William took the time to look over the data to compare with what he knew, or thought he knew. Though he had copied it down, he hadn’t taken the time to carefully look at everything. There was a significant difference. When William had been a teacher, he knew that students could read chapters assigned to them without a single bit of comprehension. Granted, some of them hadn’t read the chapters at all, but some did. Either way, as William had copied things they had just been a series of words, with very little connection.
He was glad to find that, overall, the noble families were doing their part to provide funding or other support for the war efforts. There were still some that had not yet contributed in any way, with various reasons given. For example, the Altmans cited having fallen on hard times. However, giving reasons for not contributing could only delay when they were required to pay. Eventually, they would have to… unless they were particularly good at stalling.
The Altmans must have considered that they were in the latter category, because otherwise there was no way they would have tried their excuse. That was the very family that was currently constructing new buildings, and had at least one new carriage. They had to know that at some point their claims would be looked into. What made them think they could get away with it? Bribes? Influence? The first only provided very shaky assurance for them, and the latter wasn’t wise at all. They certainly didn’t have more influence than the king, or the knights. Maybe they were hoping enough others would cause trouble that they would be overlooked. William didn’t really care, though. He wasn’t going to let anyone not contribute their fair share when literally the entire human race was on the line. He wondered how they didn’t understand that if things went poorly, everything they owned could be destroyed or taken by the demons, even if the war was still eventually won. William couldn’t, and wouldn’t accept that.
As William entered the Altman estate, he was beset by some foolish impulses. Though they were quick to pass, they were also very tempting. For example, William could scratch up their carriages, or break the wheels. He could also burn down those new buildings being constructed. After all, they deserved it for lying, right? Nobody would get hurt. However, as with all such passing thoughts, they were ultimately stupid ideas. Though there was some small chance of drawing the right attention their way, it might also actually help their point. More importantly, destroying the value of their property made it harder to prove they had it to begin with. After that, it also meant there was less value to be taxed or seized by the authorities.
William’s real goal here was simple. He would collect incriminating information, and then make sure it found its way into the hands of someone who would do something… and legally could. The tax officials hadn’t gotten around to verifying their claims yet… but if there was bribery involved, they probably never would. In their records, there would of course be no difference. However, if they falsely verified the excuses for being late on the taxes, it would be much easier for the official who was theoretically bribed to get in trouble. Maybe they were just slow, but William didn’t have much hope for them if they hadn’t even sent a messenger by the estates to casually glance at it.
Sneaking onto this estate was more stressful than what William had done at the tax offices, though not necessarily more difficult. Here, the guards were more active, and while they weren’t necessarily expecting anything, there were actual valuables and people that they were defending… instead of just piles of documents. Of course, William also hadn’t gone to the better guarded areas of those offices, because he had no reason to try to break into the vaults there. The more bothersome part was here he would likely be in more danger, because if he was found the guards would more likely try to kill him than capture him. William didn’t think they could kill him unless he was careless, but he supposed Cecil Lockridge hadn’t thought that William could kill him either… and these people were actually armed, and he had no idea how well trained they really were. The mystery was the biggest problem.
Of course, William knew it was somewhat silly to be afraid here when he had faced demons on the battlefield… but in addition to the fact that it had been two dozen years since he’d really been on a battlefield, he had also seen people he considered strong die to opponents that he considered were weaker than them. William assumed it would take some time to get used to danger again… but he wasn’t sure if he wanted to.
Then, William found himself in an office. He really didn’t have much to worry about now except some searching, though he did try to keep aware of anyone approaching. He wasn’t blocking any sound around the area of his ears… so as long as he didn’t hit his head on things he would still be basically silent. William found that this job wasn’t easy. There was a whole lot of useless information, and he wasn’t finding anything incriminating, besides just looking at the estate itself. He wondered if there were any relevant records kept in a safe somewhere. Of course, that would be hidden, but that wasn’t a problem for William. Though he couldn’t just magically find them, using his ki to sense if there was anything hidden in a particular wall wasn’t a problem.
Finally, he found that some of the drawers had hidden compartments with slightly suggestive evidence. Perhaps not all of the money that the Altmans had was legitimate. However, that wasn’t enough. At least, William wasn’t satisfied. He returned everything to its place, and carefully took notes on where things were hidden. Unfortunately, hours had gone by while William was searching, and thus he only managed to give a cursory search of some other rooms before he thought it was best to leave. He could have stayed longer, but he had just found a secret passageway. He imagined he wouldn’t have time to explore it before people started waking up and going about the manor… and the sun would be coming up.
William did have to admit that having a secret passage wasn’t necessarily an admission of any kind of guilt. There were various uses they could have, such as a safe escape from the manor in case there were intruders. If William built a manor, he would probably include a secret passage just for fun. Either way, William would have to come back to find out.