It's the question that's been boring itself into my brain for the past week - Just what was the message to be passed on to Lawrence that had him running off like that? Thankfully, episode three of Spice and Wolf II answers that question without further ado.
In short, it's all about Amati, who has become so enamoured of Horo that he's cobbled together an intriguing proposal - In short, he's willing to sign a contract to pay of all of Horo's "debts" to Lawrence if he can raised sufficient funds by the next day, and in turn hopes to persuade Horo to go off and marry him. Of course, merchant that he is Lawrence can't resist this contract, seeing an opportunity to make some money (both for himself and Horo) while remaining supremely confident that under no circumstances would Horo leave him to find a new travelling companion, not least a husband, because let's face it wolf gods don't normally go in for that kind of thing.
To be honest I was expecting Horo to be more than a little angry at these two men toying over her future for money, but conversely she seems to love every minute of it, teasing Lawrence as per usual while using her position as leverage to get to enjoy the festival as it begins in the town (although this enjoyment is tempered on Lawrence's part as it causes him to miss out on what could have been some very lucrative business).
Just as all seems well however so Horo, and by extension Lawrence's, world is shattered, as the alledged truth about Horo's birthplace comes to her attention. This gives us a glimpse of a Horo that we haven't seen before; the real Horo if you like, a lonely and terrified soul who is petrified by the thought of being alone and seems willing to accept desperate measures to rectify that. She lashes out verbally at Lawrence who has no answer to many of her jibes - Is this the end of the road for their relationship?
As per usual, no matter what else goes on Spice and Wolf excels at sticking to the basics, that being the chemistry between the two lead characters. Indeed, this episode in particular gives us a full range of emotions, from the two joking and teasing one another, seemingly understanding one another, and then suddenly feeling as though they know nothing about one another (or indeed themselves) when the going gets tough. Never mind the tail and the ears, at its core this is about a very human relationship, and that final scene was heart-rendingly excellent in the way it was both presented and animated - We've probably all been in those situations where you know that nothing you say will dim the pain another is feeling, but by the same token saying nothing might just make things worse, and this was carried to near perfection here.
It says a lot about how much this franchise has built up my love for its main characters when I find myself almost wanting to talk down this episode here simply because I hated seeing Horo upset and Lawrence made to feel guilty and inadequate; they may be fictional, but for the running time of each episode and a little while after it's hard not to get caught up in their world and feel as though you are sharing their fate - Right now, I kinda wish I could just step into that world and give the two of them a hug or something.