Rivals, part 7: The X/Y Kids

Serena.
Serena

Okay.  Just me this time.  Jim’s played Omega Ruby, but not X or Y, so he’s not terribly familiar with Serena/Calem and the rest of the gang from X and Y.  Let’s… see if I can still write one of these on my own, then.  So, first impressions, then; what do we think of the X/Y rivals?

…right, right; it’s just me.  Bollocks; this is harder than I remember.

Continue reading “Rivals, part 7: The X/Y Kids”

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!

Throne of Games

Victory Road captivates me.  The Pokémon are powerful, of course, and as I make my way through, around and up the mountain I realise that even stronger ones fill the skies – Skarmory and even Hydreigon swoop down to attack me while I navigate the outdoor sections of the corkscrewing path.  That’s only half of what catches my interest, though.  The slopes of the mountain have been terraced extensively, surely a mammoth project, and almost every terrace bears the remains of several imposing walls, sometimes even intact towers.  The settlement here was fortified, and quite heavily.  I wonder how long the Pokémon League has made its home on this mountain, and what connection it might have had to the ruined fortress that protects its slopes.  Like all Pokémon League headquarters, this place is barely accessible even for adept trainers, but it’s not nearly as remote as any of the others I’ve seen, like the Kanto League squirreled away atop the Indigo Plateau, or the Hoenn League in isolated Ever Grande City – in fact, its position on this mountain gives it a commanding aspect over a good chunk of central Kalos.  Someone could come here for seclusion, yes – but it could be a very useful strategic point as well, especially since there seem to be natural springs on the mountain.  A siege would be almost unthinkable.  Were the original owners driven out by the Pokémon League, or did they abandon the citadel of their own accord?  Or perhaps the people who built it were Kalos’ first Pokémon League (although, if so, it’s strange that the walls should be in such disrepair).  As I wander through the ruins, musing and taking notes on something that looks like an altar, I am disturbed by none other than Serena.

Serena has been thinking long and hard about our confrontation with Lysandre beneath Geosenge Town, and has some things to say.  “Lysandre chose only Team Flare.  You and I chose everyone but Team Flare.  But since our positions forced our hands, you can’t really say any of us were right.  So maybe if both sides have something to say, it’s best to meet halfway.”  Yes.  I agree.  We should have used the ultimate weapon to wipe out one half of the people and Pokémon in the world.  That would have been reasonable.  I don’t think Serena has quite thought this through.  This game seems to think that it has successfully portrayed Lysandre as a morally ambiguous villain, but I have to disagree.  After all, neither Ghetsis nor Giovanni ever intended mass genocide (Maxie and Archie might have caused such through their own incompetence, but since it wasn’t part of the plan I’ll let them off).  I get that it’s tragic that Lysandre’s spirit was broken by his frustrated efforts to do good in the world, but he still pulled a total moral and ethical one-eighty when he decided to dig up something named “the ultimate weapon” and kill everything.  Whether he’s alive or dead now, I can’t say I have much sympathy for him.

Serena just shakes her head in confusion at all this.  She wants a battle – so I’ll give her one.  Serena’s first Pokémon, Meowstic, trades attacks with my newly-evolved Goodra, Pytho, for a while, and Pytho is weakened but prevails in the end.  Serena’s second Pokémon, an Altaria, tries to weaken Pytho’s special attacks with Confide, but it isn’t enough to ward off her Dragon Pulse.  I try to defeat Serena’s Delphox with rain-boosted Muddy Water, but Pytho is really running out of steam by this time and can’t handle it, so I send in Odysseus to finish Delphox with Surf.  Jolteon is up next, and I know better than to leave Odysseus where he is, so I switch in Pan to soak up the incoming Discharge and crush Jolteon with Wood Hammer.  Last of all is Absol, who finishes off Pan with Slash.  After a moment’s thought, I decide Serena deserves everything I can throw at her, and call out Xerneas to drop a Moonblast on her.  This ends predictably.  Although Serena is upset that she still can’t beat me, she reaffirms her faith that our rivalry will continue to make us both stronger, and wishes me luck at the Pokémon League.

Ah, yes… the Pokémon League.

