Episode seven of this second series of Spice and Wolf took us right back to the core of what makes this show so great, and from there this eighth instalment continues in a similar vein, albeit with more of a focus on Lawrence than Horo, which in itself is actually quite nice to see.
Of course, through the eyes of Lawrence every conversation and every rumour is a potential hint at a big profit, and so before we know it everyone's favourite merchant is making full use of Horo's acute hearing - Of course, he's no cheapskate, ensuring that he rewards her handsomely in wine until she ends up drunk once again. So, with Horo sleeping off the effects of the alcohol, Lawrence manages to snag some very interesting information about the town, the fifty man meeting and what it's all about from a fantastically sassy and flirtatious barmaid who quite honesty deserves a series of her own in my opinion - Perhaps she can get a gig with Lawrence's much-neglected horse? Look out for Barmaid and Horse in the Spring 2010 anime season...
Anyhow, Lawrence also finds himself granted the opportunity to chat with the mysterious female merchant we saw briefly on a few occasions in the last episode, and once again as the dialogue comes thick and fast so it also becomes heavy with meaning, with an initial mistrust (particularly on Lawrence's part) seemingly broken down slowly but surely as the conversation goes on.
In fact, this episode really is all about letting Lawrence shine in conversational terms - Watching his deliberate flirting with the aforementioned barmaid could easily have you fuming as he comes across as quite the womaniser, only to later have you realise that he was simply playing the game and doing what was required to get the information he wanted. Compare and contrast this to his rather more defensive conversation later on with fellow merchant "Abe", which feels more like a cautious boxing match at times over and above anything else. Of course, there's still room for at least some wonderful moments between Lawrence and Horo; moments which are becoming increasingly adorable as the two of them spend less and less time hiding behind a façade and more time letting their true emotions shine through.
I know I'm simply gushing about this series once again, but I think if nothing else this episode serves to show the awesome powers of the script writers (and perhaps the original light novels) for this show - What other series this season (Bakemonogatari aside) could introduce two new characters and make them both so compelling that you wouldn't mind them having a whole anime series to themselves?