X Nuzlocke, episode 12: The Devil I Know

Lumiose City

Lavoisier: [on holo-caster] I’m telling you, your human’s famous!  I keep seeing his picture around the city!  I tried to show the Professor but he just kinda shook his head and made a clicking noise.
Ruby: What are you wittering about?  What on earth would this idiot be famous for?
Daku: Certainly not his understanding of team composition or moveset structure…
Spruce: Maybe it’s for his cooking?  That’s pretty good.
Fisher: Indeed; it will almost be a shame to have to return to the stolid fare of the temple kitchens when my travels with this group are done.
Ruby: …well, all right, I admit he’s not useless, but a cinnamon Poké-puff is hardly grounds for serious publicity.
Lavoisier: I think you’re just jealous that your human is more well-known than you are.
Ruby: Wh-!?  You-!  I am known and feared throughout the land as the mightiest sorceress who ever lived!  He is a half-witted, defenceless newborn whose presence is somehow required to keep me from being considered “a menace to society” or “an unstable maniac” or “oh god please stop setting fire to things”!
Lavoisier: Well, he’s the one with his face on posters saying “WANTED” all over Lumiose City.
Ruby: …what did you just say?
Lavoisier: The posters.  They have the human word “WANTED” on them.  Like, they want him around.  They miss him!
???: CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Ruby: …$#!t.  Uh, I’ll call you back, Lavoisier.  MINIONS!  Hide the human!
Martial: Hide him?  How?
Ruby: I don’t know!  Dig a hole, or put a paper bag over his head or something!
Magneton: HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Fisher: I can call upon the shadows of the Dome to conceal him!
Ruby: Which one is the Dome?  Is that the evil one?
Fisher: Actually, my lady, I have come to believe that is a matter of great theological nuance, and-
Ruby: Oh, shut up; you’ll probably just suck out his soul and turn him into a vegetable.
Magneton: REPEAT: CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Ruby: Spruce!  Sit on his head!
Spruce: What?
Ruby: Sit.  On.  His.  Head!
Chris: What the-!?  Hey; easy there, Spruce, what are you-?
Ruby: Cover his face with your wings!
Chris: -mrfllmmrrrmmrfff!
Ruby: …good enough!
Magneton: CITIZENS, IDENTIFY.  YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO COMPLY OR THIS UNIT WILL BE AUTHORISED TO EMPLOY COERCIVE MEASURES.
Ruby: Right!  You!  Who are you to make such demands, and what do you want of me and my minions?
Magneton: I-DEN-TI-FY.
Ruby: I am Ruby the Delphox, fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme!  Perhaps you’ve heard of me?
Magneton: ERROR 48.  YOUR STRING “fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme” COULD NOT BE FOUND.  IDENTIFY.
Daku: Is it your normal practice to question all who enter your city, good sir?  I have not been here in some time, but I recall nothing of the sort on my last visit.
Ruby: [muttering] Oh, sure, the robot gets a ‘good sir’…
Magneton: ERROR 63.  PROCEDURAL RESOLUTION COULD NOT BE READ.  RESTARTING PROCESS 3-B-RED LOCKDOWN.  BZZT.  CITIZENS ENTERING LUMIOSE CITY LIMITS.  HALT AND IDENTIFY.
Amaldos: If a man sits in a room with a dictionary that allows him to speak perfect Chinese and a vial of poisonous gas that will kill him if a sensor detects radiation, would a computer be able to distinguish him from a dead cat?
Magneton: BZZT.  ERROR 102.  CANNOT RESOLVE SYNTAX.  BLEEEEEP-WEEP-BEEP.  ERROR 81.  EXISTENTIAL QUANDARY DETECTED.  REROUTING THROUGH HINDBRAIN.
Amaldos: A hole in your bag will lighten your load.  A hole in your mind may do the same.
Magneton: ERROR 0.  ERROR NOT FOUND.  Bzzzzzzzt-PING-FFFZZZZZZL [starts smoking].
Spruce: Uh… I… think you broke him.
???: Larry!
Ruby: Oh good; more new friends…
Heliolisk: Larry!  What on earth-? [To Ruby] I’m sorry about this.
Magneton: ERROR.  ERROR.  ERROR.
Heliolisk: You’re fine, Larry.  Execute routine Clemont-Phi-Thirteen.
Magneton: EXECUTING.  BZZT-whistle-DING!
Heliolisk: Feeling better?
Magneton: AFFIRMATIVE.  REQUEST STATUS.
Heliolisk: I’m good too, Larry; thanks.  Why don’t you just wait here for a bit while I help these citizens, and then we’ll take you over to Magenta Plaza to supervise some of the rewiring?
Magneton: ACKNOWLEDGED.
Spruce: …is he always like this?
Heliolisk: Yeah, he’s been a bit out of sorts ever since he died and we put his brain in an old Magneton chassis.
Spruce: Oh, yeah, I guess that would- wait what?
Heliolisk: Sort an experiment on our human’s part.  He used to be an Ampharos.  Hmm.  What… what sort of Pokémon are you, exactly?
Chris: Mrrffllmfff!
Spruce: Uh… I’m a… Facebird.
Heliolisk: A… Facebird.
Fisher: An extremely rare Humanshape species from the far distant land of Orre!
Heliolisk: I…see.  Right.  Well, again, I’m sorry about the business with Larry.  We wouldn’t normally have controls like this, you see; it’s just that, with the recent trouble at the power plant, a good part of the city had to be locked down for a while, just to keep order.  And then when the plant came back online yesterday there was a huge surge that knocked out several critical substations… It’s been a mess.  We’re trying to keep a close watch on everyone entering and leaving the city, just for security reasons.
Daku: Sensibly enough.  You serve your duty well, Heliolisk.
Heliolisk: …I should hope so.  Now, I’ll just need to get your names, and then you can go on through.
Ruby: Very well, peasant.  I am Ruby the Delphox, fiery jewel among Pokémon, sorceress supreme!  Perhaps you’ve heard of me?
Heliolisk: …yes.  Yes I have. [to Magneton] Larry, initiate routine Clemont-Alpha-Zero.
Magneton: EXECUTING.  BREEEEEEEEEEP!  RED ALERT!  BREEEEEEEEEP!  ALL AVAILABLE UNITS TO NORTHWEST GATE!  EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN IN EFFECT!  BREEEEEEEEEEP!  RED ALERT!
Daku: What is this!?  Stand down at once; I demand to speak to your commander!
Heliolisk: I am the high commander of Lumiose City’s Pokémon defenders, and all of you are under arrest on suspicion of involvement in multiple recent catastrophes, including the sabotage of the Lumiose Power Plant!  Now, are you going to come quietly, or do we have to make this ugly?
Spruce: Well, um-
Martial: If legitimate civic authorities wish to detain us, we have no choice but to-
Ruby: BA-HAHAHAHAHAHA!  Perhaps I didn’t make myself clear, lizard!  You are speaking to the sorceress supreme!  Prepare to feel the wrath of my awesome magical power!
Daku: For once, we are in agreement!  I will not be imprisoned by some barely-UU petty officer!
Heliolisk: Oh goody.  Larry!  Combat pattern Clemont-Omega-Two!  Let’s smoke these terrorists!

