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    Asianovel

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    Chapter 130

    The Federation's Tax Bureau was an exceptionally unique organization in this country.

    Its uniqueness stemmed from the fact that the nation's societal model was patterned after a certain beacon country, thus inheriting some of its characteristics.

    In this land, only death and taxes were inevitable.

    The Tax Bureau was a miraculously powerful official institution, with authority surpassing that of regular law enforcement. It had its own private military force, prisons, and courts, boasting a conviction rate as high as 90%. Suspected tax evasion could lead to investigations and asset freezes without involving the police or judiciary.

    The origins of their immense power dated back to the establishment of the nation, but that history is not to be delved into here. In short, through countless remarkable cases, they solidified their status in the country. They could solve cases that the police couldn't and apprehend elusive crime bosses... as long as tax evasion was involved.

    Be it drug trafficking, theft, robbery, or gambling, any activity that generated income required sharing a portion with them. Regardless of the illegal nature of these activities.

    Player "Tax Officer" had thoroughly understood the organization's mystique and strength after conducting an investigation. Amidst most players joining churches, the Audit Bureau, or engaging in cult activities, he resolutely chose to join this powerful and enigmatic group.

    All for this day.

    Pushing up his glasses, the Tax Officer stepped confidently into the Audit Bureau amidst the others' vigilance and the players' astonishment. "Apologies, but we will temporarily take over operations here. No one is allowed to enter or leave during this period."

    With Kurt leading the Secretariat, Judith heading the conventional investigators, and the Doctor, all were astonishment personified as the tax inspector strode in. Kurt, in particular, wore a grim expression. "I don't recall you having such authority. We've never evaded taxes!"

    "Oh, really?" The tax inspector raised an eyebrow, then, under Kurt's watchful gaze, pulled out a tablet. "In that case, I'd like to inquire about these substantial financial transactions."

    Kurt was taken aback, snatching the tablet to examine it closely. His breath caught in his throat as he realized they were not entirely innocent.

    The Audit Bureau, while now backed by the officialdom, functioned much like the Tax Bureau, which claimed to be official but leaned more towards private operations. As an organization created by Destiny herself, the Bureau largely relied on self-sufficiency. The funds provided by the government were insufficient to cover the salaries, benefits, and research expenses for their numerous investigators.

    Naturally, the responsibility of generating income fell on Destiny. These funds were sourced from unclaimed assets discovered through glimpses into the future, such as sunken ships in the depths of the sea.

    Now, did they pay taxes on this money? Of course not; doing so would expose the Bureau's ability to acquire wealth. Besides, the Director had to support the entire organization, and the country's tax rates were exorbitant. Whenever possible, legal tax avoidance was utilized.

    Unbeknownst to them, many wealthy officials employed similar tactics, some toeing the line between legality and gray areas. The Tax Bureau had turned a blind eye in the past, not because they were unaware, but because they were waiting for the right moment to act.

    Calling it fattening a pig or leaving backdoors open was merely a matter of perspective, depending on when the time was ripe to make a move. And they had just stumbled upon concrete evidence.

    Kurt's face darkened. Stepping closer to the inspector, he hissed through gritted teeth, "Can't we negotiate further? We'll pay the fines."

    "I'm sorry," the inspector replied leisurely, turning to wave at his team. "Seal off the area and bring out the records."

    The tax officials behind him were visibly exhilarated, promptly following the instructions without hesitation. Of course, they were thrilled; the bonuses in the tax department were astronomical, especially after such "major hauls." Their superiors were never stingy with red envelopes.

    The tax official players referred to it as — legitimate plunder.

    Most of the audit bureau personnel were likely experiencing this for the first time. Standing in their workstations, confusion etched on their faces, they watched as the tax officers sealed box after box of documents, murmuring amongst themselves.

    To someone like Kurt, accustomed to high positions, the whispers behind him were particularly jarring. His face alternated between shades of pale and flush, especially when the tax official made their next request.

    "By the way, where is the director of the audit bureau? As the overall responsible party of this organization, he needs to come along with us," the tax official said casually.

