A.N: No huge spoilers, though it's probably better to be past Akzeriuth.


"Happy birthday, Colonel!" Anise shouted, jumping rather energetically onto Jade's bed. The Malkuthian officer just managed to avoid summoning his spear and stabbing her out of reflex as he was rudely jolted awake. He tried to sit up, but the little girl had now flopped down to sit on his stomach, effectively pinning him beneath the covers. "I brought you breakfast! And cake!" Both she and the young green-haired Fon Master carrying a tray of food and a small chocolate cake beamed at him. Soft light beginning to filter in through the curtains of the window showed that it was still only six or seven in the morning.

"It is my birthday, isn't it?" Jade replied, sounding less than pleased. He fumbled for his glasses on the nightstand—he needed the stress relief fiddling with them gave him to get through this new turn of events. "I suppose I have Peony to thank for spreading that around?"

"The emperor will tell me anything," Anise replied, with her best adorable expression. Jade attempted to ignore her. "Now come on, eat up! I spent hours slaving in the kitchen to make this for you!"

"It was only about forty-five minutes, Anise," Ion said, setting the tray on the nightstand. Its assortment of breakfast foods included bacon, eggs, biscuits, and a steaming mug of tea.

"You, shush!" the black-haired little girl snapped at him. She turned back to Jade, her favorite sickly-sweet tone creeping into her words, if not her meaning. "That's still forty-five minutes of my life I won't be getting back, so you'd better appreciate it, Colonel!"

"I always appreciate your cooking, Anise," Jade said placidly. "Now, would you mind getting off me so I can eat?"

"Oops! Sorry," Anise giggled, and slid off of him to sit on the side of the bed, swinging her legs idly over the wooden floorboards. Tokunaga grinned at the room's occupants from his usual position on her back.

Jade sat up and ran a hand through the hair which he knew was tangled and made him look less dignified than usual. Anise stared at him expectantly, and he sighed and reached for the tray. He took a bite of one of the buttermilk biscuits she had provided. "My, your cooking is excellent as always, I see," he remarked.

"Why thank you, Colonel," the little girl said happily. "You should try the cake, too! Tear helped me with the recipe... It's not quite as good as I would have liked, but it's my first try."

"I'm sure it's delicious," Jade said, and took another bite of the biscuit.

Anise beamed at him. "Ion and I got you presents, too," she said, bouncing slightly on the bed's edge. "They're really good ones, too!"

"Normally, I'd offer you a Score reading as well," said Ion, "but, well... with the current situation..."

"That's all right, I haven't had a birthday Score reading in years anyway," Jade replied, loading his fork with eggs.

Anise stopped bouncing. "Huh? But... why not? Everyone has the Score read on their birthdays."

Jade smiled and shrugged. "Oh, I find life to be much more exciting if you don't know what to expect, don't you?"

"No," said Anise. Ion shook his head slightly as well.

"Hm," said Jade. He raised the fork to his mouth, chewed once, and swallowed. "Well, the other issue I have with the Score is that others find out about your future, as well."

"And why is that a problem?" Anise asked, tilting her head to the side.

Jade smiled. "Really, I think you of all people would know the answer to that," he said, his tone teasing. She scowled at him. "Why does the Order of Lorelei keep soldiers, do you think?"

"Huh?" Anise frowned. "Um, to keep the peace, right?"

"To keep the world following the Score," Jade answered, gathering another forkful of eggs. "Not everything that's written is good, you know. And not everyone likes what they hear. What do you think happens to people who the Score has predicted will die, but manage to avoid their fate?"

"Um..." said Anise, not liking where this was going. "I... don't know?"

"The Oracle Knights hunt them down, of course." Jade put down the fork, his red eyes narrowed and the smile menacing. "They cut off their heads and bury the bodies in ditches so no one ever knows what happened."

"...W-what?!" said Anise, horrified. Ion looked slightly disturbed as well. "I've never heard of that happening! It can't be true!"

"Have I ever lied to you before?" Jade asked.

"Yes," Anise responded immediately. "All the time."

"I'm shocked, Anise." He placed a hand above his heart with a scandalized expression. "Are you insinuating that a distinguished member of the Malkuth military frequently sets out to deceive you?"

"Well, of course you are. What you're saying is completely false," Anise argued. She jumped off the bed and put her hands on her hips. "The Order isn't like that!"

Jade smirked and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Recent events seem to point otherwise, don't they?"

Anise scowled at the Colonel, then whirled on the young Fon Master standing beside her. "Ion! Are you just going to stand there and let him say things like that?!" she demanded.

"Actually, with the Order the way it is now, it wouldn't really surprise me," Ion said apologetically.

"Booo! Well, I don't believe it!" Anise stomped her foot. "Where's your proof, huh? How do you know all this, anyway?"

"Oh, the Score said I was supposed to die years ago," Jade said offhandedly. "I haven't had it read since."

Anise could only stare at him in shock. "Really?"

"Of course not," he replied.

"W-what?!" Anise spluttered. "Then why did you say that?!"

"If you're going to call me a liar, why should I bother telling you the truth?" Jade said evenly.

Anise stared at him for another moment, then clenched her fists and glared at him. "Ooh... I hate you, Colonel!" she fumed.

Jade smiled pleasantly. "Ah, who's lying now?"

"Argh!" Anise's voice was nearing a scream. "See if I give you your present now! Come on, Ion, let's go!" And she stormed off, slamming the door rather loudly as she exited. The rattle shook the rafters of the small inn.

"Um..." said Ion, looking at the door, which had sprung halfway open again from the force of Anise's closure. "I'm really sorry about that, Jade. I'll go talk to her and we'll give you your presents later..."

"Don't worry about it, Fon Master," Jade replied. "The present she just gave me was more than enough."

"You mean the cake?" Ion asked, somewhat confused.

Jade shrugged. "If you want to think that, go ahead." He took a bite of the confection. "Though this is really quite good."

"I...see..." said Ion, who didn't, but knew better than to question the Colonel when he got into one of his strange moods. "I'll see you later, then. Happy birthday, Jade."

Jade smiled at the Fon Master's retreating back as the boy left the room, closing the door far more gently than his Guardian had. A moment later, he turned back to his breakfast, deciding that overall this had been a rather pleasant start to his birthday. He placed another bite of cake in his mouth, savoring the chocolate frosting. Anise certainly did know just what to get him, he thought. Being able to annoy her was always so much fun...