At the summit of the mountain is a huge cathedral, where the Elite Four hold court.  A building like this, in the Middle Ages, would have taken decades, maybe even a century or more, to complete.   With Pokémon, doubtless the task would have been quicker, but then again, I don’t think anyone ever tried to build a cathedral on a mountaintop in France.  With a casual flash of my badges, I am allowed inside and make my way to the central hall – no-one seems to care much about checking my status as a challenger; I got past the gates at the base of the mountain and survived Victory Road, so I must be worth noticing.  Like the Unova Elite Four, the Elite Four of Kalos hold no internal rank – they consider each other equals, and so can be challenged in any order.  The Fire Pokémon master, Malva, stylish and self-assured, lounges on a redwood throne, unfazed by the columns of raging fire that light her Blazing Chamber.  Her smugness falters when Odysseus ploughs through her entire team – Pyroar, Torkoal, Chandelure, and a passionate Talonflame – with Surf.  The Water Pokémon master, Siebold, an elegantly dressed chef who considers both cuisine and battle to be forms of art, stands in quiet contemplation of the artificial waterfalls that cascade down the walls of his Flood Chamber.  This battle is a forgone conclusion with not one but two powerful Grass Pokémon on my team; Pan and Ilex crush his Clawitzer, Gyarados, Starmie and Barbaracle (his partner, with its double-weakness to Grass attacks, proving extremely disappointing).  The huge stone wings that adorn the Dragonmark Chamber unfurl to reveal the dragon skull throne of the league’s Dragon master – sweet, kindly old Drasna, her dress adorned with the centuries-old claws and teeth of her ancestors’ partners.  My own Dragon Pokémon, Pytho, is a worthy match for her Dragalge and Altaria, leaving Xerneas to deal with her Druddigon and her Noivern partner.  Finally, between the two enormous swords that dominate the Ironworks Chamber, Wikstrom, a Steel Pokémon master in gilded mediaeval plate armour, requests the honour of a duel.  Orion is equal to his Klefki and Probopass, but falters against his mighty Aegislash; Odysseus is able to finish things up and take care of Wikstrom’s Scizor.  With the Elite Four behind me, all that remains is to take on the Champion.

I stand on an elevator platform to be carried up to the Champion’s room, and find myself standing at the centre of a circular chamber, its walls hung with white veils, the floor painted to resemble stained glass, and a soft white glow permeating everything.  Facing me is none other than the graceful, classy actress, Diantha.

Yes!  Totally called it!

Diantha doesn’t recognise me at first, but soon makes the connection between me and Professor Sycamore and realises that I’m the one who defeated Team Flare.  I suggest that she dispense with the battle and just make me Champion in recognition of my achievements.  Diantha laughs.  She thinks I’m joking, the fool.  Diantha’s first Pokémon out is, to my surprise, a Hawlucha.  I didn’t think wrestling was really her style – but maybe they did an action movie together or something.  I had Pan the Chestnaught taking point, and that clearly isn’t going to work, so I send in Xerneas, who takes a nasty Poison Jab but blows Hawlucha away with Moonblast.  Diantha’s not done surprising me and sends out a Pokémon I haven’t even seen before: Tyrantrum, a great rust-coloured tyrannosaur who must be the evolved form of Tyrunt.  Reasoning that this is a Rock-type, I decide to have Xerneas Horn Leech some of his health back – which turns out to be a bad move, because Horn Leech does minimal damage and Tyrantrum fires back a Head Smash which knocks out poor Xerneas.  So… really high physical defence, and it isn’t weak to Grass attacks.  I’ve been assuming this whole time that they’re Rock/Dark, but I actually have no idea what type Tyrunt and Tyrantrum are.  Well… they must be Rock-types because that’s a Rule for fossil Pokémon, and they don’t look Poison, Fire, Steel, Bug, Flying or Grass… I switch in Pytho and aim a Dragon Pulse, knocking out Tyrantrum and confirming his Rock/Dragon identity.  Diantha counters with an Aurorus, who takes the time to set up a Reflect as I switch to Orion – ‘bad move,’ I think as Orion one-shots poor Aurorus with Aura Sphere.  She picks her own Goodra next, and I leave Orion in, aiming to take it out with his Dragon Pulse, but failing to anticipate the Fire Blast that comes our way.  Goodra is weakened, though, and doesn’t stand up long to Pytho.  Gourgeist is next to step up, and I decide to try Ilex the Venusaur.  Ilex and Gourgeist trade Sludge Bombs and Phantom Forces for an excruciatingly long time – Diantha picks this moment to use both of her Full Restores, and Gourgeist uses a crafty new move, Trick-or-Treat, to turn Ilex into a Ghost-type and deny him his normal bonus on Poison attacks – but we eventually prevail.  Diantha is down to her last and strongest Pokémon: Gardevoir.  As Gardevoir takes the field, Diantha’s hand moves to the blue-green gem in her necklace, and I realise that it’s a Digivice.  She’s only just getting started.

Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir is terrifying in her elegance.  Moving with perfect, ethereal grace, she flings Pan across the room with Psychic, knocking him out before he can make a move, and hits Pytho with a Moonblast that leaves her seeing stars.  Odysseus manages to get in a Waterfall charge thanks to his Quick Claw, but drops when Gardevoir strikes him with a Thunderbolt from the tip of her finger.  That leaves… Ilex, who is weak to Psychic.  I’ve already healed him, and Gardevoir isn’t going to like his Sludge Bomb one bit, but still… this is going to be close.  I call out my Venusaur and activate my own Digivice.  ‘This had better work,’ I think as a wave of force erupts from Gardevoir’s splayed palm and rushes towards us.  Ilex nearly buckles under the pressure as I cover my face against the roiling psychic blast… but when I open my eyes, he’s still standing, with a princely 3 HP remaining.  Gardevoir and Diantha blink with surprise in unison as Ilex tosses back the biggest Sludge Bomb he can manage.  Gardevoir collapses.

