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I think you would approve, Niccolo. The final piece is now positioned on the board. This visit to our eastern neighbors was as profitable as I had hoped. I believe that all necessary agreements and alignments are in place.

There have been no sightings of this troublesome Gray Thorne in several weeks. Perhaps he was captured or killed in one of the many raids I have ordered of late.

I have managed, barely, to keep the Queen ignorant of my machinations. Despite my growing fondness, the woman is too clever by half. I have had cause to speak to her quite harshly. And if she cannot learn to keep her meddlesome nose out of the affairs of Kings, she may have to meet with an unfortunate accident.

My crown and throne are secure. I can now enact the culmination of all of my planning. I shall announce my intentions a week hence and herald in a glorious new age for The Middle Kingdom.