532nd year of the New Era. Jan. 1. First day of a brand new year
Silver Wing Tower, 50th floor.
Pang Pusong was feeling nervous. He was not even able to gauge how he had performed. When recording was underway for the third movement, Fang Zhao’s demands were even greater than before. Over the past month or so, Pang Pusong had been practicing everyday, sometimes even taking a week or two just to perfect a single verse. He had not even heard the final product and could only wait for the music video to be released.
The nervousness was not limited to Pang Pusong. The entire Virtual Idol Department was jittery.
Returning from their vacation after the second movement was released, the team had worked overtime for more than a month. The second movement decided whether they would succeed. The third movement was to see how far they could go.
Having experienced the sweet taste of success, even without Fang Zhao’s instructions, the motivated team pushed themselves harder. When tired, they would head to the gaming room to relax a little before sleeping, continuing to work the moment they woke.
Silver Wing media had assembled a backup technical team to lend their support should the Virtual Idol department require additional resources. Therefore, the team needed not worry about being shorthanded, lacking funds, or welfare. All they needed to do was complete the tasks that Fang Zhao assigned. As for how the final product would turn out, all they could do was believe in their project head.
Zeng Huang was woken up by an alarm. As he emerged from his room, he did not see Fang Zhao anywhere, so he turned and asked Zu Wen, "Where is Big Zhao?"
"In his office," Zu Wen replied.
Glancing around the department and seeing everyone, Zeng Huang asked, "Nobody went home yesterday?"
"Of course not. Nobody would even be able to sleep," Zu Wen replied with a yawn. Zu Wen went to wash his face before taking a seat in the office along with the rest of the team, waiting for the clock to hit eight.
Everyone left Fang Zhao alone. It was evident that, during the composition and arrangement of the third movement, Fang Zhao’s temperament had not been great. Just as actors needed time to get out of character after a movie, a composer who poured his emotions and soul into his work needed some time to get the emotions out of his system.
Thus, all Zeng Huang and Zu Wen could do was complete the tasks at hand, leaving Fang Zhao with less to worry about.
In the newcomer department, Chu Guang was rather unperturbed seeing Polar Light taking the No. 1 spot of the label’s marketing plan for the month.
In the final season of the previous year, he had already been crowded out to No. 5 on the New Pioneers Chart. Still, it was a cause for celebration that the third movement had not been released in December. Otherwise, the No. 5 spot might not have even been his.
After "Divine Punishment" and "Cocoon Breach," the third movement, "Mission," was also about to be released on public channels. The quantity of downloads would not be lacking either. Neon Culture and Tongshan True Entertainment no longer seemed like they wanted to compete against Polar Light, focusing instead on promoting their two biggest stars, the virtual idols Mi Yu and Andy Leo.
Are they giving up on the newcomer scene?
Whatever the reason, for Chu Guang, two less virtual idols to compete against was a good thing.
At the top floor of Silver Wing Tower, Duan Quanji and the other senior executives were gathered in the conference room to watch the official release of the third movement's music video on the projection system upon its release. Amongst them, only Duan Quanji had heard the final cut and watched the completed music video. The rest were seeing it themselves for the first time.
All the staff from Silver Wing Media already at the office or on the way to work, regardless of whether they were singers, actors, technical staff, or from operations, were eagerly monitoring the development to come at 8 a.m.
Alone in his office, Fang Zhao pulled down the blinds to block out the sunlight. Turning on the projection system, at 8 a.m. sharp, it played the broadcast of the music video for the third movement.
The third movement diverged from the modulating style of the previous two installments. Right from the start, a combination of string and woodwind discharged the distinct, surging grandeur of an epic.
The music video picked up where the second movement had left off. The desolate blue sky full of haze seemed to be mourning. Lightning streaked across the skies amidst the thick clouds.
Many silhouettes on the surface were running. Hurried and brief drumbeats perfectly reflected the tense atmosphere. In between the brief drumbeats, a familiar male voice began to sing as symphonic music and and opera combined in the background. Some New Era musical styles were blended in as well, giving off a wild and primitive vibe, as if ready to strike. In the music video, the scene of a prelude to battle unfolded with the two sides at a standoff.
With the horrific crises everywhere, the building tension was surging and billowing, threatening to overflow.