BOOYEAH!

Ridiculous quote log:

“Vet-vet-vet- VETERAN!  Veteran all the way!  What do you think of my theme song?”
Your song is bad and you should feel bad.

Life and Death

I have Tereus drop me off in Geosenge Town and take a look around.  The ultimate weapon is really quite spectacular: a glassy blue-green flower, several stories high, with three long triangular petals that seem to have knocked over several buildings as it bloomed.  I head for the megalithic structure to the northwest of town, which is almost certainly the entrance to Team Flare’s secret base, and enter the building with Serena to confront Lysandre.  The elevator drops us in a sort of control room, where there are a few Team Flare members standing around, apparently uninterested in fighting, and some scientists performing last-minute calculations.  We overhear some of their discussion – the weapon is powering up, drawing energy from the hundreds of Pokémon they captured using stolen Pokéballs, but most of its power is coming from inside the facility itself.  We approach the front of the control room, where Lysandre is staring intently through a plate glass window at a chamber several levels below us.  At the bottom is… a tree.  An old, dead, white tree, hooked up to a complicated machine.  Xerneas’ tree.

Lysandre greets us as we approach him.  Serena defiantly proclaims our opposition to him, to which he restates his position: there are too many people in the world, and not enough resources; the only way for everyone to be happy is if there are fewer people.  People don’t share, Lysandre says – even Serena and I couldn’t share my Digivice.  “When there is only one of something, it can’t be shared.  When something can’t be shared, it will be fought over.  And when something is fought over, some must survive without it.”
“What about Pokémon?” Serena cries.  Wait, that’s a good point, actually.  Lysandre pauses.  He seems to be struggling to speak.  Finally, a tear rolls down his cheek and splashes on the floor.
“Pokémon… shall no longer exist.”

Wait WHAT!?

As long as there are Pokémon, Lysandre explains sorrowfully, people who can control them will use them to conquer and steal from others.  It’s better if they all go now.  He shakes his head briskly, as if to clear it, and walks towards us.  If it’ll take another battle to keep me and Serena from interfering with the ultimate weapon, so be it.  Lysandre’s Mienfoo and Murkrow have evolved now, into Mienshao and Honchkrow, which complicates things.  Odysseus and Pan have to tag-team Mienshao, and Pan is knocked out by its Acrobatics (I admittedly have… something of a blind spot for Flying attacks), but I manage to heal Odysseus and finish Mienshao, as well as Honchkrow.  Gyarados flattens Odysseus with its Outrage, and I switch to Orion, but this Gyarados isn’t falling for the same trick twice; he fights through his confusion and defeats Orion with a powerful Earthquake.  I have Photia turn his incredible strength against him with Foul Play, which brings Gyarados down in a couple of turns, and out comes Pyroar, who finishes Photia with a mighty Fire Blast.  Finally, I send in Pytho, dampen Pyroar with a Rain Dance, and drown it in Muddy Water.  Lysandre sighs heavily and asks why I bother.  “What are you really protecting?” he asks.  “A tomorrow that will only end up being worse than today?”  I glare at him, and something inside me snaps.

“You just don’t get it do you?  You think you’re some great visionary who’s seen the only way to peace and prosperity with your ‘how can I possibly save everyone?’ fallen hero bull$#!t, but you’re just taking the easy way out!   Any barbarian can unleash death to destroy a civilisation; it takes true greatness to build an empire of new life!  You think that as long as Pokémon exist, people will use them for war and theft?  Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet, bub!  So I’ll tell you what’s going to happen.  I am going to go down there.  Your ridiculous little paprika-flavoured goon squad are going to try to stop me, and they are going to fail.  I am going to attune to this precious legendary Pokémon of yours.  Then I am going to take a large, rough, jagged object the size and approximate shape of a Farfetch’d and his leek, and wedge it deep within your most private crevice, and when I have done that my Pokémon and I are going to conquer this silly backwards little region and rule it together, because that is what trainers and Pokémon do.  We destroy our enemies, protect our friends, and enslave our inferiors to build glorious monuments to our own greatness!  Now what is wrong with that?”

