The technical analysis of the second movement was valued by the professionals, but for most people, the "epic" label was sufficient.
A second epic.
This shocked many industry insiders, not just because of the nature of the song, but more so because many of them realized that Silver Wing was clearly determined to launch a virtual idol with an epic series.
Was it worth it?
That was what many people wondered, and also the question posed by many journalists after Yanzhou Music Association deputy head Dina deemed the second movement an "epic."
Silver Wing's chief spokesman, Lin Dun, had a simple eight-word answer for the media: "We remember history and honor our lost martyrs."
Song Shihua: "...Hehe."
Go bullshit someone else.
Such noble intentions you tout, but isn't the real objective the race for the endorsement deal?
Even people who didn't understand how spin worked were skeptical, let alone folks who had figured out Silver Wing's true intentions like Song Shihua.
How implausible was it that Silver Wing had invested so much money and produced two epics—and more epics were probably in the pipeline—because of those eight words?
That was the explanation Lin Dun offered, regardless what people believed.
On the 50th floor of Silver Wing Tower, Zu Wen and the other members of the project team were ecstatic after hearing Dina's review. The success of the second chapter meant bigger bonuses, more prosperous futures, and...
"Boss, can we get approval for the gaming equipment now?" Zu Wen asked at the top of his voice. He could finally breathe a sigh of relief. He was downright giddy and wanted to take a celebratory dash, but first things first.
"It's done," Fang Zhao replied as he browsed the reviews online.
"What did the top floor say?" The other members of the project team shifted their gaze to Fang Zhao.
"It's approved. Someone will stop by tomorrow to set things up."
"Oh, hahahaha!" Zu Wen let out a weird, piercing laugh. Nothing beat sanctioned gaming during office hours.
"What type of games?" Rodney asked.
"Shooting," Fang Zhao responded.
Shooting games weren't Rodney's favorite, but like Zu Wen, he was happy to be able to game in the open at all.
It was indeed the right decision to jump ship.
The three technicians who were recommended by Zu Wen—Fu Yingtian, Zhang Yu, and Stiller—were sharing the good news with family and friends. A bonus was a shoo-in—Silver Wing had always been generous with bonuses. They wanted to share their joy.
Their decision to switch jobs had met a lot of resistance. Even their family members had been worried. Plus, they couldn't share too many details while they were working on the second movement because of confidentiality rules. All three of them were tightly wound. Now, they had finally survived.
This was a f*cking gold mine!
Given how things were unfolding, there was a good chance the third chapter would be a success too. After all, they had the full backing of the label and a mad genius like Fang Zhao as a boss. They didn't have to worry about funding or discrimination from other departments. How good did that feel?
Didn't y'all think that the virtual projects department was a death pit?
All the not-so-subtle sour grapes.
You're regretting your words now, aren't you?
Seeing Zu Wen and company share their good news and brag in their social media feeds made some of their colleagues jealous. If only they'd known, they would have applied for transfers to the virtual projects department too. Unfortunately, the department wasn't recruiting any more. Even if it were, the competition would be fierce.
Silver Wing's official video channel also gave significant coverage to Dina's comments on the second chapter. The host even facetiously thanked Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment for their praise ahead of the second chapter's release. That gave them a big boost in visibility, he said. They wouldn't have drawn as much attention as they were getting now otherwise.
Still, there were naysayers among media outlets. The reason the first movement of "100-Year Period of Destruction" had logged so many downloads was because Polar Light's debut was quite unique and novelty drove playbacks and downloads, they argued. But with the release of the second song, the novelty had faded.
As high profile as "epics" were, it was a genre reserved for a niche audience and was out of touch with the masses, they said. Not many people in modern society could appreciate an epic. The most they would want would be to listen to one as part of the soundtrack to a blockbuster movie.
Other commentaries argued that, while the first epic song released to a mass audience definitely drew a lot of bargain-seekers, the second release would strike some as a worse deal. Sales for the second single might suffer as a result.
