Undella Town passes us in a blur. Not literally, of course; we just weren’t paying attention. There are a few new areas – the Marine Tube which supposedly leads to Humilau City, and the Seaside Cave which also supposedly leads to Humilau City, but neither is open to us at present. We’re pretty sure Hugh turned up at some point and demanded some practice battles, but he said little of interest or relevance. The road south to Black City and White Forest was much as it always has been, although the gatehouse at the end of the road is perhaps notable for being host to Game Freak’s most bizarre roadblock yet: a line of dancing fat men, who, when questioned, will explain that they are dancing for no reason, and will someday stop dancing, also for no reason. I stare at them, transfixed, with an immovable look of “wha?” on my face, until Jim manages to drag me out of the gatehouse. The road north towards Lacunosa Town, likewise, is largely unchanged and uninteresting – until we reach the point where it forks toward the Giant Chasm. The Chasm itself is inaccessible, but there is someone at the junction waiting for us: Cobalion.
I tell Jim, insistently, to leave this to me. He raises an eyebrow, but agrees. I approach Cobalion and politely ask him whether we may continue our negotiations. Cobalion lowers his head, ready to charge. I smile, taking this as an affirmative, and open my mouth to begin an impassioned speech on the natural suitability of humans for command and Pokémon for obedience. My plan, of course, is to moderate my position as the debate continues, thus creating the impression that I am a) reasonable (hah!) and b) receptive to Cobalion’s own arguments. Unfortunately, Cobalion delivers a startlingly effective riposte in the form of a Sacred Sword attack, which neatly lops off one of my Princess Leia buns as I dodge to the side. For a few moments I stare at Cobalion, dumbfounded. Has this creature no conception of civility!? I am collecting myself for a cutting remark on Cobalion’s parentage when he prepares to initiate an Iron Head attack. The thought momentarily occurs to me that perhaps a somewhat more aggressive diplomatic strategy would have been apropos. As I contemplate my imminent premature demise, a pair of thick green tendrils lash out of nowhere and snare Cobalion around his neck and one leg. As he screams with rage, I spin around to see Jim’s Serperior, Ulfric, straining to keep a tight hold on the legendary Pokémon with his Vine Whips. Jim orders Ulfric to hurl him into the air, and the Serperior obliges, flinging Cobalion roughly into a nearby tree. The musketeer Pokémon recovers quickly, though, and within moments they are at each other’s throats, Leaf Blade against Sacred Sword. I draw an Ultra Ball from my bag. This has gone on long enough. I lob the Ultra Ball with all my strength, chanting “up, down, A, B, up down, B, A” under my breath. It strikes Cobalion and draws him in with a flash of light. A few moments later, it’s all over. Jim stares at me as though I’ve swiped a sandwich from his open mouth. I poke my tongue out at him and dismiss Cobalion’s ball to the PC network. I’ll deal with you later.
With that behind us, we arrive in the only walled city in all of Unova – Lacunosa Town. I remember this place being kind of pointless, other than for providing some vague hints about- oh. Ah. Right. Better look around. We are soon met by Professor Juniper and Bianca, who have used Fly (i.e. cheated) to beat us here, and as usual have their own ideas about how our investigation should proceed. Juniper drags us to the home of one of Lacunosa Town’s elders, explaining that the town has a legend we should hear. The elder relates the familiar story to us: when the cold winds blow from the nearby Giant Chasm, a fearsome beast stalked the night, snatching away anyone who wandered outside after dark. The town’s great stone wall was built to defend against this monster, but even to this day no-one in Lacunosa Town will leave home after dark. Professor Juniper comments that the wall is probably what gives the town its name; lacunosus clouds are a type of cloud that are supposed to look like a fence or a net. Jim and I have to conceal a snigger at this. Lacunosa Town is named for its wall, but clearly the town’s founders were influenced by either an astonishing lack of confidence in their stonework or a distressingly poor command of Latin – lacunosus means “full of holes” (this, I should note, is its strictest, most literal sense; it could also be taken to mean “collapsed,” “sunken,” “waterlogged,” or just downright “inadequate”). The more sobering thought then occurs to us that, if a legendary Pokémon as powerful as Kyurem were to attack the town, that name might turn out to be chillingly accurate.
