Friday, February 24, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 5

The girl giggled. “There is that, but there’s something about you that just makes a girl with a bit of confidence want to have a go. Do you get that a lot?”

I haven't seen the anime in a while, but I'm pretty sure this comprises the second half of Season 2.

Lawrence and Holo arrive in the riverside town of Lenos, hoping to find someone who has heard of Holo and/or Yoitsu.  Even as they approach the town, Lawrence realizes something is off about it when he sees large numbers of merchants camped outside the town walls.  Given the pair's history of getting caught up in dangerous situations, Holo is apprehensive about Lawrence poking his nose in Lenos's affairs, but he is unable to stop himself from asking around.  Talking with Holo and the locals, Lawrence eventually pieces together that something has happened to Lenos's fur trade.  Due to the Church's annual northern campaign--which normally passes through Lenos--being canceled (which also nearly caused Lawrence to go bankrupt in volume 2, due to the plummeting price of armor), there are substantially fewer people in town (particularly knights and mercenaries, who are known for buying leather clothes and other sartorial goods as souvenirs), and as a result the market for leather goods has shrunk dramatically.  As such, the town officials have temporarily halted the buying and selling of furs, to prevent them from being crafted into goods that would have no buyers by the tanners and craftsmen.

Lawrence learns that the Council of Fifty, Lenos's governing body, is currently leaning towards halting fur trade for the time being.  This would be a drastic action because of the sheer volume of furs that typically passes through Lenos.  The secretary for the Council of Fifty is a man named Rigolo, who is of interest to Lawrence and Holo both because of his ties to the Council but also because of his secondary occupation as the town chronicler.  If there is anyone left in Lenos that remembers Holo or has records of her, Rigolo is likely to be that person.

Lawrence expects that Rigolo would be unwilling to meet with a merchant (and an outsider at that) while this issue is ongoing, as it would be seen as clear bias. However, this obstacle is solved for him by a mysterious female merchant named Eve, who offers to get Lawrence an audience with Rigolo, under the pretense of valuing him as a conversation partner.  Lawrence and Holo meet with Rigolo, who turns out to be a very jolly but shrewd young man.  Lawrence chats briefly with Rigolo, and learns that the Council of Fifty has already come to a decision.  After this, Rigolo lends Lawrence and Holo several books that may have information of interest to them regarding Yoitsu.

After having dinner with Holo, the duo return to the inn, where Lawrence again encounters Eve.  Here, Eve gives a tip regarding the Council's decision: they've decided to allow buying and selling of furs, but only through cash transactions.  Lawrence considers this to be a fairly clever plan, as he knows from experience that most traveling merchants don't carry much cash on them.   However, Eve carefully explains to Lawrence that in all likelihood the fur will still be completely bought up by the various craftsmen and trade companies in the city.  Before that can happen, however, she proposes a plan to buy up all the furs herself, using Lawrence as an investor.  Having watched Lawrence and Holo for some time, Eve had concluded that Lawrence was someone who could contribute a fair amount of cash under the right circumstances.  Lawrence, however, points out that he doesn't actually have much money on him, and that he doesn't have any contacts in Lenos to borrow money from.  Eve is aware of this, and instead implies that Lawrence could borrow the necessary funds by using Holo as collateral.

However, even putting aside Holo's own safety, Lawrence doesn't see how "selling" her would raise the amount of money necessary to buy up the monumental amount of fur in Lenos (his own logic is that if beautiful girls could easily fetch that kind of money, kidnapping would be a much more common crime).  Eve, however, is confident that Holo could command such a price.  Revealing herself as Fleur Bolan, the daughter of a fallen noble who was sold away when her family could no longer afford food, Eve explains that Holo could easily pass for nobility, and that would boost her price substantially.

It's an extremely risky proposition in Lawrence's mind, but also one with considerable profit if it succeeds.  Though Eve would be claiming 80% of the ultimate profit, Lawrence would immediately be given the inn that they are staying in (the innkeeper is also working with Eve in the deal), which would put him on the fast-track to realizing his dream of opening his own shop.

