Great-Grandfather Fang's post, which had reached trending in only a short while, was circulated by a number of media outlets. Some people managed to get Great-Grandfather Fang's contact details using some unknown method, and they immediately contacted him to request an interview, but they were all rejected.
After rejecting yet another interview, Great-Grandfather Fang grumbled, "How irritating! Nonstop calls the entire day!"
But paying closer attention to Great-Grandfather Fang's expression, although this old man's tone did not sound pleased, there was an uncontrollable smile on his face, and his creases had deepened.
Today he had not even needed to head out and brag. A number of old companions in the retirement center had run over upon seeing the news.
Great-Grandfather Fang had not left the military medal case inside today. He brought it outside to flaunt to others.
When people were young, they compared their careers, military deeds, military ranks, and positions. When they retired, they compared their children, then younger generations. It was not that the Fang family had not produced any outstanding descendents but that their achievements had not been in the military. Fang Zhao was a rare case. Great-Grandfather Fang's many years of desire had been accomplished, and if he did not brag with all his strength, he would be letting down his hopes and aspirations of so many years.
After ending the call and just as he was about to head out, Great-Grandfather Fang saw another old fellow from the retirement center carrying a case in. He knew that the other party had a descendant currently in the military who was doing rather well. The descendant had also rendered some meritorious services and had more than one third-class merit. This was a challenge, heh!
However, Great-Grandfather Fang did not feel embarrassed at all. Rather, he was all smiles and praise. "This guy from your family is not too bad. In the future, his achievements will surely be even greater than yours. My great-grandson cannot compare with the one from your family. Your descendant trained in military school, while mine dabbles in the arts. Striving for a third-class merit and getting promoted during his military service is more than enough to satisfy me!"
Behind every military award was a price paid that normal people were unable to imagine. Great-Grandfather Fang would not vilify these awardees or think lightly of their contributions, but he would not forget to show off his own great-grandson.
He had not said anything wrong. For a youth who dabbled in the arts and was without any military school background to achieve such results not long after enlisting was very rare indeed. The news had mentioned that this was the first case in close to a hundred years. Therefore, Great-Grandfather Fang bragged very confidently.
Great-Grandmother Fang was listening to the discussion in the room and smiling as she watered the plants on the balcony. This was enough already. The two old Fangs were already satisfied with third-class merits. Now all they wished for was Fang Zhao safely getting through his military service.
However, when they thought about the discussions online, Great-Grandmother Fang furrowed her eyebrows. She was worried that all the flattering would go to Fang Zhao's head. Fang Zhao was too young and did not have a stable enough mentality. It would be easy for him to stray off his path. Too much flattery would also cause others to be disgusted. Some of the discussions under her husband's status might seem like honeyed words, but they were actually hypocritical and sarcastic.
Great-Grandmother Fang decided to remind Fang Zhao to stay grounded the next time he called back.
Yet the person everyone expected to have his head in the clouds from all the praise was actually more calm than anyone else.
Far away, on planet Baiji, Fang Zhao had heard from Kevin Lin about his current popularity and had seen some of the adulation he was receiving from reports, but he did not really have much of an opinion about this.
Fang Zhao understood clearly that this situation was just based on the power of a celebrity and chance. It just happened to be the case that the top brass had needed to set a benchmark, which had given rise to the current state of affairs. Fang Zhao did not think his own actions had been that outstanding. This wasn't being modest—compared to the efforts of older generations, this couldn't be considered a big deal. However, gaining lawful gun ownership was very convenient. This bit pleased Fang Zhao.
Now, he just did whatever needed to be done. After helping Fan Lin tidy up the fields, Fang Zhao participated in the expansion of the outpost.
In the formulated design plans for planet Baiji's development, the five outposts that had been attacked were part of the first batch of outposts due for expansion. During the day, Fang Zhao took part in the construction of the outpost. At night, after returning, Fang Zhao found the time to record his daily inspirations and make amendments to what he had written down previously.
Kevin Lin had already gotten used to this sight. Some nights, before he slept, Kevin Lin would record and send a short 30-second clip to let everyone know how hardworking Fang Zhao was offscreen.
Kevin Lin was hot stuff now. He had never dreamed of this much popularity when he managed to snag the special reporter assignment. Plus, given that Fang Zhao was not someone who acted and showed off in front of the camera, during every live broadcast, Kevin Lin actually had more screen time than Fang Zhao. However, Fang Zhao did not nitpick this. From time to time, Kelvin Lin also filmed things that could help Fang Zhao raise his popularity.
Project Starlight's column released the received videos on the same day, and they immediately led to passionate discussions by netizens that happened to see them.
"Still composing at night? Is Fang Zhao going to release new works?"
"I nearly forgot about Fang Zhao's composing background until I saw this."
"What, composing background? Wasn't Fang Zhao a gamer?"
"New fans should check up on how Fang Zhao became famous early on. Fang Zhao has a composing background indeed, and he has some reputation in Yanzhou music production circles. It was only later on that he made a name for himself in gaming."
"Am I the only one that is more interested in the light beside Fang Zhao?"
"I see it too. Previously, when the outpost was attacked, it appeared in the video Kevin Lin took while in the underground bunker!"
