Into the West

Well, Kore the Floette has been replaced by Daphne the shiny Floette (named for a nymph who turned into a tree as an excuse to get out of a date with the god Apollo) – clearly a superior choice in every way imaginable by virtue of her shininess.  Nothing else of great interest happened during my training program, though.  Once I am satisfied that my off-duty Pokémon have learned enough, I move on to check out the Battle Château, a magnificent old castle straddling what I’m still pretty sure is the Loire River. 

The Battle Château

This, apparently, is where Kalos’ Pokémon training aristocracy hang out – including Viola, the nature photographer Gym Leader from Santalune City.  The Kalosian nobility have… well, frankly, fallen on hard times.  They have so many noble titles to spare that they’ll make someone a Baron or Baroness totally out of the blue – like me, for instance.  Viola figures that anyone who’s good enough for a Bug Badge is good enough for membership in the nobility.  In fairness, the title of ‘Baron’ really doesn’t mean a whole lot more than ‘not a commoner,’ but it does traditionally imply land ownership and noble birth, two things I’m pretty sure I lack.  On the other hand, rank within the Kalosian aristocracy seems to be based on skill as a Pokémon trainer, so I guess it’s not unreasonable for entry to be decided in the same way.  I’ve always had kind of a pet theory that Pokémon training had its origins with a nobility made of the people who were rich enough to feed and house full teams of battling Pokémon (here I’m mainly thinking by analogy with the archaic Greek definition of a nobleman – “anyone rich enough to own a horse”), and that Pokémon training was brought to the masses by a combination of the invention of Pokéballs with the increased food production of the industrial revolution, which made it possible to do both cheaply.  The presence of a Pokémon-training nobility in Kalos doesn’t confirm this idea, really, but it is nicely consistent with it.  Presumably once the group could no longer maintain its exclusivity their importance waned in favour of the Pokémon League.

Battling in the Château (which is an amazing way to make a quick buck, by the way – almost by definition, everyone else here is filthy stinking rich), I quickly secure a promotion to Viscount by means of my obvious talent and charisma, and meet two new Pokémon: Clauncher and Skrelp.  These both look to be Water-types; Clauncher is sort of making me think of a pistol shrimp, a creature famous for killing its prey with shockwaves of doom.  If this is what they had in mind, it could make for a pretty badass evolution.  I’m pretty sure Skrelp is actually just a diseased Horsea, but I thought it might be rude to point that out to its trainer.  The strange thing is, neither one is showing up in my Pokédex – which is currently labelled the ‘Central Kalos’ Pokédex.  I guess there are so many species in Kalos that just one regional Pokédex isn’t big enough to accommodate all of them.  Clauncher and Skrelp must live in the coastal areas further west… well, there’s only one way to found out!

Shortly after leaving the Battle Château, I run into Serena.  She wants a practice battle, but is intent on playing hard to get – she doesn’t want to battle against me; she wants to battle Trevor and Tierno with me (this probably means something in terms of Kalosian courtship etiquette but damned if I know what it is).  Tierno still has that Corphish, but Trevor has two Pokémon – a Pikachu (is that his partner?) and a Flabébé.  Serena, likewise, has two Pokémon – a Fletchling and her now-evolved starter Pokémon, Braixen.  Hmm… okay, I wasn’t initially enchanted with Fennekin because the ‘fire fox’ thing is kina Vulpix’s schtick, but Braixen seems to be blending that with a Western-style broomstick-wielding witch, which is offbeat enough to make me think maybe she’s worth sticking with (possibly going into Fire/Fairy or Fire/Dark?).

…wait, is that a shiny Smeargle?  Are shiny Pokémon more common in this game or am I just really lucky this week?  Well, it’s mine now.

