe, even if Luca thinks it was them.

        Some group poisoned Phe. Who the heck is this guy affiliated with?

        • SomeUnregPunk

          He’s probably Tiger guy in another form. The emperor is old and getting too unstable, perhaps the Tiger god is thinking of hedging it’s bets in case the emperor stumbles on the “correct” path.

      • pepper

        i agree! Princess is being played!

  • Asterai

    Hooooooly shit. I was so excited that Dream Guy was real for four whole panels. And as of panel five, I am fucking terrified for Rana.

    • corvideye

      still no guarantee he’s real, given her dad’s penchant for hallucinations…Real or imagined, I’m not sure which option is scarier.

      • Indedipal

        That’s what I’m thinking… Luca has Bezo, Rana has “Blue-eyes McHandsome”.

        …or would that be ‘DeHandsome’.

        • Alan

          Bezo is Blue-eyes. He’s playing all the sides. Killed Phe, now he’s playing dad and daughter against each other.

  • Kyle

    Knowing that this was going to be the last page of the chapter, I expected some sort of twist. I didn’t quite expect this!

  • Dew

    Oh my, wasn’t expecting the chapter to end on this.

  • J.A Kooistra

    Hmyes, interesting. “The Emperor Must Die.” Abbreviated that’s “TEMD”. Sounds like “tamed”. Taming is a form of training used to make wild animals more managable. Managable. Man… Manager. Of course! Managers are in charge of other people. Other people, indeed. I think I know what will happen next! These “Other People”, which when abbreviated is “OP” (internet slang for “overpowered”, suggesting a superiority in strength) may have realized their secret potential to overthrow the emperor! You may now gasp at my astute observation.

    • zeb

      Oh my god! *clap clap clap*

    • Jonas

      So, about Half-Life 3…

      • Chris

        You missed it. It was only available to people of middle stature and an ip addresses starting and ending with 3.

  • Android 21 3/7

    Hmmmmmmmmm! My trope senses tell me that this guy isn’t trustworthy!

  • okno

    i am okay with this. get him, Rana!!

  • Arianwen

    Oh, Rana.

  • YES I have eagerly anticipated this moment since seeing the pencil page! Rana and Co. assassination attempts!!!

  • Oreo

    Yeah, all I can say is I hope this guy isn’t just using her to kill her dad but actually loves her. Poor Rana.

  • Kat

    Can’t say that Luca hasn’t earned an assassination attempt at this point.

  • JJ

    And that’s volume 2 two-thirds finished :D :D :D

    I did not see this coming. Is this why she zoned out in the kitchen earlier in the chapter: while looking at that knifey knife?

    Hm, improvements to the site – may I offer an opinion? I would welcome splitting the archives into smaller parts, e.g. by 3-chapter-arcs.

    • Will try and see if that is possible!

  • Ceceoh

    I see stakes and firing squads in someone’s future.

  • Marion R.

    It’s probably my suspicious mind, but this guy seems very suspicious to me. Here we have a young girl/woman whose mother has recently died, whose father is absent at best and so deep in his raging grief that when he’s home he can’t communicate with his children. That girl also happens to be the eldest daughter of the emperor and the emperor and his son are soon off to war. Hmmm…. Can we say ‘grooming’ here? I wouldn’t be at all surprised is Tom Selleck wannabe is using Rana to get the throne through her.

    I mean, it COULD be all romantic and Romeo and Juliet and all, but a guy who homes in on a lonely girl who has lost all her support systems? Duuude… Pull the other one, it got bells on.

    • Nyzer

      He probably is an agent of some kind, yeah. That said, Rana doesn’t seem to be hopelessly naive – she probably knows she was being groomed to some extent. But she was already suspicious of her father even before anything happened, and it sounds like she was considering having him assassinated for a while now. As we saw with her brother, she’s already somewhat ruthless on her own, and her assessment of her father’s instability is correct even if she’s arrived at the wrong conclusions about it.

