The movie Zaro was starring in was on a tight production schedule. In contrast to the film itself and the buzz it generated, the score was hardly mentioned. No one cared who wrote the score apart from a select few members of the music industry. When the token few music publications did discuss the score, all that appeared was a passing reference that the composer was a non-local and speculation over where the composer was from.
No one bothered to delve further. Wireless Media simply said they had signed a composer without identifying the person.
While the entire Leizhou entertainment industry was following the production closely, so was the entertainment press corps in Yanzhou.
Silver Wing had issued a statement saying that the third movement of "The 100-Year Period of Destruction" series was scheduled to be released at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1.
The first movement, "Divine Punishment," had launched on Oct. 1 in the 531st year of the New Era. The second chapter, "Coccon Breach," had followed a month later.
Yet there was a two-month gap between the release of the second and third movements. The long production cycle suggested Silver Media had gone all out and had high expectations for the single.
If the second movement revealed Silver Wing's ambition, then the third chapter would be a testimony to its staying power.
Every member of the Yanzhou entertainment industry was waiting to see how explosive the combination of a virtual idol and an epic pop series would be.
Many fans left messages on the message boards on Silver Wing's official website. Some were fans of epics, others simply curious. Another group was Polar Light's fans. The latter group was more interested in the music video than the music. What they cared about most was whether Polar Light would star in the video and if Polar Light merchandise would be released.
Silver Wing assigned dedicated staffers to monitoring the message boards. They even put two staffers on the message board for Polar Light. Their job was to identify the most common questions and post responses.
Recently, the message board monitors started noticing a fourth demographic.
"When is the third movement coming out? It's almost exam time."
"Hurry up! Hurry, hurry!"
"We have to wait until Jan. 1? So late!"
"Thank God, it'll be released just in time. Our exams won't have happened yet."
"I hope the third movement is even better. That way I'll have more motivation."
Messages of this kind suggested the authors were students. And if you listened to the voice messages, you would notice that many of the voices sounded quite young. Some were clearly prepubescent, others going through puberty.
Secondary school students?
How come they were all secondary students?
"Did you guys hire fake fans?" the message board monitors asked their marketing and PR colleagues.
"No. Even if we did, we wouldn't hire that many secondary students." Their colleagues were clueless too.
"Speaking of secondary students, I think they have final exams in January," a message board monitor said.
Speaking of exams, they were reminded of the news coverage back in November about the popularity of the second movement among secondary students.
When the second movement, "Cocoon Breach," was released, it was midterm time at most Yanzhou secondary schools. Students were looking for inspiration, so they preferred songs that were up-tempo or loud. "Cocoon Breach" was the most popular choice.
The students were still young and lacked professional music training, so they couldn't appreciate the subtle and painful evolution of emotions in "Cocoon Breach," but that didn't prevent them from being moved by the explosive parts of the song. This was a psychological process—to put it more bluntly, it was a stimulant of sorts. The climaxes in the song had an awakening effect, dispelling any trace of laziness or weariness.
During their midterms, the students used the second movement to stimulate themselves. But they forgot all about the song when they finished their exams. There were too many others things that captured their attention. Other than music, they had video games and other forms of entertainment.
Now the term was nearing its end, and the academic calendar showed that finals were imminent. Finals were even more important than midterms. If the students didn't do well, they would be scolded for starters. Winter break and Chinese New Year would be torture. No red packets stuffed with cash, no gifts—they would also be forced to do more problem sets and have their Internet access restricted. What a bummer.
So how about sucking it up and cramming for a few days?
There was little incentive.
As exam dates approached, some students tried to seek inspiration in song. They searched for songs that resembled "Cocoon Breach." Unfortunately, repeated searches yielded few matches.
An online news search revealed that more chapters were forthcoming in the "100-Year Period of Destruction" series, but they got tired of waiting. So the students started complaining on Silver Wing's official website in droves.
The students could have returned to the second chapter, but listening to the same song over and over again was exhausting. The stimulation effect also diminished. That defeated the purpose of listening to the song in the first place, so now they were hoping that Silver Wing would release the third movement soon so they would have a stimulant for their finals.
