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Much of their top-notch equipment had a limited shelf life and their rental payments accounted for a good chunk of their 5-million-dollar budget, let alone other costly expenditures. Plus the project staff hadn't been paid yet.

It was a cliche, but artists had to eat too. Fang Zhao didn't want to mistreat his own people, so when he used up all his funding, he put the project on hold. They would continue whenever they received additional funding. The success of the first movement convinced Fang Zhao that Silver Wing wouldn't pass on such a promising project.

"Hiss—that's a loaded question." It finally dawned on Du Ang and company that the project was only budgeted for 5 million—and that was the result of Du's lobbying. It would have been even less had the original appropriation gone through.

Indeed, 5 million was too little considering the success of the project thus far. Fang Zhao and company had done an amazing job just launching Polar Light.

"Rest assured, I'll lobby the bosses for more funding. It will be more than last time. Plus you'll get decent bonuses," Du Ang said.

Even an idiot knew that Silver Wing finally had a proper virtual idol on its hands. How could it not back the hell out of it? Not to mention a second epic was in the works.

This kid was going to become rich. He might even be recruited by Flying Pegasus. That was a goal Ya Erlin had failed to achieve up to this point.

Having been dealt a reality check, Du Ang calmed down somewhat. "Speaking of which..."

Du Ang scanned the group, his gaze pausing briefly on Zu Wen and company. "Mum's the word. Try to run a tight ship."

Zu Wen struggled not to break into laughter. "Understood."

Outside observers all thought that Polar Light's epic debut was a secret bomb Silver Wing had held back for the end of the year. When a Silver Wing spokesman was asked about the project in a clip they just watched online, all he could do was maintain his composure and smile, projecting an aura of mystery. But the project team figured the spokesman's back was drenched in sweat.

What else could he do but smile and act coy? Say he didn't know about Polar Light? That would be the equivalent of slapping himself in the face.

If that was how he answered, Silver Wing would've become the biggest joke in the industry and even gone down in history as such.

Silver Wing couldn't afford to lose that much face.

After Du Ang and company left, Fang Zhao was thanked by Bei Zhi and Ji Polun. Fang Zhao had listed their names in the credits, which gave them exposure. It was an important boost for any singer or actor.

Bei Zhi probably didn't expect Fang Zhao to list him in the credits, considering he had only helped out on the 50th floor for three days during his break. All he did was haul equipment around for three days. Even though he was listed last, he was still excited. His agent had just told him the number of online searches for him would spike considerably. However you looked at it, that was a form of fame as well. He had an edge over other newcomers.

So excited. So excited.

"Hehe, hehehehe, hahahaha!"

Bei Zhi scampered about ecstatically in the newcomer dorm, behaving like a convulsing lamb.

His three roommates were jealous. What could they say? You can't control luck.

After he was thanked and congratulated by Bei Zhi and Ji Polun, Fang Zhao skimmed the comments on the song posted online, getting a sense of the overall response before moving on to the more respected media outlets. They were the opinion leaders on the matter.

The hosts of the popular webcast "Prairie Fire" had all forgotten about the "Yanzhou Derby" they had coined earlier. Now all the talk revolved around Silver Wing's underlying strategy and speculation about its next move. They were convinced that Silver Wing had been working on the virtual idol for some time and all previous rumors were simply a smokescreen.

To back up their speculation, "Prairie Fire" invited experts onto the show. Experts wouldn't lie, no?

Two guests appeared on the live webcast. The first was Prof. Bradley, a scholar from the history faculty at Yanzhou University who specialized in the Period of Destruction. The other was researcher Kou Da, who studied animal mutations during the Period of Destruction at the Yanzhou Academy of Science. Both were bona fide experts.

Both were genuine leaders in the field. What they said was authoritative. No one questioned the veracity of their research.

Bradley analyzed the authenticity of the "Divine Punishment" music video—the sequence of events and the location and scale of the meteor showers and subsequent earthquakes. His conclusion: the music video was spot on. Although the virtual idol was fiction, the historical backdrop was accurate. He couldn't find any flaws. The music video was better made than many movies about the Period of Destruction.

Professor Kou Da of the Yanzhou Academy of Science focused on the mutated animals that appeared in the music video. His conclusion: there were no inaccuracies. So many mutated animals appeared during the Period of Destruction, but the music video got all the minute details right. The production design was so exacting that he wanted to meet the expert consulted for the project.

The two hosts acted as if they had landed a major scoop, concluding, "Therefore, our suspicion is that Silver Wing was backed by a formidable team of consultants comprising the top names in the business. They stayed out of sight because they signed confidentiality agreements. You can tell that Silver Wing put considerable thought into the project. It must have been in the pipeline for some time."

On the 50th floor of Silver Wing Tower, Zu Wen and company shifted their gaze to Fang Zhao.

A formidable team of consultants?


Among outsiders, all eyes were on Silver Wing's next move. In fact, many Silver Wing staffers were wondering too. They were waiting for the company's top brass to respond. This was no ordinary debut. There was too much attention. The higher ups were also cautious. Didn't you notice the label's chief spokesman could only smile and remain silent?

Du Ang had decided to ask for more funding after conferring with Ya Erlin and Julian in his office. They had heard nothing from senior management so far. Du Ang wanted to use funding as an excuse to probe. But before he could make his move, he received a text message from his superior. He was so shocked he turned ghastly pale and nearly dropped his cup.

"What's up, Old Du?" Ya Erlin and Julian asked when they saw Du Ang react the same way a rat did when it ran into a cat.

"Manager Shi asked us to round up Fang Zhao for a meeting upstairs." Du Ang responded as he tightened his grip on his cup.

"You mean us three?" Julian pointed at herself.

"That's right. That's what Manager Shi said—us three and Fang Zhao. The four of us. Not one less."

"What floor?" Ya Erlin asked. The location of the meeting reflected the rank of the executive who called and led the meeting. The rule of thumb at Silver Wing was the higher the floor, the higher the rank. The meeting was most definitely about the virtual idol project and its epic song. If they found out where the meeting was being held, they could try to figure out the agenda through their connections.

Du Ang took a gulp and pointed upward. "Top floor," he said in a shaky voice.

Only one person could convene a meeting in the top-floor conference room—the big boss.

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