The last episode of Spice and Wolf II left us not so much with a cliff-hanger as a case of "What did you just say?" - A preposterous offer made to Lawrence against Horo, surely?
Well, with a bit of explanation, the concept of "selling" Horo seems far less preposterous, albeit still risky - In essence, what is being proposed is to use Horo as insurance against the loan of a large amount of cash, using her as a fake daughter of nobility to make her suitably profitable. The reason for acquiring this cash is the conclusion of the fifty-man meeting, which decided that foreign traders could buy furs, but in cash only with no credit or other forms of trading allowed - Of course, this effectively cuts off that trade in all but name in theory as nobody will have sufficient cash to make any large purchases, which is why Fruhl and Lawrence can smell a huge profit from getting hold of enough money to buy up as much fur as they can.
Now, you might well expect Horo to be far from pleased at the suggestion that she be used as a bargaining chip, but far from it; instead, she berates Lawrence for losing his usual profit-driven focus simply on her account, instead urging him to take the more exciting path of going ahead with the deal assuming that everything else is as it seems. Indeed, Fruhl's grasp on the current situation appears to be largely true, but Lawrence's investigations bring forth some interesting information regarding power struggles within the church and some additional information about Fruhl's work as a merchant, while the woman herself seems more than a little nervy as the deal with Lawrence is agreed, just in time to give us a sense of foreboding for the episodes ahead.
While I spend much of my time here praising Spice and Wolf for its sharp and highly entertaining dialogue (and I could easily do so again here, with plenty of great dialogue and superb lines on show), this series ability to spring surprises at times probably shouldn't be under-estimated either - While I was expecting Lawrence to make a decision based on profit over Horo's well-being and end up being spat out by her, what we ended up with was the exact opposite, the kind of turn-around that keeps us as viewers guessing while also keeping the ever-shifting dynamic between those two main characters as fresh as a daisy. For all of my love of the characters, I have to recognise that this series of Spice and Wolf, more so than its predecessor, has been far more focused with its deployment of major storylines to grab our attention beyond dialogue alone, and with only a couple of episodes left to go it appears that we've again been left in the throes of nervous curiosity as to what will transpire next - Let's face it, counting down the days and hours until the next episode each week can only be the hallmark of a classic series.