A cloaked figure approached the torii gate of the Hikawa shrine. A hood covered the person's hair and eyes, but the collar of a striped shirt poked through the cowl of the cloak. The figure grinned and chuckled as they entered the gate, retreating behind a couple of trees. "Alright, is this close enough?" the figure whispered into a small green sphere they held.
"Yes, this is perfect, Sir Thief," a woman's voice emanated from the sphere. Glowing, the sphere lifted from the figure's hand and pulsed with sickly light. "Operation Tomb begins now." Both the voice and the figure chuckled softly.
Within the shrine, the five Inner Scouts sat around on pillows the low table, talking and studying. Well, at least Amy, Raye, and Mina were studying.
"Hey, Lita, can I have another one of those delicious brownies?" Serena asked, pointing at the plate at the center of the low table.
Lita shook her head. "You had four already, and Amber's still not here to have any."
"Where is she, anyways?" Serena asked with a pout. "I know her family keeps her busy, but…"
Lita shrugged. "Amber said she'd be here ten minutes ago. Maybe she had to babysit her sister last minute or something." Amy nodded as she continued to read.
"And here I thought Serena's tardiness hadn't rubbed off on her yet," Raye said as she crossed her arms over her textbook.
"What do you mean by that?" Serena balled a hand into a fist.
"Hey guys, sorry I'm late!" Amber hopped into the room from the outside entrance. The pale auburn-haired girl kicked off her shoes as she continued, "I had to help take care of Crystal and John after school, and things have been way nutty at my house. Y'know how siblings are."
Raye, Mina, and Lita stared at Amber, while Serena nodded in agreement.
Amber sighed. "Oh yeah, only Serena knows… Oh well, no big deal." She sat between Serena and Lita with a smile as she pulled out her textbooks.
Lita offered Amber a brownie, which she accepted with a wide smile. Serena snatched another one of Lita's brownies from the center of the table before the tall brunette could stop her. Lita shook her head and rolled her eyes at Serena's behavior. Raye was about to snap at Serena, but Mina looked up from her notebook and gave the raven-haired priestess a warning glare. Amy continued to be absorbed in reading a textbook, and Amber began asking Lita about the recipe for the brownies.
Amber was the odd one out of the group, but not just because she had four siblings while Serena had one and the others had none. It also wasn't just because Amber was American while the others were Japanese. Her long, curly red-brown hair fell halfway down her back, and her caramel brown eyes seemed to hold both keen intelligence and an excitable side. Unlike the other Scouts, she had not faced Queen Beryl or the Negamoon family. She did not even join the Scouts until little pink-haired Rini became her friend and discovered that Amber and the mysterious Sailor Universe were the same person. Before then, she kept to herself, but now Amber and the rest of the Scouts were close friends.
Serena finished munching the brownie and looked over at Amy. "Hey, Amy, that's not one of our textbooks, is it?" she asked.
Lita leaned over the book Amy was taking notes from. "Yea, we're not even studying ancient Egypt in class, and the semester ends tomorrow."
"I know, but I find this subject fascinating at the moment," Amy replied matter-of-factly.
Serena sighed. "Typical Amy, always ahead of the game."
"But you were reading medical books yesterday," Mina replied. "Why the topic switch?"
Amy smiled. "My father is going to Egypt soon to photograph a new excavation site in the Valley of the Kings, and in his last letter to me he asked if I'd like to go with him."
Amber gasped with a squeal. "Oh my gosh, Amy, you're so lucky!"
Everyone gave Amber a confused look. "Where did this come from?" Lita asked.
"I've always found ancient Egyptian culture so fascinating," Amber cooed with heart eyes. "The pyramids, the mythology, the writing, the ancient royalty… so amazing!" Amber clasped Amy's hands, making Amy drop her book. "Oh, Amy, I wish I could go with you!"
Amy giggled. "Well, my dad did say I could bring a few friends if I wanted, and school is letting out soon…"
Amber gasped to squeal again, but a beeping sound from Amber's messenger bag interrupted her. "Amber, your computer is going off," Luna said while jumping onto the table.