    "This can't be happening!" Kurt reflexively shot back, his emotions running high.

    In the next instant, the employees standing behind the tax inspector drew their weapons, all of them Glock pistols and Smith & Wesson MP15 semi-automatic rifles, a sight that made Kurt's eyelids twitch uncontrollably.

    "Stay calm, sir," the tax inspector said with his usual stoic, unamused expression. Kurt often wore a similar scowl to assert his authority and intimidate others in routine matters, but seeing it on someone else's face now, it was undeniably infuriating.

    "After all, you wouldn't want your director to end up in jail for defying the law and obstructing official duties, would you? For now, we're just taking him in for questioning. But if he were to go missing... well, that changes things, doesn't it?"

    "To the Japanese player, please remain calm."

    "What an odious face, it's hilarious!"

    "You're the villains here! What's going on, hahaha!"

    Justice by Appearance watched in astonishment, while her live-stream viewers erupted into a frenzy, turning the entire channel into a sea of joy.

    "Although I guessed what was happening when the tax inspector asked Justice by Appearance to fetch the ledger, I have to say, you guys are really cunning."

    "How did they even come up with this? I'm dying of laughter."

    "Oh, look at Dr. Kurt and the secretary's jaws dropping. Is this the power of a bully?"

    "Feel the tiny tremor of America's awe.jpg"

    At this moment, Kurt's expression was beyond description; it was pure grotesquery.

    He glared fiercely at the tax inspector. "You'd better think about what you're doing."

    "Oh? Is that a threat?" The inspector raised the corner of his mouth, tapping his wrist microphone to indicate that the law enforcement recorder was still on. "Threatening an officer, that's an additional offense."

    Kurt took a deep breath and, with a cold expression, opened his eyes again. "Our Director has been unwell recently and is temporarily unable to undergo an investigation."

    The tax official gave an enigmatic "Oh~" and replied, "We have an in-house hospital. If there's an issue, it'd be best for the doctor to take a look."

    "We're requesting bail pending trial."

    "No problem, but we'll need a medical certificate from an official hospital," the tax official said without blinking.

    Kurt's face remained grim. A medical certificate? If they took the current Director to an official hospital, it wouldn't just be a matter of whether or not he would be detained; it would also be a question of whether the Director might suddenly 'disappear.'

    Looking at the stubborn tax official, Kurt felt a sense of helplessness for the first time.

    This damn...

    Judith and the Doctor, naturally, had overheard the conversation. Judith wore an odd expression, while the Doctor initially found it absurd, but soon realized a potential advantage for himself.

    It seemed that the Secretary's office had indeed found a weakness. If events unfolded, the Director might be stripped of his position as head of the Audit Bureau by the authorities?

    This would be great news for him. Once fate lost its grip on the Audit Bureau, the Doctor would have a better chance of locating the Ark within its walls.

    Thus, he was pleased to witness the unfolding events and even considered accelerating the process.

    Kurt grew more annoyed when he saw the indifferent expressions on Dr. Schrödinger and Judith's faces, but there was nothing he could do. After all, he had just had a falling out with them, and who would have expected this situation to arise immediately after?

    However, as he surveyed the restless crowd, he managed to regain his composure. Gazing at the cunning tax inspector's grin, Kurt realized that resolving the issue by dealing with this man alone wouldn't be enough. Everyone knew that while the Tax Bureau was difficult to deal with, they didn't bite randomly; their reins were held tightly from above.

    Kurt's eyes darkened. "I understand. Carry on with your search here, Commander. We'll try to contact the Director."

    He emphasized the word "try," then turned and left, disappointing the onlooking players who had hoped for a more dramatic scene, like the guard dog attacking an official, resulting in an arrest or tanks firing outside.

    [Enjoying the show but not involved]

    Nonetheless, the spectacle was already thrilling enough, as the forums were now ablaze with discussions.

    Druid: How did he do it? (Dumbfounded)

    Black Cat: Damn, he's strong.