Lysandre and Serena are both staring at me, jaws hanging open.  In fact, so is practically everyone else in the control room.  I look around, shrug, and lunge at Lysandre.  He flinches, and I seize the moment to run for the stairs to the lower levels, cackling maniacally as I go.  Serena looks toward the stairs, then at Lysandre, then back to the stairs, then at Lysandre again, throws up her arms in defeat, and follows me.  Together, we fight our way through several Team Flare grunts and admins defending the stairwells and passages leading down to Xerneas’ chamber.  About halfway down, we are joined by Shauna, who… wants to cheer for us, I guess?  I grudgingly agree to let her tag along; she’s made it this far without being killed, after all – and she even manages to help out.  When we last saw Clemont, the Lumiose City Gym Leader, he gave Shauna a machine for solving puzzles, which she uses to hack into the security door at the bottom of the last stairwell and get us inside.  That… is an incredibly powerful and potentially mischievous piece of technology she’s been toting around all this time.  Too bad it breaks after one use.  As we step through the door and behold the ultimate weapon’s power system, pulsing gently as it leeches energy from Xerneas’ tree, a group of six Team Flare admins materialise from nowhere and attack us.  Shauna panics and flees, chased by two of them, and Serena runs to help her, leaving me to deal with the other four.  Photia hardly breaks a sweat turning their minds inside out, and they flee to gather reinforcements, leaving me alone with the tree.  I call to Xerneas, and it cries out in response.  The tree glows with a brilliant light, and the rainbow stag bursts forth in all its glory, shattering the machine binding it.  It doesn’t want to be enslaved to Lysandre.  It wants my help – but first, as always, we have to battle.

Xerneas, the embodiment of life, is an extremely powerful Fairy-type mixed attacker with an ability, Fairy Aura, that gives Fairy-type techniques like Moonblast additional power.  Like many legendary Pokémon, he comes with a signature move: Geomancy, a two-turn boosting technique that raises special attack, special defence and speed by two levels (slap on a Power Herb and this thing is Quiver Dance on steroids!).  I command Ilex to wear him down with Nature Power and disable him with Sleep Powder, then start throwing Pokéballs.  It doesn’t take long for one to stick.  I walk over to the Pokéball lying on the ground, dismissing Photia back to the PC network, and pick it up… and everything changes.

I’m… alive.  Xerneas’ power is intoxicating; his presence makes me feel like a veil has been lifted from my eyes, almost like I’m seeing colour for the first time.  Xerneas can see and feel life itself, vibrant and glorious, and his supernatural senses are flooding my mind.  Although my back is turned, I know that Serena and Shauna are back in the room – I can feel their lives, radiant amongst the glimmering pinpricks of the microbes in the air.  I feel like if I focussed I could feel every living thing in Kalos.  I decide to try.  Dimly, I hear a voice.  “What a startling development!  I never would’ve thought you were really a chosen one!”  It’s Lysandre.  He has built his own Digivice in the form of a finger ring, powered by some monstrous contraption – three buzzing metal insects, tethered to a brass gauntlet, all wired up to an electronic visor.  None of it is breathing, none of it is alive; I quickly lose interest and return to my attempts to expand my mind.  Lysandre continues talking – he is disgusted with Xerneas for wanting help from a mere human, and seems to be unwilling to admit defeat yet.  I pay little attention, still curiously testing the limits of Xerneas’ senses, trying to touch the lives of absent friends… until he says one thing: “I’ll be taking the Legendary Pokémon back now!”  Wait… what?  My mind snaps back to the room we’re in, focussing once more on my physical senses.  He wants to take Xerneas away from me?  Oh, dear… what a stupid man.

I thought I knew what it was like to work together with a Pokémon, but the sheer joy of fighting with Xerneas is something else.  He seems to respond as much to my thoughts as to my words, striking down Lysandre’s Mienshao with Moonblast before it can take a single step.  As he calls on his Honchkrow, I command Xerneas to tap into a nearby ley line with Geomancy.  I feel the sting of Honchkrow’s Steel Wing as it slices at Xerneas’ hide, threatening his concentration, but he fights through it and blows the bird Pokémon away with another Moonblast.  Pyroar’s fire repels the lunar onslaught for only a moment before he suffers the same fate.  Finally Lysandre calls upon his Pokémon partner, Gyarados, using his technology and their bond to let it Digivolve into an even more monstrous and terrible version of its former self – to no avail.  One final Moonblast finishes it.  I walk forward to stand by Xerneas and rest my hand on his flank as we return to dreaming of the life of Kalos.  Somewhere in the background, I am aware of Serena and Shauna’s voices.  They are encouraging Lysandre not to give up on his old life, to go back to helping people and build a better future for everyone.  I’m no longer sure it matters.  Joy, suffering… it’s all still life, isn’t it?  Isn’t life all that’s important?  Or… is that Xerneas talking?  I shake my head, trying to clear it.  Lysandre is still speaking.  He wants to use the trickle of Xerneas’ energy left in the weapon.  “Let us live forever… that’s right!  I shall grant you eternal life!  I’ll give you the pain of endlessly waiting for a beautiful world to finally be built!”  That… that doesn’t sound so bad, actually… An eternity basking in the radiance of life with Xerneas, my mind floating amongst all the living things in the entire world… I ignore Serena and Shauna’s protests and let myself drift off.