      I’m assuming she’s had lengthy conversations with Dream Guy about why her father needs to go, and how there’s no realistic scenario where that goes down peacefully. Clearly he’s emotionally manipulating her to some degree, but even from a purely logical standpoint there doesn’t seem to be any better course of action. Luca is a threat to innocent people, and seems to be a threat to his own family as well.

      Hell, even to a neutral spy it’d seem like the honest truth was that Luca killed Phe for his own reasons – because why would Caris do so when they’re the ones trying to sue for peace, and apparently openly consider Luca to be dangerously unstable?

      There might not be quite as much grooming as you think.

      • Marion R.

        Yeah… and of course it’s entirely possible that the grooming went the other way. As you’ve said, Rana is pretty ruthless in and of herself, and she might’ve selected Dream Guy as her handy accomplice using herself as bait… Although.. she DID have a nice erotic dream about him, so she is attracted to him.. but being the ruthless, aggressive, patricidal hothead that we all know and love.. that is, that you all know and love, since I don’t like her, not one bit.. being the ruthless bint she is, I don’t see why she wouldn’t use him for both bed and as a handy tool to assassinate her father.

        (the drawback of having a Masters in History is that one sees Messalinas and Lucretia Borgias in every sitcom and comic strip)

  • helpful comrade

    The more this story unfolds, the more I’m convinced Rana is just an emotionally volatile, mouthy brat. And now a patricidal hypocrite.

    • Mallow

      Given Luca’s behavior toward his own children, both before and after Phe’s death, and how he’s perfectly willing to risk his country and his family on ambiguous power from a leaky-mouthed tiger spirit, I think that’s a tad harsh. Luca hasn’t exactly been a bastion of emperorly and fatherly grace and competency.

      That is, however, only my opinion; I won’t try to stop you or your opinions. Just offering mine as a counterpoint.

    • David

      I would agree, so far as to say that she’s still a bit immature. Perhaps it can be blamed on the weird environment she grew up in.

      For me, it seems kind of petty to want to murder the emperor, just because he won’t let you marry your sweetheart. Also, it doesn’t seem like she’s thought it through very carefully. First of all, there’s the difficulty of pulling it off, and then if she succeeds, where does that leave her? Does she think she will become the new ruler? Is there any scenario where she doesn’t wind up getting executed for a traitor?

      Personally, I would go the route of running away to Caris, or perhaps an even more distant country.

      • Lauren

        I don’t think it’s “petty.” Rana is staying at a fortress with staff that has no idea how to do anything because the original, knowledgeable staff were all put to death. She believes Luca may have killed Phe, and maybe used her death to move on Caris and destroy everything in his wake. He is the head of the empire and he is volatile and dangerous. Her boyfriend is a soldier and has probably seen at least a couple of his friends die for inane reasons (like that sailor Luca sent to drown at the beginning of the chapter)–and even if he’s just a low rank, even if he doesn’t tell her what he’s seen, Rana must know what he’s been through. She has a million totally valid reasons why a coup may be necessary to stop her father. And, if her face at the end of Chapter 2 says anything, she has been thinking about this option since Phe’s funeral, which seems like it was a couple months ago–hardly a spur-of-the-moment thing!

        And, even considering that this arranged marriage is what pushes her to accept, it’s not just that Luca won’t let her marry who she wants. Luca intends to send her away because she is a nuisance and she has the guts to stand up to him. He’s also invoking old Pasori tradition when Luca himself had married a non-Pasori against tradition, which is a big asshole thing to do honestly, and I think it shows just how little he seems to care about Rana.

        She can run away to Caris, sure, but that only saves her own skin. What about everyone else under Luca’s heel? If Rana leaves, like Luca wants her to, who’s going to do anything about him?

        • David

          Phe is not Pasori? I had forgotten that. What is she- Mesdan? I can’t imagine Luca would marry a woman from Caris.