Continue reading “X Nuzlocke, episode 12: The Devil I Know”

The Bare Essentials

The secret level of Lysandre Labs doesn’t live up to Malva’s hype.  After she lets me in (hinting, as she leaves, that this fulfils her end of some kind of shadowy bargain Looker made with her), I find that it is laid out in exactly the same way as the main floor of the complex, though with most of the rooms blocked off and disused, and is guarded only by a couple of scientists and the members of the Lumiose Gang, who were apparently hired as security on Emma’s recommendation.  Their leader, Nix, is stationed outside a storeroom waiting impatiently for his shift to end, and suggests that we rummage through the place together to see what it is that’s so important for him to protect.  Truly, Nix, you are a model of professionalism; I, an unauthorised intruder in your workplace, will gladly help you loot the storeroom you were hired to guard.  The stolen Pokéballs are here, along with Xerosic’s notes on the “Expansion Suit,” which has four major functions.  Two are comparatively innocuous: it grants its wearer superhuman strength and the ability to change his or her physical appearance at will (using technology based on the natural abilities of Ditto and Kecleon).  It also contains a remote transmitter that allows the suit to be controlled from the comfort of the lab while the wearer is kept unconscious, which explains Emma’s behaviour while acting as Essentia, but makes me wonder why Xerosic didn’t just… y’know, build a robot.  What does the unconscious ‘pilot’ contribute here?  Perhaps the control is intended as a failsafe in the event that an operative goes rogue on a mission, which, given the kind of people that Xerosic tends to associate with, is a distinct possibility.

Then there’s the fourth function.  “A hacking cable on the neck piece allows the wearer to upload a computer virus to Pokéballs and override their systems.  This provides access to control the Pokémon.  The virus also magnifies the Pokémon’s power.”  Wait, wha- how…?  What?  Hacking the Pokéball makes the Pokémon more powerful?  How is that even supposed to work?  I… guess if it’s implied that the Pokémon are stored as data then you could just program the virus to edit the data, but what makes a Pokémon ‘powerful’ is a multifaceted and highly subjective thing.  Notice that I find this so bizarre that I am entirely passing over the implication that control of the Pokéball grants control of the Pokémon, no questions asked, which would normally occasion multiple paragraphs of inane claptrap on my part.  We’re talking about altering dozens of physiological parameters (physical strength of various different muscles, reaction times, perception, durability of skin and bone, mental processing speed, countless bizarre things specific to different species like a Fire-type’s core temperature or a Psychic-type’s telekinetic strength), many of them linked to brain chemistry, in ways that could be crippling or even fatal if pushed too far – and he’s written a computer program that will automate this process, applying it to any individual of any species on the fly?  If it actually works, which I suddenly doubt, then this is either Nobel Prize-worthy stuff or some kind of magic.  And if you can do all that, reliably and safely, why stop there?  Couldn’t the same technology be used to give Pokémon moves and abilities they wouldn’t normally be able to obtain, or even change their species?  Yes, I answer on Xerosic’s behalf; yes, I think it probably could.

Yoink.

According to his notes, Xerosic initially envisioned having Emma test the suit while conscious, but hit an unexpected snag.  Emma is not a trainer in the normal sense of the word and owns no Pokémon – apparently he somehow forgot to mention in his job ad that this was a requirement.  As a stop-gap measure, Xerosic took on the role of Emma’s instructor, and let her use his own Pokémon while testing the Expansion Suit, but found that his normally disciplined, ruthless Crobat and Malamar became playful and easily distracted while in her care.  In order to get anything done at all, he had to use the suit’s remote link capability to put Emma to sleep and control Essentia himself.  While the tone of his notes is normally clinical and his intentions are plainly malevolent, Xerosic does seem to be genuinely concerned for Emma’s safety in these trials, even suspending further experimentation after the incident with Looker in the alleyway because he was no longer certain she would be unharmed (although Emma herself reported only that she had had a nightmare).  She’s turning him soft.

Nix is disappointed that there are only Pokéballs and documents in the storeroom, since he promised Looker he would never take another person’s Pokéball again (the implication, I can only assume, is that if there were anything else there he would gladly swipe it).  To his delight, however, a bell sounds to signal the end of his shift, and he leaves immediately.  “Be sure to shut the place when you go!” he says cheerily to the unauthorised child in the top secret room he was assigned to guard.  Something tells me the Lumiose Gang just aren’t cut out for honest work.  As he leaves, Xerosic enters the room and walks right past me, muttering to himself about the failure of his remote control and whether he could strengthen his grip on Essentia without hurting Emma.  Suddenly realising who I am, he decides that defeating me will prove that his project has been a success and calls Essentia.  This is the kick-off for a whole string of battles with the robot ninja, using all of the Pokémon she has brought against me so far in sequence.  Essentia is supposedly ramping up the potency of her Pokéball jack’s virus with every defeat, but exactly what effect this is having, if any, is unclear.  Three battles in, Looker and Mimi arrive and attempt to wake up Emma, but Xerosic crows that he, not Emma, is the one controlling Essentia, and turns his remote up to eleven.  Essentia keeps fighting, this time with Xerosic’s own Malamar and Crobat, but becomes incoherent and appears to be in terrible pain.  Looker continues to evoke The Power Of Friendship, to no avail – Essentia is paralysed by her internal struggle.  Xerosic stares, wordless, as she clutches her head and screams.  Eventually he gives a hint of a sigh and says “remote control… power down.   Deactivate.”

