Hey guys! This is a story meant to replace what I felt was an awful ending to the Spice and Wolf main story. Book 17 did not do the characters justice at all in my opinion, so I rewrote it! I felt that it was fundamentally wrong to not see Yoitsu, the place that sparked the journey in the first place. And for Holo to go back on her decision to marry Lawrence after being the one to "propose" herself just seemed out of character and simply wrong. Everything in this story keeps inside of the main and established canon without interfering with anything before or after book 17. I wanted to focus on a main "theme" so to speak, so everything here focuses on home in some way. Whether it's going home, seeing home, arriving home, or living at home, everything is centered around home. I hope you enjoy my first, and possibly last, fanfiction!
Wolf and Happiness Sought
When Lawrence next awoke, it was a full two days following Holo's proposal of a "new contract." After having just broken his fever before the excitement of the day that followed, he almost fell back into another fever. So, when he slept after having shared a cup of wine with Holo, his body slept two full days in recovery. He felt very refreshed. Lawrence realized from the angle of the sun streaming through the window that it had to be about mid-afternoon. He sat up and reflexively tested his wounds. As he began to remove his covers to leave the bed, Lawrence heard a rustling in the room, signaling that he wasn't alone. Although he was quite sure of the sound's source, a quick side glance revealed none other than Holo sleeping at the desk not too far from him. As she woke up, she still had the imprints from her creased robe etched on her face.
As Holo noticed Lawrence laughing, she quickly snapped, "The nerve of such foolish males! Laughing at a tired maiden who has worked hard keeping them alive." While Lawrence stopped laughing almost immediately, the smirk was still present on his face. Although, Holo's tail was still wagging slightly, so she wasn't entirely angry with him, so he fired back, "Well I'd hope for as much, after all the work I did in Ruvinheigen keeping you well. And did you not say that you would use some ancient technique of your homeland should I ever fall ill?" To this, Holo took on a devilish grin and replied, "Oh! The Yoitsu approach. Would you like to hear what it was after I have used it on you twice now?" The look on Holo's face warned Lawrence to back down now, but his merchant's curiosity got the better of his senses and he asked. She quite gracefully walked over to him, bent over to meet his ear, and whispered almost seductively what was involved in the Yoitsu approach. Lawrence turned several shades of red that he felt he had never before achieved. Sure enough, as he lifted the covers, a mound of wolf fur lay in the bed with him. To this, Holo cackled a hearty laugh that wrung tears from her eyes.
"We will soon be married, and this is what gets you so flustered? Had I known that, I would have used the Yoitsu approach far more often. But, 'tis not as if we haven't slept in the same bed before. What makes this so different?" She played innocent in her voice and words, but the same devilish and merciless grin remained on her face. All the while, her tail swished rapidly back and forth. "It…it… it!" "…!" "The licking! I draw the line at licking me!" Lawrence replied while his voice cracked several times. Holo mocked a look of horrible offense at his words, bringing a hand up to her chest. She countered with a rather coy, "Well we wolves never found any issue with it? I honestly thought you would like it. If even a little too much. I guess I was mistaken." At that last part, Holo truly did look somewhat disappointed.
"As you well know, I am clearly not a wolf. Licking has a very different meaning to humans. Also, I am still quite new to this. So please, don't do that again while I'm unconscious." At this squirming reply from Lawrence, Holo brightened up and giggled a bit in her reply, "Hehehe, I promise to keep all such things to the times when you are awake." Lawrence groaned at the obvious loophole in his plea. He didn't think he was quite ready for such a thing from Holo just yet. But all the same, the thought that Holo was willing to do so with him did make Lawrence happy.
At this last exchange, Lawrence started moving from the bed, eliciting a concerned look from the Wisewolf. "How does it feel?" Holo questioned. "Well, it still doesn't feel good, but better than when I got stabbed and good enough to walk at least for some of the day without immediate need for support." Holo gave a worried, yet satisfied look on her face. "We should be expecting word from the whatever company sometime soon. That worrisome army outside the gates pulled out of their own accord once some brave soul ventured out of the city to inform its leader of what had transpired with that spineless snake of a negotiator. It seems that some cease to do their jobs once they are no longer being paid." To this, Lawrence sighed a heavy sigh of relief and leaned back into the bed. "That is probably the second-best news I've heard in all my life." This gained a happy smile and tail wagging from Holo. As Lawrence sat back up from the bed, she immediately clung to his arm.