          • Yeah she’s Southern Santri (same as Pinter, they have the pigmented nose thing).

          • Lauren

            Yeah, she’s Santri, like Pinter. Given what’s on the wiki (http://wiki.shingworks.com/Pasori) the Pasori would not have liked Luca’s relationship with Phe, nor that they had three biracial children together. I think I remember hearing that kids with mixed Pasori ancestry were/are rare because of Pasori xenophobia.

      • Marion R.

        Since her culture (apparantly) doesn’t recognize female rulers, it would be safe to say that even if Luca and Suda were dead, her husband would be emperor, not she. So even if she isn’t executed for patricide, the best case scenario would be that Dream Guy is the next emperor and she his wife. But that is what she, I assume, wants. More likely scenarios would be that a) the assassination attempt fails, Dream Guy gets horribly executed and she gets locked up in some tower for the rest of her life or something, b) they succeed in killing Luca, Suda becomes emperor and has not other option but to execute Dream Guy and punish his traitorous and patricidal sister accordingly, c) they succeed in killing Luca, Suda tries to protect his father and gets killed too, Rana throws a wobbler because she didn’t want Suda dead, and then one Luca’s generals and/or some head of some other tribe steps up, kills Dream Guy and Rana, marries Hyla (or ‘marries’ her to his ten year old son or something) and becomes emperor and after his death his son and Hyla become emperor and empress.

        But really, the possibilities are endless – just read up on your Roman emperors. Fascinating but always messy.

        In no realistic scenario I can think of, however, will Rana come up on top. For which, I confess, I feel nothing but Schadenfreude.

        • David

          Yeah, I’m thinking that a general would take over- no way would they let some wannabe boyfriend become the new emperor. And pretty much everybody would die.

          Lauren- those are good points, and I think the empire would definitely be better off if Luca dies. I guess it was just the marriage thing, and Rana running off to her tower in a panic, that made me think “immature”.

          As an aside, I’m wondering how likely it is that the boyfriend is actually Big Bad Kitteh in disguise. Whoever comes to power, I suspect the Dagre will be whispering in their ears.

      • Jamini

        Don’t forget, Luca only recently became Emperor. Early in his reign he was an elected official, who later became a dictator by dissolving the Senate.

        It is unlikely that any of his children would have succeeded him to the throne when he died. Not without additional support.

        • apgeek

          My thoughts, too. Suda may be very popular among the common people, but the military are not going to take him seriously.

          Come to think about it, it would not be surprising if the plot to off the Emperor were actually orchestrated by some disaffected general who plans to stage a coup to oust Suda afterwards (denouncing him as “unfit to lead the country in times of war” or such) and become the country’s leader himself.

          Or Mr deHandsome is just a Carissi agent.

    • Or, Suda is the hypocrite for going with the flow, and she’s taking some sort of initiative instead of sitting around and complaining.

      • David

        Suda is a hypocrite, because sometimes there is a sandwich that escapes his jaws.

      • Marion R.

        So… planning to murder one’s father and head of state is called ‘taking initiative’ now? Interesting…

        And it’s all because Rana has such compassion for the Carissi, of course, and is against the war and all, and not at all because Daddy never hugged her enough…

        Murder because of petty reasons is not ‘taking initiative’ in MY book.

        • JJ

          It may be an unethical, egotistically colored initiative.

        • She doesn’t really care about politics, but she does think he intentionally murdered her mom (see last page of ch 2).

      • Marion R.

        Y’know.. If you look at all those revolutions of say, the past 250 years: the French Revolution, the European revolutions of the 1850’s, the Russian Revolution, the ‘Great Stride Forward’ of Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s ‘rebellion’… they all started with some people ‘taking initiative’ and deciding that Some People Had To Die So The Rest Of Us Can Live In Utopia. Of course, Utopia is a pipe dream, and during it’s pursuit, the streets always, literally, ran with blood.