And just like that, everything is okay.  Emma wakes up with a loud yawn and takes control of the suit, apparently no worse for wear and slightly disappointed to learn that Xerosic is ending their trials and won’t be requiring her services any longer.  That, apparently, is that, and Emma, Mimi and I are dismissed to go and get something to eat while Looker talks things over with Xerosic.  In a cutscene in Looker’s office, Xerosic obligingly confirms that Essentia, under his control, was behind both the vandalism of the art museum and the recent Pokéball thefts.  He praises Emma’s talent, dedication and vision, claiming that his research could never have succeeded without her, but firmly denies that she bears any responsibility for her actions while unconscious in the Expansion Suit or even that she has any memory of them.  Looker formally instructs Xerosic to accompany him to the police station once he has everything in order… and then invites him to dinner, because he is Emma’s friend.

Ohhhhh no.  NO no no.  Looker, I let you adopt the homeless gang leader, and I let you invite her psychotic friends over for play-dates, but you are not going to Disney your way out of this one.  This man is legitimately evil and insane, and his obvious affection for Emma does not excuse his wanton exploitation of her for criminal ends – which, need I remind you, is far from the worst thing on his record!  And this is coming from ME!

What do you mean “I’m not even in this scene”?  I’m the narrator of this play-through, thank you very much!

Oh, whatever!

A couple of days later, when Looker is supposed to be ending his fake hospital visit, Emma and I receive a letter from him, in which he confesses to Emma his Interpol allegiance and his real reason for being in Kalos: to apprehend Xerosic.  With his mission accomplished, it’s time for him to return to… wherever the hell he comes from.  To me, he leaves his precious code name, “Looker,” and to Emma and Mimi, he leaves the office, so that they will always have a place to live.

You’re… leaving me your… code name?

Oh, HELL no; I am NOT going to rule Kalos with an iron fist burdened with THAT piece of $#!t.  Emma, Mimi and I split up to find him and prevent this atrocity.  Following a tip from Nix, I visit the art museum, where the damaged painting has been restored.  Whoo.  Meanwhile, Xerosic contacts Emma to summon us all to Lysandre Café.  When we arrive, Looker is questioning him to make absolutely sure all of the Pokéballs stolen by Essentia have been returned.  Their train is about to leave, and he is anxious to make sure there are no more loose ends.  Well, sorry, Looker, you missed one – and she’s here to confront you about it.  Emma demands to know why he has to leave, and then suggests that she and Mimi go with him to continue as his assistants.  That… wait, that might actually work; he has already started training her, right?  But no – Looker is so anxious to get rid of Emma that he decides to promote her to head of the Looker Bureau on the spot just to have an excuse to leave her behind.  Emma, to her credit, sees through his bull$#!t immediately and turns to me for support.  “Emma, please,” Looker cuts in, “I must ask you to respect the necessity of my decision.  Chris understands perfectly why I must go.  It is the way of partners.  He is my partner.  We understand each other.”  Why, that little-!

“No way.  Listen, Looker, leaving a lonely sixteen-year-old hobo in charge of a private detective agency because you can’t take responsibility for your recent insane decision to adopt and employ her may only make you the second-worst person in this room-”

“And which one of us would be the first, your imperial majesty?” Xerosic asks innocently.

“…okay, make that the third-worst person in this room, but-” Mimi gives a discreet little cough to draw my attention.  I sigh.  “The fourth-worst…” I glance at Emma, mentally weighing her recent actions as Essentia and her probable record as an inner city gang leader.  “…you know what?  F#$% it; do whatever you want.”  I slouch grimly over to a chair, muttering “you’ll all be my slaves one day anyway.”

“Well…” Xerosic murmurs, “I suppose that answers that question.”  He turns to Emma and offers her a gift – the Expansion Suit, minus its remote control function, as well as his Pokémon partners – so that she can become a masked superhero and defend Lumiose City from evil.  And then, just like that, they’re off.  Emma, vibrant soul that she is, shakes off her melancholy and pledges to do her best to keep her home safe as the new head of the Looker Bureau.

Wait… Xerosic said he took out the Expansion Suit’s transmitter (and, well, he easily could have been flat-out lying, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he was sincere), but he said nothing about the Pokéball jack.  That, I’ve got to assume, is still in there, with all its nebulously defined, potentially horrifying, and tremendously versatile functions.  And now Emma has it.  Emma who,need I remind you, is a sixteen-year-old street gang leader.  Emma whose best friend is a telepathic cat who hates adult humans.  Emma who in a few short weeks earned the respect, the admiration even, of one of the most dramatically evil villains in the history of the Pokémon franchise.  And… come to think of it, do we have any proof, beyond Xerosic’s word, that Emma had no control over her actions as Essentia?

I see no way this could possibly go wrong.

Robot Ninja Bandit Zombie Pirate Shapeshifter

Our next mission has arrived!  Kind of!  Well, no-one has actually hired us, or for that matter even inquired about hiring us, but there’s been a break-in and some vandalism at the Lumiose Art Museum, and Looker has decided to investigate.  Considering how massively strapped for cash he apparently is, Looker is mighty keen on spontaneous pro bono work.  Anyway, he sends me to the museum, conveniently just around the corner, to force our services on the unsuspecting staff.  I find the vandalised painting on the third floor, covered by a broad squiggle of sky-blue spray paint.

…well, it looks like a perfectly fine piece of modern art to me.  Maybe that’s just my disdain for the blandness of Kalosian art, though.  I say as much to the director, and find to my surprise that he agrees with me.  Something about a statement of rebellion against authority.  He even muses that the defacement has drawn publicity for the museum, but is concerned that trying to restore the painting could even make things worse (he’s absolutely right, by the way).  Though mystified at how the tagger got inside, he makes no indication of wishing to hire an investigator.  Oh, well.  I’m sure Looker will find some bat-s#!t reason to take the case on anyway.