"Well, shall we go meet the others? The hare and the sappy one have been trying to pry you from this room ever since you fell asleep. They want to show you their silly coin that has made all of this nightmarish ruckus." Lawrence permitted himself a small chuckle at Holo's severe downplay of recent events, gaining him an annoyed sideways glance from the still clinging Holo. It seemed she truly was upset at his continued interference in all that transpired after having given his word to end his adventuring for her. But in the end, she said nothing past the look she gave him. "Yes. I would very much like to see the coin that caused all of this."
As the two descended to the second floor, Hilde and Millike were busy counting gold coins and assessing their value. Millike was the first to notice their approach, likely due to his lesser concern for the Debau Company's continued success. Millike shot an annoyed glance at Holo before seeing a tired but happy look on her face, and quickly changed to one of regret. Hilde was the first to break the silence as the pair entered the room. "Ah! Master Lawrence! Lady Holo! Welcome! While I am saddened to say that you two are not the first to see these coins outside of the very person whose hand had minted them, I am pleased nonetheless to present them to you now." Lawrence could not have missed the titles with which he addressed Holo and himself with if he were dead. And sure as could be, Holo seemed very annoyed with the title granted to her, no doubt because it reminded her of her time being worshiped in the wheat fields and how she despised such treatment.
However, what he almost did miss was how Hilde had said "present" instead of "show." As Lawrence looked questioningly at Hilde, he noticed the same bewildered look on Holo's face. No doubt, she had noticed the odd wording as well. But Hilde simply beamed with the face of a merchant who had just conquered the whole world as he held up a box of coins. The box was made of oak and likely was an expense in and of itself. However, what struck him was that it was separate from the coins that they were counting and had already counted. Hilde continued at their astonished faces, "We received word from the Debau Company rebel faction on a fast horse, not too long before you both came to see us. They know full well the state of their purse, and after seeing the caliber of merchants on my side who are able to fight them at their level, they have relented control back to Debau and myself. We have won! So in celebration, I have decided to present you both with three hundred golden coins of the sun. May you find happiness in all you do from this point on. Start a shop, continue traveling. Whatever you do, just do not forget the joy you have spread to us and the world at large that will be drawn together as a result of your persistent courage and determination. In comparison to that, this gift is of minor consequence."
Holo flicked her ears a bit in annoyance at the mention of continued travel. While she did not mind traveling, she did not want to put up with the adventures that were likely to drag the two of them into its clutches. Knowing this, Lawrence accepted the box and spoke before Holo could do as much herself. "I think a shop is definitely in order. While we have a few more stops to make on our route," Lawrence made specific emphasis on "we" and "our" as he looked at Holo, "we plan to open up a shop as soon as possible in order to live a quiet life together." Holo however, couldn't keep quiet at such prey. "'Tis the plan, should this one keep his nose out of hornet's nests. Honestly, my dear Lawrence just does not know when to quit."
"If I may propose a suggestion, I think that you may like my offer." Hilde responded. "With Debau and myself returning to power, I can assure you a shop of your choosing anywhere you would like to set up in all of Lesko. I will even have one built for you if you find none to your liking." Hilde seemed to be trying every tactic he had at his disposal in an attempt to keep Lawrence and Holo close, and Lawrence realized it was likely to again offer him a position in the company some time down the road. "I think I will let Holo decide where we settle down. While it is indeed my dream to own a shop and take root in a town, it is Holo who simply dreams of a home."
Realizing the one to convince was Holo, Hilde changed tactic and tried talking about specific amenities he could build her and the local taverns that held the best wines. It was truly a masterfully crafted sales pitch, worthy of the ages old Debau Company treasurer, Hilde. Yet none of it seemed to so much as touch Holo's ears as she looked up and said boldly, "I have decided where I want to live. And it is not in Lesko. While you speak of very enticing things, it wreaks of adventure and intensity the likes of which my beloved Lawrence could never stay away from. No, I want someplace much quieter than Lesko."
