Joey and Mai had successfully snuck back to Domino Pier unseen. But the trickiest part of their return to the resistance base began now; the Pier was highly monitored by the Sorceress' minions. Trying to sneak back to their warehouse would be no easy task.
The two ducked into the shadows of a stack of crates as a bipedal monster lumbered by, sniffing and snorting the air with its snout. Joey's hand went to his deck; he could easily summon one of his Duel Monsters to deal with this, but he ran the risk of attracting the attention of more of the same creatures.
The creature took a couple steps towards their hiding place, and the tension continued to grow. But suddenly, the creature's ears turned as a slew of taunts and insults came its way.
I know those voices, Joey realized.
The creature was now running towards the small group of people standing at the edge of the pier, laughing and yelling at it. It charged, foolishly, and the ringleader of the group proceeded to counter it with a full body tackle. Once the creature had fallen, the others grabbed its monstrous limbs and threw it into the water. The monster roared, but soon had to swim for its life as some of the water monsters now moved to attack it, sensing an intrusion into their territory.
"Now's our chance…" said Mai.
"We'll never make it," said Joey. "Those aren't allies, Mai. I know them."
Mai immediately had questions, but she knew that this wasn't the time or the place to bring them up.
"We can try, anyway," she said. "They're humans, at least…"
"That can be debated…" Joey muttered, as he stared at the all-too-familiar laughing face of the ringleader. "But maybe you're right about trying. Come on…"
He led the way towards where the pier-side warehouses were, but the ringleader of the gang, sensing the presence of more people, turned with a scowl.
"Hold it right there!" he snarled.
Joey flinched as a flashlight beam was trained on him and Mai.
"Well, well, well…" the ringleader said, highly amused. "Wheeler."
"Well, well, well," Joey countered, sounding more confident than he really was. "Hirutani."
Hirutani's flunkies now chuckled upon seeing Joey again.
"Who's she, Wheeler? Your girlfriend?" one asked, sneering at Mai.
"Back off," Mai warned him, scowling.
"Look, Hirutani, I don't want any trouble," said Joey, moving to shield Mai from them. "Just let us get on our way, and we won't bother you."
"Sorry to disappoint you, Wheeler," Hirutani said. "But trouble is just what you crept into. You're bothering me—you should be one of us again, and the fact that you aren't concerns me deeply."
"'Again'…?" Mai asked, her eyes widening.
"It's not somethin' I'm proud of—believe me," Joey said to her, in an undertone.
Mai gave an understanding nod. There were things she had done that she was not proud of, either.
"All the same, I don't think we're getting here without a fight…" she said.
"Yeah, but we're outnumbered five to one…" Joey replied, scanning the group. "Here's what we'll do; I'll hold them off, and you head back to the hideout."
"Hold them off!? Joey, there're ten of those creeps—you won't stand a chance!" she hissed.
"You have any other ideas?" Joey asked.
Mai bit her lip. No, she didn't. But she wasn't about to abandon Joey, either.
"What's it going to be, Wheeler?" asked Hirutani. "You going to rejoin us, or are you doing this the hard way? And feel free to bring your girlfriend along with you when you rejoin."
"Bite your tongue!" Mai quipped.
"I'm not making the same mistake I did before when I joined you," Joey said, his hands clenching into fists. "My friends need me more than you ever did, but now more than ever. We're tryin' to stop that Sorceress and bring Domino back to the way it was before. And if you even had a sliver of a conscience, you'd respect that. But you clearly don't; I saw the way you played around with that creature; this is all part of a big game to you! Don't you understand that the Sorceress isn't going to treat you any differently just because you're not a part of the resistance!? If her minions see you out here breaking curfew, she could have you locked up—or if you're really unlucky, encased in stone! And even though you'd be out of my hair if that happened, I'm too nice of a guy to wish that on anyone—even you!"
"How noble…" Hirutani said, sarcastically. He turned to his flunkies. "Get him."
"Run, Mai!" Joey yelled.
The creeps all came at once, and Joey raised his clenched fists, fighting back against his assailants. He wasn't sure how he was going to get out of this; hopefully he could make a break for it after Mai made it to safety. He wouldn't have much time; the commotion would bring the Sorceress' minions in a hurry, and then they'd all get captured. And since he, Joey, was a wanted man, the Sorceress would have no hesitation in encasing him in stone.