…but no.  By the time I get back to the office, Looker’s attention has been caught by a completely different crime: a string of Pokéball thefts in Lumiose City’s alleyways, the thief normally striking in the moment of inattentiveness after a battle ends.  They are thought to be the work of a single individual, but apparently there are no consistent reports of what this person looks like, or even whether it’s a man or a woman.  Um… wait, what exactly is making us think it’s a single individual, then?  Oh, whatever.  Looker, as always, has a cunning plan: he suggests that, since I have plenty of enticing Pokémon, I can act as bait for our mysterious bandit.  Yes.  As the famous destroyer of Team Flare and the most powerful trainer in the Kalos region, I am an ideal choice to be the bait for these criminals who prey on the weak and helpless.  Looker, immune as always to my perennial sarcasm, is delighted at my assent to the plan, which we set into motion at once.  Entering the nearest alley, I am quickly challenged to a battle by an elegant middle-aged woman with a Jellicent and a Volcarona – clearly a skilled trainer, but nothing exceptional… until the end of a battle when, with a flash of blinding light, she turns into a lithe, inscrutable figure completely concealed by some kind of black jumpsuit and an orange perspex visor, speaking with a harsh, synthetic sounding voice, almost like a robot.

…Viscountess Julia the robot maid, is that you?

Looker bursts into the alleyway to confront my assailant before she (he? it?) has a chance to make a grab for my Pokéballs.  “OBSTRUCTION DETECTED.  PROCESS JEOPARDIZED.  RELOCATE HUNTING GROUND,” the figure decides, before springing with lighting speed onto the roof of a nearby building and dashing away across the rooftops.  Okay.  The keen detecting skills I have learned from Looker are suggesting to me that I might not be dealing with a typical Pokémon rustler here.  Looker seems to think that trying our plan again in a different alleyway may get us another shot at apprehending the rogue, and despite my habitual scepticism I agree to give it a shot – this time coming up against a little girl with a Whimsicott, a Mawile, and a Granbull.  She too appears to be only another face of the robot ninja we are hunting, who is again chased off pretty quickly by Looker’s intervention.  A third alleyway yields not another of our enemy’s guises, but one of her victims – a young Black Belt who was enthralled by her beauty and had his Pokémon snatched away.  He does manage to give Looker enough information to point us towards another alley, though, sending me dashing across the city once again to put my life and Pokémon on the line in the pursuit of… *shudder*… justice.

…if this robo-chick is Emma using a personal holo-field and a voice synthesiser I am going to be so pissed.

In the fourth alley, I am challenged by a beautiful young woman, perhaps the same visage who appeared to the Black Belt.  She now seems to have all but abandoned her pretence of being an innocent member of the public, and challenges me right away with a powerful Persian.  When she loses, she again reveals her true form and attacks, and again is confronted by Looker.  This time, though, she seems to have decided that any risk involved in engaging him is worth being rid of us, and threatens to “eradicate” him.  Looker, plucky and clueless as he is, threatens her right back with his skill as a fist-fighter.  I quietly suggest to him, my hand slowly reaching for Xerneas’ Pokéball, that anyone using the verb “eradicate” is probably thinking of a slightly more sophisticated level of combat than fisticuffs.  Before we can get down to eradication, though, Mimi the Espurr rushes into the alley… and jumps enthusiastically to greet the robot ninja, smiling as she smiles for only one person…

Wha- THAT WAS A F$#%ING JOKE!  How am I supposed to make jokes when the plot is just as crazy as anything I can come up with!?

…WHAT KIND OF BAT-F#$% INSANE PART-TIME JOB DID SHE APPLY FOR!?

…then again, I gotta say; I’m not normally into chicks but the whole shapeshifting cyborg assassin thing is kinda hot.

The robot ninja denies that she has any familiarity with Mimi, or that she is Emma, calling herself “Essentia.”  She tries to “eradicate” Mimi, but Looker heroically causes the screen to fade to black so he can absorb the attack, and tries to get through to Emma, presumably reasoning that she is under some kind of compulsion (or she could be doing this entirely of her own will… I mean, she was a gang leader, and as backstabs go, I have to admit this one has me in awe).  This only causes Essentia to go haywire, give an unholy robotic screech, and retreat to the rooftops.  Well.  That certainly happened.  Looker tells me he means to check into hospital to sort his injury, but secretly reveals to Mimi in a cutscene that he is leaving on an especially dangerous mission.  A few hours later, I get a call on my holo-caster from Emma, and hurry to the office to find her.  She gives no indication of awareness that anything is the slightest bit unusual, other than concern for Looker, and dashes off to get back to her “job” before I can tell her she’s grounded.  What’s more, before I can pursue her, I am interrupted by a butler who seems to be interested in hiring us, but wants to check out my strength first… despite apparently knowing that I am the Champion.  I punish him and his Braviary for their insolence, and he reveals that he is a former member of Team Flare, like the mistress who sent him – one of the scientists, I can only assume, maybe Aliana?  She is waiting for me in the penthouse suite of the famed Hotel Richissime.  I am told to hurry, since the man’s mistress does not like to be kept waiting… so, naturally, I go for a walk, get some fresh air, buy some Lumiose Galettes for my Pokémon, and stay a while at the Café Triste for a light afternoon meal.  For members of an organisation I destroyed, these two have a frightfully poor notion of the respect I am due.  Once I feel appropriately rested, I head for the penthouse…

…and come face to face with the Elite Four’s Fire Pokémon Master, Malva.

Furious at being kept waiting, Malva demands a one-on-one battle before she will even speak to me.  I indulge her and destroy her Pyroar with Orion’s Aura Sphere, leaving her smouldering but prepared to talk.  Malva confirms that Essentia is Emma, wearing a special suit invented by none other than Xerosic, Team Flare’s chief scientist.  Malva wants me to get rid of Xerosic for tarnishing the honour of Team Flare with petty crimes – she claims that, despite our disagreements, they were always doing what they believed was right, while Xerosic is just plain evil.  In exchange for this service, she offers to lead me to the secret level in Lysandre Labs where he does his work.  As I turn to leave, she warns me, almost as an afterthought, “be prepared to face death if you go.”

…WOW.  Interesting tone for a Pokémon game, don’t you think, Malva?