"Oh, so is mine." Amy pulled her mini super computer out of her briefcase.
Amber ducked under the table and grabbed her own mini super computer from next to Serena's feet. Both girls opened their mini laptops, and a static-filled video began to play on both screens. The shadowed image of a dark-haired woman darted in and out of the static. Lita and Serena leaned over Amber's shoulders, and Raye and Mina knelt by Amy.
"-ber, can you hear—urgent…"
"I'm trying to de-fragment the video," Amy declared, typing away on her keyboard.
"—llenium Ring spirit—ing to take the other—please help—bring the Puzzle and…" The video suddenly cleared up. The woman's eyes were visible and filled with worry. "Come to the Valley of the Kings." The video ended.
Everyone sat in shock, staring at the blank screens. Then, Raye said, "This feels bad. I got to check the shrine for evil spirits." She ran out of the room. "Grandpa!" she yelled.
"What was that about?" Serena asked, pointing at Amber's screen.
Amber's hands shook. "… Ishizu?" she whispered, eyes large with fright.
"Ishizu?" the others asked.
"You know her?" Lita asked.
Amber nodded slightly. "I… I think so," she said, closing her computer. "I can't be entirely sure, but… she looks like a woman I met… a while ago. A native Egyptian named Ishizu Ishtar."
"Why would she want you to go to Egypt?" Mina asked.
Amber shook her head. "The video kept breaking out. I… couldn't entirely tell…" She clasped her hands together and her shoulders shrank. "She normally doesn't have Internet or video access… I don't know." Lita wrapped an arm around Amber's shoulders to comfort her.
Amy stopped typing. "She said something about a ring and a puzzle. I can't get the video to clear up, though. The site of transmission suddenly cut off."
"The timing is too convenient," Raye interjected as she re-entered the room. "Amy's dad invites us all on a trip to Egypt, and a mysterious message wants us all there as well… plus Grandpa and I just warded off a particularly powerful spirit."
Amber covered her mouth with her hands. "Oh no…"
Raye stared at Amber. "Something you want to say?"
"I…" Amber looked away, staring at the ground. "It's just a hunch, but…" She bit her lip, then looked up at her friends. "Around the same time I met Ishizu, she was having issues with her brother… he was turning to darkness. There were evil spirits around him. But… he's been exorcised for a while now. He and Ishizu could be having problems with his…old associates." She began playing with her curls.
"And what about the ring and puzzle?" Amy asked as she closed her own computer.
"Some ancient artifacts from her exhibit Ishizu was hosting here in Japan," Amber admitted, fingers still twined in her hair. "I don't have the ring, but one of her brother's old associates did." Her expression became untypically stern. "We have to stop that associate."
"Then let's go!" A voice called out from behind Serena. Everyone jumped in surprise, and Serena turned around to see Rini standing behind her.
"Rini, aren't you supposed to be with Sam?" Serena gritted her teeth.
"I was, but Sam left to go play baseball." Rini pouted. "So I came over here and heard you guys talking about Egypt and heard the message play."
"Rini, it could be dangerous," Raye said.
"I know, but if Amber's friend needs help, we should go help," Rini replied, clinging to Amber's arm. Amber smiled at the pink-haired girl. "So, are we going?" Rini asked.
"Could you call your dad and tell him that we'd like to go with him?" Lita asked Amy.
"Sure! We should end our study session and go pack. My dad wants to take us on Monday," Amy said.
"And today's Thursday," Mina noted, looking at a calendar on the wall.
"Ack! Only three days! We should go!" Serena picked up Rini, despite the little girl protesting, and her own manga and ran off.
With that, everyone else grabbed their backpacks and left—all except Raye. She gave Amber a critical look as Amber packed her books and computer. "Amber, there better not be anything you're hiding."
Amber jumped, then looked up at Raye with annoyance. "Don't worry. I wouldn't hide anything you guys need to know." She zipped her backpack closed and stomped off.
