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Xue Jing only wanted to sell to someone that gave him good vibes. Good vibes were hard to define, but somehow, he felt that he wouldn't be upset if he sold his flat to Fang Zhao and the apartment was completely renovated.

Just as Fang Zhao put it, different arrangers would handle the same song differently. Different styles would come out. Everyone was equally entitled to leave their mark. Any buyer was simply a temporary custodian of the property.

Property prices in Qi'an were quite high, especially in this neighborhood. Flats that were located on the 100th floor or higher usually cost at least 10,000 dollars per square meter. There was only one penthouse apartment in the building. The entire property took up some 200 square meters, but the flat only accounted for half of it. A garden and a parking space took up the other half.

The price tag was 10 million, which was cheap compared to similar properties in the area. The market value was no less than 20 million.

One of the reasons why real estate in that neighborhood was expensive was the presence of security guards and regular patrols. Quite a few Yanzhou celebrities bought homes in the area to avoid media attention. Xue Jing had bought this place back then because he'd wanted the peace and quiet. He was no celebrity, but he was quite influential in the music industry. Many people sought him out for favors, hoping a word from Xue Jing would translate into shortcuts. Xue Jing got so fed up he moved here. "There's another reason I invited you here, besides selling you my apartment. It's entirely up to you. No pressure," Xue Jing said.

Fang Zhao had thought a favor might be attached when Xue Jing had announced his asking price. Given Xue Jing was so generous with his pricing, Fang Zhao would comply as long as it wasn't too big of a favor.

"Please continue," Fang Zhao said.

"As you know, I'm not teaching these days, focusing instead on editing and writing textbooks." Xue Jing looked at Fang Zhao. "I'm working on a book about symphonic works. I'd like to use your songs as an example."

Xue Jing was writing a textbook that analyzed symphonies and served as a how-to primer. Symphonies were an offbeat genre. Music students tended to avoid the specialty. Even though symphonies enjoyed greater prestige within the industry, they weren't too popular.

Xue Jing wasn't only concerned with turning a profit. The elders in the industry didn't bother with symphonies, but the genre had to be preserved. Xue Jing didn't want to cut and paste like previous authors. He wanted to present contemporary examples. This would require Fang Zhao to discuss his creative vision, his sources of inspiration, and some memorable moments from the creative process. In short, Xue Jing wanted Fang Zhao to pass on his knowledge and expose more students to the genre of symphonies. It would be the equivalent of a master class in written form. Of course, it was up to Fang Zhao to decide how much to reveal.

"As you know, this isn't a hit single. There won't be much money in it." Xue Jing was frank.

Fang Zhao's emergence gave Xue Jing hope. The "100-Year Period of Destruction" series probably made for the most memorable symphonic pop songs in the past century. More importantly, the series was not condescending. It took the accessible form of pop music and reached a broad audience.

Many young composers were reluctant to share their creative insight, so Xue Jing thought Fang Zhao would take his time to consider the request. Little did he expect Fang Zhao to agree immediately.

"No problem."

But Fang Zhao wasn't actually that young. He was happy to share his knowledge and pass on the lessons he'd learned from the end of days. Human life was finite, but there were no bounds to shared experience and knowledge.

Xue Jing was delighted. "Terrific. Terrific. I'll add your name to the list of consulting editors."

Textbooks in the New Era—whether in print or electronic form—identified their authors clearly. University regulations also required them to identify their editors and consulting editors.

Normally, protocol dictated that if the length of your contribution was brief and the content wasn't essential to the book, you weren't listed as a contributing editor. Xue Jing was thinking Fang Zhao probably wouldn't share at length, but the fact that he was willing to open up and share was worth applauding. Xue Jing was glad to give him credit.

"My assistant will brief you on the mechanics of contributing to the book. You could also organize your thoughts ahead of time. As for the apartment, I'll send for packers right away. I'll have all the paperwork completed and the flat vacated in three days. There's no rush in paying me. If you can't pay the full amount in one go, you can pay in installments over a few years. No hurry."

"It's OK. I can pay in full now," Fang Zhao said.

Fang Zhao left the apartment after the conversation ended. Xue Jing had him chauffeured back to Neon Culture. Fang Zhao got a call from Zhu Zhen, Duan Qianji's assistant, while en route.

"Fang Zhao, someone from Leizhou wants to use the third movement in a movie soundtrack. They don't want to buy the song outright—just license it for 30 days." In other words, there would be a moratorium on the song's release in other formats for 30 days after the film began screening in theaters.

Orders like this from another continent were rare and often translated into new opportunities.

"We haven't discussed the price yet. Chairman Duan wants to get your OK first," Zhu Zhen said.

"To use on a soundtrack? It's a production company from Leizhou?"

"Yes. The deal will help promote the song, but the production company doesn't have a great reputation."

Every continent had protectionist measures in place to shore up their own music and film industries. "Cocoon Breach" was a good example that illustrated this trend. After the song was proven to have an impact on Hull virus patients, the publicity on other continents glossed over the title of the song or made brief mention of it. The focus was on its effect on Hull virus carriers and related topics. The medical discussion took precedence, obscuring any talk of Polar Light or details about the first and second movements.

It was one thing if the two songs were merely released as songs. But the two movements were inextricably linked to a virtual idol, so they were heavily censored in Leizhou.

Media coverage of the songs in Leizhou not only buried the title of the songs and the names of the composer and production company—Polar Light wasn't mentioned at all. Few people who read the news reports searched for the songs. The first two movements also weren't available for download outside of Yanzhou.

So what Duan Qianji had in mind was using the Leizhou film as an alternative platform, even though it might be a crappy production. Given the fact that the two songs were not available for download outside of Yanzhou, they could license them for placement in films. This didn't affect their marketing plan in Yanzhou.

But Duan Qianji was worried that Fang Zhao would find the placement degrading if the film was a mediocre production just judging from appearances. He might be turned off. That was why she had asked Zhu Zhen to run the plan by Fang Zhao first before entering into negotiations.

After being briefed by Zhu Zhen, Fang Zhao thought for about two seconds. "I'd like to get a sense of the plot of the film and where exactly the song will be placed."

"I'm not entirely clear on either. Let me get back to you."

Half an hour later, Zhu Zhen sent Fang Zhao an encrypted file that outlined the plot and where the third movement would be placed.

The document also listed the names of the production company and key investors as well as the main actors.

The credits would have meant nothing to someone outside the entertainment industry in Yanzhou. But anyone from Leizhou could tell from the names of the production company and investors that the film was a shameless ploy to promote a certain star. What wass funny was that, despite their corny story lines and shitty acting, films like this did OK at the box office. People usually bitched as they watched these movies online. They knew they were crap but they couldn't resist watching. Maybe it was a form of venting.

Fang Zhao spent an afternoon watching previous releases backed by the same production company and investors. He had his answer by sundown.

"I'll sign off on this. My only request is that the third movement only be used for the scene specified. There is no leeway on this. It can only be played then."

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