Remind me to fire her (pun most maliciously intended).  Anyone who still believes in the rightness of Lysandre’s insane self-aggrandising mission will not be serving on my Elite Four, nor can anyone so recklessly insubordinate be trusted with an important role in my insane self-aggrandising mission.  Perhaps Serena could replace her; she does have a Fire-type partner, after all…

Ridiculous quote log:

“Museum staff said that security is very tight and breaking into the museum is impossible.”
…much as I try to refrain from telling random Kalosians how to do their jobs, if your security team is telling you that a break-in is impossible in the aftermath of a break-in, it’s time to find a new security team.

“She’s no Pokémon, yet she can use Transform!”
As always, Looker, your observational skills are second to none.

Looking for Trouble

I arrive at the formerly vacant office off Rouge Plaza and come face to face with its new occupant.  My first thought is “oh, no; not this idiot again,” followed closely by “didn’t I kill him?” and shortly after that by “oh, gods, why didn’t I kill him?”  The man in question is none other than Looker, the Interpol agent who has been hounding the steps of the Pokémon world’s villains since Platinum, partially responsible (in, I must stress, the most vague and advisory of capacities) for the arrest of Team Galactic’s chief scientist, Charon, and six of Team Plasma’s Seven Sages (I choose to believe he was responsible for failing to stop the Shadow Triad from rescuing the seventh, Ghetsis).  Now he has come to Paris to start a detective agency, and has a proposal for me: he wants me to be his partner in this affair.  I look him in the eye and give him my flattest, driest “no.”  Unfortunately, Looker has the persistence of a Professor asking for help with a Pokédex, and I am eventually forced, after several hours of conversation, to say “yes,” just to make him shut up.  My first assignment – to ‘train’ me and make sure I have what it takes to be a hard-boiled, steel-jawed, gum-shoed, cliché-slinging idiot – is to retrieve five sparkly tickets from around Lumiose City, having been told by Looker exactly where they all are.  With an exaggerated sigh, I go after one and send my Pokémon after the other four.  Looker is astonished at the speed with which I have accomplished his task, and proposes that we set out on our first mission: investigate reports of Lumiose children spending more and more time in dark alleyways, against the wishes of their parents.

“So,” I think to myself as I hunt the children down, “it has come to this.  Investigating a street gang of French preschoolers.  This is the life you chose.”  My optimism, lurking deep in a black corner of my soul, responds, “oh, come on; some of them were at least ten.  And did you see the size of that Swinub the six-year-old had?”  I tell my optimism to shut up; things are getting interesting.  The leader of the gang is not a child at all, but a Pokémon: a somewhat temperamental Espurr named Mimi, whose human mouthpiece is a girl whose name we later learn is Emma.  Looker initially assumes that Emma is Mimi’s trainer and asks her to recall her Pokémon, but Emma objects, somewhat indignantly, that she doesn’t need to be a trainer or use Pokéballs to be friends with a Pokémon (I’m sure the weight of this sentiment doesn’t need to be explained).  As it turns out, the reason the children have been spending so much time in the alleys of late is that this is where their friends Emma and Mimi live.  Emma is apparently an orphan, and Mimi has no trainer.  While sympathetic, Looker still needs to wrap up the case and earn his commission, so he comes up with a “genius plan”: have Emma and Mimi live at the Looker Bureau as his assistants.  Oh, yes!  By all means!  Invite the homeless gang leader and her telepathic cat to live in our officeThere is no way this could possibly go wrong.  Mimi is initially reticent, and Emma will not abandon her, but I am assigned to befriend Mimi, and manage to bring her around with my inimitable charm, melodious singing voice, and kickin’ dance moves.  All’s well that ends well.  Apparently.

Our next client is a Japanese tourist who arrives at the office while Emma is out.  She speaks no French (…or English… or whatever it is that we’re supposed to be speaking), but Looker honestly believes he speaks Japanese and gets the impression that she is offended because no-one has offered her tea yet.  While he’s out getting her some, Emma and Mimi arrive home.  Emma does speak fluent Japanese (…as all French hobos do) and on top of that Mimi has some kind of empathic communication power, so that I can understand, if not the precise meaning of their speech, at least their general tenor: the Japanese woman (who is very insulting about both Looker and Emma) has had her Pokémon stolen by thugs at Lumiose Station.  When Looker returns, Emma explains the situation and recommends that we refuse the job on the grounds that the woman is so unpleasant (I’m starting to like this kid), besides which, the people who are probably responsible – the Lumiose Gang – are familiar to her, and are as nasty as they come.  Looker is outraged at the very suggestion and leaves immediately.  Emma begs me to follow, since Looker doesn’t even have any Pokémon and can’t possibly go toe-to-toe with the Lumiose Gang (he’s mentioned having a Pokémon partner once, but lost it on a mission long ago – I seem to remember him having a Croagunk on Platinum).  I question Emma’s willingness to put me in danger when she was so worried about letting Looker go, but she turns on the waterworks and says Looker has confided to her that I make him feel like he has his lost partner back.  I grumble that I’m doing this for the Pokémon, not for them, and head for Lumiose Station.

I arrive to find Looker doing his darndest to talk the Lumiose Gang down before they realise he has no Pokémon (not so much akin to bringing a knife to a gunfight, as to bringing a bit of an old bone to the Battle of the Somme).  Luckily for him, the three gangsters are not exactly Champion material (despite their fearsome names: Eris, for the Greek goddess of strife and discord, Sedna, for the dark and vengeful Inuit goddess of the deep ocean, and Nix, for the Greek primordial goddess of night, Nyx – that last one is a dude, incidentally).  As I finish destroying them, Emma turns up and demands that the fighting stop – and they listen, because Emma is the boss of the Lumiose Gang.  I remain astonished by Looker’s taste in friends.  For what it’s worth, she never wanted to be the boss; they just kind of decided she should be after she wiped the floor with them in a battle.  What – with Mimi?  For an Espurr, she’s pretty damn clever and powerful, but really?  What’s more, it turns out they only stole the tourist’s Pokémon to get Looker’s attention, because they wanted their gang leader back.  Much as she tries to deny any interest, Emma has some pretty serious underworld clout!  Again, I question her decision-making processes and wonder, under my breath, why she didn’t just talk to the gang herself rather than put Looker in danger, but I’m beginning to think this chick might actually be worth having around – how often do you meet a teenaged French hobo who speaks fluent Japanese, commands the respect of a ruthless street gang, and is apparently some kind of Pokémon training prodigy to rival… well, me?  Looker, again showcasing his truly unique people skills, invites the Lumiose Gang to visit Emma any time they like, provided they swear to reform and commit no more wickedness, which they obligingly do.