        I take some comfort in the thought that those who were first to shout ‘off with their heads’ inevitably landed under the guillotine or in a mass grave in the gulag themselves. It’s all a matter of time, really.

        • JJ

          On the other hand, there’s no legal way to deal with an off-the-hook, murderous emperor. The orderly, civilized thing to do is file a lawsuit against him – which of course has good prospects.

        • Lauren

          Well, I mean, the streets are about to run red with blood anyway, in this case. Already has if you count how many of his own people Luca’s already killed because of his paranoia. He forced a man to commit suicide as he watched! Then he made a joke about it! That’s fucked up!

          I don’t think Rana, her boyfriend and anyone else who might be joining them are looking for a utopia. I don’t even think Rana’s intention is to usurp him and become the new leader of the territories. They just want the guy leading the nation off the deep end to not do that anymore, which is not really the same situation as any of your examples.

        • Nora

          That’s a very simplistic and judgemental view on historic revolutions though. No wonder, you’re putting them all into a bucket and start shaking.

          In fact the streets often were already as bloody as can get anyway.
          Historic change is only brought about by overcoming forces in power which resist it. That was true for the revolutions which brought about todays “parliamentary democracies”, as well as the younger scoialist, anarchist or communists ones. There were also rather peaceful ones by the way… take Indian independence, ovecoming of apartheid or Portugal. But most often revolutions start by people deciding to let others starve or get them executed because you know, they want to keep their privileges and positions of authority.

          A just and equal society (“Utopia”) is not a pipe dream, but a necessity. Violence as such is no necessity but often a by-product of social change. It’s never one-sided. The terror of let’s say, the french revolution, is a joke comparing to the terror of centuries of absolute monarchy and feudalism. The latter does not justify the first in any way. But it is an important part of explaining it. :)

          • Marion R.

            Nope. I leave the simplicity and judgementalism to marxist teenagers.

          • Nora

            Do you really? Your stereotyping answer seems to prove you wrong here. :)

        • ErictheTolle

          Well, Luka has nobody else t blame but himself- the usual gfate of tyrants who start executing their own people wholesale is to be murdered.

          I mean seriously, how would YOU deal with a Caligula or Commodus? With no checks and balances, the only way to get rid of a tyrannical, murderous ruler is assassination. So, maaaaaye if Luka didn’t want to be assassinated,

    • Bere

      you know I bet if this was all genderswapped, y’all would hate Luca more and this comment for Rana wouldn’t exist.

      • Omi

        yes yes yes 100%. srsly y’all, the deeply personal bitterness toward Rana, who is a fictional teenager (not even an adult like her hot mess of a father, who somehow catches less flack), is really disturbing. as is conflating this discussion of a comic with creepy patriarchy-laden historical pontificating, and overlooking the fact that Dershing is extremely intentional about all of her work, intelligent enough to include many layers of moral ambiguity because that’s what makes good stories, and fucking OF COURSE doing research on how revolutions, wars and dictatorships have played out in the past. ffs, analysis and discussion are part of enjoying a good webcomic, but analyze yr own shit with that level of vitriol goddamn

        • Android 21 3/7

          Yeah, seriously. Can we just all agree that EVERYBODY’S seriously messed up in this story?

          • Omi

            fo’real. stop tryna slot everyone into one-dimensional good/bad, Dershing’s too good at what she does for that shit lol

      • Marion R.

        Are you kidding me? If Luca was Lucia, a survivor of death camps, a woman who has to wear a wooden leg and perhaps a wig because of her injuries at the hands of soldiers bent on genocide, a woman who has not only survived but led her people into victory, a woman with anger issues who once threw an ornament widely at her husband but would never have struck said husband because she loved that husband with every mote of her being, a woman who then has that husband die in her arms, apparantly because those same people who wanted to commit genocide decided to strike at the deepest level at the Empress… if Luca was Lucia, everybody on this page would love her beyond reason.

