Not without a little trepidation, I promptly answer Professor Sycamore’s summons and enter Lysandre’s lurid crimson café. As far as I can tell, Sycamore just happened to be having lunch with Lysandre there and wanted to get me in on the conversation, mostly to give Lysandre an opportunity to congratulate me in person on becoming a Digidestined, something he has always wanted to do. I also get a more explicit introduction to Lysandre’s philosophy. According to Professor Sycamore, Lysandre is exceptionally high-born, descended from Kalosian royalty – although Lysandre himself downplays this, since he wants to leave a different legacy. Lysandre believes that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who give, and those who take, like the legendary Pokémon of Kalos, who gave life and took it (this refers, I presume, to Xerneas and Yveltal – so they represent life and death?). He regards the second group as scum, and notes that “there will be no foolish actions if the number of people and Pokémon doesn’t increase,” which is… an odd, faintly Malthusian and very worrying sentiment. Apparently, the old king of Kalos only took from the world, but Lysandre wants to give back, both through his inventions and by funding Pokémon research. The king did achieve one good thing, though – he created some kind of “ultimate weapon” and used it to “wash the era clean of its filth.” I stare at Lysandre, trying to keep my expression neutral, nibbling anxiously at a croissant, and occasionally shooting worried looks at Professor Sycamore, who gives no indication of any concern whatsoever. Finally, lunch is over and I am freed of this troubling man’s presence. Lysandre wants to create a world where everything can stay young and beautiful forever… and where all population growth halts completely… and there are legendary Pokémon in this region with power over life and death. I have a terrible feeling I can see where this is going. More importantly, if he tries to replicate this ‘ultimate weapon,’ he’ll scour the age of all its filth – and that probably includes me! He must be stopped at all costs!
Another call on my Holo-Caster informs me that my erstwhile rivals are meeting on the northern outskirts of Lumiose City to catch up. Why not? I think they’re the only people in this country who give me any respect; I might as well keep the silly little people happy. Trevor and Serena are already waiting outside the city gates when I arrive. Trevor, as he usually does, challenges me to what he calls “his own kind of Pokémon battle” – seeing who has the more complete Pokédex. He’s never beaten me on that score, and doesn’t start now. Nor does Serena overcome my Pokémon in a more conventional battle, even though her Braixen has now evolved into a mystical Delphox (I love this name, by the way; obviously it’s fox + Delphi, so connotations of mysticism, magic and secret knowledge, but I’m also reminded of phlox, one of the Greek words for fire – not sure whether that’s intentional). Maybe they should branch out into things that I’m less good at. That works for Tierno and Shauna; I’m sure Tierno and his Pokémon would curb-stomp me in a break-dancing competition, and Shauna by now is probably really good at… whatever the hell it is that she claims to be doing on this journey. Something that involves spending lots of money and whistling all the time. And, speak of the devil, Tierno and Shauna turn up as Serena and I wrap up our battle. Now that everyone’s together, Shauna wants to check out a rumoured haunted house further up the road. Serena, buzzkill that she is, thinks it’s a frivolous waste of time and heads straight for the next town, Laverre City, to train her Pokémon, but I consider that a haunted house may provide an opportunity to meet new Ghost Pokémon and cautiously follow. The road we’re on is euphemistically known as the ‘Laverre Nature Trail,’ which appears to be Kalos-speak for ‘depressing fetid swamp of death.’ Everything is waterlogged and half-dead and covered in gravestones, and even the grass looks like it’s about to give up, turn black, and start preying on small animals and less agile children. Someday I will put a penal colony here. There are some neat Pokémon here, though: Weepinbell, Stunfisk, Shelmet, Karrablast, Haunter and Carnivine, all of which I capture… and then I meet Goomy. Goomy is a little pink blobby polyp-like creature who blasts me with a Dragonbreath attack. Once caught and questioned, Goomy continues to insist on being a Dragon Pokémon, albeit the weakest one of all. Okay, Goomy, far be it from me to call such a cute little Pokémon a liar, but are you sure you’re a Dragon-type and not, say, a Poison-type with delusions of grandeur and trouble dealing with the cold? Look, fine then; stick to whatever story you like, but you’re coming with me, because if there’s one thing I know about weak Dragon-types it’s that they repay your investments. I was getting bored of Tereus anyway.