At this, Hilde sighed in defeat, realizing a hare could not win a stare down with a wolf. "While it is definitely in my best interest to keep you both close at hand, who am I to stand in the way of such simple, yet noble, dreams when I have pulled you both along for my own extravagant ones? The offer still stands should you ever come back to stay. And if you ever need something of me, do not hesitate to ask, as I will move mountains to satisfy my debt to you." Hilde smiled at that last part as Lawrence and Holo caught his none too subtle mining joke.
Just before leaving, Lawrence had to ask, "Why did you refer to me and Holo as 'master' and 'lady' earlier? While we helped you a great deal, I don't see the need for such formalities." To which Hilde smiled with a look that said Lawrence had missed some simple thing. And indeed, it seemed he had. "Master Lawrence, do you not show the utmost respect to those whom you are trying to sell the most expensive of goods to? If you stand to make a tremendous profit, should you not use any and all flattery at your disposal? I attempted to sell you a home. A life! It was a most expensive sale indeed." Hilde paused for a second as his expression turned to one of resigned defeat, "But it seems as if my individual sales techniques are in need of a little work." Truly another speech worthy of the great merchant. Even if it was a defeated one.
Lawrence bowed as far as his wounds would allow before ending the conversation. "I thank you for your kindness and gift. Rest assured the we will use it well. But, Holo and I have other places we would like to go to today." Hilde was not surprised in the least. "But of course! If my selfish desires could not keep you in Lesko, I have no right to confine you to my room." Just as the two turned to leave, Millike spoke only one thing, "I apologize Lady Holo. You were simply doing as I had done these past few days, and I berated you for it out of excitement. Please accept my apologies." Holo nodded a satisfied nod and replied, "Twill all be forgiven if I have good wine and meat to share with my dear Lawrence." Millike said quite plainly, but seriously, "It shall be done." At that, the pair took their leave as they headed to the local taverns to find food.
As they walked, Lawrence inquired after their destination; the place Holo had chosen to live their lives in. "'Tis a place to warm your body and cool your mind. You will see when we get there. After we have gone to Yoitsu, I shall take you there myself for it is not far on my fast feet." Holo looked joyful, so Lawrence quickly looked away to hide the rising horror at riding her again at such a maddening speed in Holo's true form. The form of a giant wolf the size of a building, capable of eating him in a single bite. Her dainty features at the moment hid the terror of her true self. However, Lawrence was none to scared of her wolf form as he was riding that form. Moving at those speeds, all cares seemed to vanish as speeds conventionally thought the limit of how fast one could go were erased. From atop her back while she ran, Lawrence truly thought he could catch up to a loosed arrow. Of course, he said none of this to Holo for he had true faith in her to not drop him, and he knew she would think he didn't trust her to not do so. He had simply become aware of his fear of moving too fast. He happily responded, "I can't wait to see our new home. Any chance of telling me the name of our shop before we set it up at least?" "Yes, of course." "…." "Um, so, what is it?"
"Oh. You didn't ask for the name. You asked if there was a chance. No, I shall tell you when we arrive at our new home. I will not make you wait any longer than that." Holo smiled triumphantly at her own clever twisting of words as she grabbed his hand and sped up, signaling the end of questioning. But more importantly, she was signaling her rising hunger as the tavern they headed to was coming into view.
The name of the tavern seemed odd, but the locals seemed to love it. It was called the Grub Log. And as they went in to order some food, it quickly became apparent as to why. With every meal, came a side platter of roasted grubs and insects. Holo rapidly voiced her displeasure at this realization. "Why would one serve the prey of my food alongside each other as if we are supposed to eat both? 'Tis such an unnatural thing." Lawrence, also a little surprised at the offering, but being a seasoned traveler as well, was used to the idea of strange foods. "It's probably a local delicacy here. People in isolated lands tend to find ways to serve what they have access to, so they must have an overabundance of grubs here in Svernal." Holo responded haughtily, "'Tis all well if you eat the bugs while I feast on the meat like a proper wolf should then, right?" Even being a seasoned traveler, Lawrence could still not fathom eating nothing but grubs for the entire meal. So, he responded with, "We will buy enough meat for us both. However, I may just try some of them to see what it's like. After all, how can I call myself a seasoned traveling merchant if I don't sample the local food from the towns I visit?