The third movement became the focus of their attention. Whenever they were free, they would flood the Silver Wing message boards with messages demanding the third movement be released. When Silver Wing finally announced the release date, they still showed up every day in the message boards to count down.
So every time the message board monitors spotted a countdown message, they knew it was the secondary students again.
The two Polar Light monitors thought they were just secondary students, adorable in their own way. As former secondary students, they could empathize. Plus, finals were around the corner and the pressure was immense. Finding a way to vent was totally understandable. Let them be.
But as the day passed, the two monitors realized they were being naive.
The number of secondary students grew, and they showed up at the same time every day, as if by appointment.
Leaving a countdown message had become part of their daily routine.
Initially, it was only a few people, but as the group grew, it became a nuisance. The message board monitors had to select representative questions and post answers. But now, the questions had been overwhelmed by countdown messages, which had to be filtered. It was too much trouble.
The monitors decided to take action to stamp out the nonsense.
The students who showed up to leave countdown messages the next day noticed a new announcement: the number of countdown messages would be capped to maintain order.
So many countdown messages ended up being deleted.
The monitors were relieved to find their message boards less cluttered. Now it was easier to browse fan questions.
But in a few days, the two monitors noticed the secondary students had started leaving countdown messages on behalf of entire classes.
"Second Year Class No. 7 of Qi'an No. 1 Secondary School reporting for duty! Nine days until the release of the third movement."
"Third Year Class No. 1 of Qi'an No. 12 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Second Year Class No. 4 of Yanxi No. 5 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Fourth Year Class No. 2 of Gong Xu No. 3 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Wait, I'm from Yanxi too. Fellow students from Yanxi No. 5 Secondary School, any sign of our friends from No. 6 Secondary School?"
"Second Year Class No. 8 of Yanxi No. 6 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Anyone from Third Year Class No. 2 of Yanxi No. 6 Secondary School? Please sign in on my behalf too."
"Friends from Second Year Class No. 7 of Qi'an No. 1 Secondary School, we're from Class No. 8."
Some of the older fans were amused. They asked in a patronizing tone, "Aren't you afraid of being banned again?"
The students thought, they have a point. There were so many secondary schools in Yanzhou. Every school had six grades and every grade about a dozen classes, even more in certain areas. The numbers added up. The message board monitors didn't say what the cap was. If the students pressed on, they could very well be banned.
So, two days later, they tweaked the wording in their messages.
"Second Years at Yanxi No. 6 Secondary School reporting for duty. Seven days until the release of the third movement."
"Third Years at Qi'an No. 12 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Second Years at Qi'an No. 1 Secondary School reporting for duty!"
"Wait, when were you chosen to speak on behalf of second years at Qi'an No. 1 Secondary School? Which class do you belong to?"
"Class No. 1. What, you got a problem?"
"This m*fo is from Class No. 8. Yeah, I gotta problem."
"See you at the gym after class."
"See you there! Don't chicken out!"
Reading the deluge of new messages, the monitors went from surprised to dumbfounded.
What's up with these secondary students?
Do they have too much free time on their hands?
M*fo this, mo*fo that—how old do they think they are?
Have you done your homework? Have you finished memorizing your passages? Done with your problem sets? Do you know what you want to do with your lives?
The two message board monitors were baffled by the influx of group countdown messages. They couldn't delete one and not the other without pissing off one side. These secondary students didn't have the best of tempers. If they weren't careful, they could spark a war of words. If complaints of unfair treatment were lodged, their pay could be docked.
But curious bystanders were mighty amused.
An epic lover who was more than 100 years old commented, "It's good to be young!"
Initially, only students from Qi'an, Yanxi, Gonguxu, and a few other larger cities left messages. But soon the trend spread.
Yandong, Yannan, Yanbei, Jinggang, and even the remote Magu—their secondary students started showing up too.
Some students just wanted to join the fray out of mob mentality. And when one grade at a school left a message, other grades followed suit.
Rival schools in the same city couldn't leave their voices unheard.
Secondary school students from other cities also joined in to prove their existence.
Six days until the release.
Faced with all the fun the students were having at their expense, the two message monitors wanted time to speed up. Once the third movement was released, the craziness would stop.
A day before the release, the two monitors each took a deep breath, looked at each other, and smiled.
"It's finally time."