To see Gnasher pondering that realization brought a feeling of cautious optimism to Rhodes. He looked on with a sniffle, reaching up to wipe his eyes dry with the back of one of his smooth claws. While doing so, his ears caught the sound of the Banette’s feet shuffling forward in a walking motion. Quickly, Rhodes lowered his claw to look, just in time to see Gnasher walk by his side, and past him. He felt a little bad that, for that brief moment, he thought something bad might happen. Still, he about-faced in order to keep the puppet-like ghost in his sights.
Gnasher appeared to be simply pacing forward, rather than doing anything dubious. It was understandable, since he had a lot to think about all of a sudden. Eventually, he turned his head to peer at Rhodes once more, having a genuine, albeit somewhat weak, smile on his face for the first time since they reached the river, “I think I can deal with this, kid. I ain’t that guy. He’s dead, and he’s staying that way.”
Rhodes couldn’t find it in himself to smile, after that emotional outburst. Still, hearing that brought him comfort that he couldn’t deny. He never liked the fact that Slasher had died, but... he didn’t want him back. That was the cold, hard truth. After the hardships Tao just went through, the last thing they needed was for Slasher to bring his hatred and selfishness back to haunt them all.
A gentle wind began to blow in the moment of silence that followed. For the first time, it wasn’t a particularly chilled one. Less desirable for Rhodes than the previous colder temperatures, of course, but it was yet another sign of normalcy as it blew along, rustling the leaves of the trees, as well as the Sneasel’s feathers, and the elongated back of the Banette’s head.
As the leaves above bounced and jittered with the minor gust, Gnasher peered up at them, apparently with interest. “Heh...” he began, turning to Rhodes and approaching him amiably. His eyes wandered to the Sneasel’s ripped scarf for a moment, and he put his own fingers up to his chin in thought, “Hmm... you were on your way to the village, right kid?”
What a strange question, all of a sudden! Still, the Banette was acting friendly enough now that a lot of the edge had been taken off for Rhodes. “Oh... yeah! I’ve gotta go there real soon!” he responded, glancing over the nearby cliff at the horizon. It told him what the canopy tended to hide: the sun had moved significantly further than he’d expected. Udon and his friends would worry if he didn’t show up soon!
Another problem would arise right at that moment. In textbook trickster fashion, Gnasher grasped Rhodes’s scarf at the neck with both of his hands, deftly unraveling it and beginning to float away backwards with it in tow. “See ya there!” he bid, as his dark form smoothly drifted between the tree trunks and quickly vanished from sight.
“Hey! Give that back!” Rhodes wouldn’t take that lying down. That scarf was important to him, after all. To others, it might have just been an article of cloth on his person, but to him, it was like a symbol of his acceptance of civilized life. Immediately, he bounded into the forest, intending to approach Tao as fast as he could! Unfortunately, he’d already lost sight of Gnasher. All that jarring of his memory must have reminded him of all of their routes, as he apparently had no problem finding his way this time. Why would he steal the scarf, after all that? It didn’t make sense...
Through the broken forest, Rhodes leapt, until he closed in on the village. At first sight, it made him forget that he hadn’t yet laid eyes on it since they had to evacuate. It was... a mess. Maybe even more of a mess than the forest. The buildings were all destroyed, and not a soul was in sight. Odd, since Udon had gone ahead of him. He could only guess that she already found all of the remaining Pokemon and already guided them away. No problem with that, really... there was still someone else he had business with, though. Not only that, he knew just where to look.
Part 10 of "The Pulled String" by