*~*~Meanwhile, at Yugi's house in a separate part of Tokyo~*~*
"What? Oh, well, at least I tried," Serenity moaned. The caramel-haired girl had just finished a table-top duel with Tea and had lost. "I'm not that good at dueling yet, anyways."
"It's okay, sis," Joey said, putting his hand on her shoulder. "With practice, you'll get better."
"Thanks Joey. Maybe I'll be as good as you someday!" Serenity said.
"Yea, then nobody will mess with the Wheeler duo!" Joey and Serenity hi-fived.
"Even though you didn't win, you played really well," Yugi replied, leaning back against the couch where he sat on the floor. "Both of you used really good strategies."
"At least Serenity's loss wasn't anything like when I dueled Joey," Tea replied, smirking and flipping back her short brown hair.
"Hey, that was before I knew I needed magic and trap cards with my monsters!" Joey exclaimed.
"I remember that day," Tristan said, relaxing on the couch. "She totally wasted you with a really good magic card."
Serenity stared at Tea. "You beat my big brother?"
"Yep," Tea replied.
"Well, at least I know my brother was like me once." Serenity giggled.
"Um, yea…" Joey scratched behind his head in embarrassment, and a sweat-drop appeared on his head. Everyone else laughed.
A beeping sound rang from up the stairs. Yugi turned, raising an eyebrow. "I must've forgot to turn my computer volume down. One minute, guys." Yugi walked upstairs to his room—and froze as his web browser popped up on his own on the screen. "What on earth…" He sat in his chair as his email opened on its own.
"Yugi, I have a bad feeling about this," Yami said, appearing beside Yugi.
"Yeah, me too," Yugi replied as a video began to play.
"Yugi and Amber, can you hear me?" a woman spoke into the camera. Her face was shrouded in shadow, but Yugi recognized her voice.
"Ishizu?!" Yugi and Yami exclaimed, eyes wide.
"The Millennium Ring spirit has returned and is trying…" Static filled the screen, then the video played as normal. Ishizu continued. "Please help. Bring the Puzzle and the other Items you two have here to Egypt. Come to the Valley of the Kings." The video shut off.
Yugi's hands fell limp on the keyboard. "Something is very wrong… what could he be trying to pull?"
Yami's eyebrows furrowed. "Whatever it is, he must be stopped."
"But what if it's a trap?" Yugi asked, facing the Pharaoh. "It did look like Ishizu, but…"
"Hey Yug, what's takin' so long?" Joey swung into the doorframe of Yugi's room. Serenity and Tea poked their heads around Joey's arm.
"Did something happen?" Tea asked. "We heard a voice up here."
Yugi nodded, beckoning his friends to enter his room. Tristan shut the door behind them. Joey, Tea, Serenity, and Tristan all sat on the floor. "Ishizu sent a video message to me somehow," Yugi said, leaning back. "Apparently the Spirit of the Ring is giving the Ishtars trouble, and she wants me and Amber to bring the Items to Egypt."
"Whoa, already?" Joey asked. "But didn't she tell you to keep them safe here?"
"Yeah, but now she's changed her mind… and I'm worried."
"It could be a setup," Tristan said.
"Or maybe she really needs help," Serenity chimed in. "I… I had a dream last night where she was running from something…" She gulped. "It made me really worried, and now this video Yugi got… I think she does need help." She clasped her hands together.
Yugi sighed. "You're probably right…"
"I'll text Amber and ask if she got anything like that video," Tea said, pulling out her cell phone. "Even though she's probably asleep right now with the timezone difference and all."
"Yeah, and after that we can figure out an attack plan, right Yug?" Joey asked. Yugi nodded.
"Hello, everyone," Yugi's grandpa, Mr. Muto, said as he entered the room.
"Hi Grandpa!" Yugi greeted, plastering on a smile.
Mr. Muto smiled. "I have some exciting news that you all might be interested in."
"What is it?" Tea asked.