The next morning, Lawrence discusses the deal with Holo.  To his surprise, Holo readily agrees to participate in it, instead expressing disappointment and annoyance at Lawrence for feeling overprotective of her.  Setting out to gather background information on Eve, Lawrence visits the local church and learns that it is fairly well off, and that the bishop is spending a lot of money to accomplish some kind of political goal.  He also learns that Eve is transporting salt, in addition to the stone statues she originally claimed to be dealing in.  Furthermore, he learns that Eve had some kind of falling out with the church, who used to buy statues from her.

Returning to the inn, Lawrence discusses his findings with Holo, and then the two go and meet Eve.  Lawrence decides to go along with Eve's proposal, and the three of them leave to begin implementing the plan.  On their way back, Lawrence tells Eve the basic outline of how he met Holo, and Eve tells Lawrence more about her past.

Back at the inn, Holo shocks Lawrence by suggesting that they end their journey here, at this point.  Holo explains that her time with Lawrence has been some of the most fun she's ever had, but nothing lasts forever.  People change, moods change, and circumstances change.  At least partly to demonstrate this, Holo embraces Lawrence, and points out that when they first met, he was scared to even take her hand.  At this point though, he is able to banter evenly with her, take her teasing in stride, and coexist with her easily.  As someone who has lived for centuries, even more than being alone, Holo is afraid of getting bored of people.  She fears that the longer her and Lawrence stay together, the greater the risk becomes that that their relationship will flatline, and the excitement will dull.  Having read through most of the books Rigolo lent them by this point, Holo also reveals that they do indeed have quite a bit of information on her, things that actually jog her memory on events long in the past.  With this new information, both her and Lawrence are confident that she could easily find her way back home, even without Lawrence's help.  With Lawrence in a position to fulfill his dream, and Holo able to return to her homeland, Holo believes that the timing is perfect for them to part ways.

The next day, Lawrence and Holo return to Rigolo's house to return his books.  Rigolo is out at the moment, but Lawrence is able to have a pleasant exchange with his companion and housekeeper, a nun named Melta.  This is interrupted by Eve, however, who arrives at the house to warn them that an armed uprising is brewing in response to the Council's decision.  Lawrence and Eve split up briefly, with Lawrence going to drop off Holo as collateral and collect the resulting money.  He then goes to find Eve back at the inn, where he finds himself wondering once and for all what could be driving her to come up with such a risky plan.  Sensing Lawrence's hesitation, Eve attempts to attack Lawrence.

The truth is that Eve was never selling stone statues, but salt molded into statues; Eve was working with the bishop of Lenos to smuggle in salt.  The racket was very lucrative for the bishop, who had hopes of transforming his church into a cathedral and thus becoming an archbishop.  However, as the bishop's power solidified, he came to see Eve as a nuisance and a loose end.  Right before he cut her loose, Eve came to the bishop with the same pre-emptive fur buying plan she had proposed to Lawrence; instead of agreeing to it, the bishop betrayed her, intending to partner with a trade company instead and steal her plan.  Now with the church as a direct rival, Eve realized it would be far too dangerous to enact her plan alone, and thus recruits Lawrence as a sort of shield.  Though it would be an easy matter for the church to eliminate Eve by herself, with Lawrence and Holo--two foreigners with unknown connections--being part of the equation that task would be much more difficult.

Realizing all of this, Lawrence again asks Eve what drove her to continue with this plan even at the risk of drawing fire from the church.  Instead of answering, Eve calls him na├»ve for thinking that a merchant wouldn't seek profit for profit's sake.  Even still, Lawrence believes that the extent to which Eve is taking this ideal is essentially suicidal; as he ponders this, however, Eve attacks him once again, this time stunning and injuring him.  She takes the money and flees.  To Lawrence's surprise however, she leaves him with the deed to the inn.

Lawrence runs back to the trading company he dropped Holo off at, and uses the inn deed to buy her back at a moderate loss.  Holo is outraged at Lawrence, believing she had made herself sufficiently clear that this deal is the best way for them to part.  Though Lawrence accepts this as likely fact, he expresses his wish to remain with her regardless, confessing his honest love for her.  Seeing Eve's willingness to repeatedly risk life and limb for simple profit despite the short-lived happiness it provides helps Lawrence realize that he too would like to continue traveling with Holo, even knowing that that happiness may inevitably fade away.  Eventually Holo accepts this, but she is unwilling to let Lawrence simply run away from the deal.  The two walk out of the trading company holding hands.

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