In order to get into western Kalos, I have to cross a mountain range.  This is odd since I’m pretty sure we’re still in the Loire valley and I don’t think there are actually mountains there, but hey, I’ll give them some artistic license.  There are two paths I can take – one to Ambrette Town and one to Cyllage City – but both of them lead through a cave network.  More importantly, both caves are described as… Zubat roosts.  Tread cautiously, my Pokémon, or our next steps may be our last, but fear not, for though we walk in deepest darkness, we- wait, we’re at the other side already?  I haven’t even seen a Zubat yet.  Well, that was… anticlimactic.  I backtrack to check out the other route – it seems like the path through to Cyllage City is blocked, and we’ll need Strength support from the other side to get through.  Well, I guess my mind’s made up for me.  I hang out in the cave briefly to grab a Zubat, a Whismur, and a Meditite; there doesn’t seem to be anything else here, familiar or otherwise.  I emerge on some high cliffs overlooking what must be the outskirts of Cyllage City to the north, but there’s no way down.  I am immediately accosted by Left and Right (or whatever their real names are) and presented with a brand spanking new Coastal Kalos Pokédex add-on (in which Skrelp and Clauncher duly appear).  They have no further business with me and leave me to work my way southward along the cliffline.  Well, gotta catch ‘em all… Absol, Mienfoo, Spoink, Wingull… and a helpless Seviper getting mercilessly beaten up by four Zangoose.  That is some neat use of the new horde mechanics right there.  With a quick blast of Ilex’s Razor Leaf (which, of course, Seviper takes little damage from), I manage to help it defeat its assailants.  Clearly Fate has decreed that I am to be this Seviper’s trainer – and, hey, my party hasn’t changed in a while, so Zolom the Dunsparce is out (for now, at least) and Cecrops the Seviper (named for a mythical half-serpent king of Athens) is in.  I later catch a Zangoose as well, and a curious new Dark/Psychic squid Pokémon called an Inkay, which is SO CUTE that I feel compelled to retire Astarte the Litleo – I have another Fire-type anyway, and of course I’ll come back to train her some more later – and welcome in Photia the Inkay (named from the Greek word for light).

The next town, Ambrette, balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff, sports only two locations of interest: an aquarium which, according to Serena, will lead us through to Cyllage City, and a lab that studies Pokémon fossils.  Well, I know an opportunity to find new species of Pokémon when I see it – let’s check the place out.  The lab is unbelievably disappointing; Serena wants to interrogate the scientists for more information about Mega Evolution, but they know nothing.  We’re about to leave in disgust when one of them tries to feed us some line about fossils maybe having something to do with it, which seems obviously made up on the spot to keep our attention, but Serena seems to think it’s worth pursuing.  Apparently I need to head for the Glittering Cave east of Ambrette Town to consult with the scientists’ assistant – and to get there, I need to ride a Rhyhorn over a mountain.  Do these people know whose son they’re talking to?  I was born to ride Rhyhorn!  On the way, I catch some more Pokémon – a Hippopotas, a Sandile, and a weird little Normal/Electric frilled lizard creature called a Helioptile, whom I’ll have to investigate further later.  I also acquaint myself with Photia, who is so quirky she’s amazing – Inkay have the Contrary ability (so Sand Attack makes them MORE accurate!  NOTHING CAN STOP US NOW!), and the dangerous but effective combination of Swagger and Foul Play: pump your enemies up, then give them a taste of their own medicine.  I engage in a ‘Sky Battle’ with a ‘Sky Trainer’ named Orion, which seems to be basically a regular battle involving only Flying Pokémon (clearly an idiotic place to use a Bug-type, but my opponent brings a Ledian to this fight nonetheless…).  Finally, with the possibilities of this area exhausted, I farewell my noble steed and prepare to enter the Glittering Cave.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Pokémon fossils… what do you think they dream about?”
Well, random Ambrette Town citizen, since they’re calcified hunks of two hundred million year-old bone I’m guessing the answer to that is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

“We have a machine that restores fossils and turns them back into Pokémon.  But only the assistant in Glittering Cave knows how to use it.”
…be honest.  You’re not actually a scientist.  You’re a lab coat wrapped around an idiot.

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