Thursday, April 6, 2017

Spice and Wolf Synopsis: Volume 6

"You won't go quarreling with your companion over anything quite that foolish again, will you now?"

In the grand scheme of things, not a lot happens in volume 6.  It's a transitional story, focused mainly on foreshadowing volume 8, introducing Col, and, as always, developing the relationship between Lawrence and Holo.

And yet I struggled to keep this one from getting too long.

Holo is still flustered and agitated with Lawrence, partly out of frustration with him for letting the deal fall through (and thus cutting off her chance to part with him), and partly due to his confession from the end of the previous volume. For his part, with Holo back and only a moderate loss to show for it, Lawrence is perfectly willing to cut his losses and walk away; not only that, but as he technically backed out of the deal he doesn't feel like he has any right to a share of the profits anyway.

Though unsure of what they should really do next, Holo is unwilling to simply let bygones be bygones, and pressures Lawrence into agreeing to pursue Eve. As travelling by wagon would be too slow and tiresome, the duo instead catch a ship down the river to Kerube, where Lawrence assumes Eve is planning to sell the furs.

Traveling down the river, Lawrence and Holo's boat stops at a tariff checkpoint--the first of many along the river. Here they see a boy arguing with the guards over a forged certificate. The commotion is holding up river traffic, however, so the guards prepare to use force against the boy when he makes one desperate ploy, running towards Lawrence and pretending to be his apprentice. Both Lawrence and the guards see through this immediately, but Holo is sympathetic and forces Lawrence to play along with it. As the three continue their travel down the river, the boy is hesitant to open up to Lawrence and Holo, but eventually introduces himself as Tate Col, a former student from the distant town of Aquent. Col was studying church law in Aquent, but knew he would not have enough money to cover his full tuition. Hoping to make up the difference, he dabbled in the book publishing business, only to lose all of his money when it fell through. Fleeing the town, he wandered until he met a man who swindled him into buying a book full of stolen trade memos and certificates. With some pressure from Holo, Lawrence decides to give Col some tutoring in how to avoid such scams in the future, as well as make a bit of money for himself. Lawrence also buys Col's book from him, seeing some value in the information that a stack of a trade memos could provide.

Col's book turns out to contain several trade memos from a certain Jean Company, which was handling importation of newly minted copper currency for the small kingdom of Winfiel (which, coincidentally, is Eve's birthplace). Looking through the memos, Lawrence notices a discrepancy in that the company would order 57 chests of copper coins from copper suppliers, but ultimately deliver 60 chests to Winfiel. This leads him to wonder if the Jean Company may have dabbled in illegal coin minting.

The combination of Col's tutelage and the Jean Company issue taking up Lawrence's attention quickly begins to grate on Holo. Noticing this and knowing how clever Holo is, Lawrence attempts to enlist her help in figuring out the Jean Company puzzle, hoping she would find it as mentally engaging as he does, and that contemplating it together would improve her mood. Instead, however, Holo gets angry and decides to stop speaking to him until he can figure out why.

As the trio's boat continues its journey down the river, it eventually encounters a severe traffic jam, caused by a boat that has run aground up ahead (Lawrence guesses that Eve had something to do with it). With the river blocked for the time being, Ragusa, the one driving their boat, asks them to walk the rest of the way, but as a way of apologizing, offers to at least let Holo continue riding until he reaches said obstruction. Still dumbfounded by Holo's earlier reaction, Lawrence is fine with this arrangement.

Before Lawrence and Col leave, Ragusa also reveals to Lawrence that some of the cargo on his ship consists of copper coins for the Jean Company, and asks if Lawrence intends to do anything with his suspicions about them. Though he'd never expected it to be illegal minting, Ragusa had begun to suspect something was awry; even so, trouble for the Jean Company would be trouble for him. Lawrence assures Ragusa that he was only puzzling things out for fun.

While he and Col walk, Lawrence asks Col more about his past. Col explains that his home town is a small northern village called Pinu, located near the Roef Mountains. One day, missionaries from the church arrived to reform the region. In order to protect his home, Col set out to become a church scholar and protect his village from within their ranks.

