Last Trace of a Conscience
“This is robbery! You have trespassed on private property and committed robbery! I’m reporting you to the police! I’m reporting you to the police!” thundered the owner of the property.
Sulina focused solely on carefully packing the porcelain items. “We have police right outside; there’s no need to go through the trouble. Are you really going to pretend you don’t know why it has come to this? We provided you with plenty of opportunities; you chose to brush us off. We are acting according to the law, so you don’t need to be angry. You should’ve been aware that this was coming when you chose to evade your taxes.”
His wife huddled up in the corner with their wailing son and quivered. Irena watched the boy clinging to his mother’s leg the entire time. It was painfully obvious that he wasn’t in good health from this frail and thin appearance. The boy had to watch people press his father up against the wall, empty out his house and then put his family behind bars. The young boy’s family and life would be turned upside down. Although he didn’t have a beautiful and blissful life, he was quickly heading to a nightmare with his own eyes.
Irena only had a small ring in her hand, not daring to take anything else. She knew that it was a necessary job; however, she didn’t dare to reach for anything, not because someone would stop her, but solely due to her conscience gnawing at her. She was taught about honour, justice and to serve others as a tax officer. In this situation, she was taking, no different to a bandit ruining a town and plundering it.
Lin Chucheng awkwardly watched what took place. He only took two glass cups, yet was already so flustered that he didn’t know what to do next for the exact reason as Irena. The child’s tears were bullets firing at his heart.
“I wanted to pay! I genuinely wanted to pay, but I couldn’t! My son is sick! I should save my son instead of giving money to you damn tax collectors! Would someone help my son if I paid taxes?! Your health insurance doesn’t help us outsiders! What does any of this have to do with us?! I just want to live! I just want to help my son live! What did I do wrong?! What did I do wrong?!” shouted the man, while crying.
Even though there were other sounds in the property on top of his shouting, his cries caused Irena’s heart to throb. She had no idea how to answer him. What did he do wrong? He just wanted to ensure his child could live. He used taxes that were supposed to go to Queen Sisi to save his son. Is that so wrong? Queen Sisi distributed part of the taxes to take care of and protect her citizens, so was he wrong? Unfortunately, he was.
“A tax officer doesn’t need to concern themselves with what you do,” asserted Sulina, loading up a chest and then sending it outside. “Irena, grab the toy chest. See if they’re hiding anything worth money.”
Irena’s heart ached merely at the sight of the property and family. Though afraid, the boy ran up to his toy chest firmly determinedly stood before Irena and quavered, “Please… please…M-Miss, please don’t do this… You have taken everything we have… Th-this stuff… is not worth much…”
Irena suddenly spun around and grabbed Sulina, tears coursing down her face. She shoved the ring in her hand to Sulina and yelled, “Sorry! Sorry! Senior Sulina… I can’t do it… If I have to do this, I can’t fulfil the duty of a tax officer… Sorry, Senior Sulina. I have to go outside. I must go outside. I can’t do this. Sorry, sorry…”
Irena didn’t give Sulina the chance to say anything, nor did she plan to comply. Sulina didn’t get angry or give any plan to give any command. She just smiled happily as she watched Irena took off. She told Lin Chucheng, “Chase her. That’s your actual job. I’m happy to see her react that way. That’s what being a dutiful tax officer is about. While a tax officer’s job requires us to confiscate their assets by force, once one can carry out the task without any remorse or emotion, they will be nothing more than a tax officer who carries out orders.”
Lin Chucheng just watched Sulina, who twitched her ears with joy, yet continued to carry out her job, hurting the family’s feelings as she confiscated their things.
Lots of tax officers had completely forgotten what Sulina mentioned. A tax officer had to forcibly confiscate items, true. Having said that, it wasn’t the intent of the confiscations in the guide. It was intended to act as a warning. That was its only purpose. It could be considered a threat, too. It was a means, not a goal. Alas, many people had changed. Nobody spent all day thinking about how to get people to pay their taxes. Nobody would spend effort to come up with ways to help a family out of their dead end.
It became a norm for tax officers to write letters and then wait to go confiscate their target’s property. Strictly speaking, there wasn’t anything wrong with it since it was just their duty. The missing piece of the puzzle was that they didn’t help those with problems in their life, and people’s reasons for not paying their taxes went uncovered. They didn’t concern themselves with it because confiscation was the express route to closing cases.
Their approach totally veered off Lin Dongqing’s intended track. Unfortunately, they had stopped thinking about his intent. Tax officers had turned it into a job, a daily checklist item. If they wanted to live a good life, they needed to be a tax officer. Once they were a tax officer, they needed to complete their task on time or risk losing their job. As such, confiscations occurred more and more often. More and more people were sent to prison. Those people would come out empty handed once they did their time. What next? They would then be exiled from the imperial capital. Some would become coolies. Some would work without receiving a salary at factories. Some would be sold off to fill the Queen’s treasure chest from mines…
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