No wonder none of the higher-ups had said anything. They were waiting for the big boss.
"You mean... Boss Du-Duan?" Ya Erlin's voice was even shakier. "Didn't she go to Huangzhou?"
"How would I know?" Du Ang didn't know what to do. They had expected the label not to handle the matter with kid gloves, but things had evolved beyond their expectations.
"Someone at Flying Pegasus must have complained to her," Ya Erlin voiced his speculation.
"Regardless of what went down, let's get ready. I'll get in touch with Fang Zhao. We'll head up to the top floor together."
On the 50th floor, Fang Zhao was monitoring the feedback to his release online. He was a bit surprised when he got word from Du Ang. He didn't expect the big boss to get involved.
He got up, sorted out his wrinkled outfit, and then told the others, "You guys take a break. I have to head upstairs for a meeting."
"Where's the meeting?" Zu Wen asked.
"The top-floor conference room."
"The top floor?" Zu Wen sprang from his seat. "Brother, a bit of advice. When you see the big boss, remember these five words: "no bullshit, tell the truth.'"
The head of Silver Wing was Duan Qianji, the granddaughter of founder and megastar Duan Yizhi. She was in her 70s. Word was that, when Duan Yizhi was still alive, a young Duan Qianji enjoyed an active on-screen career under the tutelage of her grandfather. When Duan Yizhi passed, Duan Qianji took over Silver Wing.
Fang Zhao recalled the research he had done before. There was a limited amount of information online and there were signs it had been doctored. As for the real Duan Qianji, Fang Zhao had never met her and knew little about her. He could only surmise from the reaction of Zu Wen, Du Ang, and company that the boss didn't have the best of tempers and wasn't the type of person who smiled all the time.
The elevator for rank-and-file employees couldn't reach the top floor. Fang Zhao followed Du Ang and company into a different elevator. The higher the elevator rose, the more nervous Du Ang and the two others became, Fang Zhao sensed.
Initially, Du Ang still managed to give Fang Zhao a few pointers, but eventually he turned silent. His whole body stiffened. It seemed as if the air pressure had dipped.
The elevator doors opened to reveal a 5-meter long hallway flanked by cold, metallic walls. Even the sunlight couldn't disperse the invisible chill.
After confirming their identities, an expressionless young man waved at them, signaling them to go ahead. Fang Zhao noticed that the man's gaze lingered on him for a few extra seconds.
When they entered the conference room, the chitchat stopped and some 20-odd pairs of eyes shifted their way. Every single person at the table was a senior executive above manager grade. Lowly department heads like Du Ang normally had no business being there.
The discerning and probing gazes were suffocating. Du Ang and company smiled stiffly. It seemed as though they could hear the heavy beating of their own hearts.
Taking a cue from his direct boss, Du Ang and party walked to the four spots at the end of the table. They were the lowest ranked employees and were seated accordingly.
The conference table was an inverted V. The seat at the joint was reserved for the big boss. It was still empty. There was another empty seat by her chair. It was unclear who it was reserved for.
Fang Zhao wasn't that nervous. He was checking out the conference room and wondering how the big boss would react. If she wasn't happy with his work, he wasn't going to grovel. In the worst-case scenario, he could leave and take his entire team with him. There were plenty of other record companies who would happily hire them.
Less than a minute after they sat down, before other curious senior execs could question them, the doors to the conference room opened again. The buzz that had greeted the arrival of Fang Zhao and company disappeared. It became so quiet every breath could be heard. This wasn't a curious silence. It was driven by fear and pressure.
Fang Zhao saw a stern-faced woman walk in with huge strides. Because life expectancy had increased in the New Era, even though Duan Qianji was nearly 80, she looked like someone in her 40s from before the apocalypse. There were some wrinkles in the corners of her eyes, but she looked quite sharp. She projected the strong aura of someone in charge.
Duan Qianji was trailed by four underlings—two secretaries and two assistants. They didn't show much emotion but seemed more relaxed and less serious than their boss.
Another elderly man entered along with Duan Qianji. After she sat down at the head of the table, he took the seat next to her.
Fang Zhao scanned the old man and noticed he was wearing a lapel pin with a Pegasus logo. He was from Flying Pegasus.
"Which one of you is Fang Zhao?" Duan Qianji cut to the chase right after she sat down.
His head drooped, Du Ang tapped Fang Zhao beneath the table, signaling him to stand up. His other hand wiped away the sweat on his forehead. He took an imaginary deep breath. If she was going to question Fang Zhao first, did that mean she wasn't upset that they'd taken matters into their own hands?
"I am." Fang Zhao got up.
Fang Zhao's seat left its original spot and shifted to the empty space in the middle of the conference table, toward the head of the table.
Duan Qianji observed Fang Zhao's response. If he were a newcomer attending his first meeting on the top floor, the slightest movement would affect him. But Fang Zhao was unfazed. He wasn't nervous. Instead, he eyed his moving chair curiously. The surrounding gazes didn't get to him one bit.
This was no ordinary newcomer. He was too calm for his age.
"You wrote 'Divine Punishment?'" Duan Qianji glared at Fang Zhao when she posed the question.
"Yes, I wrote it," Fang Zhao said without avoiding Du Qianji's gaze.
Sensing no sign of deception, Duan Qianji's expression relaxed somewhat. "How many more movements are you planning for your Period of Destruction series?"
Gasps emerged from around the table. It was the same reaction Du Ang had had when he heard the news. The old man from Flying Pegasus was about to speak, but Duan Qianji raised her hand to interrupt. His eyes flashed panic.
"Have you recorded the remaining movements?" Duan Qianji asked.
"No, I'm out of funding."
Another round of gasps.
Du Ang and company became even more sheepish.
You've got guts, kid, asking the big boss for more funding.
Duan Qianji paused for two seconds, a trace of a smile appearing on her face.
"Fifty million for the second movement and the music video. I want to see a final product before November."
Duan Qianji remembered something and asked, "Who was the eye model for the music video?"
"And your team of consultants?"
"It was just me."
The others at the table glared at Fang Zhao like he was a monster. The manager in charge of film production rolled his eyes and shut his eyelids in contemplation.
This time, Duan Qianji paused a little longer. "From now on, you're the manager of the virtual projects department and the producer for the Polar Light project. You'll be in charge of staffing. As for the bonuses for your team, Zhu Zhen will be in touch after the meeting."
One of the assistants standing behind Duan Qianji stepped forward and smiled at Fang Zhao.
"The label prizes its best talent." It sounded like a consolatory remark. Noticing that Fang Zhao was still deep in thought, she asked, "Anything else?"
"One more thing."
"Can I bring a dog to work?"