Frederick left for Morn the very next day, escorted by a regiment of his Royal Guards. Although Albert would most likely be bringing a significant military force with him, it would not be too large, after all he still needed to maintain the garrisons bordering Pruse. Since, Sophia and Franz, Leon's father were also attending, they too would bring a similarly sized force as Frederick's. This ensured that even if Albert were to go hostile or harbour suicidal tendencies the damage to them would be mitigated.
It would take at least two days for Frederick to reach Morn, despite the paved and well-maintained roads leading north, out of the capital Erlangen. He had received a reply from Sophia relatively quickly, as she had already been on her way to the capital to attend the Great Ball. She said she would gather a few extra men on the way over and meet him there, after all it would not look good for the liege to wait for a subject. There were hints in the reply that she had her reservations, but it was obvious to Frederick it was all a pretence to pressure him into quickly accepting a bride from her family.
On the other hand, Frederick only received a reply from Franz the next morning. A messenger had rushed through the night, switching several horses to deliver the reply. This was an impressive feat as per normal travel speeds, it would have taken at least four days, there and back. The reply was nothing shocking, merely a reaffirmation of his support and a promise to reach the location in four days' time. However, what was concerning was his update on the border with Weser.
Scouts had seen the Third Prince of Weser, conducting military exercises on the border for the past few days. Franz was unsure if it was a prelude to something bigger or perhaps it was merely a smokescreen, to tie down Erlitz's attention to the east.
Frederick decided to send Leon to the east to look after his domain in Franz's absence and make sure Weser did not try anything while his attention was focused on the north.
The best outcome of the summit would be Albert backing down in the face of their combined might and not causing a fuss. However, in Frederick's mind the chances of this realistically happening was impossibly slim. Albert was stubborn, he had his own pride and having taken things this far, it would be inconceivable for him to merely shake it off and run back with his tail tucked between his legs. After all, Frederick's proclamation was an infringement to their liberties as aristocrats and a breakup of the old traditions between feudal lords and their lieges.
Should Albert back down, then he would have no place in the future of Erlitz, at least no place of importance and to someone as ambitious as Albert, he would rather be dead. Frederick was very happy to grant Albert this wish, as in his mind, Albert was already done for, it was merely a matter of where and when. He could choose the easy route where he backed down and would be able to live out the rest of his life in peace or he could choose a quick and painful death. However, Frederick preferred the former as it involved far fewer deaths.
Frederick had always been wary of Albert and his ambitions and so for the past two years he had developed a capable spy network that combined his modern theories with those experienced in the craft in the present. He had always been someone who understood the importance of gathering and analysing data. Otherwise how else would he be able to build up Erlitz and enact his grand plans in the future.
As a result, one of his very first acts upon arriving in this world had been the assembly and proliferation of a spy network that was many decades ahead of its time. He had been able to recruit through his connections as heir apparent skilled individuals with the requisite skills he deemed to be ideal for the organisation he envisaged. It had slowly spread its web across Erlangen and now encompassed the entirety of Erlitz and recently posts had been established in the dangerous neighbours that Frederick prioritised.
Of course, Frederick did not manage this system all on his own, in fact after placing the foundations and giving a few ideas here and there, the person he chose to lead this organisation had done the rest.
Frederick had been extremely fortunate to meet this great individual. It was on the second day of his transmigration that he had decided to explore Erlangen, to get to know the city better, that he stumbled across this beggar old man by a fountain. As cliché as it sounded, Frederick clearly felt the old man held a great secret, he could tell from the look in the old man's eyes. Those were they eyes of someone constantly on the lookout, they observed everything even though they appeared to be dull and lifeless. They were the eyes of a predator.