        If Rana was Prince Rana, a 17 year old who is married off for political reasons to a woman twice his age, I don’t think anyone her would mind half as much, judging on the comments and guffaws I hear and read whenever some female schoolteacher is arrested for having sex with her 17 year old pupil.

        If it turns out that Prince Rana was plotting to kill his MOTHER from the day his father died, I’m quite sure everybody would be willing to see a murderous little shit instead of ‘a love-starved child’ in him.

  • Cheri

    She’s her father’s daughter. =]

    • Esc

      Paranoid and hotheaded. Something charming about this :)

  • Cyanilurus

    Does she have her own hallu-pal? Or is that a real, fleshy man? Doesn’t really seem trustworthy either way.

    • JJ

      I was wondering, too. That second-to-last panel on the previous page just might be a transition from real to imagined …

    • hkmaly

      It can also be hallucination related to her OWN powers.

    • It’s a real fleshy man, lol, which is a gross way to describe a person.

      • JJ

        Beardy as well.

      • Cyanilurus

        Weeell… we have an expression in my language, “flesh-blood person” for what I meant and I guess I just kind of wrote that in English without thinking, heh. :D

        But let me make my question more presentable:

        “Is that a real, hairy man?”

        • XD fleshy and hairy, yes

        • Happy

          I’m laughing, please what language is this

      • Happy

        I AM LEFT REELING BY THIS ANSWER because I am enamoured by “ambiguously real” plot points and was amongst all these people who chose to assume fantasy, rather than outright ask if it was
        Like you think he’s real for a while but then wonder what he’s doing hanging out on the balcony ready to assuage her at all times

        • lol, it’s not actually too mysterious, he’s just on castle/ fortress staff, and staff isn’t exactly super well-organized at the moment. I mean, obviously, seeing as Rana has a secret bf unbeknownst to everyone.

  • stringerplz

    So Luca gets Dagre and Rana gets Perchek from Fiddler on the Roof?

    Alright alright alright.

    • TRADITION

      • Mallow

        AU where the entire story of the Meek is told in song

    • Esc

      Killing the Emperor was going to be hard in the first place, but no one knows about the giant invisible magic tiger in their way.

  • Bean

    is he that guy who’s looking all judge-y at Luca in panel 3 of pg 34? Idk i noticed the dude’s blue eye and unpleased eyebrow game compared to the mildly uncomfortable expressions of the others in that panel. But then again i could just be imagining things :P

    • kishimobot

      Oh sh*t! I think you might be right. Good catch!

  • awhorl

    With a household in such an uproar, it may be tha something indigestible could make its way into the Emperor’s sandwich, or some mechanical failure could aid him in driving a sports car into a tree, or some such, without it being so awfully clear who was behind the fatal accident. I don’t see why Rana needs to get fingered if enough people want Luca to go down and Suda to be a set up as a puppet Emperor in his place.

    The real problem is the Magic Tiger, who clearly didn’t approve of Phe’s pacifism, and is the only player with a motive in the dining room with a vial of poison. I’m with Rana, but for different reasons. Luca is entirely insane, and when possessed is capable of offing Phe, and then in a completely different state, raging with grief and executing everyone in sight for the deed. Whatever plans any of these people make, Luca included, that tiger will be a surprise.

  • Spav

    I have the sneaking suspicion that Ol’ Blue Eyes isn’t real. Or, that he’s perhaps actually tiger-shaped.

    Maybe Dagre decided that Luca isn’t as useful a pawn as he once was?

  • Tiami

    Do we know what Soli’s ex-boyfriend looks like? Just curious…

  • Jay

    I know due to the chapter rotation this is the last we will see of this troop for a long while, but I am getting seriously manipulative vibes from Smiley McHandsome.

  • theMarc

    Such a loving family. They get along so well.

  • Laurel

    Re: Phe’s death, do we know she was poisoned? Luca tasted all the dishes first. Then Phe took a bite or two and immediately began to cough/choke, while her throat/face and fingers turned bright red. It always looked more like a food allergy to me.