The haunted house, when we reach it, turns out to be a spectacular bust. It’s a perfectly ordinary house, somewhat poorly lit, with a man inside who tells moderately disturbing stories about people with no faces and then demands a tip. The rivals disperse, disappointed, and I decide to take some time to train up my new Goomy, whom I have named Pytho (after the dragon slain at Delphi by the god Apollo, whose name is etymologically linked with the ancient Greek word for rot), along with some of my other Pokémon who have been languishing in the PC box for a while. Here, I learn many new things. At level 35, Honedge becomes Doublade, splitting into two swords and gaining greater physical power. There’s one more empty slot in the Pokédex after Doublade, which seems to indicate either that Doublade will evolve again or that Honedge has a branched evolution I’ve missed – I’m kind of thinking the latter is more likely, because where can you go after evolving from one sword to two? Three swords? Litleo, also at level 35, becomes Pyroar – I’m still betting this thing has major gender differences, so maybe I’ll train a male later, or just look up what they look like on the internet. Trial and error reveals that a Sun Stone and Shiny Stone will evolve, respectively, Helioptile and Floette into Heliolisk (who is still a frilled lizard and flares his neck frill while channelling electrical power – something Clemont’s Heliolisk never got a chance to demonstrate) and the somewhat overstated and elaborate Florges, still a pure Fairy-type, but one who draws energy from flowers and claims gardens as her territory. Amaura gets all the way to 39 and becomes a majestic Aurorus, a huge crystal-studded sauropod with long, glowing crests along the back of its neck (I want to say I’ve seen sauropods reconstructed with crests like that before, but names escape me). Binacle, at level 39, undergoes a… surprising… transformation into a seven-headed barnacle-golem called Barbaracle (yes, seven, because his four arms and his feet are also heads), a great bulky physical tank-type thing. I just want to draw attention, for a moment, to Barbaracle’s Pokédex entry: “When they evolve, two Binacle multiply into seven. They fight with the power of seven Binacle.” Really? I would have thought that a group of seven Binacle would have fought with the power of maybe four and a half, on a good day; a pair of them can barely manage to fight with the power of one, after all, lazy little $#!ts that they are. Finally, getting Pytho up to 40, bringing her in line with the rest of my active party, causes her to evolve into a Sligoo – a large, blind purple snail. This… is the weirdest Dragon-type I’ve ever seen. There’s another empty space in my Pokédex between Sliggoo and Karrablast; presumably I can expect another evolution at some godawful level around 60 or so, so I slap an Eviolite on her and hope for the best. My Skrelp, meanwhile, still hasn’t evolved; since Clauncher had a plain old levelling evolution I’m pretty sure Skrelp will too, but I kind of expected they would evolve at the same time… either I’m missing something here, or Skrelp is going undergo a pretty dramatic transformation. From what I’ve been told, there aren’t all that many new Pokémon in Kalos compared to previous regions – I think by now I must have seen more than half of the damn things. I wonder what’s left?
I also evolve my Flaaffy into an Ampharos, which means I get to test out another of these Mega Stones. When Ampharos digivolves, she gains a luxurious mane of silky white hair, studded with red orbs like the one on her tail, along with tremendous offensive and defensive power, Mold Breaker (take that, Lanturn!), and… a secondary Dragon type? That- hmm. Does… does Ampharos actually learn any Dragon attacks? Maybe she gets Dragon Pulse or something now, or maybe having a Dragon-type mega form would make her eligible to learn Draco Meteor? Might be something to experiment on later; tempting as it is, I don’t particularly want Ampharos in my party (after all, I used one on my recent White 2 playthrough and I do like to mix things up a bit). I guess I can add Mega Ampharos to Altaria (and, for that matter, Goomy and Sliggoo) under the heading of ‘non-draconic Dragon Pokémon.’ Being a ‘Dragon,’ it seems, is really no longer about being a majestic and imposing magical reptile – you can also be a… giant sheep, or giraffe, or whatever Ampharos is supposed to be. Personally I tend to think that the uniting idea of the Dragon-types is their mystical quality and connection with life-force anyway, but it’s neat to watch the design process. Also, it’s interesting that they chose Ampharos in particular to digivolve; to judge from the Pokémon that are receiving this honour so far, it seems like it’s at least partly a matter of popularity – and Ampharos has definitely been a fan favourite since her release Gold and Silver, in spite of her long decline on the competitive scene. And here I was, convinced they never listened to us!
Ridiculous quote log:
Nothing for today, but rest assured, this is not because the people of Kalos have suffered a sudden outbreak of sanity, but rather because after my prolonged exposure to the light and chaos of Lumiose City I felt an inexplicable compulsion to go out into the wilderness and stick my head into soft peat for six hours.