A figure leapt into the sky, like an eagle soaring through the clouds. At a glance, its branches, seemingly knotted with what seemed distinctly like muscles, gave off the impression of raw and explosive power contained deep inside.
With one foot, the falling figure trampled on the mutated beast at the front of the pack before brutally raining blows from his boulder-like fist onto the throat of the beast.
Explosive drum beats, combined with the crackling electronic music, sounded like the crisp shattering of bone.
It was not the sound produced from the instruments but rather the image and temperament that resonated with the viewers who, in turn, produced that bone-crushing sound in their own hearts.
Soil and blood splattered in all directions. Some splashed onto the tree man’s face in between his eyes. This diverted the attention of the viewers to his eyes.
That pair of eyes radiated an immense murderous aura. Akin to the violent fury of a ferocious beast shaken awake from its slumber.
A bone-chilling sensation crept down the spines of the viewers witnessing this scene, insinuating doubts in their minds. Who were the mad ones? Was it the savage and violent mutated beasts, or was it the previously peace-loving and gentle tree man that wouldn’t hurt a fly?
This extreme change was not only limited to the figure of the tree man at the front. Around him, the other figures were emanating this murderous aura too.
The shrill blare of a brass instrument signalled a variation as the string melody increased its vigour. The intense and frantic beats of the timpani portrayed an unyielding spirit.
Compared to the first movement, the appearance and the temperament of the tree men had undergone a massive transformation.
This was how they adapted to the battlefield and this dark age.
Becoming what they were most adverse to was their way of resisting the cruel fate that befell them.
In line with the expectations of all the people who followed the "100-Year Period of Destruction" series, the third movement had a theme of struggle and combat.
Frantic alternating of the brass rhythm and woodwind variations set a fierce and intense tone of confrontations and close quarter combat. The immense and visually stunning images, coupled with the perfectly synced accompaniment, continuously battered the hearts and souls of the viewers. The third movement was in no way weaker than its predecessors.
The transformed trees and mutated beasts collided violently against the dark and gloomy sky.
Despite it being a virtual image, it brought about a realistic and overwhelming sense of bitterness that transcended time.
The timid and gentle tree men were long gone, drowned out by the continuous battle to determine their survival. In order to seek a peaceful land to call home, the tree men were willing to release their inhibitions and fight!
From the highest mountains to the lowest valleys, a peaceful land was nowhere to be found, and danger was lurking in every corner.
Only this time, in the third movement, they no longer held on to the depressed notion of resigning to their fate.
The tree men started off timid and cowardly. Making a stand, they fought against their fate, and after countless battles, they grew numb to war and death. Throughout the journey, they lost some comrades but gained some new companions too. Finally, they found a relatively peaceful place—Polar Land.
Blanketed by snow, Polar Land was a frigid and unforgiving place. Most viruses and mutated creatures were incompatible with the climate here. Ironically, this was the last pure land in the diseased world.
Devoid of the reddish-brown smog and air pollutants, the sky here was clear. Sunlight shone freely in the day, and at night, the stars that were hidden for quite some time came out to play. On certain nights, the illusive colors of an aurora would flash across the sky.
Like the calm after a storm, the intensity of the music receded. Ethereal sounds of a zither interweaving with the soothing flute gave the flustered spirits of listeners a moment to relax. This was a time for peace.
Polar Land was a sanctuary for the tree men. A place where they could stay without worrying about dangers and mutated beasts lurking around every corner. This place might have been cold, but it was certainly safe.
With slight smiles on their faces, a few young saplings were running stiffly on the snow-covered ground. When they were about to slip, a sturdy branch reached out and fished them up before setting the saplings down on its broad shoulders.
The image and score induced a feeling of warmth in people’s hearts.
With this sort of backdrop, it seemed as if a scene of peace and stability was about to unfold.
But for those watching the projection, they understood that Polar Land was just but a brief period in the true history of the Period of Destruction.
Toward the later stages of the Period of Destruction, a summit meeting was held at Polar land. Back then, the world had not been divided into the twelve continents, only warzones. Leaders from nearly a hundred warzones had congregated for a comprehensive discussion on the war.
This temporary period of peace was not the conclusion but a foretelling of the explosive finale that was to come.
The music switched to a melancholy cello solo.
