Astral Sage College, Gilded Palace.
This was where the highest authorities of the school were, the Violet Vibrance mentors, and a few experienced Gold Gleam mentors. They alone could decide the major matters of the school.
Vice Principal Su Xin's office was within the Gilded Palace.
Vice Principal Su Xin was in a bit of a tough spot now that Jiang Qing'e was in her office and asking for Shen Jinxiao to be impeached.
Beside Jiang Qing'e was a middle-aged brunette with a severe face.
This was Jiang Qing'e's current mentor. Her name was Huo Xu, and she had a fiery temper to match her name. 
"Su Xin, that maggot Shen Jinxiao is getting worse by the day. If you can't deal with him, leave him to me. I'll squeeze him until even his balls explode!" Huo Xu shouted.
Su Xin blanched at the coarseness. "Er, Mentor Huo Xu, calm down. Let's wait for Mentor Shen Jinxiao before we sort this out."
Huo Xu turned her nose up haughtily.
"I’m sorry to trouble you, Vice Principal," Jiang Qing'e said.
Su Xin waved it off, and the two shared a warm conversation until the door swung open. Shen Jinxiao walked in with a smug smile on his face.
She inclined her head slightly and then went straight to the topic. "I think you have probably heard. Jiang Qing'e accuses you of... immoral, unfair treatment, and impeding a student’s cultivation for selfish purposes."
"A heavy crime." He sneered. "However... since when could normal students directly accuse a Violet Vibrance mentor, and to the vice principal no less? I seem to recall that there is a process that goes through the Gilded Palace."
"Shen Jinxiao, as slippery as ever. Besides, Qing'e is no ordinary student anymore. She's already a candidate for the Seven Astral Pillars, and she will be formally appointed at the end of the year," Huo Xu snapped.
His eyebrows shot up. The Astral Sage College's Seven Astral Pillars were the highest positions that students could achieve. Once appointed, they were equal in status to Violet Vibrance mentors and could participate in administrative decisions. If Jiang Qing'e was already a candidate, then she was indeed not just an ordinary student.
However, one prerequisite to becoming a Seven Astral Pillar was becoming a Heavenly Dipper General. Could Jiang Qing'e really reach that this year? Ordinarily, students entered Four Star Hall before they contested for the honor.
"Exceptional. Able to contest for a position in the Seven Astral Pillars while being a mere Three Star Hall student!" Shen Jinxiao said insincerely.
"But still, I don't understand the reason for her accusation," he said, shaking his head sadly.
"Mentor Shen Jinxiao's actions during the Choosing of the Mentors can be seen as targeting Li Luo, and now you have taken away the 12 Step Weave, which is suspicious. Those are my reasons."
"I merely wanted to draw out Li Luo's abilities during the choosing. How could he have attracted four Violet Vibrance mentors otherwise?" he drawled lazily. "As for the 12 Step Weave, that is a coincidence. I am indeed conducting some research, so I took it. I had no intention of targeting anybody.
"Besides, I even took the trouble to leave a message that any student who needed it could come find me. Qing'e, doesn't it all seem like a bit of an overreaction to run to the Vice Principal immediately?”
"Shen Jinxiao, do you think we can't read you? You're just spiteful that Qing'e broke your relationship into pieces!" Huo Xu yelled.
"You chicken gizzard, you're not fit to be a mentor!"
Shen Jinxiao frowned at her insults. No wonder all the male mentors ducked away when they saw her coming.
Vice Principal Su Xin kneaded her brow. This was a delicate matter to deal with. She would rather have it settled privately than escalate it to a meeting.
Su Xin mediated. "Mentor Shen Jinxiao, the 12 Step Weave cannot possibly hold much research value for you. I suggest you return it for now. It won’t take a long time to be restocked"
Shen Jinxiao smiled casually. "Since the Vice Principal orders it so, naturally your wish is my command.
"However... you know that the newcomers' first monthly tests are coming up. As one of the organizers, I intend to make the 12 Step Weave an additional prize for the team that takes first place.
"Keke, I even paid for it out of my own pocket."
Shen Jinxiao smiled apologetically. "Don't worry. If the winning team expresses that they do not need it, I will return it, then Qing'e can buy it."
Su Xin took a good, long look at him. It was a perfect counter move. Shen Jinxiao's plotting was more sophisticated than she had expected.
At this step, there was nothing else she could negotiate.
As the vice principal, she could not force a Violet Vibrance mentor’s hand. Besides, his actions were, strictly speaking, within his authority, even though they smacked of foul play.
Both taking the 12 Step Weave and making it an additional test reward.
"Shen Jinxiao, check yourself," Huo Xu said in a quiet tone that Su Xin understood to be her deadliest.
Shen Jinxiao's smirk did not waver.
Huo Xu took a deep breath, but Jiang Qing'e grabbed her hand to stop the imminent outburst. "Let it be as it is, then," she said to Su Xin. "My thanks to the Vice Principal."
She turned and pulled Huo Xu out by the hand. Throughout this entire conversation, she had not looked at Shen Jinxiao once.
Su Xin fixed Shen Jinxiao with a stern eye. "Mentor Shen Jinxiao, my vision of the Astral Sage College is not limited by conservative views. If you truly like Jiang Qing'e, pursue her openly. Your plotting and subterfuge is quite ungentlemanly.
"Besides, it's not working, and it just makes her angry.
"You're a Duke now, true, but how long do you think Jiang Qing'e will take to reach your level? If she overtakes you one day, what will you do?"
Shen Jinxiao's eyelids fluttered, but his smirk remained.
"If there's nothing else, Vice Principal, I'll take my leave." He waved a casual hand and turned away.
She watched him go with apprehension.
Shen Jinxiao. What on earth are you up to?
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