Notes: All my works are unbetaed, so if there's a mistake, or something, do feel free to tell me via review or PM.

The Empress of Ereve was said to be beautiful, kind and a lovely sight despite her simplistic garments. Rumours of her were common in his line of work- she was a pretty gem, after all. And pretty gems, are caught and stolen by thieves.

It had been Colette who brought his attention to Ereve. Empress Aria had issued an indirect challenge to him, through the use of her said to be favourite jewel, the Skaia. Proclaimed to be under tight guard, not any ordinary thief would dare to steal it- for doing so would incur the whole world's ire for making their beloved empress unhappy.

A load of bull, if you asked Phantom.

Skaia? No more than a pretty bauble that the Empress preferred. No, the true jewel of Ereve was the Empress herself. Much more well known than her bauble, much more prettier than the Skaia which he had seen.

He paused. Prettier? Since when was that word in his vocabulary, he wondered. Sure, she was a sight to behold on the eyes, but..

She is an enemy. Of the Black Mage and by extension, of his siblings. By that itself, and that alone, he cannot pity her, nor fantasise about her. Letting a single of those thoughts slip through would be disastrous, for the risk of betraying his siblings momentarily is high.

He could not allow that to happen.

His first stolen jewel as Master Thief Phantom was an onyx as dark as void. It happened in a mansion in city that was filled with greed. Gold was found everywhere in abundance, and could change hands as quick as a rabbit's heart beat. Yet with a bit of tinsel gold, the Onyx was stolen from it's rich owners through their servants' betrayal.

His second jewel was a topaz as bright as the sun, in a town, filled with lust. Children were quick to be abandoned once birthed and body pleasures was a form of payment, that worked as well as gold. A quick misdirection, a quick flash of flesh- and the brothel mistress was unconscious, with the window opened and the topaz long gone.

His third jewel was an emerald as green as a lush forest. It was embedded into a statue of gold, to be unveiled on the opening day of a museum in Orbis. This was unlike his other jobs- not much sins, but Orbis was high in pride. Pompous fairies, thinking that they were above humans, just because of their longer lifespan. A calling card was sent, and guards were posted. Useless- through trickery and guile, the statue was stolen, with them none the wiser, only to be found on the roof of the museum days later, with it's jewels pried off.

His forth jewel was a pair of diamonds, one as white as light, the other as black as a raven's feather. Hidden in plain site, the monks of sloth from the monastery where he stole the jewels placed in the heart of their gate, in the mid of day, now had to use their own hands and legs to do their chores and survive.

His fifth jewel, was a spinel of carmine. Locked in a glass case, in the middle of a fountain in a village of average wealth, viewed enviously by all. However, the villagers dared not take the gem, for the punishment was too great, too dire, to even chance a minute of having the spinel in his or her hand. The next day, the town herald proclaimed, the thievery of the spinel, by the Master Thief Phantom, during the dead of the night.

His sixth jewel was the Skaia, as indigo as the evening skies. Obtained not through trickery nor guile, but as a form of a dead royal's deathwish. Given in hope and kindness- it bought nothing to Phantom, but a displaced feeling of wrath.

When he first met Freud, he first thought of him as a means of replacement (revenge) for Aria. The magician was always clad in robes of lush vibrant vermillion red, with his insignia of azure blue, striking on the white cloth it rests on. At second thoughts, Freud was a messiah. Always willing to help- but he was no pacifist. He was willing to pick up arms to prove his point, if needed. Without knowing, Phantom no longer views him as a tool- but a toy, in the same way as he views his crew.

Pride was all he saw when he laid eyes on Mercedes. Pride for her country, pride for her cause, pride for herself. Clad in whites and golds, she dances around in combat, piercing every enemy in sight, without fail. Her actions were objective- if it does not prick at her sense of pride and justice, one would not see her do anything, first. Only once their esteemed leader spoke his approval, then does she. In time she would learn, however. That even pride, could be broken.

Simple. That was his first thought of Aran. A follower, not a leader. Willing to give his all to a cause he supports, not caring about what he gets in return. Enveloped in a red fur cloak, which hid his attire of chainmail and cloth, Justice and confidence reeks from all pores of his skin. Truly, someone to be afraid of, if he could not be converted, to the Black Mage's way of thinking.

The next magician that joined Freud's group had him bristling. Bright searing light, yet filled with arrogance. Luminous was his name. His robes were as bright and white as newly fallen snow- but he was a false light. Light was unfeeling, not arrogant! Although.. He could not help but notice that Luminous's aura felt almost like his siblings' Master..

EunWol was a mystery. He was a pirate, yet not a pirate. The man had long sable hair, while his garments were odd- almost oriental- like that of Mu Lung. All that Phantom could gather on him without turning to other, darker and highly illegal, means, was that he's a painter. Only Freud knows why he recruited EunWol- and he isn't sharing.

However- bit by bit- he was starting to care for them- without his knowledge.

His first meeting with Aria happened in her bedroom where he was almost caught in her trap when he was trying to steal the Skaia. He was too quick for her, however, for he had ducked before he was ensnared by the protections. In their first meeting, nothing but a simple glance was exchanged.

Their second meeting was in the courtyard. She had chosen to take the Skaia out for a walk and he, had chosed to take the chance to grab the Skaia and go. Yet it failed, for she saw through his disguise and called for the guards, when he made a move to steal the jewel. In their second meeting, words were exchanged along with a glance or two.

The third meeting occurred in a ball. She was clad in shimmering silks of whites and golds, looking as angelic one could be. He himself was clothed in midnight blues and black, with a raven's mask adorning his face. Before he could steal the Skaia, a young upstart tried- through the use of fear and power. That would not do- the Skaia was his to steal! In their third meeting, he protected her and her heart started to swell.

Their fourth meeting was on a balcony. She teased and taunted him, and that would not do. The Puppeteer controls the puppet- not the other way round! However, it revealed an interesting bit of information- she wanted a peaceful treaty to end the war. Flashing a smile that belied none of his traitorous plots, he left with her adoring eyes on his back.

Their fifth meeting was on the same balcony they had met before. This time, she forgoes the foreplay of warm sarcasm and spoke of how the enemy had invited her to a peace conference. When her eyes started to dim, he took the reins of the conversation- a card, forming a rose, and pretty flowery words- to keep her mind off that matter. Once again, he left with her loving gaze, only this time, this time...
She would be a good toy to cherish and play with, he thought.

Their sixth meeting was him running to the pavilion, where she laid dead, on the divine bird's wings.

"Phantom.. They were.. Too powerful..."

They? His siblings? His siblings took the one that was going to be his toy away from him? He should be angry, but yet, his true(?) goal was finally Skaia, his goal(?) was finally given to him, after all these tête-à-tête that he had with the dead empress. So why?

Why did he feel sorrow?

The time has come.

Freud had prepared the seals.
Mercedes had her bowguns strings drawn taught.
Maha had been sharpened, Aran had many elixirs stocked.
EunWol had his weapon sharpened, ready to protect Freud.
Luminous was late. But he caught up in time.

With a tight smile, he passed the baton to Luminous, quickly went in and then-

"Good evening, Lotus. Or should I say, little brother?"
"Big brother!"