Disclaimer: I own nothing except the storyline of this fanfic!

Chapter 2: Retracing old steps…

James walked down the road, carrying the pokeballs he received from his former teammates. "Team…" he thought, "What a small, yet powerful word. It also seems to carry a large emotional value with it as well." As he continued down the road, his mind was boggled with all the times he had tried to steal pokemon with his former team.

After a while of walking and pondering, James finally arrived at his old home. He walked up to the doors, a curious feeling rushing through him. It was not a feeling of sadness or guilt, but rather happiness. He was happy that he was back home. He was happy that he renounced a life of crime to live a legitimate life. He was happy that he was never to betray his parents or their trust again. He felt as if he was being born again, and living a new life. With these happy thoughts in mind, he knocked on the door, eagerly anticipating one of the servants he knew all too well to greet him. However, when the door opened, James's face had fallen. The door had opened to reveal a servant whom James did not know. The servant looked James over and testily asked, "Who are you?"

James was irritated at the servant's indignation. "How can you take that tone with me? I am James! I lived here when I was younger!"

The servant said, "You're Master James… the child who ran away from this home so many years ago. I am sorry to say this… I do not know how to put it into words. Your parents went bankrupt a few weeks ago. A corrupt accountant swindled them and took all the money they had. Yet, they had still managed to not go into debt yet. With time and lucky they had started to recover from their financial disaster. They seemed as if they would finally get over the problems with the accountant. However, A short time later, Team Rocket arrived while on a pillaging spree, and stole all the pokemon that they could find. They also looted the place and stole all the valuables and money that could be found. Because of this, the family lost everything they had of value. Unable to pay for anything anymore, they had to sell the mansion for a low price. They now live down the road. It is on your first left, and the second house to the right."

James was shocked at what he had just heard. He stood there for a while, staring and unmoving. His parents were broke, he was out of a job, and everything he had once knew and loved had disappeared right before his very eyes. His eyes started to water, but he held back the tears. He quietly replied, "Thank you sir."

The servant said, "You're welcome."

James turned around and walked away. He looked at the door as it closed, just as it had so many years ago when he ran away. His mind was racing with so many thought. A single tear ran down his face, as he realized that everything his family ever had had been taken from him. James walked down the road, following the directions that the servant had given him. He continued to think until arrived at a rather small house. It was in a state of disrepair; vines were creeping all along the house and the lawn was very untidy. He carefully walked up to the door and knocked on it. A short time later, the door opened to reveal to James his mother standing in the doorway.

"Mother," James slowly said, "I'm back home!"

His mother stared hard at James. Her eyes were a mix of emotions that were hard to figure out. She finally said in a firm voice, "And just where have you been? You left us without saying goodbye to go gallivanting on some stupid adventure. You did not care what happened to your family while you were gone… you never sent a letter or called to see how we were doing. If only you were here before this happened to us. You were gone… you left us and you did not even try to help us when you left. Where you disappeared to and why you left, I do not know. You never returned to help us at all. You spent all your time running around like some scalawag and you never even thought about your dear parents. You have caused enough damage to us. We are better off without ungrateful children like you. Just leave and don't come back. "

James looked and said, "But mother--"

His mother cut him off, harshly saying, "You were never there for us before… why should we be here for you now? Now take this from us and never come back. And you can keep that worthless Growlithe if you find it…"And with that she threw a pokeball out the doorway at James and slammed the door.

James stood there, gaping for the second time in quite a few minutes at a shocking piece of news. First, his family went broke, and now they disown him. Grabbing the Pokeball, he ran as hard and as fast as he could away from his "home". Tears clouded his eyes as despair clouded his judgment. The very team he worked for, and was fired from, had stolen from his parents. The very team he had risked life and limb for had just backstabbed him just like that. He ran wherever he could, not looking where he was going. Suddenly, he collided with Ash, who was walking down the road in the other direction. They both fell over and landed hard on the ground.

"Watch where you're going!" James angrily shouted, before he saw who it was.

"It's you!" Ash exclaimed.

"Aren't you going to steal Pikachu?" May asked.

"Where's your friends now?" Brock asked.

"Where's your Team uniform?" May asked again.

"Did you get fired?" Max inquired.

James finally lost his temper and said, "Listen. Just shut up and leave me alone. I don't have time for your petty insults right now."

Ash looked rather offended and said, "Fine! If you don't need help, then we have no business talking to you. Let's go Pikachu!"

