Friday, 6 November 2015

Spice and Wolf- novel 14

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Fran Sits on the bed when Lawrence enters the room. She is very serious and waits for him to sit down before saying that he should visit a guy named Philon in Lenos. He poses as a goods dealer but is really a supplier of mercenaries.
Fran informs him that Hugues is currently in the process of producing a map to Yoitsu. This in itself explains that Hugues had the courage all along to be a traveller like Fran.

Fran says that the map should be finished when he arrives back in Lenos. She says she will send a messenger via fast horse so he will get it once their wagon arrives.
Fran then resigns back to lying in her bed. She's still heavily wounded and needs more time to rest. Lawrence takes his leave.

Holo joins Lawrence as soon as he steps out of the room. At first he thinks she's pouting probably because he spent time alone with Fran, however it is because of her desire to see Yoitsu.

It is 5 days since the the end of the 12th novel, and 2 months since the beginning of the whole story. Hugues is busy preparing his wagon for Lawrence, Holo and Col. Fran is still recovering in bed. Lawrence feels bad for borrowing the wagon but Hugues only laughs it off and stocks them up with new materials, food and wine. He informs Lawrence of the name of the inn where he will have to pick up the map in Lenos. Its the Beast and Fish Tail. The same tavern they visited a few weeks prior.

Following the river path back to Lenos, Holo and Lawrence are sitting at the drivers seat of the wagon, looking back at Col sitting in the wagon bed, acting resigned and distant. They realise Col has fallen in awe with Fran, someone of similar age who has had a lot of weight on her young shoulders. Lawrence draws Holo close for warmth and comfort. Continuing on from volume 12, neither are holding back from simple loving gestures towards each other.

They stop off along the way to witness fishermen haul in their catch, along with other onlookers. The soldiers declare that the remaining fish are for the people, so all the onlookers rush in to gather what they can, including Holo and Col. Lawrence thinks this system of giving to the people is their way of preventing poaching in the area.

They arrive back in Lenos. They decide to stay well clear of the people they got into trouble with last time, and decide to re-visit the Beast and Fish Tail. Holo says to him that he's got "some nerve" going back there. At first he's not sure what she's talking about, but he then reminds himself of the barmaid that worked there. Holo says slyly that she can always soak in the hot springs of Nyohhira to 'forget her angered heart'. Lol.

They enter the inn, which is empty apart from said barmaid who is working on preparing clams. Holo doesn't show it on her face, but Lawrence can tell she's jealous of her, and visa versa.
He asks the barmaid of anywhere good to stay in town, in which she slyly retorts whether he's asking if he can stay around her place. Lol it seems like the two girls are fighting over him. Holo gestures to tighten his collar in an attempt of claiming ownership of him. Lawrence feels uncomfortable of the tense atmosphere but continues talking to the girl.

After a while Holo laughs her head off. The barmaid does the same. Lawrence hasn't got a clue whats going on but it's revealed the two girls have been teasing him the whole time.

Regarding where to stay, she recommends a place owned by a nun named sister Eunice.
Lawrence informs her that they have another person in their company so will need 3 meals sent over. When the girl finds out it's a boy, she wonders with a smile whether she should tease him instead.
Just before they leave, Lawrence reminds himself of the main reason they are there. He informs the barmaid that they have a package on the way. She even seems to know Hugues as one of her previous customers.

Lawrence drinks heavily that evening. Probably spurred on from the awkward situation he found himself in earlier. For once he collapses before Holo does. She finds it very amusing.

The next day arrives and Holo gives Col company when attending morning church.
She arrives back to Lawrence shaving his beard at the courtyard well. He is suffering from a hangover. She informs him that she's looking forward to finally getting back to Yoitsu. This could imply that she's ready to leave him, however somehow neither are feeling sad, and are just about to hold hands when cock block Col arrives with their breakfast which ends that.