The service was friendly, but straight forward. They put in their orders quickly and Holo sat eagerly waiting the enjoyment she somehow knew was coming. Without any hesitation, Lawrence popped a pinch of grubs into his mouth as the meal was set before him. Yet, almost as fast as he had put them in, he violently began choking them out. All the while, Holo cackling before him, drink in hand. "Did I not tell you it was unnatural to eat the prey of one's food?"
Lawrence begrudgingly accepted the wine from Holo while wiping his mouth and tongue on his sleeve. "It tasted like wax! And it was heavily salted at that. I'll admit, I should have listened to you on this one, Holo. While I know more food, you definitely know the quality food." Holo smiled triumphantly before eying her own food with her predator's eyes.
The two quickly finished their meals before moving on to collect supplies from around the town. Once finished, they returned with the items to the inn. By now, Lawrence's wound was badly hurting, and Holo was none too happy that he was trying to hide it. "You know, all this heavy lifting would be a lot easier on your leg if you just told me where your cart was. I know that you wouldn't have left it at the inn while only collecting your horse. You seem to value the cart more than the horse at times!" With her head in her hands she continued, "The living embodiment of putting the cart before the horse."
Having realized that he had actually forgotten about having to abandon his cart on the journey here, Lawrence informed her, rather sullenly, about how he had overturned his cart on a road that would have been impassable without skids replacing the wheels. Holo replied quite simply, "Well could you at least give me an accurate direction to take while I search for it? You are in no position to assist me and I fear even if I should carry you in my wolf form, your leg is not yet strong enough to grip my body properly." Lawrence protested, "But I could ride the horse there. You don't have to go alone!" Holo looked down at her feet, "I do not like being apart any more than you do. However, if we are to finish our journey and find our new home, we will need your cart. I would like to retrieve it as fast as possible in case there are need for repairs. With you riding on the horse, I would have to either ride on the horse with you, slowing down the horse, or walk beside it in my wolf form, slowing down myself to match the horse. If I know where to go, I could simply run to collect it, affix it to myself with Luis's help and come back as fast as I can." Lawrence was horrified at the thought of subjecting Holo to pulling the cart. She was not a beast of burden after all. "I will buy a new cart before I put you through that. We have the three hundred gold coins that Hilde gave us, remember. A solid cart above this one's caliber may cost at most five of those coins."
"Lawrence. I appreciate that you are trying to protect both my pride as a Wisewolf and me as your beloved. Do you think I missed your apprehension at putting a mark on my skin when I asked you to grip as hard as you could? I understand that you do not want to make me do the labor of a pack animal. In truth, I am not looking forward to it myself. However, we are partners, and there come times when one must put aside their pride in order to do their share in such a partnership. There have been times where only your skill as a merchant has saved us from ruin. Other times, my fangs and claws were the only course of action. And then other times still when we had to combine our strengths in order to bring about the desired outcome. In this case, while there may be several options available to us, the best and fastest option we have is to let me do it alone. I would like to leave as quickly as we can so that we can see my home, both old and new. And the thought of selling my current home, minimalistic as it may be, is appalling! So please! Let me find my HOME!"
The force with which she uttered that last word left Lawrence speechless. While it was true that he had slept in the wagon for years before meeting Holo, and Holo had slept in it for the past few months while traveling with him, he had never thought of the wagon as a home. But now that he thought about it, the wagon had been the only constant thing besides his horse over the course of his travels. Goods came and went. Business contacts were made, used, and sometimes forgotten. But his cart was there through all of it since he spent his money on it so long ago. And most importantly, it was in the bed of that very wagon that he had met Holo. Without that wagon, he wouldn't have been able to carry enough wheat for Holo to jump into and meet him later that night. And for Holo, it had been the very thing that helped make her first real connection in centuries. Undoubtedly, it was a very important thing to her. But for her to describe it as her home shocked him.
At once, Lawrence changed his views on the old wagon and looked at Holo with trust and determination as he spoke the words, "Go find our home and bring it back then. I left it overturned in the mountain pass where the roads were too difficult for anything with wheels. The roads to it should be easy enough to follow, so the road itself is your guide. But please, take it slowly. While I want you back as fast as your feet can carry you, I won't be there to comfort you if anything happens that should destroy the cart. And if the destruction of a homeland you didn't see caused you such pain, I don't want to know the pain you might feel if your second is destroyed before your very eyes. And worse yet, while you are out on your own, far from where I can easily reach you."