As we go to leave for Opelucid City, we run into Hugh. Damnit, how do all these idiots keep getting ahead of us!? Hugh is following some rumours he’d heard about Team Plasma activity in the town, and is wondering if we’ve seen anything. We are about to answer in the negative before switching the topic to something more conducive to Hugh’s mental stability, like hobbies or the weather, when – speak of the devil – none other than Zinzolin, the Sage leading the reborn Team Plasma, appears with two grunts in tow. Hugh’s eyes flash and he reaches for his Pokéballs, but Jim and I interpose ourselves and attempt to negotiate. What is Zinzolin after, anyway? The other Sages abandoned Ghetsis when they realised he’d been manipulating them, so why is he still leading Team Plasma? If he just wants to take over the world, couldn’t he, maybe, work with us instead? Zinzolin laughs and explains his philosophy. He’s actually not interested in power at all – from what I can understand, he’s mostly interested in chaos. Zinzolin knows that Ghetsis means to tear the asunder the order of the world and the balance of nature and civilisation by forever separating humans from Pokémon, and he wants to watch. The crazy bastard wants to watch.
I am forced to concede that it does sound like a fascinating sociological experiment.
I offer, in the event of a Team Plasma victory, to co-author a paper with Zinzolin on the extent of human sociological dependence on Pokémon. After all, just because I’m theoretically opposed to them doesn’t mean I can’t try to create a win-win situation for myself. Zinzolin hesitates, but agrees to my proposition. We shake hands on it, and then return to the matter at hand – Hugh is foaming to beat up Zinzolin and his attendants, and Jim and I have a mind to join him. Zinzolin, it turns out, is quite a strange Pokémon trainer. One of his persistent character traits, held over from the original Black and White (which Cheren noted when we first encountered him in Driftveil City), is that he hates the cold. This is strange because Zinzolin is actually an Ice-type specialist – his Pokémon are Cryogonal and Sneasel. Thinking out loud, I observe that this seems indicative of a level of self-loathing. This gets Zinzolin so flustered that my Scolipede, Tyrion, is able to steamroll both of his Ice Pokémon before he can regain his composure. I give the sage a cluck of disapproval as Jim and Hugh finish off his equally inept minions. Zinzolin curses, mutters something about searching Opelucid City and departs with his grunts, Hugh close behind, waving his fist and shouting something unprintable about radishes.
So, Opelucid City sounds like the place to be.
The road to Opelucid City is nearly as boring as the road to Lacunosa Town was, with the exception of the Village Bridge. As the surprisingly apt name suggests, this is a bridge with a village on it. I don’t think anyone actually knows why the village was built on the bridge, as opposed to the more architecturally sound option of building it next to the bridge. I mean, okay, yes, there was the mediaeval London Bridge, but that was a) in the middle of a massive and already overcrowded city, and b) a massive fire hazard. Village Bridge, as it turns out, is guarded – in the middle stands an odd Gentleman by the name of Stonewall, who declares that he challenges anyone crossing the bridge. He has won 999 straight victories, and is eager to win victory number 1000! Well, we observe, if he’s won 999 straight victories he must be pretty str-oh no wait never mind. Though comparable in skill to the sage Zinzolin, with a powerful Durant and Lucario, poor Stonewall soon finds himself twisted into knots by Jim’s Zoroark and its mind-bending illusions. He collapses in defeat, mourning the winning streak he’d spent two years building up (y’know, with only two Pokémon, battling about three trainers every day is actually a pretty good effort), though he vows to try again. Once across the bridge, the rest of our journey to Opelucid City is quick and without incident… until we reach the outskirts, and find none other than the legendary Virizion blocking our path.
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