Hands, dragging me… pulling me onto Xerneas’ back… carrying me away… up and out…

Some hours later, I wake up in Geosenge Town.  There is a huge crater where the ultimate weapon used to be.  Left and Right are standing over me in their superhero masks, along with Shauna, Tierno, Trevor and Serena.  While Serena, Shauna and I were below, the others had been fighting to free the Pokémon connected to the Geosenge menhirs.  Lysandre is nowhere to be seen.  Did he succeed in making himself immortal?  Or did he die in the collapse of the hideout?  Is he down there, buried beneath the rubble, broken but unable to die?  I can’t feel his life anymore; Xerneas’ magical perception has left me.  Once the others are satisfied that I am once again relatively sane and in no immediate danger, they disperse, suggesting that we all pick up where we left off in Anistar City.  Once I am the only one left, AZ approaches me.  He’s free at last, and means to return to his search for his missing partner.  I wish him luck as he trudges away.  Will the poor guy ever find his Pokémon?  Will we ever find out what happened to Lysandre?  And what the hell is this ‘intriguing stone’ Tierno gave me back in Shalour City?

As for me, the dizzying high of my first exposure to Xerneas has left me, but the world somehow seems brighter, more magnificent than ever before – making me more determined than ever before to conquer it, with my new legendary partner Pokémon by my side!

Ridiculous quote log:

“You fools!  You don’t even have suits!”
…yeah, because those white Team Flare suits make you look so classy.

“Not having a ton of money is really stressful, you know…”
Oh, I feel your pain, dude; it must be really hard to be a leader in an organisation with a ¥ 5,000,000 membership fee…

Cold Darkness of the Cosmos

Before entering Dendemille Town, I turn south for a look at the route leading back towards Lumiose City.  This whole north-eastern area seems to be in a state of perpetual autumn, in contrast to the permanent summer of the rest of Kalos, and has inhabitants to match; in addition to several of the same Pokémon as I found on the last route, I find Foonguss and two new Ghost/Grass Pokémon: Phantump, a dark wisp inhabiting a tree stump, and Pumpkaboo, the floating pumpkin I encountered in Lumiose City.  Seeing two new Pokémon with the same previously unseen type combination in the same area initially makes me think that they probably influence each other’s evolution in some way, like Shelmet and Accelgor, but I am informed that this is not the case – they just evolve when traded.  Doing so results in Trevenant, an utterly terrifying undead tree with a single glowing red eye and six splayed insect-like legs, and Gourgeist, a jack-o’-lantern with some kind of vaguely-feminine looking eel-like head and a pair of pink things that could easily be hair, arms, tentacles, or all three.  This adorably creepy little specimen “enwraps its prey in its hairlike arms [and] sings joyfully as it observes the suffering of its prey.”  So… that’s fun.  The route’s only other notable feature is a network of jetties built out over a lake to maximise the area available for fishing; here I am given a Super Rod, but come across nothing of particular interest in testing it out.  Satisfied that this route has nothing more for me at the moment, I return north.

If Dendemille Town’s surroundings are trapped in autumn, the town itself is locked in an eternal winter.  Snow falls on hardy evergreens as stubborn farmers try to coax life from frozen soil.  The town’s most prominent feature is a huge windmill surrounded by some kind of massive fortification wall, so presumably they do manage to produce something here (not much point in a windmill without grain).  Shortly after entering the town, I am met by Professor Sycamore, with Right in tow (Left, presumably, is off fighting crime).  Sycamore rambles incoherently about journeys and cafés for a while, before slipping into a brief eulogy of Kalos’ amazing legendary Pokémon, Xerneas, who “resembles the letter X.”  No-one knows anything concrete about Xerneas, but Right promises to do some research.  They both leave, giving me the chance to check out more of Dendemille Town and find what is perhaps its most important feature from my perspective: the home of the move deleter and move relearner.  At last, I can experience the true glory of Clawitzer’s movepool – Mega Launcher-boosted Dark Pulse, Dragon Pulse and Aura Sphere.  I only have three Heart Scales and I want to teach Dragon Pulse to my Lucario as well, so I greedily snatch up Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere and move on.  Dendemille Town doesn’t appear to have a Pokémon Gym, but the next route is impassable: nothing but huge drifts of snow all around.  The inhabitants inform me that there is normally a Mamoswine who carries travellers through the snow, but this Mamoswine is currently “distracted by something” in the Frost Cavern north of Dendemille Town, so I suppose there’s nothing for it but to go and find the damn thing myself… and maybe pick up some nifty new Ice Pokémon in the process.