To this, Holo let loose a small tear and replied, "I'll take good care of it. I wasn't in Yoitsu when it was destroyed. But I am indeed here to protect our little wagon. I will ensure that it is in one piece apon my return." She said this with such determination, he half expected the cart to simply appear behind them at that very moment.
Lawrence and Holo said their goodbyes before she left to find the wagon. As the distance was nowhere near that of the expanse between Lesko and Kieschen, Holo covered the distance in less than an hour. While the trek back took considerably longer, she was still back before nightfall.
As Holo returned, she led him out to where she had left the cart so as to not attract attention with her wolf form. Together they pulled it into the stables with the horse. After this, Lawrence proclaimed, "Millike seems to have made good on his promise of good wine and meat. He has prepared a banquet in the town hall. He has told the Myuri Mercenary Company that it is to celebrate the occasion. However, it is just an attempt to further make up for his mistake with good company as well as wine and food."
"I suppose I can forgive the sappy fool of a man. He seems to be doing a fine job of apologizing after all."
When the two walked into the town hall banquet, they were greeted by cheers and welcoming hellos. It was the first time Lawrence and Holo had truly been able to sit down and talk with the troupe as individuals without some other motive involved. Now they all talked as old friends. There were feats of strength, games of cunning, matches of gluttony, and Holo's personal favorite, contests of drinking. And as the mercenary group was the only other in attendance besides Lawrence and Holo, Holo had no need to hide her ears and tail. It was a joyous occasion of merrymaking. As the wine and food started running low, the festivities started dying as well, and groups started forming around the hall to make more intimate conversation easier. Lawrence and Holo joined with Moizi and Luward in order to request something of them.
Lawrence began, "While we won't be able to afford much, would it be possible to hire your company to act as a guide to Yoitsu? Seeing as I promised Holo that I would take here there, the burden is on me to find a way to follow through. And while we have a map, who better to guide us than a troupe named after her old packmate?"
Luward and Moizi seemed almost offended. "Why would you offer payment for such a thing?! As the leader of this company, I refuse to accept any payment for the opportunity to guide Lady Holo, the one who graces our very banner and the recipient of the necklace that has been passed down the chain for centuries, to her homeland." Moizi interrupted seamlessly, "Yes, it would be a disgrace to our name if we did that. We can leave at almost any time, as we have already gathered provisions. So, name your time and we will be your guide."
It was Holo who responded, "Thank you all. You not only diligently held on to the message from my packmate, proved worthy of his name, and decided to help us find my lost home, but you have also kept my foolish mate safe in my absence. I am truly grateful." Luward sensing what was about to come next, interjected, "And before you go any further, we are happy to do it. Please, do not continue and say that you owe us anything. It would disgrace our name, our banner, and that which we stand for if our symbol of victory were to feel she owed us anything."
Understanding that pride quite well, Holo simply nodded with a smiling face and replied, "I shall honor you with legends of your bravery in the centuries to come. Perhaps on the journey to Yoitsu, you could regale me with tales of your heroism so that I may have a legend to tell alongside that which I saw for myself." To this, Luward and Moizi both looked at her with astonishment. Moizi was the first to respond. "Miss Holo, you honor us greatly. Perhaps a little too greatly even. But I will not question your kindness and instead happily accept on behalf of the entire company." Luward stammered his thanks as well. Holo smiled again, "I look forward to hearing your tails. Now, if you will excuse us. I would like to have my dear Lawrence to myself for the rest of the night." While she stood up in a manner to discourage any protest, Ludward and Moizi simply stood with her and thanked her again for all she planned to do for them, and escorted the pair to the door.
As Lawrence and Holo walked back to the inn, they noticed that the town seemed to all have gone to bed for the night. Holo started walking ahead of Lawrence a bit as she removed her hood, certain that no one would see her ears. She half danced, half hopped as she held her hands clasped behind her back as she tilted to one side with her back towards him. As she did, Lawrence couldn't help but think how, under the moonlight, Holo's hair gleamed like fine silk and her skin shown like precious gems. And somehow, he was able to call her his own.
