Saki, Maria and Satoru set out to find Mamoru, who has a three hour head start on them. They follow sled tracks across the Holy Barrier, and find queerat tracks alongside it, possibly indicating a chase. The tracks end on the edge of a cliff, and they find the sled buried suspiciously deeply and neatly. They eventually come across a queerat hut, and Mamoru is inside, saved by Squonk, who they helped years ago. He said he had to run from the village because he was being hunted by tainted cats.
Poor Mamoru. Among those still alive in Team 1, he has the weakest Cantus, the weakest talents, and the weakest will. When Maria calls him “quiet and cooperative”, it sounds like a back-handed compliment. It also makes us think of the fiends Tomiko mentioned – how they were always suspected of harboring evil thoughts and such. Mamoru isn’t like them. No, he seems to be next in line for disposal because of what he knows. Information can be a sickness, and if he’s infected enough, he may snap just like a fiend, in spite of his natural disposition. It doesn’t help that his friends are all far superior to him in every way that matters (Cantus skiing and bunny hopping FTW!!), and are keeping secrets from him.
Like everything that happens in this series, something is fishy about the picture that is pieced together by Saki, Maria and Satoru with the tracks and clues they have. It would seem tainted cats were sent to Mamoru (must be fun having a teacher who is plotting to have you killed), causing him to flee in terror. But Saki remembers that queerats are one of the tools in the Ethics Committee’s arsenal. While Squonk is simply repaying kindness (and as he said, saving a god is in their nature), one can’t help but wonder if the Mamoru was simply supposed to quietly vanish, only he didn’t, because the Scooby Gang wouldn’t let him. He may be useless, but he’s still their friend, if anything were to happen to him, Maria may be next, as guilt over what she could’ve done to save him could consume her.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)