    Matcha Milk Green: You're really something, @GodAmongUs. The great ones have found an heir.

    Nightly: You shall be the new Rascal King, my friend.

    Baba: Talents never fade across generations (satisfied)

    Uncle Hao: Bro, what's your thought process? (thumbs up)

    Makabaka: Are we really playing the same game?

    Taxman: Actually, it's a piece of cake. You're all so righteous, you didn't consider it—do we really have to dig into every detail, find evidence, and wait for the villains' plot to unfold before punishing them?

    No Lives Lost in Gaming: ...What else could we do?

    Taxman: Wrong! The main mission asks us to uncover the truth... It doesn't specify how, right? Simply put, we just need to catch these villains by their tails and lock them up. Is there really that much of a difference between going to jail for tax evasion, assault, or human experimentation?

    Taxman: As long as they end up behind bars, we're good.

    Appearance is Justice: You remind me of a certain tax bureau's legendary battle in reality.

    Taxman: That's right, it's the inspiration for this approach.

    They referred to the notorious Chicago underworld kingpin in the 19th century, America, who had orchestrated a bloody incident resulting in dozens of deaths in a single month, yet the FBI could never pin anything on him, leaving him beyond the reach of justice.

    The suffering of the people was immense, and public safety was abysmal. Eventually, it was the IRS that stepped in.

    These brilliant agents infiltrated the underworld, uncovered the ledgers, and found evidence of this godfather's tax evasion. Using this charge, they successfully imprisoned him, giving rise to the saying, 'In this country, only death and taxes are inevitable.'

    Nayte: So that's how it is. It's a strategy, defeating magic with magic (in deep thought).

    IRS: A black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches the mouse, it's a good cat. Doesn't matter who the mastermind is, putting them behind bars would restore order, wouldn't it?

    Black Cat: But wait, Fate is now the head of the Audit Bureau. Tax evasion concerns him. What's your plan, Doctor? He shouldn't be evading taxes, right?

    Tax Officer: Don't worry, my performance isn't over yet. I'll give you all a live broadcast.

    It was clear that the tax officer still had more surprises in store.

    After Kurt left, the doctor's face lit up, though he maintained a serious expression, squinting his eyes. Internally, he was cheering himself on for a job well done.

    This move would not only create problems for the enigmatic Fate – look, wasn't Kurt forced to reveal Fate's current vulnerability under pressure? Most importantly, the stark realism of tax evasion clashed with Fate's mysterious persona. The investigators who once idolized him were now beginning to question their beliefs.

    If the director were indeed arrested, it would undoubtedly be a significant blow to his reputation. How could Dr. Hans not be delighted? It was as if someone had delivered a pillow right when he was about to doze off.

    Even his gaze towards the tax inspector softened, treating him more like an ordinary person.

    Feeling a sense of intuition, the tax inspector met Dr. Hans's eyes and offered a warm smile.

    Suddenly, Dr. Hans felt an ominous premonition.

    The tax inspector approached Dr. Hans. "Hello, I suppose you must be Dr. Hans."

    "…You're not planning to arrest me too, are you?" Hans asked. "I haven't evaded taxes."

    "Oh, heavens no. Why would you think that?" The inspector looked at Hans curiously. Hans sighed in relief, only to hear the inspector say matter-of-factly, "I just wish to have a little chat with you. Let's talk over there."

    Hans frowned, unsure what he could possibly discuss with this ordinary man. Nevertheless, he followed, and soon, they moved out of sight from the crowd in the hall. The inspector spoke softly and cheerfully to Hans, "Of course, you haven't evaded taxes. But, Doctor, your actions are far more severe than tax evasion."

    Hans' heart skipped a beat. "I don't understand what you're talking about."

    The inspector took out his phone and played a video on the screen. "Let me be clear, there's an accusation that you've been conducting secret human experiments."

    The video playing on the phone indeed showed several individuals describing their 'suspicious' treatment experiences at the Internal Bureau Hospital. Most notably, the doctor recognized them as recent additions to the bureau.