After breakfast they decide to meet Philon, the guy Fran told them to visit.
Lawrence is apprehensive about the meet but it turns out to be ok. Lawrence name drops Fran and things proceed smoothly. Lawrence wants to know whether there is fighting taking place in Yoitsu, so as to avoid it at all costs. At first Philon isn't sure where it is but after Lawrence mentions the moon hunting bear the guy is pretty confident that conflicts are not taking place in previous settlements.

A portly chap named Le Roi enters the shop. Its not explained very well why he is there but he is a book keeper and seller. His travelling companion walks in who turns out to be Elsa from novel 4. Le Roi pleads with Philon to let her stay somewhere nice, but he can't help. Lawrence steps in and says she can stay in his room, much to the distaste of Holo. When they leave, Holo is clearly upset and sticks her tongue out at Lawrence and grabs Cols hand and runs off with him. Lawrence thinks they may have gone on ahead to tidy their room.

It is established that Elsa is travelling to find a partner for her work at the abbey.
As for Le Roi, Elsa's mentor the late Father Franz knew him and trusted him.
Le Roi wishes to know where Father Franz's hidden library is, and so is trying his very best to help Elsa in order to gain her trust.

They all visit the Beast and Fish Tail. Elsa is apprehensive about the new foods she's about to discover on her plate. She copes well with the food despite the spiciness, but is somewhat shocked of Cols bad table manners. She decides to teach Col and Holo respectively about good manners as payment for the room and board. After the meal when walking back, Col buzzes around Elsa. Holo looks sad and Lawrence says to her that she looks like she's had her favourite toy taken away from her.

The next morning the two woman and Col head off to morning church. Lawrence meanwhile decides to visit the shopping district. He eyes up the cheese being sold at a stall but the owner tells him all the cheese has already been sold. The owner advices him that he may still be able to buy cheese directly from a tavern. Lawrence thanks the man and says he will do just that.
Unfortunately for Lawrence, all the other stalls are also sold out. He heads to the Beast and Fish Tail for answers.

The barmaid is busy taking stock that had just arrived. Lawrence makes a connection between the lack of stock in the market and the overstock in the inn. The girl says it's because of the local economy. He buys cheese off her for a hefty sum and heads back.

On the way back he bumps into Arolds old inn and the men he met before when he had trouble with the fur trade.

He heads back for lunch with the others.

Later on, as they walk to the docks, Holo takes out her frustrations on Lawrence. She hates that Elsa is getting between her and Col. He tells her she should stop having to act the wisewolf all the time. They have a slight spat but he calms her down.

They reach the stables and sort out Lawrence's horse and wagon which they left in the care of a stable owner since last time they were in Lenos.

After that they head back to their inn. Just as they are getting to their room, Lawrence is called downstairs by Le Roi.
The two of them chat in the inns tavern. He spied on Lawrence earlier when he was talking to the men from the Delink company outside Arolds old place.
He tells Lawrence that he needs to borrow money, no questions asked. And that the Delink company would be perfect lenders. However Le Roi needs an introduction from someone who knows the Delink company. Lawrence doesn't trust the man and refuses to accept helping him, however Le Roi states his knowledge that Lawrence is heading north, which should be kept a secret. Lawrence feels trapped in a corner so feels obliged to help. As a guy forced into introducing Le Roi to the Delink company, anything that goes wrong will fall on Lawrence's head.

Le Roi is after a hidden book with mining secrets which is classified as forbidden because of its shady techniques which ruins landscapes. And Lawrence is now involved. To find this book may take a few months, which gets in the way of following Holo to Yoitsu.
He addresses this predicament upon her when going up to their room. She says she will just have to go alone when necessary. Neither want to part ways from one another but are thinking with their heads not their hearts.

Le Roi and Lawrence visit the Delink company. Lawrence is apprehensive about visiting the same place he bargained Holos life with once before. Only one of the four members is present. He tells them the plan may proceed as long as one of their guys joins them in the expedition.

They leave and shake hands. Departing from one another, Lawrence is confronted by Holo who was outside the shop the whole time listening in, or at least trying too. She couldn't hear what was going on inside. She's cold so he takes her to a nearby tavern and gets some wine down her. Lawrence notices that she has two parcels tucked under her coat. With great apprehension they open the biggest which turns out to be the map. She kisses him on the cheek for helping her find her way home. However he is highly dissatisfied. Walking back, he tells her outright he wants to take her all the way to Yoitsu. But things aren't looking likely now.