"Professor Hawkins just phoned, and he asked if I would like to go with him to an archeological dig in Egypt. He's leaving next week, and he said you could all come with, if you would like to."
"I'm all for it! How about you guys?" Yugi turned to his friends.
"Yea, let's go!" Joey exclaimed. Everyone else agreed, albeit less enthusiastically.
"Alright, I'll call him back and tell him it's an affirmative," Yugi's grandpa replied, leaving the room.
"Wait, Grandpa! Is Rebecca coming, too?" Yugi asked.
"I don't know, but I'll ask," Yugi's grandpa shouted down the hall.
"Hey Yug! This is perfect! We can go help the Ishtars then do some great siteseeing and stuff," Joey exclaimed. "And who knows? Maybe we'll find more stuff about the Pharaoh and things linked to the Puzzle while we're there, too."
"A little too perfect, if you ask me," Tristan interjected. "Getting an offer to fly to Egypt on the same day we receive a request to go there… I don't like it."
"Me neither, but what else can we do?" Tea tapped her chin thoughtfully. "It's better to check and be safe rather than sorry."
"I'll ask Mom if I can come, too," Serenity said, turning to Joey. "I have a feeling I ought to be there, too."
"Sure thing, sis." Joey grabbed Serenity around her shoulders. "Just know if I'll ask you to run for your life, then you will, ok?" Serenity bobbed her head, biting her lip.
"Well, even though we're going to answer a distress call… I'm hoping to enter the Pharaoh's tomb while we're in Egypt, too," Yugi replied, fingering the Puzzle and looking it over.
"His tomb? How come?" Tea asked curiously.
"I have my reasons," Yugi replied with a smile.
*~*~Next week at the airport ~*~*
Amy, Serena, and the others waited for Amy's dad to arrive. Even though he lived far away, he said he was driving to the airport and would meet them there.
Serena yawned and looked at her watch. "It's 6 o'clock in the morning. I never wake up this early on a weekend." She yawned again. "I'm so tired." She sat on the bench next to their luggage.
"Just be patient, Serena. You can always sleep on the plane," Amber replied. "Be grateful you got permission – I had to wrangle it out of my parents."
"I don't know how much more of Serena's whining I can handle," Raye replied, annoyed.
"Me neither," Rini retorted. A big sweat drop appeared on both of their heads. "By the way, Amber, where are Amberlee and Cloe?" Rini asked.
"Huh?" Amber perked up at the mention of her doll guardians. "Oh, they agreed to letting me put them in my suitcase." She looked behind her at Amy.
Amy was looking up and down the street in front of the airport, her eyes constantly scanning the crowds. Amber gently prodded Amy's mind with her telepathy. Memories of Amy's childhood came to her mind, sun-filled scenes of Amy's father tossing a little Amy in the air and playing pretend doctor with her. Amber smiled; Amy spoke little of her father, but when she had, it was never with hate or sadness, and Amber felt she could understand why now.
Amy paced back and forth—then suddenly stopped. "There he is!" she exclaimed, pointing at a taxi approaching. The others ran to join her.
The taxi pulled up to the front of the airport where Amy and her friends were at, and a stocky man got out. He wore khakis and a grey polo shirt, a thick black beard concealing his neck. Amy, unable to contain her excitement, ran to the man and gave him a great big hug. At first the others just stood there gaping; hugging was something normally Amy didn't do. Amber smiled and joined Amy and her dad; the others followed behind her.
"Oh, Dad, it's so good to see you!" Amy exclaimed joyfully, still embracing her dad around his chest. Her dad stood there in shock at first, but eventually returned the hug.
"I'm glad to see you too, sweetie," he replied. He hugged her tighter, tears filling his eyes. After a while, Amy pulled away from her dad, smiling.
"Dad, these are my friends, Serena, Raye, Lita, Mina, Rini, and Amber," Amy said. Each girl bowed when their name was mentioned.
"It's a pleasure to meet you," Mina replied. The others replied in a similar manner.
