With Opelucid City frozen, it’s difficult to get around. We find ourselves sliding all over the place on sheets of ice, and our paths are continuously blocked by great crystal spires. Of course, the Team Plasma grunts aren’t doing too well either. Drayden seems unwilling to reveal exactly where the ‘DNA Splicers’ we’re supposed to be protecting actually are, so Jim and I are forced to sweep the city, pulverising as many Team Plasma members as we can find. Eventually I locate Zinzolin, outside the Opelucid Gym. Oh, I realise, well duh. Where else would Drayden keep a ridiculously valuable set of artefacts with apocalyptic powers? Zinzolin greets me and we shoot the breeze for a while about the nature of pain. Zinzolin feels there is a certain purity in suffering, and wishes to spread this transcendent experience to the rest of the world in a form of social Darwinism. His views are extreme, but his dedication to practicing what he preaches and embracing suffering himself is admirable. Zinzolin thanks me for the compliment, but suggests that we need to get on with our business. I sigh and agree. Can’t this guy be my rival instead of Hugh? We could just hang out and debate philosophy; it would be awesome. He has actually come a long way since our last battle, mere days earlier; he has picked up a second Cryogonal and evolved his Sneasel into a Weavile. This time, though, I have grown tired of the cold, and call out my Arcanine to bring a swift end to the battle. Cryogonal’s epic special defence aside, Ice Pokémon are not well equipped for the kind of onslaught Barristan can lay down. Zinzolin graciously bows out, leaving me to guard the Gym. Drayden and Jim soon arrive, having finished sweeping the city, and Drayden tells us to wait outside while he fetches the DNA Splicers from his lair. Minutes later, he brings them out to show us: a set of elongated pyramidal objects, striped in black, white and grey. Huh. So these are the magic devices that will… well, presumably fuse Kyurem with either Reshiram or Zekrom to create those terrifying bastards on the box art.
Suddenly, a member of the Shadow Triad is here.
Equally suddenly, he is talking as though he has successfully stolen the DNA Splicers. What on earth are you talking about, Mr. Shadow Triad Person? Drayden is holding the splicers; they are right there in his-
With a curious sinking feeling, Jim and I turn back to Drayden.
God damnit, Drayden, you were physically holding the stupid things in your hands, how could you-? Oh, you know what? Never mind. Teleporting ninja bull$#!^. Whatever.
The Shadow Triad ninja gloats briefly, then flees through the city with his magic shadow ninja speed. The three of us stare at each other, wordless, for a full ten seconds before we split up and run through Opelucid City at breakneck speed hunting for the Shadow Triad. I make it all the way to the city’s eastern entrance before finding one, who challenges me to come and take the splicers if I want them. With an Absol and a pair of Pawniard, he’s certainly no slouch at battling, but nothing Barristan and Daenerys can’t handle. Once defeated, the ninja admits that, actually, he doesn’t have the DNA splicers at all – he was just buying time for the others to escape. With that, he blinks away. I spend the next five minutes reciting Catullus 16 in Latin at the top of my voice. Just as I am in danger of running out of ancient words for violent sexual abuse, Jim turns up. He has also battled a member of the Shadow Triad, and has had similar ill luck. Well, there were three ninjas, and there were three of us, so if I didn’t get the one with the splicers, and Jim didn’t get the one with the splicers… As we discuss this, Drayden arrives and wails that the Shadow Triad have escaped.
GOD DAMNIT DRAYDEN YOU HAD ONE JOB.
Hugh and Cheren arrive just in time to avoid doing anything useful, and we hold an impromptu council of war. Cheren’s friends at the climate institute have detected another massive temperature drop near remote Humilau City, which probably means that Kyurem is there – with Team Plasma. Drayden dejectedly tells us that he can’t come, since he has to protect Opelucid City (because he’s done such a wonderful job of that so far) but Hugh and Cheren proclaim the vital urgency of this quest and dash off, Cheren to get more information from the climate institute, Hugh to investigate Humilau City. Jim and I depart as well, flying back to Undella Town at top speed. As reluctant as we are to get further involved in any of this nonsense, Team Plasma’s theft of the DNA Splicers surely indicates that their plans involve not just Kyurem but Reshiram and Zekrom as well, and possibly the creation of something else more powerful than any of them. When we arrive in Undella Town, we immediately dash to the newly-opened Marine Tube, the clear underwater tunnel leading from Undella to Humilau City. This thing reminds me a little of the tunnels in the Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium in our home city, Auckland, but on a massive scale. I glimpse some enormous Water Pokémon swimming in the ocean around the tunnel, but there’s no time to stop and watch – Hugh has made it quite clear that we are on an urgent mission! We soon arrive in the tropical paradise of Humilau City, a resort town built primarily on wooden walkways raised above the shallow sea, a little reminiscent of Pacifidlog Town in far away Hoenn. Upon our arrival we are greeted by Hugh, who will surely want to co-ordinate our efforts in this desperate, frantic hunt.
“We’ll get the DNA Splicers back for sure! So you should focus on defeating the Gym Leader first!”
O…kay. So, um… no rush, then?
Hugh is, I can only assume, confident that his obsessive hatred of Team Plasma and bloodhound-like ability to hunt them down will sort everything out in due time without undue difficulty. Jim and I are less certain and, unwilling to waste time on anything as frivolous as a Gym challenge, scout out the areas around Humilau City. I head south and leave Jim to go west. Humilau City is separated from Undella Town by a stretch of pristine tropical coast, dotted with tiny sandy islands. There is no sign of Team Plasma anywhere. I also check out the Seaside Cave that leads into Undella Bay, but find nothing out of the ordinary. There is another exit from the cave on the east side, but it is blocked by a large square boulder suspiciously similar to the group of Crustle Jim and I encountered outside Castelia City so long ago. Hmm. I poke the boulder a few times, and even have Jaime, my Samurott, hack away at it with Razor Shell a couple of times. No effect. Where’s Colress when you need him? I throw my hands in the air with exasperation and return to Humilau City. Jim, to my surprise, has not left the city yet. He explains, sheepishly, that he can’t find the way out. I stare at him in disbelief. I was gone for hours; how hard could it have been? Apparently, the walkways of Humilau City don’t all link up, and he can’t figure out how to get to the far west side of the town. We walk around the city for a little while, and I point out that we are allowed to walk beneath the platforms as well.
Jim spends the next hour cursing under his breath and muttering about how Humilau City is a silly little add-on anyway, feels like it was tacked on at the last minute, and doesn’t add anything important to the game. I am forced to agree that it doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose other than to provide an excuse for a new Gym and an alternative road to the Giant Chasm and the Pokémon League. It’s not even like Humilau City is Unova’s only tropical resort town. This does not stop me from sniggering at Jim as we wander back towards the Pokémon Centre. On our way, we are confronted with Humilau City’s Gym Leader, Marlon, who springs out of the water to greet us in his own idiosyncratic fashion. I wasn’t aware before meeting Marlon that “sup, yo” was a greeting that anyone actually used, but apparently it is. My poor rigid classically-educated brain has trouble keeping up with him; I half expect him to start calling me “dogg.” I quickly decide to cover up my discomfort by demanding a battle. Marlon tells me to “chill” and meet him later at his Gym, “yo.”
The thought briefly occurs to me that I am now wasting time on something as frivolous as a Gym challenge. I dismiss the notion, rationalising that I have seven of these damn badges now – one more couldn’t possibly hurt, right?