    New interns, to be precise, or rather, players.

    With tears in their eyes, the player in the video exclaimed, "That's right, I have no idea what they fed me, calling it treatment. But I didn't feel any better; if anything, I felt worse. They kept subjecting me to various blood tests at irregular intervals. It was horrific..."

    "I can attest that that hospital is nothing short of a massive human experimentation facility that devours its subjects whole."

    Several players had given testimonies, and the auditor played a portion of them. Just as the Doctor was about to watch more, he found that the video had abruptly ended.

    The tax inspector beamed. "See, I told you your troubles were substantial. For now, it's only us, but the FBI won't be far behind. When they arrive, they won't be as accommodating as we are."

    The doctor frowned and sneered. "I don't recall ever doing such a thing."

    Of course, he wouldn't admit it. Human experiments were indeed real, but these few individuals were not his subjects. Did they think they could dupe him with a handful of rookie investigators? They were far too naive.

    "You still don't grasp the purpose of my visit," the tax inspector sighed. "The issue at hand isn't whether you've done it or not, but the value of the data from your experiments."

    In the face of the doctor's confusion and gradually furrowing brow, the tax inspector's lips curled into a smirk, casting a sinister shadow across his features. "Indeed, I'm sure you've already connected the dots. You're aware why the Tax Bureau is here, aren't you? Because we've traced an additional, unaccounted-for flow of funds... And what's the purpose behind your purchases of other instruments and lab equipment? Shh..."

    The doctor attempted to defend himself, but the tax inspector silenced him with a raised finger pressed against his lips. "No need to explain to me. You just need to consider whether a jury would believe your story. Of course, as a highly valuable scientist, it would be a shame to see you end up in prison. But if you're willing to hand over your research findings, we can turn a blind eye to your past actions."

    "Well, fancy that. Just fancy that."

    "Who's the real villain here?"

    "Too cliché, seriously too cliché. You're playing this role to a T. Are you moonlighting as an actor in real life?"

    "Is this what the adult world is like?"

    "Yes, it does seem like something the Orland local government would do. Oh, am I allowed to say that?"

    "I get it, you're referring to the Orland administration, right? Oh well, it's just a game, after all."

    The doctor felt utterly distraught.

    He understood the inspector's thinly veiled threat, and while he had heard of such incidents, he never imagined he would one day find himself in such a predicament.

    "You are utterly shameless! You're nothing but bandits!" The doctor was seething with anger.

    The commotion drew the attention of others in the hall. The tax inspector remained nonchalant, even amplifying his voice. "I'm not quite sure where your misunderstanding lies, Dr. Hans, but I must ask for your cooperation. We need to investigate the whereabouts of these funds."

    With that, the inspector waved, and immediately, a few burly agents stepped forward to escort the doctor, under the watchful eyes of curious employees and anxious researchers, into an armored vehicle.

    The tax inspector waved them off. "Keep watching? Get back to work, people! Investigate the flow of funds and see if there are any overlooked areas."

    "No problem, sir!"

    Even Justice Is Enchanted by Beauty couldn't help but feel a tinge of sympathy for these villains: "Isn't this approach a bit too harsh?"

    The tax official spoke calmly, "According to our tax bureau's regulations, those who report or assist us in uncovering evidence of tax evasion receive a thirty percent share."

    In an instant, Yan Jiujie firmly grasped the tax inspector's hand, "For the sake of justice, please make sure not to let these criminals escape!"

    "Justice's Share of the Spoils.jpg"

    "Unbelievable. He's just taken down the two major scandals within the Inspection Bureau so effortlessly? (Dazed)"

    "There's no way any organization can directly confront the state machinery, especially an investigative body like the Audit Bureau that operates in plain sight."

    "The main thing is, I don't quite understand why everything went so smoothly. While the Tax Office is indeed overbearing, their tyranny usually targets the powerless commoners. Organizations like the Audit Bureau tend to have intricate connections behind the scenes, making them not so easy to dismantle, right?"