More than one news outlet touted this line of thinking. Simple supply and demand—an abundance of supply led to a drop in value.
The music co-operatives within some labels outright demanded that Silver Wing "quit while it was ahead," meaning if download numbers dropped for the second song, the music industry would lose face and the "epic" label would be cheapened.
However, while some talked trash about the second song, another demographic was gaining attention.
People who paid attention to intermediate-level education noticed that a weird fad was going around. Many people were listening to "Cocoon Breach." Others listened to "Divine Punishment" and "Cocoon Breach" together. They played the songs when they got up, when they ate breakfast, before they worked on problem sets, and even during breaks. The prevailing mood was also extremely upbeat.
Initially, people thought it was just those sensitive and escapist second-year students again. But they later realized that the trend wasn't confined to second years. Students from other grades were also taking part. The fad was in full force, especially in the lead-up to midterms.
Quite a few teachers thought to themselves that the inner worlds of secondary students were a mystery to them.
The trend drew some media coverage and Silver Wing was there to fan the flames. Soon enough, Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment started to fight back.
"Mi Yu and Andy Leo Cast in 'Wasteland Rebirth.'"
"Scarred Soul Andy Leo Plays Tough Guy, Fights for Justice."
"Rumor has it Mi Yu will play a disfigured character..."
The headlines kept popping up. Soon, all the buzz about Silver Wing was overshadowed by Yanzhou's two main virtual idols.
In the New Era, virtual idols could act in movies just like real idols, the difference being one performance was generated by software programming and the other delivered by a real person.
"What? Mi Yu is going to disfigure herself?"
"Why will my unparalleled beauty Mi Yu disfigure herself? Project team, please explain yourself."
"Seeking tough guy pictures of Andy Leo."
The combination of a handsome leading man and a pretty leading lady was always worth looking forward to. But what took Duan Qianji by surprise was the fact that Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment had decided to work together.
Mi Yu and Andy Leo were Tongshan True Entertainment's and Neon Culture's two top virtual idols respectively.
In terms of star power, Silver Wing simply couldn't rival Mi Yu's and Andy Leo's popularity and fan bases. Everyone had to concede that point.
Still, Duan Qianji wasn't too panicked. She didn't respond by cranking up their marketing campaign. She decided to wait.
Song Shihua was delighted to see that online discussion of Polar Light and "Cocoon Breach" had fizzled somewhat. He celebrated by nursing a glass of wine in his office.
Even though Tongshan True Entertainment and Neon Culture were competitors, the race for the endorsement deal should have been restricted to the two of them. Silver Wing wanted to butt in? That was up to them.
See—as soon as they promoted their top idols, everyone else was sidelined, be it Polar Light or "Cocoon Breach" or epics.
He wanted to show the folks at Silver Wing what a real hit virtual idol looked like. This was what was called a talent gap.
The movie "Wasteland Rebirth" was a project he had been working on for some time. It was a tailor-made production for Mi Yu set against the Period of Destruction. Their intentions were clear—they wanted Fiery Bird to take notice. But when Neon Culture had approached them two days ago about a collaboration, Song Shihua quickly agreed.
No matter what, they had to crowd out Silver Wing first. He had a hunch that if Polar Light took off, they would face an unprecedented threat. The folks at Neon Culture had to have seen the same signs. That was why they proposed an alliance, so they could push back against Polar Light's momentum.
As he was contemplating his next move, Song Shihua's intercom beeped. He scanned it and saw a text message labeled urgent.
The sender was a vice president. It was someone who was solid and dependable, but for some reason he was panicking.
Had something gone wrong?
Song Shihua tapped on the message immediately.
"Old Song, check out 'Voice of Yanzhou.' Ming Cang has spoken."
Ming Cang, the deputy head of Yanzhou Music Association, the first person to dub "Divine Punishment" an epic, had finally, belatedly posted his review, five days after "Cocoon Breach" had been released.