"After hearing so much about you, I'm glad to finally meet you in person," Amber responded.
"The pleasure is all mine," Amy's dad replied. "Now who's ready for an adventure?"
"I am!" everyone chorused in unison, Amber and Rini the loudest.
"Great! Now let's get going and not make the plane wait for us." He picked up his bags and walked over to where everyone else's luggage was.
Amy giggled. "Oh, Daddy." Amber heard Amy think, He's still that same old tease, and for that I'm glad. At least he hasn't changed too much.
Everyone got their luggage and headed for the plane. Serena got a bit too excited and tripped.
"Milady, are you alright?" Amber asked, catching Serena before she fell.
"I'm fine. Amber, you slipped," Serena reminded Amber.
"Oh yeah…" Amber put her hand behind her head and a big sweat-drop appeared. Yeah, calling Serena 'milady' is a bad habit, she thought. Amber, with slightly red cheeks, and Serena, straightening her skirt, joined the others.
*~*~In another part of the airport~*~*
"Where are Joey and Serenity? They're taking forever!" Tristan exclaimed in annoyance. He paced back and forth impatiently.
"Oh, be patient! Not everyone is punctual," Tea retorted, looking up from the travel guide she was reading.
"After all, Joey does like his sleep," Yugi commented, batting his blonde bangs out of his eyes. Just then a sleepy-eyed Joey and a bright-eyed Serenity walked up to Yugi and the gang .
"Hey guys! Sorry it took us so long, but it took almost a full hour to wake this zombie up," Serenity said jokingly, jerking her thumb back at Joey. He was slowly dragging his luggage just behind Serenity and yawned loudly.
"I'm not used to waking up this early," Joey explained.
"I am. Sometimes I wake up early because I'm really excited for an upcoming duel or tournament," Yugi replied.
"There they are!" Tea shouted. She happened to look up from her book and saw the limousine approaching that Rebecca's grandpa was in. The limo pulled up to the front of the airport, and two people stepped out.
"Hi everyone!" Rebecca called out, waving. She ran to Yugi and the gang carrying a small bag, her blonde ponytails flying to each side of her head. Her grandpa took the suitcases and another carry-on bag out of the limo, exchanged a few words with the driver, and walked up to where everyone else was as the limo drove away. "Oh, Yugi, I missed you so much!" she squealed, tackling Yugi to the ground. "I think about you every single day!"
"Uh, yeah, great... can you get off me now?" Yugi gasped. "Can't...breathe..."
"Oh no," Tea muttered, smacking her forehead.
"Rebecca, would you please get off of Yugi?" her grandpa asked politely.
Rebecca perked her head up. "Yes, Grandpa!" she replied like an angel, bounding up off the panting Yugi.
"How are you all?" Rebecca's grandpa asked the teenagers.
"We're fine, thanks," Tristan replied. Yugi slowly stood and brushed himself off. "Well, maybe not Yugi, but-" Joey cut him off by punching his arm lightly.
"It's good to see you again," Mr. Muto replied, putting his hand on Professor Hawkins' shoulder.
"The same here. Now who here is ready for an adventure?" Professor Hawkins asked.
"I am!" Rebecca and the others, minus Yugi, chorused in unison.
"Alright, then, let's get the luggage and head for the plane before it takes off without us," he replied, handing one of the suitcases to Rebecca.
"Oh, Grandpa, that's not going to happen." Rebecca giggled.
"You can never be too sure about that, my little college student," her grandpa chuckled. With that, everyone got their luggage and started off towards the plane.
Yugi walked a little slower than the others, staying by Tea. "Hey, Tea, did you ever hear back from Amber?"
Tea shook her head. "Did you?" Yugi shook his head. "That's weird. She's normally so quick about getting back to us."
"Well, let's just hope we don't need the Bracelet of Light along with the other items," Yugi said.
"Agreed," said Tea. "Now let's not get left behind by the others." Tea and Yugi jogged to catch up with their friends, only temporarily putting their concern on hold.