It doesn’t take long for me to find Mamoswine, in the company of a boy whom I assume is its trainer, in the stark snowbound mountains north of town.  Apparently Mamoswine is worried about something going on in the cavern, but either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  Trevor, who wants to investigate species distribution in the Frost Cavern, volunteers to look into it, but my confidence in Trevor’s abilities has never been high, so I head into the cave along with him to find out what’s wrong.  The Frost Cavern is giving me flashbacks to the Ice Path of Gold and Silver, with all its ‘icy floor’ puzzles and, of course, its Ice-type fauna – Beartic, Cryogonal, Piloswine, Jynx, and a weird little pyramid-shaped Ice Pokémon called a Bergmite, a sort of physical tank whose main strength appears to be “being a block of ice.”  The fact that X and Y allow diagonal movement becomes quite important here, because it means you can slide diagonally across the ice floors – I think there’s only one part of the area that actually requires this, but I must have stared at the screen for about ten minutes before I thought of trying it (so much for my vaunted lateral thinking skills…).  In the depths of the cave, I locate the problem: surprise, surprise; it’s Team Flare.  A pair of grunts and a blue-haired woman wearing a visor, presumably another scientist, are tormenting a huge Abomasnow, apparently to test the limits of its power before they capture it.  Trevor arrives and orders them to stop, which they predictably ignore.  The scientist, Mable, explains that they’re collecting Pokémon and energy for their dastardly plans, which apparently involve destroying everyone who isn’t part of their group.  She has only one Pokémon, a powerful Houndoom, which I dispatch with my Clawitzer.  Defeated, she and her grunts flee.  Trevor departs in relief, and I turn to go as well – but feel a tap on my shoulder.  Well, I say a ‘tap,’ it’s more of a heavy, blunt ‘thunk,’ but a tap seems to have been the intention.  It’s Abomasnow, who wants to thank me with a gift: a green-and-white Abomasite orb.  Mega Abomasnow, huh?  Could this be what uplifts Hail to equal status with the other major weather effects?  Eh, probably not, but we’ll see.

Mamoswine is now back on duty.  According to his trainer, Mamoswine first came to Dendemille town when he was gravely injured and rescued by an Abomasnow.  It was probably the same one, and Mamoswine was likely refusing to work because he was worried about his friend.  D’aww… you know, there is something incredibly endearing about inter-species friendships.  Anyway, with Mamoswine back, I have my ride through the snow to Anistar City.  Mamoswine is capable of ploughing through drifts of snow that cover him almost completely, and even smashing submerged boulders.  I feel a sudden pang of regret for never having trained one of these things.  A few more Ice Pokémon – Delibird, Sneasel, and Snover (better evolve him later to check out Abomasnow’s mega form…) appear on the way, but I reach Anistar City without much more excitement, and receive a call from Serena challenging me to a battle by the Pokémon Gym.  The bitter cold softens a little as I reach Anistar City and look around.  Left shows up to inform me that Right has learned of a person in this city who is an expert in the lore of Kalos’ legendary Pokémon, and that it would be a good idea for me to find him.  Of course, cities in the Pokémon world being what they are, this doesn’t take long.  I learn that Xerneas appeared in Kalos 800 years ago, bringing energy and vitality to the entire region.  Supposedly, it lives for a thousand years and releases all of its remaining power at the end of its life to enrich everything around it.  Another story relates that 3000 years ago, another Pokémon which might have been Xerneas saved many people and Pokémon from a terrible war, before turning into a dried-up tree, which is still hidden somewhere in Kalos.  Hmm.  I’ve heard about this war; I think this is the same terrible war Lysandre’s ancestor was supposedly involved with – the one that still scars the history of Kalos even today…

Anistar City has one major attraction: the Anistar Sundial.  Not really a ‘sundial’ at all in the traditional sense of the word, this is a massive and exquisitely cut translucent pink crystal which (I think) tells the time by refracting sunlight onto a series of concentric golden rings.  According to the locals, no-one is sure how the thing was made, since it’s thousands of years old and even modern technology couldn’t cut such an enormous crystal so perfectly.  The whole set-up is on a platform which juts out over… the… sea…

…wait…

I pull out my town map.  Anistar City, which is surrounded on three sides by water, is nowhere near the ocean.

