Itami sat within her personal quarters while filling out paperwork. If there was one thing that never changed about her daily life, it was this. She had half a mind to jump out her window and flee the palace every time a stack found its way to her desk.

While the young empress signed away at the dotted line, there was one other person in her room, a young woman by the name of Nakamura Hana, who was the person Itami had selected to lead her Kempeitai. In other words, her intelligence agency. The woman had visited the Empress to inform her of some rather important matters that needed to be attended to.

"As you are probably already aware. Prince Zhu Li has recently passed away. After a thorough investigation, we have concluded the reason for his untimely demise. It would appear that after endangering the relationship between the Ming Dynasty and the German Empire, Prince Zhu Li was disowned by his father and cast into the streets. Apparently, the pampered fool somehow ended up in the middle of the black market, where he was stabbed and robbed, ultimately resulting in his death.

Tennō Heika-sama, I am aware that the relationship between you and the now deceased prince soured the last time he visited, but I believe it would be appropriate to send a gift to the Ming Emperor to express our condolences. Though the fool was disowned, he was still Zhu Wudi's son."

Itami placed down her pen and shifted her gaze towards her Intelligence Director. She immediately caught notice of the portrait of Berengar, which lie on the wall directly behind the woman. As Itami stared at Berengar's smug smile, a thought occurred within her mind, causing her to unintentionally voice it aloud.

"Is it possible the Germans had something to do with the Prince's death?"

Nakamura immediately shook her head and dismissed this claim entirely. From her investigation, there was no evidence to support the idea that German Intelligence had played a role in the foolish prince's assassination.

"That is entirely unlikely. It is far more probable that the spoiled prince pissed off a local gangster and got himself stabbed. Though the German Empire is a force to be reckoned with, even they treat the Ming Dynasty with respect. There would have to be a good reason for why the Kaiser would dispatch his assassins to deal with someone like the errant prince."

Itami nodded her head with this line of reasoning and sighed before picking up her pen and getting back to her paperwork. As she did so, she expressed her irritation with being interrupted.

"I guess I'm just being paranoid. Still, I can't help but feel like that bastard got the best of me yet again... Anyway, I doubt you interrupted my work solely to talk about that idiot's death? Did you really need my permission just to send a gift to the Ming Emperor? Tell me, why are you really here?"

Nakamura hesitated for a few moments before speaking her mind. It was clear by the look in her eyes that she did not want to say what she had to say. But in the end she still said it, knowing that ignoring such a thing would only invite future disaster.

"While it is true that this is old news, it is in fact related to my primary reason for visiting. It would appear that the Kaiser has gifted a rather modern warship to the Ming Emperor as an act of condolence for Zhu Li's recent passing..."

Itami was in the middle of signing her name on yet another document when she heard these words. She was so shocked by this news that her hand slipped and ruined her signature. However, she paid this no mind, and instead glared at Nakamura with an intimidating gaze before interrogating her on the nature of this warship.

"Just how modern are we talking here?"

Nakamura could only shift her eyes away from the enraged Empress, unwilling to meet her chilling gaze. Instead, she had a meek voice as she revealed news that she knew Itami would find displeasing.

"It appears to be a direct copy of our latest cruiser's design..."

A loud bang resounded in the air, as Itami slammed her fist onto her wooden table, which was accompanied by the sounds of deep breathing. The young Japanese Empress was clearly enraged, and in a state of panic as she tried to think through how this was possible. She voiced her thought process aloud as she did so.

"How is this possible? Have our designs been leaked? No, the Germans have no agents on the Japanese mainland... Wait a second... Oh, those fucking traitors!"

It was clear by her last words that Itami had realized how the Germans had gotten their hands on her blueprints. During her purges of the old guard, there were plenty of Japanese citizens who fled the Empire towards the Ming Dynasty.

Not long after, Germany announced that it would be taking in these refugees. Clearly, someone important had fled her country without her noticing, and brought with him the designs he helped bring into reality.

Of course, Itami had no way of knowing that there were in fact German Agents conducting espionage on Japanese soil. However, they came in the form of Koreans and Japanese turncoats. Because of this, even her Secret Police could not easily detect their activities.

In fact, Germany had made use of the knowledge gained by these refugees to contact Japanese smugglers, which allowed them to infiltrate the Japanese Mainland. All of this had gone entirely unnoticed by Empress Itami Riyo, and her Kempeitai.

What worried the woman the most was that the Germans had built a cruiser from scratch, using her own designs to construct an entire warship quicker than she herself could produce such a vessel. Right now, her navy was almost entirely reliant on destroyers and submarines. Larger warships were still under construction. As her shipyards relied on semi-skilled workers, who were previously thrown into a crash course on building steel hulled warships.

It would not be an understatement to say that the Japanese style cruiser the Germans created was a superior product to the ones that were currently under construction in Japan. All of this information aggravated Itami, for several reasons.

Firstly, it was only recently that the Japanese Empire was able to apply pressure to the Ming Dynasty. After all, Berengar's bold move of supplying the Ming with Armored Frigates had forced Itami to take a step back in international diplomacy.

However, after constructing a sizeable fleet of Destroyers and Submarines. Itami was once more able to pressure to the Ming into giving her more favorable trade deals. Unfortunately, now that a modern cruiser existed within the Ming's fleet of warships, she was once more forced to re-evaluate her diplomatic methods.

Though she had no doubt her current military strength was enough to obliterate the Ming Fleet, any military action would be costly to her own navy, and she needed to save her strength for the eventual war with the German Empire. At the very least, the Ming now had the confidence to reject her requests.

The Second reason that Itami was concerned had to do with the discrepancy in manufacturing ability between her nation and that of the Reich. She had invested substantial time and effort into designing these cruisers, and yet before she could even field one of such vessels, her rival on the other side of the world had gotten hold of her blueprints, and manufactured a superior product based upon her own designs.

The speed that the German shipyards could manufacture warships was leagues ahead of her own. Even if their designs were outdated compared to her own vessels. This meant that by the time they finally engaged in a war, the Germans would have many more vessels than she had, and quantity was its own form of strength, especially on the sea.

Finally, the last reason this news irritated Itami was actually one of personal pride. She could not believe that after all her efforts these past few months, which were spent in creating a powerful navy. In the end, Berengar had bested her once again. It was utterly infuriating to think about. After reflecting on all of this in a matter of seconds, Itami glared fiercely at her Intelligence Director and said two simple words.

"Get out!"

Upon realizing just how enraged the Empress had become, Nakamura bowed respectfully before fleeing Itami's personal quarters. Once the Empress was all alone, she fell back onto her bed and stared up at the ceiling, utterly depressed by her most recent defeat.

It took several moments for Itami to shift her gaze towards her body pillow, but once she did, she felt a bit better. The albino beauty wrapped her arms around the pillow and brought it into her embrace before speaking to it as if it were her lover.

"Oh Julian, what am I going to do about this?"

Naturally, utter silence prevailed. However, Itami could practically hear Julian's voice in her head, giving her advice on how to handle the situation. Ultimately, she had come to the conclusion that she needed to focus more on naval output.

If Itami had any hope of competing with the Reich on the seas, she would need to have men working all hours of the day on building warships. Luckily for her, she had just invented electricity, and soon enough the cities would have light, even in the dark of night.

Of course, she knew that putting her workers on graveyard shifts would cause further dissent. However, she did not have the luxury to worry about her people's wellbeing. Not when such a monumental threat existed on the horizon.