    • Cyanilurus

      I always thought Dagre had something to do with that so that he could manipulate Luca easier.

    • Lilian

      Phe’s death definitely presented like a ferocious case of anaphylaxis, which I would normally consider an allergic response.

      In this case, I blame the demonic tiger.

      • Haha, you guys impress me a lot XD

      • indedipal

        Phe’s… allergic to cats…?

        • Dreadogastus

          And it became known as the Cat War.

        • Lilian

          Allergic to demonic cats with the ability to supernaturally induce death, maybe?

  • Sleel

    Considering what I wrote last page…. >:}

  • Tara

    Oh, I have a bad feeling about this. What are the chances he happened to be at the right place at the right time for such an integral moment when she’d be extremely vulnerable and more easily influenced? And that third panel… I don’t know it doesn’t feel right. I have a feeling he’s manipulating her (like father like daughter) and maybe he either works for one of those animal gods or he’s an avatar for one.

  • Biev

    Oh holy fuck. Oh, Rana, child…

    • Biev

      Reading the comments now, I’m surprised that not everyone sees Rana as I do – a love-starved child who thinks her father MURDERED HER MOTHER, who feels completely trapped at home with no one to turn to, and gets easily manipulated by the first good-looking guy who pretends to love her. It’s so sad, and so believable.

      • JJ

        A headcanon I have: In a household like that, the kids probably spend more time with the staff than with their parents. So, in addition to thinking Luca killed Phe, she also knows that he’s offing staff. She might not take up arms on their behalf, but nor does it help, I guess.

      • These is pretty much my thoughts as well, but I like some of the different reader perspectives… they are pretty close to what other people in the comic (her dad, perhaps) might think of her.

        • Lilian

          I think it’s safe to say that the characters are complex and multidimensional, and all come to the table with different temperaments and perspectives.

          When you bring in readers that are even more complex, their interpretations of the characters are going to vary… and many of their individual interpretations are going to be valid, if different.

      • Ontogenesis

        Yes — all three of the kids are suffering from trauma! And they know their father will kill even loyal staff for what may have been only one person’s misdeed (the poisoning of Phe) so of course they are afraid they might be NEXT. Fight, flee, or freeze reaction to a life-threatening situation — clearly Rana has chosen to FIGHT to survive.

        Although I’m sure Rana is being manipulated and her father didn’t kill Phe, I have no doubt that Luca could kill one of his own children, given the right provocation.

  • I wonder, that serpentine “grandfather” spirit was set to leave and confront the other. I wonder, if this is actually him.

    • Asterai

      If Angora is Grandfather’s agent of choice, though, assassination seems out of character for him.

    • J Garcia

      I don’t think Mocheril could even be capable of that sort of manipulation… Snakey, not sneaky.

      • Mocheril needs this tattooed on his tiny biceps

  • Saberbeam

    Ah spring, when a young girl’s heart turns to murder.

  • Roo

    …is it too much to hope that he’s actually a well-intended person of the staff who genuinely loves and cares for Rana and perhaps even had some family himself offed by the Emperor when Luca made all of his ‘staff cuts’ so he’s motivated both by trying to protect the person he loves and by highly justified personal vengeance making him less of a creepy slightly pedophilic-looking sudden character insert and more of a soon-to-be deeply developed and highly likable male character model?

    …is it?

    Okay…;-;

    • apgeek

      [cynical, hollow laughter] about your post and the Mystery Guy being well-intended in particular ;-) ,
      but pedophilic? C’mon, she’s 19. And he looks way closer to her age than Ulyer, for that matter.

      • Roo

        Haha, true! I think the pedophilic vibe I’m getting is not anything to do with Rana but because I just re-read Mare Internum and for some reason this guy gives me the same willies that Michael’s uncle gave me. For whatever reason. Nostalgia’s sake, perhaps?

