After the second movement, "Cocoon Breach," was released, it racked up nearly 100,000 downloads within a minute. This was mostly industry insiders or people from related fields. They had been on standby. Online news outlets were geared up for the release so they could do their write-ups and immediately post. Everyone wanted to get the first word out.
But the pundits were at a loss after listening to the second movement. There was so much they wanted to say, but they didn't know where to start.
Chu Guang and company were also camped out in a projection room. They downloaded the music video at 8 a.m. sharp and turned on their projector.
The same scene as last time replayed itself. No one said a word when the video played, and no one spoke for the longest time after it ended.
Sitting in his chair, Chu Guang took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He knew he would soon lose the No. 4 spot.
He felt some sadness and a sense of failure, but then he quickly remembered the virtual idols launched by Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment. That made him feel vindicated.
Those two virtual idols wouldn't be able to hang on to their No. 2 and No. 3 spots for long.
Knowing they would suffer too, much of Chu Guang's depression dissipated. He admitted he was outperformed, but he was also delighted to see the two virtual idol teams from their rival companies, who always had the upper hand, finally take a beating.
Things were playing out just as Chu Guang imagined. The project teams behind Xun Huai and Fei Lisi were agonizing over their next moves. Did they need to revise their strategy?
Song Shihua, the big boss of Tongshan True Entertainment, smashed his cup in his office.
"This is indeed what Silver Wing is up to."
Even though, considering Tongshan True Entertainment's prowess when it came to virtual idols, they shouldn't be afraid of Silver Wing, Song Shihua was starting to get worried.
Judging from the two movements that had been released, "100-Year Period of Destruction" couldn't be underestimated. Either song was epic enough to carry a blockbuster. What was more, it was a series set against the Period of Destruction.
"Battle of the Century," the game being launched next year, was also set during the Period of Destruction.
Would Fiery Bird pick the more popular virtual idol or the one that fit the theme of its game better? Song Shihua could neither decide nor speculate.
"You wanna fight us for the endorsement deal? Let's see what you've got." Song Shihua summoned the senior execs from the virtual idol department for an emergency meeting in his office. It took up half the day.
Yet outside observers didn't care about Song Shihua's plans. All eyes were on the Yanzhou Music Association's review. Without their blessing, other industry insiders were reluctant to draw their own conclusions, even if they thought the second chapter wasn't inferior to the first.
The person who deemed the first chapter an "epic" last time was Ming Cang, the deputy head of the Yanzhou Music Association. He was also the former president of the Qi'an Academy of Music. No one from the academy had said anything yet—they were waiting to hear from Ming Cang. It would be an embarrassment if they broke their silence at the urging of news outlets and diverged from Ming Cang's take.
Silver Wing staffers were also waiting for the "Voice of Yanzhou" review because it was considered the most authoritative publication in the entire Yanzhou music industry. That was also why no one dared question the "epic" categorization of the first chapter. The Yanzhou Music Association might have had its internal politics, but anything published on their official website was gospel. It carried with it the reputation of the entire Yanzhou Music Association. No one would dare to dissent on the official website because of personal grudges. If they did, they would do so in another setting, like in media interviews.
On the 50th floor of Silver Wing Tower, besides Fang Zhao, everyone else on the Polar Light project team was glued to the website of "Voice of Yanzhou."
"How come the review still isn't out?"
"It's almost 9. Last time, the review came out around now. It doesn't stand to reason that they would post later this time."
"I'm nervous." Zu Wen was glued to his screen, hands raised and thumbs twiddling.
He no longer cared about the number of downloads. All he cared about was the judgment of the music association. If they got a negative review, even if the download numbers went up, they wouldn't be considered a total success.
He glanced at Fang Zhao beside him, who was calmly browsing on his computer. Zu Wen wanted to ask Fang Zhao something but closed his mouth as soon as he opened it. 'Forget it—who knows what kind of background music is playing in Fang Zhao's head.'
After 9 a.m., the eagerly anticipated review from Ming Cang didn't appear, but another deputy head of the music association, Dina, posted instead.
"Deputy chairman Ming is a bit emotional right now, so I've showed up instead." Dina's old smiley face appeared on the official website of "Voice of Yanzhou."
Many were confused by Dina's comment. Why was Ming Cang so emotional? It was just one song. What an overreaction.
But Dina carried no less weight than Ming Cang. In fact, in terms of seniority, Dina was senior to Ming Cang. He belonged to an even older generation of musicians. It was even better to hear from him.
Normally, Dina refrained from commenting on the work of newcomers. Usually, what elicited comment from this seasoned veteran was an A-list star or an extremely popular song. But Polar Light was a special case. Ming Cang had classified the first movement an "epic," after all, which piqued Dina's curiosity. He was waiting around for the second movement today as well and was willing to offer his two cents.
Music journalists perked their ears, not wanting to miss out on the words of wisdom from this music veteran who was more than 100 years old.
"Many people have asked me if 'Cocoon Breach,' the second movement of '100-Year Period of Destruction,' qualifies as an epic. As for this question..."
Ears perked up even more.
"Let's set that question aside. Let's first discuss the concept of an epic," Dina said in a relaxed pace.
Journalists who were getting ready to copy, paste, and send: "..."
People who knew Dina had already rolled their eyes. That old geezer was still the same, switching gears halfway through a thought. Who knew when he would get back on topic. A downright tease.
Dina didn't care what other people thought. He spoke at his own pace. Restraining his smile somewhat, he launched into a solemn commentary.
"The genre of epics has to be traced to the Period of Destruction or an even earlier time. Be it the ancient tradition of chanting, or the folk songs that circulated in the imperial court, in army barracks, or among ordinary people and were passed on for generations—they can all be considered epic forms. Many epics extolling heroics during the 100 years of war also appeared after the Period of Destruction, in the beginning of the New Era. But as peaceful times prevailed and the war became a distant memory, no one bothered to listen to these songs any more. Nowadays, any grand pieces that can stir emotions are easily labeled 'epic.' But many people forget that epics were intended to honor heroes."
The seasoned veteran continued to expound on the history and development of epics and how more contemporary styles evolved.
The journalists looked like they were constipated. They quietly urged, "Can you get to the point, old man? Just state your conclusion and explain later so we can file."
But music professionals were paying close attention. Dina's spiel helped them understand the creative process behind the two chapters and their arrangements.
"...Life itself is a series of stumbles and recoveries. Likewise, the second movement moves from adversity to triumph. The point is for people to experience hope through the fluent flow of musical notes... Another thing worth mentioning is that in the second movement, which barely lasted four minutes, there are hundreds of tracks created by virtual instruments and hundreds of tones. The arrangement and use of vocals is outstanding. You can tell the second chapter was worked on by a top-notch symphony mixer and electronic music arranger. But I couldn't find a distinguishing signature, so I'm also curious whose work this is."
Music professionals knew that the most minor slip-ups in mixing and arrangement would stifle the ear. For example, too many modulations or out-of-sync or overwhelming background vocals could be easily magnified and deemed glaring inconsistencies.
Judging from these comments, the mixer and arranger were stellar. Only, it wasn't known who these two seasoned musicians were.
After much waiting, Dina finally pronounced, "This is indeed worthy of the 'epic' label," which sent the press corps scrambling to file.
But industry insiders, including Dina himself, were still curious who had composed the two movements. Was it really the newcomer Fang Zhao, as was rumored? Who were the symphony mixer and electronic music arranger?
Senior musicians who didn't pay close attention to newcomers took the time to read the credits at the end of the music video. They were still clueless, because they had never heard of a single member of the Polar Light project team.