We stare, unblinking, at Virizion’s scarlet eyes. Virizion lowers his head and trills softly, keeping his eyes fixed on us. He paws the ground and gives a strange, high-pitched yelp. A flood of images fills my mind – Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion, separately, then together, Cobalion again, alone, an Ultra Ball, our battle with Cobalion, the Ultra Ball again. Give him back. Wait, what? I lean over towards Jim and whisper in his ear.
“D’you think it’s mad?”
Virizion yelps again and takes off towards us, his hooves beating the ground like war-drums. We draw Pokéballs from our belts and dive out of the way. I call out my Vibrava, Daenerys, and Jim calls on Falk, his Magmar. Virizion pulls to a stop just in front of our Pokémon and attempts to disembowel them with a rapid series of impossibly graceful Sacred Sword attacks before fixing a mighty Giga Drain on Falk. As Falk attempts to beat Virizion back with a stream of skilfully blocked Flamethrowers, I quietly gesture to Daenerys to take to the skies. Climbing high into the air, she nails Virizion with a dive-bomb Dragonbreath, breaking his concentration long enough for Falk to join in with an especially peppery Flamethrower. With a triumphant screech, Daenerys explodes with light and evolves into a Flygon. She and Falk are quickly able to subdue Virizion, who meekly submits to capture.
The musketeers have, truth be told, been rather anticlimactic so far. I initially took Cobalion’s presence to mean that the trio had some part to play in the chaos to come; they were once, after all, some of the most explosive opponents of human interference in the world of Pokémon, and really ought to have jumped at the chance to join the main conflict of Black and White. They never did, though, and it looks like they have no particular plans to do anything about the current conflict either, other than present themselves to us in a faintly accusatory fashion and give us the opportunity to conscript them. This, I think, is really a shame because there’s a lot of potential for Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion to get involved in a story like this in a way that resonates with their backstories and helps players to think more about the overarching themes of the plot into the bargain. Hmm. Oh well. Maybe next time.
With Virizion satisfactorily defeated, we are free to move into Opelucid City, a strange town at war with itself, half clinging to the past as half embraces the future. We are greeted as we enter by Iris, whom we met back in Castelia City. Iris is spectacularly unhelpful, as usual, but does encourage us to visit the Opelucid Gym and challenge the leader, Drayden, which- hmm. Hang on. That means Iris is no longer the Gym Leader on either Black 2 or White 2. Hmm. Either she was fired by the Pokémon League for her massive incompetence and lack of commitment, or… something more sinister.
Eh. Whatever. I’m sure she’ll reveal her new purpose in time.
Like all the Gyms of Unova, we find that the Opelucid Gym has been redesigned. Its two great dragon statues are still there, but now one rears up, almost vertical, at the back of the Gym, with trainers waiting on its arms and Drayden watching over all from atop its head. The other dragon statue cowers meekly at the base of the first. We consult Clyde the Guide for advice on scaling the first statue to reach Drayden, and he explains that we need to stand on the other dragon’s head and ride it as it rears up and violently smashes its face into the first dragon’s limbs, one at a time, fighting the trainers waiting on each limb. I raise an eyebrow and ask him, as tactfully as possible, whether he is completely insane and why he is trying to get us killed. Clyde tells us that these are Drayden’s orders, and he can only follow them like the loyal servant he is. I shake my head and stride over to the base of the rearing dragon statue and begin shouting obscenities up at Drayden. I narrate in some detail my nauseating Virbank Gym challenge, my nightmare-inducing experience in the Castelia Gym, and my recent hair-raising battles in the wind tunnel Skyla sees fit to call the Mistralton Gym, peppering it all with my most creative expletives. I am preparing to embark upon a comprehensive description of all the Pokémon with whom Drayden’s mother must have been intimate in order to produce him, when I realise that he can’t actually hear me up there and slump, defeated, on the floor of the Gym. Seconds later, I hear a long, warbling cry and see a streak of white as Jim’s Swanna, Lydia, carries him up alongside the dragon statue towards the head.
“Oh,” I mutter.