  • Conspiracy Theory: Calling it now, the love interest is a Carissi spy who dyes his hair dark to avoid detection and is using Rana for his assassination plot.

    That said, I don’t blame Rana at all. Her dad, as far as she’s concerned, not only hates her guts but is a paranoid tyrannical despot who murdered her mother, kills anyone who disagrees with him or gets in his way, and could potentially have her executed if she doesn’t go along with this forced marriage to some old guy she doesn’t know. It’s not really ‘daddy doesn’t love me’ it’s ‘daddy killed mommy and I might be next’.

    Rana’s the one I’m most invested in, so of course I’ve picked someone who looks like they may end up suffering an awful fate?

    Phe, babe, you should have taken the girls and gone far away. (Not that I think he’s a great dad to Suda, I’m just certain she couldn’t have gotten away with taking the heir to the throne.) Then you’d likely be alive, Rana and Hyla would probably be happier, and Suda…well. Two out of three’s not bad.

    • Android 21 3/7

      Phe was a tempering influence on Luca though. While she was alive, the worst of Luca’s temper and impulses were kept in check. And we know she has the strength to leave because when Luca hurts her, she straight up tells him she’s leaving. She doesn’t fear for her life, she doesn’t fear he’ll pursue her aggressively (maybe some apology bouquets, but no stalking or threats), she just makes it clear she’s tired of her husband’s hatred blinding him. And she was right. We’re seeing what Luca turned into when she died. But if she left, how would he react? And how would Suda react to his mother leaving him behind? Granted, Suda’s grown and old enough to understand, so he wouldn’t be as screwed up as Hyla would be if she were the one left behind, but it might still leave some resentment and who knows? Suda might have developed into Luca 2.0.
      But I could be wrong. If Phe had left instead of died, Luca might have nursed the hope that she (and presumably the girls she took with her) would come back. He might attempt to rule more peaceably and be more open minded in negotiations with Caris in hopes of convincing her that he heard what she said and took it to heart or at the very least, convincing her to stay in the country. Whether he would be successful is another matter, of course, and that’s not how the story played out after all, so all this speculation over what never happened really does is entertain the mind.

      • I mean, she should have left because Dagre killed her for being there. There was no way she was going to come out of it alive if she stayed. Leaving and staying gone might have saved her from the weird demonic tiger thing.

        That aside, I don’t think Phe would need to stay with Luca just to keep him sane. No one is obligated to stick around an unstable, dangerous person and sacrifice their happiness to keep that other person maybe functional. Their last fight ended well enough, but who knows if he would have changed for real? I came from an abusive home background and it looked to familiar for me. This whole arc has been too familiar for me, right down to the same sick twist in my chest I felt when Rana yelled at her father.

        • Android 21 3/7

          Yeah, that’s a good point. In truth, I’m from an abusive home background too, though I guess I was lucky enough to not understand a word of their arguments. I never learned my parents’ native language. But yeah, the onus is not on Phe to fix Luca. It’s Luca’s responsibility to change Luca. That said, aaahhh would really suck to be Suda int hat situation…

  • Lilian

    I’m concerned about Blue Eyes McDreamy’s motives. He jumps right in there with that assassination plot.

    “I love you.”

    *hug*

    “So, wanna help me kill the emperor?”

  • ElMariachi

    Ten bucks he’s the one who poisoned Phe. Also Lucas needs to have a real and heartfelt talk with his children, like RIGHT NOW!

  • zellgato

    anyone else feels that guy looks weirdly like her dad in his prime youth teenage years?
    and She stated “he hates me” and the guy said “i don’t, i love you”
    She never said he didn’t… sure could just bet he guy saying that way

    but making me wonder if her illusion/mental crap isn’t being ghost jacked by somethign weird

  • Bepjac

    My paranoid, cynical guts tell me that Dreamy Guy is a spy that observes Rana… and works for Luca.

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