Back at the office, Emma is becoming concerned that she and Mimi have been living with Looker, with free rent and board, for some weeks now and doing very little work.  I assure her that this is no problem, as Looker himself has been living there for much longer and has yet to do any work at all.  Looker too encourages her not to worry, since he has plenty of money saved up – a lie, and an utterly transparent one at that – and her studies are more important at her age anyway.  Learning how to be a detective is work, in his book.  Emma is unconvinced.  Without telling Looker, she begins searching for part-time work in Lumiose City.  I nearly suggest that she simply borrow an Amulet Coin and start challenging Gyms with Mimi, since the prize money will surely be much greater than whatever she could scrounge from battles in the alleys (presumably her previous source of income), but the thought occurs that she will probably be more useful if kept out of the public eye and allowed to maintain her underworld contacts in Lumiose City.  You never know when you might need a way in with the gangs…

Ridiculous quote log:

…all of it.  Just… all of it.

Reconciliation

Professor Sycamore has organised a parade.

I learn this from Diantha as she enters me and my Pokémon in the Hall of Fame.  This must be the ‘surprise’ he mentioned preparing when we last met in Couriway Town.  Well, what better way to announce my newfound supremacy to the peasants of Kalos?  When we arrive in Lumiose City, vast crowds are lining the main boulevards, cheering for the ‘defenders of Kalos.’  A red carpet has been laid out for me and my rivals, leading to a shining white stage where Professor Sycamore is waiting.  He delivers some saccharine bit of oratory about the wonder of our achievements in defeating Team Flare, for which the crowd goes wild, of course, and presents me (and only me, I note with approval) with a red, white and blue medal: the Honour of Kalos.  Sycamore’s influence never ceases to amaze.  As far as I can tell, he has closed down several major Lumiose City streets, convinced several thousand people to show up for the parade, and arranged for me to be awarded a prestigious national honour, pretty much on a whim.  I remember why I’m here, and prepare to launch into a speech of my own, but the words freeze in my throat.  There is someone else on the red carpet.  AZ.  “Battle me,” he requests.  “I want to know what a ‘trainer’ is.”  I respectfully submit to him that it’s really not that difficult a concept, but agree anyway.  What’s the harm?  I wasn’t aware AZ even had any Pokémon, having lost his partner so long ago, but apparently he’s actually quite powerful, with a high-level Torkoal, Golurk and Sigilyph (sensible choices, in his position – Torkoal are very long-lived, while Golurk and Sigilyph, I suspect, are biologically immortal).  Of course, I just defeated the Champion, and although AZ has millennia of experience, he’s a little worse for wear.  My Pokémon overcome his with little difficulty.  He seems satisfied though, and smiles for the first time since I met him, saying that the delight of our battle has finally allowed him to overcome the sorrow of his terrible crimes.  Well, fair enough.  Three thousand years is an awfully long time to regret something.  There is sudden a flash of light in the sky, above AZ’s head, and something floats down towards him.  I squint against the sunlight, and the vague shape slowly resolves into a diminutive humanoid, holding an elaborate staff, or… a flower.  AZ’s eyes widen as he recognises his Floette descending on the wind.  She comes to rest in his outstretched hands and smiles at him, and before the eyes of the whole city, the ancient king begins to weep with joy.  Professor Sycamore waxes lyrical about how returning AZ to his old self made his partner come back to him, and the crowd cheers.  Well.  So much for my parade.  Upstaged by a hobo and a halfway-evolved Fairy Pokémon… sometimes I wonder whether this region deserves the glory of my conquest…

As the parade disperses, I wander around Lumiose City for a while.  I am kicked out of a sushi restaurant for being a ‘greenhorn’ and told to come back when I’m a ‘high roller.’  I vow to destroy them and ban sushi in my empire.  I instead exploit my newfound Champion status to have dinner at the acclaimed and highly exclusive Restaurant Le Wow, which reminds me why I have always found Kalosian cuisine utterly terrifying, even if it is considered a national treasure.  I run into Professor Sycamore, who gives me a pass for the train to sunny Kiloude City, which is Lyon.  Lyon houses the regional elite battle facility, the Battle Maison, which is run by four sisters known as the Battle Chateleines, responsible for single, double, triple and rotation battles, respectively.  It works much like the Battle Tower or Subway, but streamlined – you earn battle points after every battle (thank the gods – earning enough points in the Battle Subway to do almost anything worthwhile had come to be such a chore), and can take a break at any time, rather than having to complete a series of seven matches.  I note these little courtesies with approval, and spend an afternoon there, earning the notice of the youngest Chateleine, Nita, and defeating her in an introductory battle.  The city is also home to a curious little area called the Friend Safari – given how late I am to the party, my readers are doubtless all familiar with the wonders of this attraction already, but an explanation cannot hurt.  The Friend Safari is a checkerboard of paddocks where wild Pokémon can be battled and captured – one area for every friend you have registered, each with two or three different species of wild Pokémon, some of whom (if the locals are to be believed) may have their Dream World abilities.  If you’ve bothered to read this much of my inane prattle, then you are surely a loyal minion, and worthy of my ‘friendship,’ if so it can be called, and so my code is as follows: 2036-6563-2537 (I have no idea what my Friend Safari area contains, but doubtless someone will tell us all in the comments).