    This was also Lane's question. He had observed the spectacle and couldn't figure out why the Tax Office was so efficient this time. Could it be that the Secretariat's people were arrogant enough to disdain even bribes?

    For some reason, he suddenly recalled a long time ago when Amos had tried to pledge his loyalty, mentioning that he had a way to deal with the Audit Bureau, even capable of effortlessly controlling the organization.

    Could this be his doing?

    Seeing that the situation on site wouldn't end anytime soon, Lane returned to Judith's office, locked the door, and placed one hand on the ground.

    "Auger..."

    His shadow writhed as if alive, eventually rising from the floor, transforming from two-dimensional to three-dimensional. A pitch-black silhouette appeared before him, its true features indiscernible. However, judging from its exaggerated form, it was undoubtedly Auger.

    "I need your help. Keep an eye on this body while I'm asleep," Lane whispered.

    Auger's shadow remained still, tilting its head.

    Lane couldn’t help sighing. Alright, it seemed this Incarnation really didn’t have much intelligence.

    With no other choice, he took Aogel's shadow's hand and slowly traced the characters for 'guard' in his palm. Aogel remained still, allowing him to proceed. Lane asked, "Do you understand?"

    "Ogre nodded in agreement."

    Thus, Rane huddled in the corner, the red-haired youth closing his eyes as his consciousness momentarily returned to his physical self.

    "Ao Ge" gazed at him silently, his shadow gradually transforming into a colossal veil that enveloped the young man's figure.

    On the surface, the office appeared deserted.

    In his Divine Realm, Lane's true form opened his eyes.

    Without time to greet Ogre in his true form, he immediately teleported to one of the research facilities within his domain to check if the Gardener was still there.

    Fortunately, a certain blob of the Gardener was still present, seemingly forsaking its intelligence as it joyously swam within a petri dish.

    The sight was profoundly sanity-diminishing, especially since the Gardener resembled little more than a mass of flesh – if one were to draw an analogy, it was like a half-reconstituted Fujiwara.

    Struggling against the stinging sensation in his eyes, Lane opened the petri dish. Before the Gardener could escape, he ensnared the creature with vines. A touch of spirituality was infused into the Gardener's body. Left unchecked, the Gardener would have eventually recovered on its own, but Lane had questions that required immediate answers and no time to wait for it to grow. During the process of infusing spirituality, the blob of flesh soon developed a face and limbs, transforming into a naked male with only an upper body. Lane intentionally left its lower half undeveloped, ensuring that the Gardener wouldn't have a chance to escape. "How ruthless, my Lord," Amos gazed at Lane with a piteous expression, as if he were the one who had been abandoned. Ignoring his complaint, Lane coldly asked, "What did you do to the Audit Bureau?" "Oh? So something has happened?" Amos's smile deepened, but when he met Lane's icy, guarded gaze, his cunning demeanor faded, replaced by a look of grievance. "I didn't do anything, really. I'm just a pile of mush now. What else could I do?" "Those emails were set up before I was captured by you. If I hadn't returned in time and someone else got rid of me, Eugene's hypnotizing video of the politician would've been sent to the president." It was indeed Amos who had abandoned the Audit Bureau. The corner of Lane's mouth twitched. "Why didn't you say so earlier?" Amos appeared even more aggrieved. "I didn't have the chance to speak before I became like this... I couldn't say anything anymore."

    However, Lane was relieved to have uncovered the underlying conflict. He had initially feared that Amos had secretly escaped.

    "If you hadn't turned me into this, that video could've had an even greater impact," Amos desperately tried to sell himself while he still had a mouth. "Look, no matter what form I'm in, I can be of assistance to you… Isn't that enough to prove my sincerity?"

    Lane nodded. "…Indeed."

    Amos's eyes lit up.

    "But no," Lane finished his sentence.

    Amos: …

    With matters confirmed, Lane was about to resume immersing Amos in the nutrient solution when the latter spoke up gloomily, "Since you went out of your way to ask me this, it means the authorities have indeed taken action… But be cautious. A cornered prey is at its most frenzied."

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