Fang Zhao knew the film Natiwuzi mentioned. The film was called "A Guitar Romance," and Fang Zhao also knew the lead actor in the film, Ji Polun.
When Fang Zhao had first taken over the virtual projects department, Ji Polun had been asked to be the virtual idol Polar Light's eye model. Ultimately, he had ended up as a spectating student and helped out with odd jobs in the virtual projects department. Ji Polun was also in the production team's credits for Polar Light's first song.
Back then, Ji Polun had been on a C-grade contract. After that, he had probably gotten a knack for how things worked and improved his acting skills by leaps and bounds. His credentials had to have been decent. If not, Silver Wing would not have signed him back then. Now that his acting skills had improved and the way he treated others was better than before, his contract was now B grade.
Now that the virtual projects department was in a state of high secrecy, Ji Polun could no longer head to the department to chat whenever he wanted. However, he still frequently kept in touch with Zu Wen and the rest. A short while back, when Zu Wen and the others had been talking about company gossip, Fang Zhao had heard that Ji Polun had accepted a film and was the male lead. For his character, it was rumored that Ji Polun trained very hard with the guitar and had professionals tutoring him. He wanted to be better than other actors of the same grade, not just learn a few chords.
Before accepting the role, all Ji Polun had known about ancient instruments was that many were made from wood. He had not even heard of string instruments and did not know how many types there were. He knew that he could use a body double when the time came and pass through it that way, but if he somehow had some slight knowledge on the basics, the probability of him landing the role would be higher. Thus, he'd started his training three months ago.
The company did not place much importance on this sort of low-cost production. Every month, there were film targets for every genre, and the basic scripts were always like placing old wine in a new bottle, with the aim of swaying other investors to dump money in. "A Guitar's Love" was a joint production with other investors.
When he had heard the name for the first time, Fang Zhao had thought it was a film concerning music, instruments, and youthful encouragement, but it was actually a youth campus-idol flick. Now that Natiwuzi had mentioned it, he recalled that, other than Silver Wing, the other investor was NaZ.
Ji Polun's tutor was from NaZ, and the NaZ brand was all over the film. The guitars used by the male lead were also from the NaZ brand.
"I even came up with the film title." Natiwuzi seem a little proud, but he followed with a frown. "However, the shooting progress is a little too slow."
Fang Zhao nodded his head. "Slow work yields fine products. It is important that the final product satisfies you. I am familiar with the male lead, a really hard working young chap. I even heard that he trained hard over three months just for a particular scene."
Natiwuzi had wanted to chase the other side and exert some pressure, but hearing Fang Zhao's word's, he laughed and said, "Those are rather fine words!"
Natiwuzi no longer wanted to chase them. This was just a part of his plans to expand his brand. The actor for the role had been chosen carefully. Back then, he had only picked Ji Polun because of the calluses on his hands as a result of all the hard practice. Natiwuzi's request had been to use as little editing and special effects as possible for the scenes where instruments were being played. Now that Fang Zhao had mentioned that he was indeed hardworking, Natiwuzi felt at ease. Indeed, as long as the final product was up to his standards, there was no need to nitpick other areas. Anyway, filming was set to complete soon, possibly within the next two days. He could could chase them a little more when it came to postproduction.
Given the advancements in technology, the production cycle of a film was not as long as it had once been. This sort of low-cost production took even less time.
Natiwuzi wanted Fang Zhao to give lessons through a a webcast. Fang Zhao did not have a lot of time, but forking out one or two hours was still doable.
When Fang Zhao agreed, Natiwuzi was delighted. He had heard that Fang Zhao had came to Space to find inspiration for composing, so with a wave of his hand, he presented Fang Zhao with a privilege card, which had more prestigious perks than a VIP card.
Natiwuzi also gave Fang Zhao access to videos of performances in the dance hall. From time to time, Natiwuzi would invite well-known bands or instrumental musicians to perform. The club stored a copy of all the performances, and it was not only limited to ancient musical instruments; there were many different styles, including popular styles that could drive up the atmosphere, and electronic music was the main theme. It was what Fang Zhao wanted.
As someone who did not speak much normally, saying so much in one shot was tiring for Natiwuzi. Thus, Fang Zhao did not continue staying here. After he arranged the preliminary matters of their collaboration, he left with Zuo Yu,
On the trip back, Fang Zhao received an incoming call from Wang Tie.
"I have information." Wang Tie's tone carried an air of proudness for uncovering the truth. "I said that you wouldn't have wasted money. As long as you are willing to spend, I will surely dig the truth out."
Fang Zhao had let Wang Tie investigate the mastermind behind the incident at Space. Given Wang Tie's knowledge of the entertainment circles and his keen paparazzi sense of smell, even if he was unable to discover the entire truth, any bit of information would be fine too. However, Fang Zhao had not expected that Wang Tie would have information after just one day.