Serena challenges me to a battle once again, promising me I’m in for a surprise – and I am!  Not only does she now have six Pokémon, she’s been working hard, and their levels are even higher than mine!  I have Orion use Calm Mind to boost up against her Meowstic and knock it out with a Shadow Ball, before coming face to face with a Clefable.  Fighting back my instinct to whack it with an Aura Sphere, I use Shadow Ball again, but its almighty fatness is too much; it survives with more than half of its health remaining (albeit with a special defence penalty) and finishes Orion with Focus Blast.  I have Xerneas wrap things up with a Moonblast, and then decide to go for a Geomancy against Serena’s Jolteon.  Her second Thunder attack misses, and I find myself in a very happy position indeed.  Even Serena’s mighty Delphox, with its resistance to most of Xerneas’ attacks, cannot stop his Moonblasts, and Altaria finds itself similarly imperilled.  Finally, out comes Absol, and- what’s this?  Serena has a Digivice!  Her Absol explodes with light and sprouts angelic wings – before being blown away rather anticlimactically by another Moonblast.  Evidently Mega Absol doesn’t gain anything that confers resistance to Fairy attacks.  I sigh.   It’s been a long time since I’ve seriously used a legendary Pokémon – I’d forgotten how dramatically they tip the balance of battles.  For the first time, I feel a little bit unsporting about crushing Serena with every ounce of my power; she has clearly been training a great deal.  She doesn’t let this get her down, though; in fact, she even hands over a spare Absolite she found.  “Maybe it will help show Lysandre there’s something to be hopeful for.”  Okay, so we’re definitely saying he’s alive, then?  That’s definitely what’s going on here?  She declines to expand on her statement, simply informing me that Professor Sycamore is in Anistar City and wants to talk to me about my Digivice.  Well, much as Anistar City unsettles me, with its illusionary Gym and impossible sea, this is probably important… I stop by the Kiloude Pokémon Centre, retrieve Tereus, and fly there at once.

I find Sycamore waiting for me in front of the Anistar Sundial.  He has some exposition for me: after further study, he has come to believe that the Mega Stones were created by the light of the Ultimate Weapon when it was first used, three thousand years ago, and may have been evolutionary stones originally, that have taken on their new powers by being irradiated with Xerneas’ energy.  The mysterious sundial crystal has some relationship to the stones as well, but he doesn’t quite understand what yet.  Due to my experiences in Geosenge Town and subsequent attunement to Xerneas, I should possess some of the same energy – which will do something interesting if I touch the sundial.  Without hesitation, I reach out with the arm I wear my Digivice on.  There is a flash of brilliant light, and Sycamore gives a satisfied smile.  My Digivice has been upgraded, he tells me, and can now sense buried Mega Stones – but only for an hour each day, while the sundial is glowing with the light of the setting sun.  I shrug.  I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth – power is power, restricted or no.  Professor Sycamore leaves me to my thoughts.  A bit listless now, I fly back to Lumiose City for another look around… and immediately get a call on my holo-caster.  Someone wants to meet me.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Meow, meow, I can haz battle, meow? (Ugh, I really sound like a fool, don’t I?)”
…are we really going there?  Really? (And yes, yes you do.)

“We begin with a vintage 3000-year-old Rare Bone, boiled for 100 days in pristine snow melted from Kalos’s fine Frost Cavern.”
…uh… look, not to sound ungrateful, but I really don’t want to eat that… and… hey, where the hell did you even get a 3000-year-old Rare Bone?  There is no way this is legal.

“…a pristinely prepared item in a light velouté sauce harvested from-”
Look, sorry, I’m going to cut you off right there – item?  I am not taking one bite of this until you tell me what the hell you just served me!

The Liberator of Men

I get the call as I stand outside the Anistar Gym.  It’s time for the main event.

Lysandre has sent out a broadcast to all the trainers of Kalos via their Holo-Casters: as leader of Team Flare (Gasp!  Can it be true?  He seemed so nice!), he is putting into motion their plan to create a beautiful new world at last.  This plan involves the annihilation of Kalos’ entire population in a conflagration of epic proportions from which only Team Flare will be spared.  Well, that… is a bit more extreme than I thought he would be aiming for, I admit; I was anticipating something of a more ambiguous John-Keats-Ode-on-a-Grecian-Urn-perfection-through-stasis kind of deal but hey, it wouldn’t be a Pokémon plot if we didn’t have to prevent the apocalypse, right?  Okay; let’s get this show on the road, people!  To Paris!

Luckily, Lysandre is the least subtle person in the world and is putting his plan into motion from the laboratory which shares his name, beneath the café in Lumiose City which also shares his name.  The wait staff at the café are members of Team Flare, and try to stop me from entering, which goes about as well as might be expected.

“Oh no!  He’ll find out the password to the hidden door in this café is ‘open sesame’!”

…okay, well, I was going to torture it out of you but I guess this works too.  Y’know, as long as we’re all disappointing me today.  I enter Lysandre Labs through the secret door, and Lysandre himself appears.  That’s… refreshingly direct.  Lysandre explains that he once wanted to save everyone, but is no longer concerned with that – the world has only so much in the way of resources and space, and too many people are too willing to squander it, so he’s just going to wipe out everyone who isn’t in his club.  He still seems open to the possibility of my joining him, but I shake my head and sigh that he just doesn’t get what I’m all about.  Lysandre challenges me, opening with a Mienfoo who loses to Odysseus, but not before delivering a pretty brutal Hi Jump Kick which leaves him wide open to Lysandre’s next and strongest Pokémon, a powerful Gyarados.  Gyarados locks itself into Outrage while finishing my Clawitzer, giving me the opportunity to send in Orion to weather its attacks, take advantage of its confusion to grab a Calm Mind boost, Digivolve and blow away Lysandre’s remaining Pokémon – a Murkrow and a Pyroar (the first male Pyroar I’ve seen – and a very impressive one it is too; it matches his hair very nicely).  Far from being upset, Lysandre is delighted at my skill and invites me to invade his lab, challenge his scientists for possession of an elevator key, and join him below in the basement to stop him if I can.  If nothing else, he’s certainly one of the most polite villains I’ve ever met.

