The King frowned.
" It seems his Majesty is not happy with my offer" the emissary said
King Leopold was silent for a long time
" What does Wismar want in return?" He looked at the emissary straight in the eye.
King Leopold was not a fool. It took decades for Wismar to accept Castonia as a trading partner. They wouldn't just offer an alliance on a whim. They must have wanted something in return.
"His Majesty's opinion of Wismar hurts my feelings." The emissary put his palm on his chest as a playful sign the Leopold's words hurt him. "Your Majesty, a friend wouldn't demand something in return from his friend. Wismar just wants to be a friend of Castonia. It's just..how should I put it… a friend sometimes doesn't approve of his friend's other friend" The emissary smiled again.
" Be direct" Leopold demanded
"We want you to cut all ties to Vanadis"
Leopold understood what the emissary was talking about. Wismar and Vanadis were trading rivals. Relations between the two countries were strained. For Wismar to be friends with Castonia, the latter must first be an enemy to Vanadis.
Between the two countries, Wismar would be a better ally. Its armies were strong and it was a rich Kingdom. Leopold had long wanted to have Wismar as an ally. He spent decades improving relations with Wismar. Now that it was the Wismarines themselves who were reaching out, he should be overjoyed.
But Leopold already promised Vanadis an alliance. He already spread the news of the partnership between Castonia and Vanadis. What would the other Kingdoms think if Castonia breaks its promise of friendship to Vanadis? Nobody would want to forge relations with them in the future. Even their current trade partners would probably close their ports and gates to Castonian goods.
" Why didn't you come earlier?" Leopold frowned. If they had come earlier, he would have chosen them over the Vanadians . "I already spread the news of my Kingdom's alliance with Vanadis"
" It's because you forged partnership with Vanadis that Wismar is now reaching out to you. We don't want our greatest competitor to benefit from Castonian strength" The emissary looked him in the eye.
"If I go back on my words, Castonia's name will live in infamy. We can't have that" He firmly said
" That's a small price to pay for Wismar's friendship" the emissary insisted.
Braun whispered to his ears, "We can't agree to this, Your Majesty."
"I know" Leopold replied "But let me think of a way"
Leopold thought for a while. Suddenly an idea came into his mind" We can't go back on our words. It's okay to replace Vanadis with Wismar, but our reputation will suffer. But there's another way" he smiled
" Oh? And what would that be?" The emissary raised his eyebrow
" I told the Vanadian King that my condition for an alliance would be a royal marriage" Leopold said
" And you intend to cancel the wedding. Am I wrong?" The emissary correctly guessed
Leopold shrugged " Without the wedding, there won't be an alliance."
" But if you cancel the wedding, then Castonian reputation would still be ruined"
" Not if I had no choice" Leopold smiled
" Your Majesty, it's my turn to ask you to be direct" the emissary frowned
" Timothy is the only one among my three children who's unmarried. If, say, something bad happens to Timothy and he dies, then I would have no choice but to cancel the wedding. The Vanadian princess can't marry a corpse" he said in a cold tone. Behind him, Braun gave a low grunt and tried to talk. He opened his mouth but Leopold stopped him with a gesture of his hand.
On the other hand, the emissary remained silent. He frowned and contemplated for a while. And after a while he smiled. " I didn't expect His Majesty to want this alliance so much. He's even willing to sacrifice his son for it"
" Just like what you said, it's a small price to pay"
Timothy's life meant nothing to him. He hated Timothy for a long time. Timothy was never his son to begin with. Timothy was the product of a blasphemous affair between his late wife and a palace guard.
After he discovered them in bed, his heart broke into pieces. He loved his wife with all his heart. He gave her everything. He loved her dearly. He was willing to give his life for her. He was willing to die for her. She was his beloved, the joy of his life, his main reason for living. Leopold killed the guard with his own hands. He strangled the bastard in bed until every bit of life was squeezed out of his throat. Even that wasn't enough-no, it was never enough. The bastard took everything from him, his wife! It was so painful that even if he strangled him a hundred times it wouldn't be enough. As for his wife, he loved her too much to touch even a single hair on her body. Leopold forgave his wife immediately. He can't get mad at her no matter what. He knew that he had been wronged, but love makes a man do strange things. So he forgave her with all his heart. But it was already too late, his wife was already pregnant with that bastard's son. He couldn't do anything. Ironic, he thought. He was the most powerful man in Castonia, but he was so powerless that time. After his wife gave birth to a baby boy, Leopold decided to treat the child as his own. He fed the child, clothed him and even made him a prince!