James thought that it was good riddance, but one thing hovered in his mind. "Hey Twe--er, Ash!"

Ash turned around, surprised at the fact that James had called him by his actual name. "What is it?" Ash asked.

James looked up at Ash, fire blazing in his eyes, and said, "Could I interest you in a Pokemon Battle? Just one-on-one?"

Ash narrowed his eyes and asked, "What are you up to this time?"

James quickly put up his hands and said, "No trick! I just want to test my battling skills, now that I am an official trainer."

Ash looked James over for a moment, scrutinizing him, then said, "Okay, I believe you. I'm ready to battle when you are. Are you ready, Pikachu?"

Pikachu responded with a loud and confident, "Pika!"

James smiled to himself and thought, "This time it is for real. No tricks and no traps. This is an honest battle with the twerp. Win or lose, I will know I did it honestly. And if I win, I'll know my true prowess at Pokemon."

James held up his only pokeball, threw it, and said, "Go Larvitar"

Ash had a confident look in his eye. He decided to start the battle on the offensive. He said to Pikachu, "Use Thunderbolt on Larvitar!"

James anticipated the attack and said, "Dodge it, Larvitar, and use Rock Throw!"

Larvitar responded in acknowledgment but barely dodged the thunderbolt that Pikachu sent. He regained his balance and then retaliated with Rock Throw. The attack rammed itself straight into Pikachu and slammed it against a tree.

Ash quickly said, "Pikachu! Are you okay? I knew I should've healed at the Pokemon Center earlier!"

James started to laugh inside of him. He had never won against this kid before, and now… he was doing well! After a short time of this euphoria, he calmed himself down and quietly said, "Finish it off with Tackle!"

Larvitar replied happily as it tackled Pikachu. The attack was devastating, as Larvitar collided with Pikachu and sent it flying. The force of the attack had knocked Pikachu out.

James started to laugh and said, "What happened to the great almighty twerp? I expected more!"

Ash looked shocked, but managed to reply, "I can't lose! I'll battle another one of your pokemon."

James stopped and said, "Larvitar is my only Pokemon."

Ash looked at James and said, "What about Cacnea and such?"

James hesitated for a second before slowly replying, "They are all gone!"

Ash said in a boastful voice, "Well, I'll be traveling to a new world called Zarith. If you really want to prove yourself as a trainer, then go there. When you reach the championship, I'll be sure to beat you this time."

James just calmly replied, "I'll go. Where is it?"

Ash said, "Just go due north of here. You'll see it. It's a few days walk, but about a day or so if you travel by a faster means of transportation!"

James simply replied, "I bid you farewell and good luck on your quest." With those words, James started to walk down the road. Ash suddenly shouts out, "Hey!"

James replies, "Don't talk to me, I'm in a rush!"

Ash, "North's the other way!"

Meanwhile, back on Team Rocket's headquarters, Giovanni sat in his chair, thinking happily that he had finally gotten rid of those worthless buffoons. He was savoring the thought of those three never foiling his plans again when he was interrupted by an official.

"Sir," the administrator said, "We have completely taken root in the Zarith region. We will start our plan in less than 2 weeks. If there's no interference, then we will soon unleash our most sinister plan ever!"

Giovanni replied, "Good… very good. Commence as planned."

Unaware of any plans that Team Rocket might have been coming up with, James ran as fast as he could, not stopping for anything. He managed to hide in a crate on a nearby blimp that was going to the Zarith region. He thought to himself, "I'll beat those twerps... I know I will!" With that, he rode in a crate all the way down to Rose City. A few workers took the crates out of the blimp, including the one that contained James. He quietly sneaked out of the crate and out of the area. Taking careful surveillance, he looked around him. He was in a small, peaceful city. He walked to the nearest Pokemon center and walked up to the Nurse Joy there.

"Can I register for the Zarith league?" James asked

"Sure you can" replied Nurse Joy, "but I need to see your trainer ID card."

"Of course!" said James. He pulled it out and showed it to Nurse Joy.

"Congratulations! You are now qualified for the Zarith league!" Nurse Joy replied, in her usual happy tone.

"Can you heal my Pokemon?" James asked.

"Sure!" replied Nurse Joy, in the same exact tone as the previous sentence.

A few minutes passed as Nurse Joy healed Larvitar.

"Your pokemon is all better!" said Nurse Joy.

"Thank you!" exclaimed James.

With only happy thoughts rambling in mind, James left the Pokemon Center in hopes that he might be able to get his badges and become a true Pokemon Trainer.