This novel is theoretically where a possible third anime series would start from.
Back in their room, Holo is confused and lost in thought. They confirm their true feelings for one another, that being that he loves her, and that she will go her separate ways from him on a happy note.
They decide after a nice banter that they should chase Eve for their money back. Being honest though they both like the idea because it will delay their journey to Yoitsu. They decide that the best way to catch up to her will be by boat.
They head to the docks and join up with a skipper named Ragusa. He is a boisterous, loud but friendly man who is all too happy to lead them to their destination of Kerube, located downriver towards the West. The vessel is a sail-less long boat which Ragusa drives with a poll.
Holo and Lawrence have more time to talk whilst Ragusa is asleep. She confesses to Lawrence that she refuses to accept being in a relationship with him. Lawrence feels heartbroken but things change a second later when they fall into an embrace. It seems at this point like Holo's heart is in love with him but her head is saying no due to the eventual heartache she will experience when he dies.
The Roam River is mostly quite, but there are multiple tolls along route where ships need to pay a fee for using it. At one such station, they come across a young lad arguing with the authorities. If things turn nasty he could be killed. Lawrence intervenes and pays for the boys taxes. He boards their boat and collapses due to stress. Holo is immediately by his side and instantly adopts the role of mother, a side Lawrence has never seen of her.
Apparently the boy, named Tote Col, was a student from a school many many miles away, and was trapped by a scheme that saw him loose his tuition fees. After that he was scammed into a deal of buying deeds which he thought were genuine but ended up being stollen or forged.
However, Lawrence makes a deal with the boy to buy the book off him so as to learn of market trends from the stollen deeds. He comes across a few papers relating to copper coins and a few crates that seem to be missing from the receipts.
From here Col acts somewhat as an apprentice for Lawrence. With Holo being the mother figure, Lawrence feels quite comfortable with the idea of family life.
During their usual banter, Holo is attention seeking and Lawrence refuses to give in. They talk of what could happen during their adventures, but have an unspoken rule of not talking about when they eventually reach Yoitsu. In fact, Holo may still be feeling like abandoning him even before then. We learn that Holo's fear is so vast that she may be thinking of abandoning him before their relationship falls into a romantic one. This way her pain of loneliness will not be as great, or so she thinks anyway.
They research the stollen deeds some more, and a pattern emerges from a certain Jean Company, where on multiple occasions 3 orders of copper coin crates never make it to their final destination. Lawrence thinks there could be corruption in the works, and sets a plan out in his mind to somehow turn these facts into his own profit.
Holo and Lawrence banter some more when she is made to find any mention of the Jean Company among the pages of stollen deeds. She asks him if he's more interested in the case rather than chasing Eve (which is true), and gets irritated at his vague answer. She makes an observation about how he loves chasing after profit, at which he assumes that she doesn't seem to mind, and how she likes using her head as a way to kill time. This really upsets her. She goes from stinking mad to ignoring him all in one go, saying she will only speak to him once he has figured out what he did to make her angry.
A man on horseback arrives on the banks of the river. He tells them that there is a sunken shipwreck down river, and that its causing a traffic jam of boats needing to pass. Ragusa orders Lawrence and the boy off the boat, telling them they have to walk the rest of the way. Holo was ordered too as well but Ragusa thinks better of it and allows her to stay on board. He thinks that having merchants on board may cause trouble when they catch up.
Walking alone together on the river bank, Lawrence thinks of taking up Holo's advice and comes close to asking Col if he would like to become his apprentice. Holo advised this to Lawrence due to her adamant feeling that she will leave him soon, and that it would be good for him to not be lonely.
Lawrence and Cole eventually catch up to the part of the river where a boat was earlier wrecked. It was most likely done deliberately by Eve, as a way of holding back other fur sellers so she could stay ahead in the fur trade war.
Many of the merchants try their hand at pulling the wreckage out of the water with rope and man power; alas to no avail.
Ragusa walks over to the two of them and comments on the situation. The captain of the wrecked boat has gone upriver to negotiate with some peddlers, whilst food and drink is being transported from the nearest river toll-point. Merchants of bigger ships have had to move their cargo (mostly fur) out onto the banks of the river to elevate weight, in case they somehow too get caught up in the wreck.
Ragusa wonders why Holo didn't come over to greet Lawrence at his arrival, and realises they have had a falling out (she is currently chatting to a young woman some distance away). Ragusa tries to make Lawrence spill the beans on what happened, but he's hesitant, so Ragusa makes the corny joke "I've got some confidence when it comes to such troublesome matters. I've been taking boats up and down the river for the past twenty years. When it comes to water under the bridge, you just leave it to me!" at which Holo can be heard bursting into laughter some distance off.
Lawrence is still hesitant, but tells them anyway. After the story, Ragusa and Cole both look at each other and realise where Lawrence made his mistake. They decide to leave him be, making Lawrence feel even more guilty because even a boy can work it out.
After a while even the most irate merchant calms down. Up until this point there were a few ratty merchants swearing and cussing at the situation but now that its twilight people have mellowed down a bit. Food and drink arrives and a bonfire is lit from using scrap from the wreck.
The sun sets onto a carnival type atmosphere around the bonfire. Holo breaks the ice and stands up, holding Lawrence's hand. He makes a joke to her about how she should assume her wolf form to pull out the wreck, and she looks down on him exasperated. She forgives him, and he looks up at her for the first time realising what he did wrong. He had become so dependent on her goodwill that he had become lazy. In other words he wasn't appreciating her enough. She sits down on him and pulls him close enough to draw glares from the whole camp, with Ragusa feeling the need to cover Cols eyes. lol
As Lawrence thinks about his actions, Holo joins hands with the girl she was speaking with earlier, and they dance around the fire to the sounds of a flute and cheers emanating from their audience.