"That isn't a light! That's a sea slug! It's a choppy-haired variety, but we prefer to call them sea rabbits. Sea slug owners should all know this."
"A living light!? Anybody know where I can get something similar? I wish to buy one!"
"The pen and notebook Fang Zhao is using, does anyone know where I can get them?"
At the start, the online discussion about Fang Zhao's profession changed to discussions about "Fang Zhao-style merchandise."
Everyone knew that celebrity merchandise was the hottest marketing term. Previously, in the five Project Starlight channels, besides Fang Zhao, the clothes and products they wore and used had similar models in the market. Many people even copied their hairstyles. This was the effect of celebrities.
As the four celebrities of S1-S4 were not undergoing military service, they had a greater degree of freedom in their clothing and appearance. Thus, they paid better attention to their hairstyles, clothes, and the products they used daily. All these were brands that they endorsed or collaborated with. From their shirts, outdoor sportswear, bags, and others, everything had been meticulously planned early on.
Fans just loved to use the same products as their idols. Even if they could not use the exact same product, fans would try their best to find similar-looking ones. This let them feel like they were lessening the distance between themselves and their idols.
Businesses helped fan the flames and, at the same time, borrowed celebrities' popularity to market their goods. This sort of situation was common—basically, the moment a live broadcast appeared, merchants would start promoting similar merchandise. Exact same clothes, bags, sunglasses, accessories, and so on.
Comparing this, Fang Zhao was at a disadvantage. As he needed to undergo military service, everything he used was military standard issue. Even his hairstyle was required to keep in line with military demands: no long hair, no fringe, no beard, no wigs, and no dyed hair. In the military, there were only a few monotonous hairstyles, and anyone who deviated from the norm would be criticized.
Right at the start, when Project Starlight had been announced, from a commercial viewpoint, there had been a really drastic difference in value between Fang Zhao and the others. Therefore, not many people had been optimistic about Fang Zhao, and very few businesses had approached Fang Zhao for collaboration.
Now it was different. Previously, there had only been a few big names like Fiery Bird that had approached Fang Zhao over his "Diting ears." Now, with the explosion in channel S5's viewership, the number of brands wishing to collaborate with Fang Zhao kept increasing.
Isn't it just military service? It's just one year. Given the publicity now, even if Fang Zhao's popularity is no longer that high after he completes his service, it will still be profitable. This was what many businesses were thinking.
As for the fans, Fang Zhao was not on Earth and the distance was too great. They were helpless even if they wanted to chase him. Thus, many people could only pin their hopes on the items Fang Zhao often used or came into contact with.
Business was booming at a website of a certain shop selling military items.
"Shopkeeper, are there Fang Zhao-style military uniforms?"
"Peddling military uniforms is illegal. However, there are imitation uniforms. They look similar, just without the planet Baiji insignia. There are strict rules regarding the sale of military items."
"What about Fang Zhao-style epaulets?"
"...Second-lieutanant epaulets? It is illegal to sell those too. You wouldn't be able to wear it even if you got your hands on one. There are harsh punishments if you get caught. However, our shop sells a few epaulet substitutes..."
"How about guns? Real ones are illegal, but you should have models, right?"
"Oh, we do have those, but the models with a 1-to-1 ratio are sold out. We still have 1-to-6, 1-to-12, and 1-to-18 models; do you want one?"
"No, thanks, when will there be stock for the 1-to-1 size? I would like to make a reservation!"
Similar conversations appeared in many places. Internet personalities also rode the coattails of this trend and imitated Fang Zhao's look. Decked out in imitation uniforms, epaulets, and knee-high military boots while toting a 1-to-1 exact replica. These personalities would then strike a pose they reckoned was the coolest and upload it to their accounts on major social platforms so they could share their own look-alike photos. Regardless of whether they were praised or abused, it didn't matter. After all, as long as there was internet traffic, their goals had been achieved.
As for the sea slug that served as a night light, it quickly became a best seller in the pet market. Every shop put up "Fang Zhao-style white choppy-hair sea rabbits" signs. Online shops also displayed pictures and videos of a white blob that lived in the water and resembled a rabbit. At first glance, it looked really similar to the one Fang Zhao kept.
In the past, choppy hair variants had been considered hot sellers and had always ranked in the top 10, but during this period, it straightaway rose to the number one spot, and when "Fang Zhao-style" slogans were put up, they sold like hotcakes.
But shortly after purchasing, many people gave poor evaluations immediately after receiving the goods.
A buyer inquired, "Shop owner, why does your shop's choppy-hair sea rabbit not shine?!"
The shop owner was helpless. "It's not just my shop, no shop's 'rabbits' can shine. There's nothing that can be done. They cannot compare to Fang Zhao's. His choppy-hair sea rabbit has 50% extraterrestrial genes."
"Never mind that, why is it so small!?" the buyer asked again.
"...Because it doesn't have extraterrestrial genes."
It was indeed impossible to find a similiar product in the entire ornamental seawater pet market. There was no choice, so everyone could only settle for second best. It would do as long as its outer appearance was similar.
Lighting manufacturers were delighted when they saw this situation and immediately hatched a plan to custom-make lights in the shape of a choppy-hair sea rabbit, the sort that would light up with the tap of a finger. Now, doing homework at night would let people feel a sense of purpose.