"Speak," Fang Zhao said.
"The person who employed these men to act against you is a manager from Zebra e-Sports Club. You should have heard of this club. They are considered among the top 10 e-sports clubs in Yanzhou but are positioned at the tail end, in 10th place. There are over 30 clubs in the whole of Yanzhou, so they do have a reputation, but it's not that great and they can be considered a mid-tier club. However, they have some ambition. The club is currently occupying 10th place in the Yanzhou team leaderboards.
An e-sports club?
When Fang Zhao heard this, he could guess their motive.
"Because of Fiery Bird's annual gala?" Fang Zhao had heard from Wayne, Jinro, and the others about Fiery Bird's annual gala. Fiery Bird would always invite strong teams and capable individuals across all continents to participate, and all the world's media outlets would focus their coverage during the event. The criteria for this year's conference was the top ten teams and individuals in each continent on the "Battle of the Century Leaderboards."
If a person in the top 10 individual leaderboards belonged to a team within the top 10 team leaderboards, the choices of invites would be pushed back.
As most of the top 50 of Yanzhou's leaderboards was occupied by members of the top 10 teams, even if someone was placed around 20- or 30-plus, there was still a high possibility of them being invited. This was also the reason why many smaller e-sports clubs and gaming studios were exerting all their strength and resources to push certain members forward.
From the start, Zebra e-Sports Club's ambitions had been very lofty. There were rumored to have spent large sums of money and managed to squeeze into the top 10 of the Yanzhou team leaderboards for "Battle of the Century," albeit only being 10th place.
Of Jinro, Dorrian, and the other eight, six of them had been approached by Zebra e-Sports Club, especially HWR's Dorrian, who had been contacted at least 10 times. Ultimately, though, all their targets had been poached over by Silver Wing. How could they not be mad?
Besides stealing their targets multiple times, the main issue was that this SilverLight team from Silver Wing had a strong drive.
Although the SilverLight team was ranked 12th on the team leaderboards, there was no telling when they would rush upward. To the outside world, with a team comprised of such distinguished members, as long as the points-sweeping-machine AliveAfter500Years was still there, rising up the leaderboards was no issue. It was only a matter of when.
"Actually, Zebra did not just target you. They have probably employed methods against others as well. Besides the Big Five, they might have targeted those teams ranked 6th to 9th and 11th to 15th as well. As for why they focused on you on Silver Wing's side, it is probably because you are an easier target. Using dirty tricks and targeting e-sports athletes is condemned in the professional circles. Poaching is fine, but threatening the safety of an e-sports athlete is a big no. They probably targeted you, the young managing executive of the gaming team, as they did not know your identity in-game."
Any changes to the team's managing level would also affect the team and might even cause them to destabilize. Fang Zhao being the boss of SilverWing50PolarLight's project team had been announced at the press conference, and it was no wonder why he had been locked onto.
When sharing his guesses, Wang Tie seemed to take joy in others misfortune. "They had been eyeing you for a few days, but they hadn't been able to find a suitable opportunity to do something. When the video of you teaching your juniors the guitar in Space circulated online, they then went to Space. As for the rest, you know it for yourself. They most likely wanted to make the music composition circles resent you, but they never expected that you would catch them and even send them to the hospital. The six are still lying in hospital under police custody."
If the six men had not been beaten to the ground by Fang Zhao, Natiwuzi's internal investigation would not have been so quick and Wang Tie might not have gotten his information so smoothly.
"Oh, by the way," Want Tie paused, "besides me, there are also a bunch of people investigating your incident and putting in quite a bit of effort. They aren't Natiwuzi's men—his men's investigation was mainly internal, and they did not look outward. However, this bunch are different. Although they have spent a longer time, it won't take too long for them to find the information that I uncovered."
Fang Zhao pondered for a bit and replied, "You can stop your investigation."
"Are they from Silver Wing?"
Wang Tie pursed his lips. "I must say, the people from Zebra surely did not expect that Silver Wing would mobilized so much manpower to investigate."
Only a few people in Silver Wing knew how important Fang Zhao was to the gaming and virtual projects departments. The boss, Duan Qianji, was extremely afraid that Fang Zhao would be poached away and had specifically found Zuo Yu, a former special forces member, to serve as his bodyguard. Zebra might have ambitions, but so did Silver Wing. Wayne's lofty dreams had only just begun. His soul had nearly left his body when he'd heard about Fang Zhao's incident at Space.
"So you want me to pull back? I will arrange all the information I found in a file and send it over." Once more, Wang Tie asked, "You really don't want me to continue investigating? There are surely others pulling the strings from behind. Otherwise, the people from Zebra wouldn't have been so impulsive."
"You won't be able to find much incriminating evidence for those few anyway," Fang Zhao replied.
