Wizard! Chapter 201
Sneaking back into the Altman manor was just as difficult as the first time. William didn’t have guard patrols memorized, so he kept having encounters where he had to hide in a shadowy corner or scurry past while they weren’t looking. Some of them carried torches, but they didn’t notice when a shadowy corner stayed a bit more shadowy than it should have. If they had, William was prepared to knock them out… though that would cause problems. Unlike in a video game, knocking someone out wouldn’t just result in them being ignored, even if nobody found them. After all, when they didn’t show up where other people expected them, everyone would know something was up. The guards wouldn’t just shrug it off after a minute or two and go back to normal patrols when something happened.
Fortunately, the guards didn’t really seem to expect to find anything, which made William’s job easier. He eventually arrived back at the entrance to the secret passageway he had found the night before. William wasn’t sure what he had expected… but it was definitely something more. The passageway was understandably skinny. After all, secret passageways were not secret if they left large, obvious spaces that were unused in a floorplan. William quickly explored the entire series of passageways. It only went to a few rooms, and then there was a longer tunnel to which they were all connected that led outside the manor grounds. The location it led to wasn’t particularly special, but it would not be casually found. Other than that, there was only a very tiny room… a small vault. There was a good amount of coinage in it, but William didn’t know whether any of it was illicit or just hidden for emergencies. However, he did know that this particular noble house had more funds available than they wanted people to think, and had directly lied to the tax authorities.
Normally, that would just annoy William. While he didn’t always agree with how taxes worked, if they existed, they should be paid. The other option would be to move to a place where the taxes didn’t exist. In this particular case, there was a war coming up and he wasn’t interested in letting the long political games of what people could get away with in terms of tax evasion play out. He copied down some more information, including the location of the outside exit of the secret passageways.
William stood outside the knights headquarters, pondering. He hadn’t considered exactly how he would get the information to its end destination. William had no doubt that the knights would be more observant about guarding their property. Besides, on the chance that he did get discovered, he would end up in a very awkward situation, at best. “Oh, I was only sneaking onto your property to deliver information, honest!” That wouldn’t go well.
However, William also didn’t think it would be a good idea for him to be seen visiting the knights headquarters immediately before they went out on a raid of a noble’s manor. One time was a coincidence, twice would be suspicious, and any more than that and there could be questions asked that William didn’t want to answer, and the knights didn’t even want to hear. Nobles certainly wouldn’t like the idea of someone being able to sneak onto their property, and the knights wouldn’t want to be associated with that. Of course, if there were sudden raids that were always extremely accurate, that might raise different questions, but the knights could choose how they wanted to deal with that.
It didn’t take a lot of thinking before William found himself just walking onto the ground normally, during the day. He had visited the knights headquarters before, one more time wouldn’t be a problem. Because he hadn’t really planned to show up, he did have to way for some time before Knight Commander Tyler Dragonfoe was available… but most people would have had to wait for another day.
“What is it?” Tyler asked immediately upon William’s entrance to her office.
“Well, someone I know found some interesting information.” He laid a bundle of papers on her desk.
“I take it this is the kind of information that might upset some people?”
He shrugged. “People can get upset over anything. My friend just thought you might want to know.” William looked around.
“It’s fine, nobody’s listening.”
“Well, anyway, I might end up with some more papers in the future. I was hoping we could arrange some way for me to deliver them without having to show up here.”
“I’m sure we can figure something out.”
The next night, William found himself at a much smaller manor. They had reported net losses, and came in below the wealth threshold required to pay any of the new taxes. From the outskirts of the property, it certainly looked to be the case. However, that wasn’t really sufficient information. If they were trying to cheat and were smart, it should be the case.
As William snuck onto the property, the picture continued to be the same. There were few guards, and so it was quite easy. The grounds were small, so William was actually able to cover all of it fairly quickly. He avoided rooms that had people sleeping, though he did inspect as much as he could with his ki senses. Investigations turned up a few secret compartments in drawers and such, but they were all empty. Perhaps they were even unknown, since at least one of the desks in question was likely older than the manor itself.
Eventually, William left, having found nothing. Perhaps that meant he wasn’t good enough to find anything, or maybe they were actually telling the truth. William was inclined to believe the latter, though of course incriminating information might be kept in different places, less easy to find. There was also a possibility that all of their money was in banks and other places, but that would be more easily traceable, especially by those working in the tax offices. William just hoped they did their jobs properly.
Finding nothing didn’t actually discourage William. In fact, it made him a bit more hopeful for the future. At the very least, not everyone seemed to be a criminal. Certainly, they could be hiding it, or perhaps they would have tried to cheat on their civic duty if they actually had the money… but William liked to think that there were more decent noble houses than just a few he knew, like the Cyril household.