Lysandre Labs is a very traditional Team Rocket-esque warp panel maze.  Here I meet all four of the Team Flare scientists.  Aliana just seems excited to battle me again.  Celosia and Bryony (are these two, like, a thing?  I feel like these two are girlfriends or something) have apparently forgotten me but are nice enough to explain after being defeated that the menhirs of Geosenge Town are the graves of Pokémon whose life force fuelled the ultimate weapon the last time it was used, three thousand years ago (what did I tell you?  Ritual!), and will fuel it again today.  Mable, finally, claims that since both my Digivice and Lysandre’s ultimate weapon maximise a Pokémon’s power, we really want the same thing.  Well, not exactly; I feel there are certain important differences, like how the ultimate weapon destroys all civilisation while my Digivice makes Pokémon go pink and sparkly… which makes me feel rather inferior, when you put it that way.  I take out my frustrations on Mable, who coughs up the elevator key when defeated.  I also run into Left and Right, doing their superhero thing, and apparently searching for a mysterious tall man, also sought by Team Flare for purposes unknown.  They are doing this on the instructions of Professor Sycamore, who is trying to stop Lysandre using his “network of acquaintances.”  Professor Sycamore… who is one of Lysandre’s closest friends.  Ouch.  I wonder how he’s taking all of this.  As I muse on this, I stumble upon what appears to be Lysandre’s research library.  Well, I am kinda busy… but on the other hand, books and backstory… The ultimate weapon, as we know, was created three thousand years ago by a Kalosian king.  This king, I learn here, was named AZ (yes, with a capital Z), who was “both the beginning and the end,” and united Kalos with his futuristic technology.  The famous war was between AZ and his brother (Lysandre’s ancestor, if memory serves), who wanted to conquer Kalos, and resulted in the death of AZ’s Pokémon partner, which sent him into a deep depression and caused him to use the ultimate weapon to end the war.  AZ’s brother changed his mind about his conquest after seeing the devastation this caused, and buried the weapon, while AZ himself disappeared, taking the device’s key with him.  The texts describing the weapon conclude: “that is something to be used by sophisticated powers, not by humans.  Human beings must create a world where such a weapon is unnecessary…”  Indeed, Lysandre’s own notes on the subject decide that “this is something best not left to man… I must use a tool of higher power.”  He’s got quite an ego on him, acknowledging the significance of the powers he’s tampering with but doing it anyway.  Do I detect just a hint of a messiah complex here?

Back at the elevator, I descend to the next floor, where I find Lysandre standing in front of a prison cell.  Inside is… the old guy!  The one from outside Lumiose City, who was looking for the ‘flower Pokémon’!  I had totally forgotten about him!  Only the… thing from around his neck is missing… the… thing that looked kind of like a… key…

…uh-oh.

Lysandre confirms that this is, indeed, AZ (well, Lysandre only says that he has the same name as the ancient king, but let’s face it, it would hardly be the weirdest thing that’s happened this week if it were really the same guy).  He tells his story, accompanied by a series of colour images.  Apparently the ultimate weapon wasn’t originally a weapon at all – it was a resurrection machine, created to bring back AZ’s partner, a shiny Floette like mine, but whose flower was a unique black tulip (ah… “the flower Pokémon that was given eternal life”…).  It succeeded, at the cost of the lives of hundreds of other Pokémon, and AZ’s rage subsequently made him twist it into a weapon that slaughtered countless more.  His partner, saddened by his actions, abandoned him – and he’s been looking for her ever since, the weapon’s power having rendered them both immortal.  Well, there you go.  Trying to cheat death does not end well; just ask Orpheus, or Gilgamesh.  Lysandre doesn’t seem interested in taking AZ’s advice to leave the weapon buried, but has an intriguing suggestion: he’ll leave it up to me whether the weapon is used or not.  My interest piqued, I follow him to the next floor of the building, where a fifth and final scientist, a rotund red-haired man in goggles named Xerosic, who seems to have wanted a mohawk but had difficulty committing, is waiting for us.  Lysandre explains his terms: beat Xerosic, who wants a battle to test my skill, and I can decide what happens next.  He then leaves me in the scientist’s capable hands.  Xerosic is stronger than the other scientists, but his Crobat and Malamar still fail to defeat Odysseus and Pytho, so he gleefully explains the game: I can press either the red button or the blue button.  One will activate the ultimate weapon, and the other will shut it down.

But this is so simple!  All I have to do is divine from what I know of Xerosic – is he the sort of person who would have the ultimate weapon be triggered by the blue button or by the red one?  Now, a clever man would have the blue button trigger the weapon, because he would know that only a great fool would press the big red button.  I’m not a great fool, so I clearly cannot press the blue button.  But after all I’ve done to thwart Team Flare he must have known I’m not a great fool – he would have counted on it, so I clearly cannot press the red button.  But then again, blue is the colour of sadness and sorrow, the sorrow that would be brought by the activation of the weapon, so I clearly cannot choose the blue button – and he must have suspected I would have known this, so I clearly cannot press the red button either!  I’ve defeated Team Flare’s minions and his own Pokémon, so Xerosic knows I am exceptionally powerful, and he could have set the red one to trigger the weapon, trusting in my overconfidence to make me push the big red button, so I clearly cannot press this one.  But he is also a genius scientist, which means he must have studied, and in studying he must have learned that red is a colour of warning which my instincts would lead me to avoid, and connected the weapon instead to the blue button, so I clearly cannot press that one either!  Xerosic just smiles serenely at me as I explain all of this, like he thinks he’s keeping his secrets, but he’s given everything away; I know which button activates the weapon!  He’s fallen victim to one of the classic blunders!  The most famous is “never get involved in a land war in Ransei,” but only slightly less well known is this: “never go in against a Pokémaniac when the fate of the world is on the line!”  I stride confidently up to the blue button- and spin around suddenly, pointing towards the stairs behind Xerosic.
“Good lord!” I exclaim, “is that a shiny Chansey?”  He turns and squints in the direction of the stairs, as I dash quickly to the other side of the room, smack the red button with the palm of my hand, and run back to the blue button before he can see me.  Xerosic turns around again and smiles.
“You guessed wrong.”  I throw back my head and cackle gleefully.
“You only think I guessed wrong!  I ran across and pressed the other button while your back was turned, you fool!”
“No,” Xerosic says, “no, you actually did guess wrong.  Just look.  The poisonous flower has bloomed!”  He points at a big monitor hanging on the wall, where the ultimate weapon, an enormous crystal flower, is emerging from the ground beneath Geosenge Town and beginning to gather its dread energies.

…whoops.

Slowly turning back to Xerosic, I smile sweetly at him and ask “Best of three?”

Ridiculous quote log:

“The warp panels transport both happiness and sadness in equal measure.”
I guess that’s true – happiness for me; sadness for you.

Getting Bogged Down

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.