Frederick had seen eyes like those before in his previous life. His parents had one day chosen to hire an ex-special forces soldier to be his bodyguard. At first, he had been extremely wary around the man, as Frederick could smell the aura of death that lingered on the man. However, through closely observing the man for two weeks, Frederick gradually came to notice and was constantly drawn to the man's eyes. They were always on the move, never stopping, but it did not look like they were the eyes of a nervous or panicking individual. No, they were calm and collected but on the surface it appeared he was merely being nonchalant and staring into empty space. However, these eyes were not the eyes of a useless, broken man. Frederick could tell very easily that they were the eyes of a predator.
Upon realisation, Frederick became more comfortable in the man's presence, he felt safe and knew there was someone he could rely on. So, for the first time in many years, Frederick decided to trust the man and treated him more as a friend than servant. Of course, sadly even he could not stop Frederick's untimely death.
And so, Frederick reminded of his trusted friend from his previous life chose to gamble on the old man. He could always use the help of capable individuals regardless of their sex, status, race or religion. So long as they could be useful and so long as they were trustworthy, then there was a place for them by Frederick's side.
Frederick bought the man a loaf of bread and sat down beside him in an effort to draw him into conversation. This naturally brought many curious stares, after all Frederick was a renowned figure within Erlangen. The old man was surprised at first but he quickly rebuffed Frederick's efforts at conversation.
"Hmm…young man now that you have boosted your ego, you can leave an old man like me to his fate."
Frederick was a little annoyed by the old man's reply but he naturally would not give up so easily. So, he decided to ask the old man about his situation.
"Young man. This old man is feeling rather tired. How about coming back tomorrow?"
The old man then proceeded to feign tiredness and soon snored excessively and loudly to announce that he was no longer interested in talking to Frederick. This made Frederick slightly frustrated but at the same time it aroused his curiosity and incited his natural stubborn streak. He would keep coming back until he got the old man to acknowledge his presence and offer him his services.
And so, for the next few days an odd sight could be seen at that fountain, every day, Frederick would come and offer the old man a loaf of bread and he would sit down and ask the old man several questions and every time Frederick would leave not too long afterwards slightly annoyed. This continued until a week later, the old man finally decided that he had tested Frederick's integrity and had interacted enough times to understand his character.
On that day, Frederick had returned to the Palace only to find a strange letter in his room. He asked the servants whether anyone had entered his room but every single one said that other than him, there had been no one else. He found it slightly strange and intrigued he opened it only to realise that it was empty. He picked up the envelope trying to see if there was anything else inside only to feel a cold blade touching his neck.
"Hmm…Your Highness it appears the safety of someone as important as yourself is rather lacking. Perhaps the services of this old man could be of some use to your esteemed self."
Frederick heard a familiar voice and felt the removal of the blade from his neck as he turned around rubbing the location where the blade had touched. He saw the old man he had been attempting to recruit for the past week, however his appearance was vastly different. No longer did he see an unkempt and poor beggar, instead there was an air of familiarity about him, a sense that he could rely on this person, which he had not felt since leaving his bodyguard in his last life.
"Ahh…and your name is?" Frederick asked in excitement. He had lost all sense of wariness towards the old man and decided to trust him.
"Oh…interesting, Your Highness appears to trust me so easily. Forgive this old man's rudeness. My name is Phillip and I hereby pledge myself to Your Highness."
In hindsight it seemed his meeting and subsequent recruitment of Phillip was very simple. Yet it was all predicated on certain acts and expectations held by both Frederick and Phillip. It just so appeared that the stars aligned and the two managed to break down the barriers between them.
Frederick had already made plans for an information network and Phillip had been very interested upon seeing them. He offered to use his own expertise and turn Frederick's ideas into a reality. Frederick seeing Phillip's confident expression and trusting his own instincts happily agreed and he had not been disappointed since.
It had been by Phillip's suggestion that Frederick should put in place a contingency plan to deal with Albert should he harbour any untoward desires towards the throne or show signs of defecting. As a result, over the past year they had recruited and infiltrated Albert's household and military forces. It was now time to realise the fruits of their labours for the past year.