Yuugi passed the basket of bread around while coworkers and colleagues came to stand around the table, the conversation slowly dwindling down. Ryou carefully spread out the maps and covered the table top. Malik snorted loudly. "With all due respect" – though his tone of voice clearly belied his words – "that i is /i a rather outdated map."
"I know," Ryou answered before anyone else could, "and I only use it for reference. It was the map of my father, and he left valuable notes on it."
Curious, the Egyptian leaned forward, trying to decipher the small script, scrawled all over the map. Jounouchi didn't allow him to take a look, by pushing another map on top of it. "Here we are. Valley of the Kings, sector 2B-9878A."
"According to my father's research, the palace of the forgotten Pharaoh must be around here," Ryou said, pointing with his fingers at the area. "He has done research for years to eliminate all other possibilities, and has put every effort into pinpointing the location."
He lifted up a worn-torn book, almost shoving it in Malik's face. "My father left excessive notes on the subject, detailing his research and his process of elimination. I studied his notes for years to follow into his footsteps and finish his work."
"So you base your excavation on sentiments, scribbled notes and a lousy map," Malik answered, looking incredulous. "How the hell did you ever obtain a permit?"
Ryou blushed furiously, and Yuugi rushed to his friend's defense, almost yelling: "Hey! Ryou holds valid arguments for assuming that the forgotten Pharaoh's palace exists and is somewhere around here. There have been permits issued for less!"
"That so much is true," Malik admitted, "but still..! This piece of land has been combed out very recently by a Crawford expedition" – there was a collective groan as everybody remembered the eccentric Pegasus J. Crawford and his multi-billion dollar excavation circus – "and there's nothing left to discover. However, there could be a slight possibility that they overlooked something as the desert holds many secrets and treasures," he continued, "but I'd be very, very surprised."
"You're only hired to do the guiding around here," Jounouchi commented. "You don't have to doubt our research- that's not your job."
"Jounouchi!" Yuugi exclaimed, trying to keep the commotion down. Jounouchi could be hot-tempered, and Malik seemed to push his every button. The blonde snorted slightly before returning his attention to Ryou. Honda snorted too, keeping a close eye on Malik.
"My father has done extensive research on the matter," Ryou picked up the topic again, repeating his words. "The location of the palace couldn't be found because the Pharaoh who had it built has been forgotten- and, as was usual in ancient times, rulers build upon the ruins of their predecessors, out of spite, malice or just because they were plain cheap."
"You're pointing to the temple of Hatshepshut," Malik said. "There's nothing to find in that area. It's been subjected to many surveys and excavations. A national historical study group already determined that her temple wasn't built on the ruins of any other palace. Besides, the timetable of the dynasties and their Pharaohs has been well established for decades- there aren't any forgotten Pharaohs, only unnamed, amongst them."
"You're familiar with the Ceremonial Tablets?" Ryou interrupted the guide.
Malik snorted, looking offended. "I work at the National Museum, remember? I can draw them from the top of my head, blindfolded!"
"Show off," Jounouchi muttered.
Ryou elbowed him. "Quit it. If you know the tablets, then you also know the one pictured on them. My father was on the trail of the Pharaoh portrayed in that particular tablet..."
"You mean that one?" Malik almost choked. "You can't be serious!"
"Why not?" Ryou was a very patient man, but he felt like Malik was mocking him, and he didn't like that- he took his work and studies very seriously.
"Nobody is for sure if he was a real Pharaoh- everything concerning his name has been removed, and on the Tablet, he hardly shows signs of the usual Pharaonic attire and customs. Come to think of it, he looks a little bit like Yuugi here!"
"Hey!" Yuugi protested, but Ryou simply nodded.
"I noticed the resemblance between him and the forgotten Pharaoh as well, but I doubt it's anything but a coincidence."
Jounouchi shook his head. "Those Tablets have been excavated since decades as well, and no one has ever found a trace of the Pharaoh involved, except for Ryou's father. You should be thrilled by the idea that we're on the brink of an important discovery, not questioning the man!"
"So your father placed him before Hatshepsut? New Kingdom, 18th-20th Dynasty?" Malik was already bored by Yuugi's resemblance to an ancient ruler and tapped on the map again, ignoring Jounouchi in the process.