Lawrence and Col arrive at the scene and find that there is indeed a sunken ship completely blocking the river. Everyone is angry and frustrated, but, unable to dislodge it, they eventually give up, and hold a makeshift festival to improve the mood. As the atmosphere heats up, Holo decides to let up on Lawrence a little bit. While the two are sitting together watching the festivities, Lawrence finally realizes what made Holo so angry. He had come to assume that Holo, being as intelligent as she is, enjoyed solving puzzles, and so it made sense to him to ask for her help in contemplating the Jean Company memos. Holo, however, saw it as him taking her for granted. Every problem she had helped him overcome, she had done so primarily for his sake, not simply for the fun of it.

After reconciling, Holo goes off to dance with the others, while Lawrence, a bit frustrated with what he considers to be foolishness on Holo's part, starts drinking with Ragusa and the other boatmen. They have a drunken conversation about the Jean Company. Ragusa mentions that one of the other boatmen had recently been taking copper money orders from a company upriver. The strange thing about this was that upon delivery in Kerube, the money order would be refused, but despite that they were still sent over and over again. Lawrence wonders if it has anything to do with currency fluctuations, but passes out before the conversation can proceed much further.

Lawrence and Holo later wake up in the middle of the night. The two stroll through the camp together and chat idly, before going to find Col. Holo asks Col if his village has any legends or superstitions. Col tells them the story of a frog god that supposedly saved Pinu from ruination, but Holo is decidedly unimpressed and asks if there are any tales involving wolves. Col replies that there are, especially in another village in the same region, called Rupi. It's even said that the ancestor of Rupi's villagers was a wolf, a fact that catches Holo's attention. Though Rupi's gods are dead now, it's said that before passing away, the wolf god left behind its offspring and its left foreleg, which protected the region from illness.

Just then, the sunken ship--having apparently been softened up by the water and repeated attempts to move it--begins to give way, and another large ship is about to be swept further down the river as a result, which would cause the same blockage to happen all over again. As the boatmen rush to stop this, Holo and Lawrence realize that the real reason why the Church visited Col's region wasn't simply to convert the villagers, but to retrieve and ultimately destroy the wolf bone. Destroying such a supposedly divine artifact would prove that it was in fact nothing special, and that the Church's beliefs are superior. With this in mind, Holo resolves to retrieve the bone for herself. She does not ask Lawrence to accompany her in this task, and Lawrence recognizes that it would involve crossing the Church and thus would certainly be perilous. Above all, however, this is a chance for the two to extend their journey, so Lawrence is happy to come with her.

With a new goal in mind, Lawrence and Holo revise their travel plans. After all these delays, going by boat would no longer get them to Kerube quickly enough to catch Eve, so they decide to use Holo's wolf form and run the rest of the way. Knowing that Eve probably has extensive knowledge of the region and its happenings, they decide to catch her and (as Holo puts it) strong arm her into giving them information, and then seek out the Jean Company to find out what they can there as well. Though Lawrence is not opposed to bringing Col (both he and Holo have grown fond of him), he decides to only allow it if Col himself asks to come along. He doesn't, so Lawrence and Holo depart.

However, just as Holo is about to transform, Col catches up with them and asks if he can come after all. To demonstrate his determination, he shows Lawrence a copper coin, presumably stolen from Ragusa (signifying that he wouldn't be able to go back even if Lawrence turned him down). Lawrence happily accepts, and Holo shows Col her wolf form. To Lawrence's surprise, Col is ecstatic, rather than shocked or horrified, a fact that delights Holo. Before getting underway, Col adds that he figured out why the copper coins didn't add up, which startles Lawrence. Col also explains that he didn't actually steal the copper coin he showed Lawrence. Upon changing his mind, Ragusa gave him the coin out of his own purse, partly for luck and partly to give Lawrence the impression that Col had stolen the coin.

As they ride on Holo's back, Lawrence asks Col why the coins didn't add up. Here Holo interjects, stating that Lawrence ought to figure it out himself, since he enjoys puzzling that stuff out so much.

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