However, when she turned to face him, the look on her face was not the beaming smile he expected to see that he loved so much. It was instead, a more downhearted, contemplative look. "Lawrence, I… I have to ask. Why me? Why did you choose me? After all the times I beat your hand away, turned down your affections, mocked you in public, made a fool of you in front of friends. How did you find it in your heart to love me?" She looked deep into his eyes as she asked this as if trying to pierce his very soul. She seemed almost on the verge of tears. He wanted to embrace her right then, but knew that what she needed most was an answer.
"I don't quite understand why you would ask now, but I will tell you. When we first met, yes, I was captivated by your beauty. And as we traveled, your knack for raising my sale price and lowering my buying price caught my attention. In Pazzio is when I started falling for you though. You cared enough about me to risk your own life so I could get the information to the Milone Trading Company. Even if that was just a logical move to you, few have ever cared enough about me to do anything like that. And when you tried to leave me in the sewers after freeing you, I couldn't bear the thought of letting a traveling companion like you slip through my fingers. While I can't say it was quite love at that point, the seeds were definitely planted in Pazzio." Lawrence began to take on a glassy eyed stare of nostalgia as he remembered more events.
"When you got sick after our gold scheme in Ruvinheigen and I had to take care of you, I had fallen for you already. The fact that you didn't tell me you were sick infuriated me. It was as if you didn't trust me at all, despite all we had been through together. From that point, I started taking a little more to your verbal assaults, learning your habits, and overall tried to learn you better so as to one day attempt to keep you in my life somehow. I knew it was a fool's errand, so I didn't put much stock in it. Then the whole business with Amati happened, and I couldn't help myself. It was as if a piece of myself died. The entire business with Elsa just pained my heart to see two people who wanted to be together but couldn't. Only to look at us and see two people who could be together, but only one wanted to. From Lenos on you already know my intentions because I had stated them clearly."
"While I've explained how, I realize now that I never explained why." Holo, slightly in tears, nodded her agreement. "I chose you because you are like none other I have ever met. You interrupted my world when it was at the height of predictability. You kept me guessing with your many quirks and habits. You endeared me with your smile. But for all my attempts to charm you, it became increasingly clearer as we traveled how fiercely independent you were. Your ever-widening heart definitely played a role in my feelings for you. But most of all, your charm. I can't quite put my finger on it, but your charm did a number on me."
Holo seemed quite pleased with his response, and even started to cry midway through. "Aye. You've definitely improved in a charm of your own since I asked you a similar type of question back in Ruvinheigen. While that answer made me want to hit you over the head with a chair, this answer makes me feel quite special. I am very happy Lawrence."
"So, having heard my answer, what is it that made you fall for me?" Holo showed a rare bit of embarrassment as her cheeks began to blush. "Well, it is not as if my answer is as complicated as all that. From the start you were a dear traveling companion to me. One I was willing to fight dearly for due to your quick acceptance of me. It made me quite happy to be accepted by one so odd as yourself. I had never befriended a merchant before. But as time went on, it was that very acceptance that drew me towards you at a frightening pace. You accepted my every quirk, my every habit. You accommodated my ever-eccentric whims and tastes. You fed me food you would have never bought for yourself. You took care of me. I fell for you due to all that. I finally accepted your hand because of your wolf-like persistence. No matter what, you never gave up. I tried to leave you three times and you refused to let me get beyond your field of vision before turning all my plans to so much chaff. And once that bunhead of a girl interfered, I couldn't help but acknowledge your efforts. For all my loathing of her and her ways, I must find a way to thank her for that one interference. Had she not done so, you would likely be in Kieschen right now with Leroy buying that pesky book, while I would likely be in Yoitsu, crying over my loss."
"So I do have a bit of a wolf in me huh?" Even at Lawrence's bad joke, Holo couldn't find herself able to wipe the grin off her face long enough to regain her malicious one. Instead she responded with her sarcastic words, but with a happy face and giggling voice. "The wolf in you is outweighed by the fool that is you. But you have your moments."
Having both said all they could say, they embraced once more before starting to walk again. "Shall we go back to our room my princess?"
"We shall. I would like to go home soon, so we must rest, my prince."
End of Chapter 1