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Bu Lai could authorize the gym equipment, but he didn't want to take any flak for the gaming equipment. In his mind, Fang Zhao was still young, and young men lacked sufficient willpower. If Fang Zhao got addicted to gaming and didn't complete his project, or if the quality of his work declined, Bu Lai would have to be held accountable. So when it came to gaming equipment, he deferred to his bosses. He couldn't decide himself.

The people Bu Lai delegated to were efficient and well-equipped. And since an existing space was available, the same with the equipment, tools, and manpower, it was a quick setup.

The same afternoon, the virtual idol department on the 50th floor added a 100 square-meter gym.

"Our own gym?"

Zu Wen was especially excited. Sometimes he wanted to work out when he got tired from gaming—no, he meant working. All he could do was jump up and down in his office. The company gym was too crowded. You had to book a time slot in advance. He was also a homebody and weak physically. His parents often urged him to work out, to not alternate between working and gaming. The key to life was exercise, they told him.

Now that their department had its own gym, he didn't have to fight for gym time.

"I actually applied for gaming equipment too," Fang Zhao said.

Zu Wen's ears bolted up immediately. "And?" he asked eagerly.

"The request was rejected."

Zu Wen shrank to his original state.

"What the bosses are thinking is if our second movement is a success, they might sign off," Fang Zhao continued.

"Then let's bust our asses!" Zu Wen threw hard punches into the air. He felt as if his life had renewed purpose. He was brimming with energy. For him, gaming equipment was a stronger incentive than a cash bonus.

Fang Zhao had sent out the timetable for the Polar Light project and the division of labor a long time ago. He didn't want to set individual schedules. Staffers could decide their hours as long as they didn't mess up and stuck to the schedule. The project team met once every three days to take stock and deal with issues.

One morning, Fang Zhao was running on his treadmill. It was an artificially intelligent treadmill that adjusted to Fang Zhao's pace.

Curly Hair ran alongside its owner. If Fang Zhao picked up pace, so did Curly Hair. If Fang Zhao slowed down, it slowed down too. He never tripped on the treadmill.

Fang Zhao browsed industry news as he ran.

The hit show "Prairie Fire" had turned its sights to Silver Media's Polar Light project again. It had advertised yesterday that it would invite another expert to weigh in on the project.

This time it wasn't a science or history academic, but a master from the music industry. Indeed, Padley was an especially verbose master who had an acid tongue. He had the talent to back it up, but he was quite talkative.

Professionals naturally offered a professional perspective, and Padley specialized in symphonies. Fang Zhao's "Divine Punishment" happened to employ a symphonic structure. That was also why "Prairie Fire" invited Padley onto the show. He was an expert in the field and had a foul mouth. The ideal guest to generate controversy.

Padley didn't trash "Divine Punishment." To the contrary, he was full of praise throughout the interview. He zoomed in on every section of the song and expressed the utmost admiration. Of course, he sprinkled in some trash talk as well. As with his previous media appearances, it just didn't feel right unless he started a feud. He was only satisfied when he dissed a few folks.

The show generated a lot of discussion, and what surprised people the most was that both Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment praised the "epic" scale of "Divine Punishment" on their own live programs. They didn't seem upset at all that their own virtual idols were crowded out in the charts. They all but crowned "Divine Punishment" a masterpiece. Both labels said on their shows that they were eagerly anticipating the second chapter of the Polar Light project and predicted it would also be an epic that didn't pale in comparison to the first chapter.

That sort of commentary wasn't the exception. You could hear that kind of talk online every day just in Qi'an alone. When the buzz faded, people would add fuel to the fire. There appeared to be a driving force behind the scenes.

Du Ang was also worried about the situation. He was thinking it was the doing of Tongshan True Entertainment and Neon Culture.

Among the top cooperatives at the Big Three, each unit would study the other two when they had down time—their musical style, patterns in their songs, and so on. Metal Torrent and Fourth Dimension, the leading cooperatives at Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment, had to have noticed that "Divine Punishment" was quite different from Flying Pegasus' past releases and suspected the composer was an outsider, hence the underhanded tactics to ferret details. They might have identified Fang Zhao already. Silver Wing wasn't a seamless ship. You could always pry out some information.

The higher you ascended, the harder the fall.

"Killing by flattery."

Given Fang Zhao's age, hearing such fulsome praise from all these masters would either get to his head or create pressure. Regardless the scenario, it would affect the quality of the second chapter. It was a thin line between an epic and an epic fail.

Within Silver Media, people who were familiar with the Polar Light project knew that Duan Qianji had prevented Flying Pegasus from getting involved for a reason. All of Polar Light's chapters would be penned by Fang Zhao alone. No one from Flying Pegasus would take part. It was all on Fang Zhao. No one else could take credit.

Even though virtual idol projects normally didn't credit their composers initially, they would be unveiled later on through certain channels. The creators would not go unsung.

Pieces produced by Flying Pegasus might have involved some individual work at some point, but at the outset, they were all composed as a cooperative, with the emphasis on Flying Pegasus as a collective. They would only reveal later if a certain person or several people wrote certain songs. Only by promoting the overall brand of Flying Pegasus could they boost the individual worth of its members.

By the same token, Fang Zhao's current priority was to promote the virtual idol Polar Light. Everything revolved around Polar Light. They would reveal the creative talent after Polar Light gained a profile. If Fang Zhao was credited when "Divine Punishment" was released, then he would detract from the popularity of and divert attention away from Polar Light.

Duan Qianji had given Fang Zhao a choice, and Fang Zhao had chosen to go solo. She had agreed and kept Flying Pegasus on the sidelines.

Now, all eyes were on Fang Zhao—not just outside observers, but within Silver Media, Duan Qianji and other senior executives were also paying close attention—to see whether he could shoulder the challenge of continuing the epic series.

Of course, if Fang Zhao felt he was stretched and needed additional support, Duan Qianji would send help from Flying Pegasus, but that meant that, when the credits were announced, it wouldn't be Fang Zhao's name but the Flying Pegasus cooperative.

The other staffers working on the Polar Light project also noticed the commentary.

"Should we hire a consultant?" Zeng Huang asked. He was worried that Fang Zhao was under too much pressure. From top to bottom, the entire label had huge expectations, and killing by flattery was being committed in the media every day. A less steely person would have gone crazy. If Fang Zhao could hole up and focus on composing, maybe he could steer clear of some of the distractions. That would require hiring a consultant.

"That's right, boss. Why don't you hole up and focus on composing. We can hire a consultant or an additional team," Zu Wen also proposed.

If Fang Zhao were actually a kid in his early 20s, he would definitely be affected by the widespread adulation. He would become too proud or crumble under the pressure. But not Fang Zhao.

He didn't live 100-plus years in his previous life for nothing. He had weathered countless close calls in the past. A little bit of pressure wasn't enough to rattle him.

"It's OK. I can handle everything on my own."

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