After a few years, his wife died. At first, he tried to be a father to the boy. He tried to love him as much as he loved his other children. He really tried, the heavens know that he really did. But as Timothy grew up, he looked more and more like him, that bastard who stole everything from him. His hair, his eyes, his face, he looked like him. Every single time he looks at Timothy, he could remember that night- the night he strangled the bastard with his bare hands. In the end, he made a compromise with himself. Since Timothy had his wife's blood, he would not reveal that he was not his son. He would treat him as a prince. But he couldn't bring himself to love Timothy. Now that there was a way to forge an alliance with Wismar at the cost of Timothy, he was more than willing to sacrifice his 'son'"
" So, you want to assassinate the prince?" The emissary asked. The speed at which he accepted the Timothy's assassination was astonishing. What a sly man, Leopold thought. But then again, who is he to talk?
" No." He refused firmly "A member of the royal family being assassinated would be a heavy blow to the soldier's morale. We can't afford it" Leopold doesn't want the people to doubt the capability of the crown. If a member of the royal family was assassinated, then they would lose morale. That will dangerous especially with the Tulosan invasion.
" So how do you plan to kill him?"
" The Tulosans are currently invading. Wars are… messy affairs. Princes die left and right" he believes that the emissary understood his meaning
" Smart. You won't only have an alliance, you'll also have a hero prince. If the Prince was killed in battle, as popular as he is with the soldiers, his name would become a battle cry. So what's your plan then?" The emissary was right. Instead of lowering the morale of the people by assassinating Timothy, he would use his death wisely. Timothy would be a hero. That would be the last gift Leopold could give to his late wife- that son of her becoming a hero.
" I might need your help." Leopold said " There's a 10,000 strong army currently razing the villages near Solon. Timothy suggested that we should send Castonia's two western armies to stop it. I'll let him lead that army"
The emissary pondered for a while. " But what if he prevails? Tulosan knights are strong, but no one should underestimate Castonian soldiers."
" Who said something about the soldiers? He'll lead a small detachment of militias. The soldiers from Thespelae and Munico won't come." Leopold explained
" So your plan is to not send messages to the two armies to assist Prince Timothy. He'll go into battle expecting reinforcements, but they won't come."
" No, I'll send an order. I'll send two messengers and a carrier pigeon. If I didn't, the people would question me." There were two main ways to send messages and orders. The first one was using carrier pigeons. These birds were fast, but they were very unreliable. Many orders and messages were lost due to the pigeons being killed, hunted, losing their way or dropping the letter. Because of this, the most secure way to send a letter was still through the use of human messengers. This method was slow, but it guarantees the safe arrival of messages. In Castonia, the usual practice for sending red-sealed letters was to send a pigeon and two riders. Leopold would follow this practice to avoid suspicion.
" So the letters are blank?" the emissary asked
" No, they will contain actual orders to meet with Timothy. If the message somehow got through and it's blank, then the people would also start suspecting me."
"Your Majesty, if you intend to send messengers and if the letters they deliver contains actual orders, then the two castles will mobilize to aid Timothy." The emissary frowned. Leopold can see that the emissary was still confused. This man can be stupid sometimes, Leopold thought.
" That's why I need you to hire assassins. You must be the one to hire the assassins so that in case they fail and get captured, they won't have links to me. I need you to kill the messengers I send. I'll send one this evening after I tell Timothy of his new task. I'll send the second one during Timothy's departure two days from now. You must kill them before they deliver the messages. Treat this as our first joint effort."
" And what of the pigeons?"
"Pigeons sometimes lose their way so it will not be surprising if they fail to send the message."
"And what if I fail to stop the messengers?"
"Then that would mean you're incompetent. I wouldn't want to be friends with incompetent people. Stop acting tough. You want this alliance as much as I do." Leopold smiled
The emissary was silent for a while. He then extended his hand to offer Leopold a handshake.
" As expected of King Leopold Castonia. I hope this cooperation lasts"
" Likewise Prince Skall Wismar." Leopold shook his hand
The emissary looked at Leopold
" Since my identity had been revealed to you, then you must have known already that I have the authority to make this alliance with you. Wismar is serious." Skall looked at him with a serious expression.
" Yes." Leopold said "Long live our alliance and may our two Kingdoms benefit from this partnership."