Lawrence needs to help Le Roi find a book which should stop the Northlands from being desecrated by evil mining techniques.
Col is seeking the church as a power to protect his village, which means he's better off with Elsa and not Holo; a pagan god.

The next morning they decide to get prepared for their respective journeys. They decide that a few days of preparation would be necessary. They visit Philon's shop. Philon is eager to see Frans map, however they purposely don't have it on hand. They ask about the 'Tolkien' region where Yoitsu is marked on the map. Philon explains its a highly mountainous area. Holo asks if any wolves roam the region, of which Philon replies it does.
Elsa writes a letter to her boyfriend back in Tereo whilst the others explore the town. Lawrence stays and struggles with the terms of having to split ways with Holo.

Lawrence daydreams about opening a shop with Holo, but dismisses them when Philon walks back into the room from the courtyard. He tells Lawrence that the Tolkien region will be targeted for battle of control of the area.
He mentions the Myuri mercenary band. Lawrence remembers Myuri as one of Holos fellow Wolf friends. He jumps to conclusions and imagines him as one of Holos wolf god friends who is helping to keep the Tolkien area for himself. He then imagines the two of them together helping to protect Yoitsu.

Holo walks in all cheery, with Col in tow who plonks down a bucket of eels. Holo explains they helped collect them after someone stumbled over a barrel of them. Lawrence is worried that Holo stole the eels, but they were rewarded to her as a present as she proved the most skilful at retrieving them back. Her clothes are in a state so Philon suggests she and Col take a bath, pointing to the back of the shop. Lawrence and Elsa head back to their inn to collect spare clothes.

Walking back, Elsa comes out with a statement of wanting to help him. She says that the two of them are very much alike, saying that "our true feelings are obvious, yet we both insist on putting on such great facades of responsibility". She has been turned down by the church at Lenos and is now willing to repay her dept with Lawrence. She needs to find a replacement clergyman so that she can quit her role and marry Evan. As a clergy she is currently not entitled to marry.

In a direct manner, such as her personality is, Elsa tells Lawrence straight that he needs to comes to terms with being in love with Holo. She tells him everything we readers have been wanting to say to him all this time. He is lying to himself about his feelings. He should be selfish and follow her to Yoitsu. She says that the way they are around each other is unnatural and that they should not hold back from holding hands and being lovers. Lawrence flinches and reaches for her collar in an attempt to stop her talking. But his barriers come crashing down. He confesses that he wished all of Holos old wolf friends dead, and that he is jealous of Myuri for being alive.
This conversation continues right up to getting to the room of their inn. She tells him to think like a merchant to get his way. He thinks about it and comes up with a plan.

Back at the shop, Elsa eggs him on to do her plan. Lawrence waltz's into the wash room to find Col and Holo naked, her teasing him with hot water. They have long since finished washing themselves. Lawrence throws a towel at Col who catches it, and one at Holo which hits her head. Col dries himself off and dresses at double quick speed, allowing Lawrence and Holo to chat. He rinses her hair with his hands whilst confessing everything he knows about Myuri, and the fact he's jealous of him. He also tells her he needs her to find Le Roi right away. He is not flustered at Holos naked appearance and she is taken aback yet unsure and worried at his latest decision. He squares up to her and says he will not go against his promises, implying the promise to take her home to Yoitsu.

They find Le Roi trying to negotiate with a man at the docks.
Lawrence explains the new plan. The company in Kieschen they are targeting for the book is a rather large one which has a special agreement with the Delink company. He plans on issuing multiple money orders to the company from many other companies with their names changed, each at a large sum of money. The company at Kieschan would think none the wiser until they run low of money, but by that point it would be too late for them. They wouldn't be able to sort which money orders were real or fake. Le Roi would appear to them at this point and suggest he take the money orders off their hands, with the condition that they give him the book. Because Le Roi would be working on behalf of the Delink company, there would be no need for him to have money on his person (as the two companies have a special agreement and work off of money orders). What makes this a good plan is that the value of money is higher in Lenos than Kieschen so they could make a huge profit from it.

