Wizard! Chapter 199
William spent some time considering what he could actually accomplish. He wanted to do something and now he could, but he considered whether it would be helpful. Was he expecting to find written admissions of some kind of guilt? Not particularly. There was only a very small chance of that, and William thought that any noble family that stupid would likely have been found out already. However, he could theoretically find incriminating financial documents. Anywhere a large amount of money was involved, it was necessary to track. Unless they kept all ill-gotten wealth in a hidden vault or some such. William wasn’t concerned about where the wealth was gotten from… at least not in this particular case. He just wanted them to support the war efforts as they should. If their wealth wasn’t as advertised, William had no problem finding ways to inform people of that, and preferably take all of the wealth that was hidden. If they were just stubbornly refusing to pay what they should, well… William would think of what to do when that happened.
Though he almost wanted to go sneaking into noble houses to look for anything immediately, he was still working off of rumors. Rumors weren’t enough. That meant William had to get information from other sources. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a great position to legitimately obtain the information he wanted. He wasn’t the Archmage in this life, and didn’t have the right kind of connections he needed. Certainly, he had connections with the knights, but what reason would William give to have them help him get the information he wanted? Besides, if he asked them, it would implicate both him, if anything happened, and them, if he got caught.
William did talk to Lorelei… because she was certainly interested in the humans being as well prepared for the upcoming war as possible. They talked through the rumors, and Lorelei came up with the most likely candidates, as well as one or two family names that hadn’t been on William’s radar. Still, before William decided to go sneaking off into any of their manors, he had somewhere else to go. Just because he didn’t know any of the right people, didn’t mean he didn’t know where the information he wanted was.
This was how William found himself sneaking through the offices of the tax collectors. William didn’t think it was particularly easy to enter… but it wasn’t too hard either. Of course, most of that was because he was using methods that weren’t expected. William did need Chris’ help, though. There were magical wards, and he could do nothing with magic. However, the particular wards in question weren’t too complicated. After all, people had to move in and out of the offices and the grounds normally. Most of the wards were concentrated on the actual vaults where official records and some amount of money were kept. William knew that there wasn’t actually that much money physically stored in the offices. Most of the transactions went through in the form of promissory notes, as well as being distributed to whatever purposes the taxes were going to serve. William knew that the taxes would be doing something, because having a large amount of money doing nothing was a complete waste. Of course, it might still be a complete waste if it was spent on the wrong things, but people had different ideas about those.
Regardless, William found that he could simply avoid most of the wards. They weren’t like a security system that could be turned on at night and off during the day, instead they protected particular places. While William was looking for records, he was looking for things that were currently being worked on, and thus wouldn’t be stored in the vault. Although they had potentially important information, there were copies elsewhere, and there were also guards around the building. It’s not that they were unprotected, but just less so. As for locks, William didn’t find them hard to deal with. Although at a distance using ki senses to get feelings for precise dimensions of objects, at a distance where he could touch a lock it wasn’t hard to see the inner workings. Then, he could unlock it, or even reach his ki through the door and turn the handle from the inside.
William found that the offices were huge, though not unexpectedly so for the central offices over a whole country. If he had to look through every desk for what he wanted, he would probably have to come back every night for a month or more just to find the right place. However, taxes particularly pertaining to nobles had somewhat of their own section, and it wasn’t too long before William found the particular place he needed. There were documents on the special taxes and who had paid and failed to pay them as well as reasons why, if given.
William actually took the time to write copies of those details he found relevant. He certainly couldn’t memorize all of the information, and a few pieces of paper weren’t so likely to be missed as the original documents themselves. He also specifically made sure to find the information on the likely candidates he had already thought of. As expected, not all rumors matched up with the data he found here, but enough of it did.
When he had everything he thought he would need, he returned the papers to, if not exactly their prior locations, a state that was close enough. William nervously exited the building. Though he was fairly confident he could outrun the guards if he was seen now, he’d rather be completely unnoticed. He also realized how much more draining of his energy his stealth methods felt when there were serious consequences on the line. Concentrating on dampening the sound, as well as watching for patrolling or stationary guards took a lot of effort, in addition to occasionally absorbing some of the light around him. Then there was an almost disastrous moment when he had a small coughing fit just as a guard was walking by his hidden position. Fortunately, he kept his concentration and the sound was properly contained, and his slight movements didn’t draw attention in the shadowy area where he was. When he finally was out of the compound, and several streets away, he finally relaxed. He wondered if this whole thing was just a stupid idea to begin with.