Joey ignored the battering that he was getting, determined to dish it back. But suddenly, he realized that he was getting help. Mai had not left; she was fighting alongside him. She had taken lessons in karate back when she had served as the Duel Monsters player aboard a casino cruise ship in order to ward off overly-amorous mashers. Now she was using her hands to deal blows across her opponents' shoulders that sent them retreating from her. And she wasn't even breaking a nail.
Despite himself, Joey grinned. What a girl… he thought. He was now warding off his assailants, who realized that between Joey and Mai, they were up against more than they had bargained for.
As they began to retreat, Joey smirked in satisfaction; most of them had fled, and those who hadn't were quickly doing so.
"I think we've all learned a valuable lesson here…" he mused.
"Joey, look out!" Mai yelled.
He paid for his lapse in concentration as Hirutani came bearing down upon him, throwing him to the ground. He didn't move for a moment, causing Mai to gasp. But Joey had a plan—a plan he had learned from one of their allies who he didn't know too well, but who, unfortunately, had vanished at the Sorceress' hands and was now presumed gone. He waited until Hirutani stepped forward to inspect his handiwork, and then he got up, swinging his arm upward in an uppercut.
Hirutani roared as his center of gravity was compromised. He had been standing by the edge of the pier, and with another yell, fell into the water with a splash.
"Joey, I think some of the Sorceress' monsters are coming…!" Mai said, hearing armored footsteps approaching.
Hirutani yelled, horrified as the water monsters, who had previously attacked the monster he had thrown in the water, were now turning on him, their teeth sharp and gnashing.
Joey glanced at him and then to the direction that the minions were coming from.
"Mai, can you summon some monsters and get out of sight? Just hold off those minions for two minutes."
Mai nodded, summoning the Harpy's Pet Dragon.
Joey summoned his Red Eyes and the Legendary Fisherman. Sending the Fisherman in to hold off the water monsters, he had Red-Eyes hold him over the water as he extended his hand to Hirutani.
"What are you doing…!?" Hirutani asked, stunned.
"I'm doin' calisthenics," Joey replied, sarcastically. "What does it look like I'm doin'!? You want be in the water like a sitting duck when those minions arrive!?"
Hirutani hesitated, fearing a trap. But, at last, he took Joey's hand, and the Red-Eyes carried both of them to the Pier.
"Get going," said Joey. "They'll be here, soon."
He went to the hiding place where Mai was, recalling the Legendary Fisherman. Hirutani stood where he was for a moment and then fled, unable to figure Joey out.
"That was an incredible thing you just did," said Mai. "Not many people would've helped him if they'd been treated by him the same way he had treated you."
"Yeah…" sighed Joey. "Guess I'm just too nice for my own good. I really did mean what I said about not leaving him to that fate."
"You're a man of your word, Joey. That's admirable," she replied. "Not to mention honorable."
"Yeah…" Joey replied, a hint of pride returning to his voice. "Guess so…!"
He fell silent as some of the Sorceress' minions arrived. The Red-Eyes and Pet Dragon roared and swooped in warning, diving at the monsters, forcing them to retreat.
"They'll be back with more of those creatures," said Joey. "Now's our chance to get back to the base before they come."
Mai nodded, and the two recalled their dragons as they headed for their warehouse. Atem was standing guard, and the Pharaoh's spirit blinked as he saw them return, running.
"Are you alright…?" he asked them.
"Yeah, but there're going to be some monsters searching the area," said Joey, as he lifted up the trapdoor in the floor. "I'd stay out of sight if I were you."
"Don't worry about me," Atem assured them. As a spirit no longer bound to the Millennium Puzzle, he could easily make himself invisible if he chose to do so. "You get to where it's safe; I'll keep an eye on things here. Mahad and Mana will help if things get too sticky."
The two nodded.
"Good luck," said Mai, heading down the trapdoor first.
Joey paused for the moment, looking out the window one last time. The pier was empty, but it wouldn't last—he knew that all too well.
"I miss the old Domino," he said, quietly.
"If there's anyone who can ensure that we'll see it someday again, it's you and the others," Atem replied.
"You really believe in us, don't you?" Joey mused.
"Why not? Your track record speaks for itself."
"Guess so…" Joey replied again, a hint of a smile returning to his face. He thanked Atem and headed down the passageway, his hand reaching up to close the trapdoor behind him.
Someday, he repeated to himself.