There’s something very strange about this city, and it makes me uneasy.  I’m heading for the Gym.  I deal quickly with Serena, who has added a Jolteon to her team and become much more powerful since our last fight, but is still lagging behind (and seems to be developing self-esteem issues), and enter the building.  It’s… empty.  It’s just a perfectly normal room, with a couple of sidetables, a fireplace, and two windows with long purple curtains.  In the centre is a large rug with a design of stars and circles.  No trainers.  No Gym Leader.  I slowly walk forward, looking around, and step onto the circular pattern on the rug… and the world explodes.  I give a started yelp as the room around me dissolves into nothing, and I find myself in space.  Walkways of light criss-cross in a three-layered sphere, with stars and comets flying past in the background.  One of the Psychic Pokémon trainers here tells me “don’t be distracted by your surroundings.”  “EASY FOR YOU TO SAY,” I screech back.  Not a moment too soon, I come to the centre of the sphere, where the Gym Leader, Olympia, is waiting.  Olympia is a strange, distant woman who wears a white cloak with a night sky pattern in its lining (or… it could be lined with the actual night sky, for all I know…), who speaks as though her mind is in a dream… but is perfectly wakeful while battling.  Her Sigilyph, protecting itself with Reflect and scoring a few opportune flinches with Air Slash, deals pretty heavy damage to my Malamar, Photia, before going down, leaving Olympia’s second Pokémon, a powerful Slowking, to finish her off.  I send in Orion the Lucario to start blasting away with Dragon Pulse, but Slowking boosts up with Calm Mind and blows away Orion’s mind with Psychic.  Finally, I bring out the big guns: Odysseus the Clawitzer.  Dark Pulse breaks through even Slowking’s boosted special defence.  Olympia’s final Pokemon, disappointingly, is a Meowstic; a high-level one, to be sure, but not nearly as powerful as a Sigilyph or a Slowking, and Odysseus makes short work of it.  Olympia rewards me with a Calm Mind TM, a golden badge in the shape of a curling wisp of smoke rising from a violet pearl (the Psychic Badge – awesome name there; really inventive, Olympia), and a prophecy: “Power that grants life awakens – voices of woe.  That is your future."  She then waves her hand and teleports me back to the entrance of the Gym.  I find myself back in the plain room.  I’m honestly not sure the Anistar Gym, its trainers, or Olympia even exist at all; my Pokémon and I may have hallucinated the entire experience… but the Psychic Badge is still in my hand, and that’s all I need.

Ridiculous quote log:

“Windmills rotate just like the wheels of destiny!  So Rotation Battles are like windmills!  Ah… I mean destiny!
You know what else rotates like the wheels of destiny?  You, strapped to a windmill.

“I hope I still have Pokémon when I grow up.  ‘Cause when I have kids, I want to trade Pokémon with them.”
That is some nice marketing there, Nintendo.  Real subtle.  There are now, of course, people who picked up Pokémon as children or teenagers and are now having kids of their own…

Fairy Tale

Laverre City, which is probably Amiens, is a town out of a storybook.  All quaint wooden cottages, surrounded by gargantuan fly amanita mushrooms and fields of pink flowers, clustered around a huge, ancient broadleaf tree, into which the town’s clock tower and Pokémon Gym are built.  Only two signs of encroaching modernity disrupt the picturesque scene: a modern Pokémon Centre with all the standard amenities, and an imposing industrial complex on the town’s northern outskirts: the factory that produces the entire Kalos region’s Pokéballs.  After a brief tour of Laverre City to give the inhabitants the opportunity to offer tribute to their new ruler (which yields another Mega Stone: Gengarite!) I go to inspect the Pokéball factory… and find its entrance guarded by a Team Flare grunt.  Despite my finest quips and most withering taunts, he refuses to budge, or even to engage me in battle.  Curses; how am I supposed to dispense vigilante justice effectively if I can’t actually attack people?  I decide to go with my usual standby in these situations and take out my frustrations on the Gym.

I’m… not exactly sure what I was expecting from the Laverre Gym, but certainly not this.  The Gym seems to be, quite simply, someone’s house: an extremely lavish home, with work rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom – all connected not by doors but by an old-school network of warp panels.  Some of the rooms are filled with sewing paraphernalia and supplies, and I quickly learn from the trainers that the Gym Leader, whose name is Valerie, is a clothing designer.  Strange that her extravagant creations don’t seem to be available in Laverre’s clothing store – I guess she works strictly for a higher class of clientele.  Laverre City’s Gym specialises, of course, in Fairy Pokémon, and they have a few new ones for me to meet: Slurpuff and Aromatisse, the evolved forms of Swirlix and Spritzee (whom I obtain for myself shortly afterwards by trading with Adam), and a key ring Pokémon called Klefki, who is a Fairy/Steel dual-type, and turns up on the next route for me to catch – I may as well talk about all these now.  Slurpuff is a remarkably silly-looking bipedal meringue with a supernaturally acute sense of smell; as little as I was expecting from Swirlix’s evolution, I actually find myself somewhat disappointed that Slurpuff isn’t more colourful – the pastel pinks are a bit boring, and I rather think that if you’re going to make a candy Pokémon anyway you should really push the boat out with it.  Aromatisse is… on some level a little disturbing.  I feel like Big Bird’s French cousin is trying to seduce me.  That is all.  Klefki is, I suppose, a neat little concept; he doesn’t seem to evolve, since he’s immediately followed in the Pokédex by Murkrow, but he does have Prankster, and just being a Steel-type is generally a plus, even if they’re not as powerful as they used to be.  I suppose he’ll live and die on his support movepool.