By the time I have recovered from my extensive rant, gotten over my sheepishness, and summoned Daenerys to carry me to the uppermost levels of the building, Jim has already defeated Drayden’s powerful Dragon-types and is waiting for me to give it a try myself. Drayden gives me his customary gruff but encouraging Gym Leader greeting. I respond with a flood of insults so rapid and slurred that even I can barely make out what I’m saying. Drayden, to his credit, merely blinks twice at my barrage of abuse before summoning his Druddigon. I decide that since Daenerys is already out I may as well start with her and her new Dragon Claw attack. Dragon vs. Dragon is always a quick but dramatic affair. Daenerys and Druddigon clash a few times, their teeth and clays flashing and sparking with pure overflowing life force. Before long, Druddigon is crouched in submission on the ground, wounds shimmering with lingering energy, and Daenerys isn’t faring much better. I switch her out as Drayden brings in his own Flygon, replacing her with my battle-ready Samurott, Jaime. Jaime slashes away happily with his seamitars (this, I have only recently learned, is what Dewott’s scalchops become when he evolves, ‘seamitars’), delivering punishing Razor Shell attacks until Flygon drops in defeat. Drayden has saved his best for last – Haxorus – but so have I. My Arcanine, Barristan, is itching for a chance to try out his new Dragon Pulse attack, and even Haxorus’ enormous power loses some of its lustre after an Intimidate. It’s a close thing – it always is with Haxorus – but of course I prevail. Was there ever a doubt? Drayden, gracious in defeat, hands me my Legend Badge. I thank him by asserting, in mumbled tones, that he is of a fellow of loose virtue. Jim, remembering what we came here for, asks Drayden whether he can tell us anything about the legendary Pokémon. Surprised, but happy to help, Drayden leads us out of the Gym and takes us to his home.
Most of what Drayden has to tell us is stuff we’ve heard before anyway. He relates the old story of Reshiram, Zekrom, the legendary heroes, their more modern counterparts, and their involvement in the Team Plasma crisis two years earlier. He laments the conflict that exists between Reshiram and Zekrom, explaining that there’s really no reason for truth and ideals to be in opposition – it’s all the fault of the heroes whose fighting caused Reshiram and Zekrom, once a single Dragon Pokémon, to split. He’s not sure how Kyurem, the third dragon, fits into the grand scheme of things, but he thinks it’s just as old as the other two, based on Professor Juniper’s studies on an ancient treasure kept by his family: the… DNA Splicers? That’s what they’re called? You’re really going with that? Only that seems to imply a fairly detailed understanding of what these things do, informed more by modern science than by legend and myth, which must mean- oh, whatever. Drayden speculates a little more about Kyurem’s nature, wondering if it could be just an empty husk left behind by the separation of Reshiram and Zekrom (this, you may remember, was a popular fan theory when Black and White were released). I am broadly happy to accept Drayden’s speculation for now. It seems to match much of what we already knew, and his regret over the conflict between the black and white dragons at least addresses my niggling irritation that these two supposed opposites are actually completely alike (even if it doesn’t really fix it). Our reverie is broken by a series of loud explosions from outside. Drayden, Jim and I rush outside to see-
Ah. Yes. Team Plasma’s battleship can fly. Of course it can. Wonderful.
Frowning, I send Daenerys into the air to blast a hole in its side. Enough is enough. Jim observes that shooting the ship down over a populated area might not be the best idea. I take note of his objection and command Daenerys to press on. To my surprise, when she draws near the ship a massive cannon emerges from the hull and knocks her out of the sky with a freezing bolt of energy. The ship turns its cannon on Opelucid City, pelting the town with blasts of cold and creating huge spires of magical ice. Once most of the city is frozen over, Zinzolin and some of his minions emerge from the ship. Zinzolin approaches us to gloat, revelling in his own shivering discomfort as proof that he is alive. This man really does fascinate me; he has just the right balance of erudition and sociopathy to be a perfect partner in my own schemes for world domination. I express my delight at seeing him again and renew my offer of a partnership between us once all this Team Plasma nonsense has blown over. Zinzolin gratefully acknowledges my interest, but points out that we both have business to attend to. He wants the DNA Splicers. Drayden, naturally, has hidden them and is not keen to give them up. Zinzolin deploys his grunts and orders them to search the city. Time for a good old-fashioned punch-up, I guess…