"No, not before, after. After Akhenaten reigned and the court moved back to Thebes..."
"Are you sure your father isn't mistaking him for Tutankhamun? He's already been discovered, you know."
"That's enough of that," Jounouchi bellowed. "Ryou's father was a wise and intelligent man, and you don't need to give him this attitude. The man sacrificed his life for this. Now for you, it's either stay in or stay out!"
"Jounouchi!" Yuugi tried to calm his best friend again, but failed utterly as his voice squeaked on the very last syllable, the high-pitched tone almost hurting his ears.
"You don't need to get worked up," Malik answered, "I'll do your guiding as I'm hired to do. I am just curious, and you all seem to forget that the Ishtars are internationally acclaimed as Egyptologists and are renowned for their knowledge."
"Oh,those Ishtars," Jounouchi commented dryly and ignored the glare he received in return.
"I think it's time for breakfast," Ryou announced just before his stomach rumbled, appreciative of the thought of food. Two of the servants, who had been patiently waiting in the corner of the tent, quickly bowed and moved out. Ryou rolled up the maps and picked up his father's notebook.
"General Horemheb removed everything from Tutankhamun's reign," Malik continued the earlier topic, his voice holding genuine curiosity and interest. Jounouchi turned around, opening his mouth for a snide remark, but Ryou only lifted up his hand, and he refrained from commenting. "There was chaos and discomfort because of the recently introduced Aten religion, and the movement from the capital from Thebes to Amarna. Tutankhamun tried to reverse the process, but he lived too shortly to successfully accomplish his goals, and Horemheb literally waltzed over him- the only things remaining of Tutankhamun are what has been found in his tomb."
"I refuse to think that the nameless Pharaoh and Tutankhamun are the same- his tomb has been discovered with everything intact, so we know how he looked, how he dressed, how he died. The nameless Pharaoh is what he is- a Pharaoh without a name, but with a picture, as the Ceremonial Tablets depict him. He's nothing alike Tutankhamun, and I will prove it, together with my father... my father's notes."
Malik looked a little bit quizzically at Ryou, and then merely shrugged. "What you want. It's your money and your excavation."
The tent flap was opened and the two servants entered, with baskets and dishes in their hands- more bread, figs, the inevitable jar of honey, more dried fruit andshakshouka, a warm tomato and egg dish. Ryou always skipped eating hot food in the morning, for some reason it didn't fall well on his stomach, so he took another piece of pita bread and looked around for a chair. Malik declined rather politely, claiming to have already had breakfast. Jounouchi and Honda, as well as the rest of the team, had no troubles with devouring the food- especially Jounouchi was known for his ability to eat an army's worth. Yuugi ate some of the dried fruit and poured two glasses of ice cold water, one for himself and one for Ryou. He closed the distance between them, as Ryou was sitting in the corner of the tent, his father's diary on his lap.
"Here," Yuugi said, "you drink too little, and coffee is dehydrating, you know."
"I hardly drink coffee," Ryou said, but smiled when accepting the glass. He knew his friend had only the best intentions, for him and for the dig. "We're going to unearth history, I just know it. My father was on the right track- we'll find the palace of the forgotten Pharaoh, and with any luck, we'll find his name as well."
"I hope so too," Yuugi answered good-naturedly, but kept his gaze fixed on Ryou. He knew his friend all too well, and he also knew how fixated Ryou had become on following into his father's footsteps and finishing his work. Losing your mother and sister at a very young age, and now your father… Ryou always had had the unhealthy habit of focusing on one thing in particular, attaching himself to it, and never letting it go, no matter what the circumstances. If there wasn't a forgotten Pharaoh to be found, if Ryou was only chasing a phantom, a ghost literally, if all his work would be proven to be of no avail… Yuugi was sure what it would do to his friend- it would devastate him. Holding onto this, the one thing he had made himself to be his father's last wish, this was Ryou's way of surviving life. If… no, Yuugi wouldn't think of what would happen if this excavation, this dig would fail. They would succeed, and they would find the forgotten Pharaoh and give him his name back.
He took a sip of his drink, keeping an eye on Ryou when a shadow fell over them; it was Jounouchi, grinning at the both of them.
"We're going to the site! Malik's already outside, let's go!"