Lawrence's thoughts lead him to think that Holo isn't as wise as she cracks up to be, but he needs proof. Taking things into his own drunken hands he decides best to find information on her hometown. He does this by asking the other drunken merchants questions about the mountains of Roef, close to where Yoitsu is supposed to have been. Ragusa joins in and the conversation quickly changes to an interesting story about a town called Lesko on the Roef River and mountains upriver. Apparently there is a copper mine there, which may be relevant to the coin corruption they know about.
As the men drink themselves silly, Holo ditches wearing her robe and feels safe dancing with her hair flowing in the air and her tail showing. She still manages to cover her ears by wearing the skin of a flying squirrel as a hat.
Lawrence's drunken state gets worse, and soon he starts feeling dozy. Ragusa seems to be the only one able to hold his liquor, and mentions something to Lawrence about Roef and the bones of a hellhound, but this is all Lawrence can take and he passes out.
Lawrence wakes up in the middle of the night feeling tied to the ground. He tries to get up to no avail and blames the drink he consumed, only to realise that under his blanket, Holo is sleeping on top of him. She slowly wakes up after trying to cuddle up to him, and makes a joke about how it suits her being on top. LOL. Thirsty, they go for a walk and collect water from the river, then notice that not so far away is Col, apparently studying. He shies away his things upon their arrival, and Holo tells him to collect their blanket and meet them by the fire for a nice night time chat.
Holo and Lawrence end up talking to Col about any local legends he may know of, ones in which feature animal gods. He talks about a story involving a frog god from near to where he comes from (which is around the same area of where Yoitsu used to be) before moving onto a more interesting story regarding a wolf. This story has it that in more recent times the church came into the town of Rupi looking for a lucky wolf god bone. This wolf was apparently saved by the villages from a terrible injury, and when it died later in life it left its offspring there as well as its foreleg bone to protect the villagers from plague and disaster. Col says that the legend has it that the wolfs offspring still live in the town to this day.
Lawrence thinks that this story is what Ragusa must have been talking about just before he passed out earlier. Lawrence also ponders about the wolf gods offspring, and how they would be accepted into the village. This must back up what Dianna told him in Kumerson by how wolf gods and humans can have children.
Just as Col is talking about how he believes it to all be fairytales, Lawrence pipes up that if it were so, why would the church be so interested in finding the bone?
Just then a loud creaking and cracking sound is heard from the river. Everyone wakes up from the noise and runs off to investigate. The noise was of the wreck breaking up, allowing one of the bigger boats at the front of the queue to float free downstream. Ragusa and the men run off to stop it, and Lawrence nearly does so too, but Holo holds him back.
She tells him that if the story is true, then the church will surly be trying to find the bone in order to convince worshipers that it was once an evil thing, but of which was squashed of its power by Christianity to render it harmless, thus convincing everyone that their religion is more powerful.
Ragusa and the men stop the runaway vessel and walk back, piling wood from the freed up wreck to feed to the fire. Holo continues her conversation with Lawrence and suggests to him that they should continue their original plan of journeying together until Yoitsu after all. He lightly reminds her of his confession (implying he would rather stay with her forever), and she turns away shyly.
In either case, Holo is interested enough in Cols story to investigate it further. After all, the wolf in question may be one of her relatives or an old friend.
The next morning Holo and Lawrence decide to say their goodbyes to Ragusa and Col, making up the lie that they have changed their mind and would now return back to Lenos.
In reality they need to make up for lost time, and plan on catching up to Eve in Kerube by having Holo change into her wolf form.
When they are finally alone, shortly before Holo is about to prepare undressing and changing into her wolf form, Holo spots Col running up to them. Col requests joining them to help search for the legendary wolf bone, and Holo and Lawrence accept his offer.
Lawrence is shocked, but apparently Holo had also worked out the reason. He asks for an explanation but they tell him its best for him to work it out himself (and apparently us readers too. Oh well).
Col is made to look the other way as Holo undresses. She changes into a giant wolf and frightens Col when he notices her true form. Col reacts better to Holo's true form than Lawrence initially did, and she licks him. He requests to touch her tail and she complies.
Col is first to climb on Holo's back with Lawrence sitting behind him. Holo sits up and breaks into a trot, leading into a run.
The most important line in book 5 was "I like you". The same moment was talked about early in this book but was re-translated as "I love you". Most probably being translated from the Japanese word of "Suki" I can understand this. The literal translation is 'like', but when used in confessing your feelings its more like a shy way of saying 'love'.
The overall tone of this novel was slow and easy going. To be honest this was a good move after the hefty storyline of book 5, and besides, chilled out stories like this one can create fantastic atmospheres, which in this volume was when they were traveling down stream, and during the bonfire party. All good stuff.
I'm not that happy with Col joining the team because it may wreck the mood of the series. In this novel Col was more of an assistant to Ragusa than Lawrence, so he didn't interfere with Lawrence and Holo's personal banter. It wont be this way from now on. The only saving grace I've got is that Lawrence also made this very same concern with Holo. Hopefully this character wont be around for long. Another thing I would like to point out on this subject is that I love this series because you have two characters falling in love with each other without anyone interfering, which up until now made for a nice change from the similar situations you get between anime couples.
Rating this book isn't easy. I'm tempted to give it a 7-10 just out of spite for making Col a regular character, but Holo would call me a fool for being unwise so instead I'm giving it 9-10. It would have been a 10-10 if Col didn't join them.
If Col annoys me for getting in the way of their romance, expect me to come down on this series like a ton of bricks.
Spice and Wolf to me is classified as 'unhindered romance'. I will fucking hate this series with a passion if this changes in the long term. I'm deadly serious. I'm absolutely fed up of anime titles loosing their potential midway through the series. I was hoping this wouldn't be another victim.