The three of them head to the Delink company. All 4 members are present and accept the changed plans, with the understanding and support that Lawrence does not want to leave Holos side. They claim they had thought of the same plan too.
This whole time Holo keeps back, at an utter loss of what Lawrence is doing.

They head to Philon's shop to be greeted by roasted eel. Le Roi asks Lawrence if he could get some fine wine from his wagon. Lawrence agrees and Le Roi sets out. Instead of waiting for him to get back, Lawrence and Holo take a walk around the streets, holding hands. They walk down a quiet narrow alleyway.

Holo stops and sheepishly asks him a forbidden question; "Why is it...that you’re so set on going to Yoitsu with me?"
Lawrence stands there. Holo is so overwhelmed she nervously talks some more about why he's doing this. She trails off mid sentence. Lawrence puts his hands to his face and asks "is it so strange?"
Lawrence feels emotionally sick.
She talks twice more. The third time she speaks she admits she has no plans of just saying good-bye once they part at Yoitsu. Lawrence is in disbelief. He asks her to repeat herself. she retorts back "must I explain everything?". This breaks the final barrier between them. Lawrence clasps his hand over his mouth and averts his gaze.

Lawrence reminds himself of how last time in Lenos, in a similar alleyway, he admitted that he loves her. she snuggles herself into his chest. He bends down to her eye level, she stands on tip toe to meet him half way.
she says directly at him "Honestly, to not accept the truth unless you have it spoken to your face". It becomes a shared notion that the thought of departing from each other after arriving at Yoitsu is tormenting both of them.

She banters about his selfishness and not thinking of her feelings after they depart Yoitsu. She grabs his ear and pulls him closer.
At this point Lawrence pulls out the second letter from Hugues, a two page letter. Only its not written by Hugues. She reads it and cries one single tear. She looks up at him and says "Aye, ‘tis what I hate about you, but you fool, you stupid fool, I...I do love you".

The letter is a contract to Holo, signed by Lawrence. They embrace. She says "I suppose we've to leave Col in the care of that bun head, then? And you've already prepared for our last travel as a pair, so I suppose the matter's settled. Come then."
she pats him on the back as a gesture that they should be on their way, only he holds her tighter and kisses her on the neck. Unrestrained, he pushes her to the wall and holds her tighter still
“Not...not here…!” she uses her strength to push him back, but goes overboard and lamps him a punch on the mouth saying ‘you fool!’

They return to the shop and go to the courtyard where they meet everyone eating eel. Everyone sees the state Lawrence is in and decide to make excuses to head on inside, giving them alone time. Holo hand feeds Lawrence the eel despite the pain in his face. she also eats happily, making girly chewing noises.

---

Brilliance.

What unbelievable brilliance. I honestly didn't think much of this novel. It truly looked like for 3/4 of the book that volume 15 would start in a few months to a year later in time or sometime, after Lawrence's excursion with Le Roi.

Elsa was the most perfect character to bring back to kick Lawrence up the backside to get the ball rolling with Holo. However I understand Lawrence's feelings at holding back a relationship with a girl from another species. Especially when he was waiting for her to admit any feelings she may have had towards him, obvious or not.

The ending scene wasn't their first kiss. But it may as well have been. They still think everything will end at Yoitsu. But at long last for the series they classify themselves as a couple.

Departing from Col and Elsa purely because they want to travel alone again, albeit as a couple: Fantastic.

The three short stories from volume 13 make sense now. They happen after this novel. Whether volume 15 starts from where this novel ends, we will have to see. However I cannot wait to start it!

I rate this book 8-10. Not perfect, but still had the most anticipated scene for the whole series!
Lawrence held her tighter, then pushed her against the wall. Then-
"Not...not here...!" Holo tried to push Lawrence back, with earnest strength this time.
"You...Foo-"