Once I’ve dealt with all of these, I manage to stumble through all the warp panels and reach Valerie’s room on the top floor of the Gym.  Valerie herself wears an extravagant winged costume, because she’s always wanted to be a Pokémon, and uses a lot of wind and flight imagery in her speech.  No word on whether the costume actually allows her to fly, but I suppose she should be allowed to indulge her fantasies.  Some of Valerie’s Gym trainers have been acting snooty about their Fairy-types’ vaunted immunity to Dragon attacks, so I decide to teach Valerie a lesson by opening with Pytho the Sliggoo against her Mawile, who doesn’t actually seem to have any Fairy attacks and consequently turns out to be easy prey.  Her next Pokémon, a Mr. Mime, proves much more irritating – Pytho actually does fairly well here, but Valerie keeps healing the damn thing, so I eventually have to switch her out and send in Odysseus.  By this time Mr. Mime has taken a pretty heavy accuracy penalty from Pytho’s Muddy Water attack and is in no shape to keep fighting for long, so he goes down quickly.  Finally, out comes Valerie’s signature Pokémon – a Sylveon, who knocks out poor Odysseus with a powerful Fairy attack called Dazzling Gleam.  Enough is enough, I decide, and throw in Ilex, who puts Sylveon to sleep, boosts up with Growth, and flattens her with Petal Dance.  In defeat, Valerie lapses into a sort of introspective trance, handing over with little comment the Fairy Badge (seriously?  It’s the first Fairy-type Gym in the history of the game and Fairy Badge was the best you could come up with?), a sliver of translucent pink agate in a gilded frame shaped like a pair of fairy wings with a brilliant opal in the centre, along with a TM whose contents she has forgotten (it turns out, upon inspection, to be Dazzling Gleam, which no-one in my party can learn).  She starts murmuring to herself about her connection with her Pokémon, so I leave her to it and go to check out the Pokéball factory again.

It seems my rivals have had the same idea.  Shauna and Trevor have been refused entry to the factory and are fleeing from the incensed Team Flare guard, while Tierno is running around like a headless chicken, as he is wont to do – but the door us now unattended, so Serena suggests we take the opportunity to break in.  At first I was rather excited to be seeing the inside of a Pokéball factory – I hoped I might learn something about how Pokéballs function, or at least get a bit of ethical philosophy fodder, but in that respect it’s a bit of a bust really.  All I see are conveyor belts leading to and from parts unknown.  I do manage to elicit a plaintive “if Pokéballs are stolen by Team Flare, we can’t become friends with Pokémon…” from one of the captive workers, which is an interesting sentiment (considering that Pokéballs are pretty modern things and people have been working with Pokémon for millennia), but hardly a novel one.  Quickly growing bored, Serena and I plough through the Team Flare grunts and confront their admin, a woman this time, though wearing a similar horrendous outfit to her male counterpart, in the president’s office.  I have Odysseus stomp her two Pokémon, a Scraggy and a Houndoom, as quickly as possible.  With the admin are two other women who claim, like Aliana, to be scientists – one, Bryony, has bright green hair and wears green glasses with some sort of digital HUD, while the other, Celosia, has purple hair and a heavy visor like Aliana’s, though a little sleeker (interesting that there seems to be an alphabet motif going on with their names here – not unlike the names of the games themselves).  Again like Aliana, they appear to be both the brains and the brawn of the operation, and I’m not entirely sure whether they rank higher or lower than the admin they accompany.  The scientists summon a Manectric and a Liepard, which Serena and I face with my Malamar, Photia, and her Meowstic.  Liepard is initially a danger to Meowstic, but once both of them have been confused with Swagger, things quickly become fairly simple.  Celosia, Bryony and the admin give up and flee with their underlings, and the grateful president gives me and Serena a big nugget and a Master Ball each.  A news report on the Holo Caster soon confirms that Team Flare’s actions are unlikely to disrupt supplies of Pokéballs to the Kalos region.  Wait- this thing gets the news?  What is it actually even for?

That seems to be all there is to Laverre City for now, so I pack up and move on towards the next city, Dendemille Town.  Along the way I pick up Klefki, whom I’ve already talked about, Watchog, Mightyena, Pawniard, Murkrow, Lombre, Floatzel, Basculin and Poliwhirl, learn a dangerous forbidden roller skating trick from an elderly gentleman who leads an underground street gang in a burned out hotel (you know, a usual day), grab a Litwick, an Electrode and a Magneton… and receive another Holo Caster message from Lysandre, who wants to shoot the breeze about Mega Evolution.  Lysandre says that, according to Professor Sycamore’s research, Mega Evolution is a massive release of hidden energy, and wonders “do all people and Pokémon have such potential, or is it hidden only within a chosen few?”  Wait- people?  Is… is he suggesting that if I find a lump of, like, Humanite and give my Digivice to Pan, I’ll turn into a wizard or something?  Because I could work with that.

In other news, I am going home for Christmas – and since I live about as far from home as I can get while still being on the same planet, this means spending most of a day on a plane.  This will probably delay my progress a bit.  Just so you know.

Ridiculous quote log:

“A Dusk Ball makes every battle sunny!  Don’t you agree?
Um… no?

“Pokéballs are round!  The world is also round!”
Are you suggesting some sort of connection here?
“Win or lose, Pokéballs remain round!”
Yours won’t for long if you keep yakking.

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.