"That is true. They are all demons; let's burn these people at the stake and see whether the rest get frightened," Wang Tie replied indifferently. He had seen this a lot of times and did not find it strange. Competition existed all the time, but fair competition was rare, especially in entertainment circles.
During the journey back from Space, Fang Zhao watched some of the dance-hall performances that Natiwuzi had given him, and he gained quite a bit. At night, Natiwuzi also created two compilations of performances and sent them to Fang Zhao. Besides Yanzhou artists, there were performers from other continents as well. These were video clips that could not be found even on the internet.
Since Natiwuzi had provided so much help, there was no way Fang Zhao could let him down. After watching, Fang Zhao also made plans for his online web lessons.
The next day, when Fang Zhao went to the company, Wayne wanted to talk to him alone.
"I'm not giving you such bad ideas in the future anymore! Director Duan called me up yesterday and spent an hour scolding me." Wayne still had some lingering fears, not because of the scolding he had received from Duan Qianji but because if Fang Zhao had really been accused of "using stimulants to compose," it would have caused a lot of trouble in the short term and might have affected Fang Zhao's condition.
"If you still want to find more inspiration, why not just let other company personnel handle the accompaniment music for the publicity film," Wayne suggested once more.
"I have made some progress. When it's done, I will show it to you first. If you still feel it's not suitable, then we can change it." Fang Zhao was not an opinionated person, and if his work was not suitable, he did not mind using somebody else's. He knew that Wayne had found others to compose and had made preparations on two fronts. He did not mind.
"All right. After all, this has to be completed within this month." At this point, Wayne could not help but say the real reason he had wanted to speak with Fang Zhao. "Are you all able to break into the top 10?" Wayne rubbed his hands together. "It's not that I doubt your ability, just that you haven't been logging in much and you have been letting Jinro lead the team. The members in the team have improved tremendously, but... but the competition is just so great."
As the other person in charge of SilverWing50PolarLight, Wayne felt anxious. When Fang Zhao was not in the office, Wayne had led Jinro and the others in a meeting and had inquired with them, but Jinro and the others had said that Fang Zhao had other instructions. They were to build up their basics and not advance prematurely. For example, driving, shooting, detection and identification of dangerous organisms, concealment, and other skills needed to survive. That was why the team had not gone all out to kill monsters, and making the top 15 at their rate was not easy.
Knowing that the bunch only listened to Fang Zhao, Wayne had known he couldn't dig anything else from them and could only rely on Fang Zhao to do the work.
As Wayne spoke, he watched for Fang Zhao's reaction. When Fang Zhao did not speak, he thought for a bit and said, "The people who plotted against you were from Zebra e-Sports Club..."
Wayne explained the findings of Silver Wing's investigation of the incident. "Luckily for them, we don't eat without paying. Don't worry about it. Leave the matters in the real world to me. I will get people to handle them. As for the game, we can't let ourselves be stomped on, can we? They are just two places above us; we just have to charge forward a little and crush them."
Fang Zhao nodded. "It's about time."
Wayne was all smiles, thinking that Fang Zhao had listened to his advice and finally changed his mind, but he quickly straightened his face and said seriously, "Everyone will be waiting for your good news, then. Oh, I nearly forgot to ask. What relationship do you have with Natiwuzi? Why does the internet think you are Natiwuzi's illegitimate son or a runaway grandson?"
"We are ancient-musical-instrument lovers. We just had an exchange on ancient instrumental skills, and he wishes to work with me."
"It won't affect anything on our side, right?"
On that day, Fang Zhao went to the 50th floor to hold a meeting. Both the Polar Light and SilverLight project teams were present.
On the same night, the SilverLight team that had been crawling slowly up the leaderboards suddenly burst to life, as if the brakes on their car had been removed.
Fang Zhao had taught them all the skills that could be taught. How much they could grasp was entirely up to them.
Fang Zhao would gradually withdraw from the team operations and hand the role of authority over to Jinro. During the operations in-game, Fang Zhao also slowly started to keep his distance or spectate from the sides. After all, Fang Zhao intended to serve in the military next year, and he needed to let them adapt to this new method of combat. Even if they recruited more members in the future, Jinro would be able to handle it well.
On December 9, the SilverLight team rose to the 10th position on the Yanzhou "Battle of the Century" team leaderboards. Zebra e-Sports Club, who had previously been at 10th place, were pushed down to 11th.
On December 10, the system announced the release of a new area away from the original warzones. Gamers escaped toward the newly-released areas nearest their city districts.
The SilverLight team, which had been making preparations beforehand, formed a motorcade and led other original players of District 79 toward the new district.
On December 12, another round of natural disasters occured. Populations of mutated beast species saw a sharp spike in their numbers as all 100 districts of Yanzhou fell to the enemy.
On December 15, SilverLight team's experience points total was now 9th place on the leaderboards.
As long as they maintained this state, before the month ended, they could charge to 8th.