While not absolutely safe, Polar Land was still a place of peace and tranquility compared to the the various regions they had passed through. However, at the same time, this place was not suitable from them to have a normal livelihood.
Most importantly, they no longer had to live like wandering nomads and could settle down.
In the New Era, most books regarding the history of the Period of Destruction had records and excerpts of the words spoken at that Polar Land summit meeting. Even though the original speakers were long forgotten, their words were passed down.
"We can end it all in our current generation. There is no need to leave it to the next. Since we are already at this point, what harm is there in staking it all on one last push?
"We have already become battle-hardened warriors and martyrs, but most importantly, we have also experienced a momentary period of peace. Whereas those born in the this era, amidst fire and blood, have never known what peace is."
The historical recording of the Period of Destruction might have been glossed over, but they were not fabricated randomly. Fang Zhao remembered that, back then, similar words were spoken. He himself might have spoken out too.
"Why are we not able to go back to living in our beloved homeland?
Why do we have to give the world up?
We are already strong, aren’t we?"
In the projection, a group of tree men in the vast land of snow and ice gazed longingly at the heavens. Under the night sky adorned with stars, the magnificent aurora was like a bright and flickering flame lighting up the dark.
The beating of a drum seemed to increase its intensity in layers, as if to emphasize a steadfast conviction.
At the head of the group stood a familiar figure. His eyes were no longer clouded by madness and killing. Rather, in that moment of serenity, his eyes were filled with a slight reluctance and longing, as if parting ways with an old photograph.
The flickering aurora gradually dissipated as night turned to day.
Without any hint of reluctance, the lead tree man turned around to leave. The back of his wide trunk was full of scars. Nobody but himself knew that there was not a lot left in him. The next injury might be the last he could take before collapsing. Such was the burden he had to bear.
Many of the other tree men were in the same situation. As long as their injuries did not hinder their movement, they joined in the ranks of the leaving.
Some of the tree men were playing with the young saplings. Upon seeing the procession, they lifted the saplings from themselves, carefully placing them on the ground before heading to join the ranks.
A tree man lightly pressed his finger against a sapling’s forehead, as if to prevent the young one from following. Soon after, he turned to leave, exchanging fistbumps with a fellow treeman heading in the same direction. With a slight smile, he headed out without glancing back. He was afraid that he would lose the courage to leave if he looked behind.
The young sapling was puzzled observing the leaving figures. This was a safe place. The world outside was fraught with dangers. Why was everyone still leaving?
The departing figures increased, joining the ranks of the leaving. All that was left were those old and weak tree men who were incapable of combat. Polar Land was harsh and unforgiving, but at the same time, it was still the safest place to be.
A quick-paced string medley played, and paired with a unique sequence of electronic music, it set a tense atmosphere foreboding combat. In that dark period, against their chaotic and unreasonable destiny, they were forced to make a cruel choice.
The aerial view of the numerous figures against the background of the snow-covered land formed a long, snaking line. The numbers were so great that it was not possible to see where the line began.
A loud horn sounded along with the vigourous beats of the timpani. The increasing tempo and intensity washed away any downcast feelings. Alongside the dampening from the double bass and the woodwind score, the accompanying singing grew in stature. Just like the scene of the leaving procession, it was a display of extreme determination.
Contained within was an immeasurable strength and hope.
The volume of the chorus gradually increased as the footage left Polar Land, crossing over mountains and hills.
The rustling and flapping sounds made listeners imagine a harsh and chilly wind. In the projection, a greyish figure was rushing across the land in leaps and bounds. In a flash, coming face to face with a mutated beast. He raised his branch arm, as if swinging an axe. Throwing caution to the wind, with an unrestrained fury, he pierced the beast’s chest.
The combination of explosive sounds and music was a constant barrage to the ears.
Freed of any apprehension, the tree men gave into their unbridled and frantic madness and clashed against the beasts as broken twigs, bits of wood, and blood scattered everywhere.
A fierce wind swept through the silhouettes of trees and beasts in the fight for survival. Viewers could apparently even smell the fresh blood and chipped wood.
The thundering timpani was followed by a frantic clash of acoustics. The arrangement that ensued was complicated. An amalgamation of classical symphonies, New Era music, church music, electronic music, even a military march amongst many other contrasting musical styles. It was as if a volcano that had been dormant for millions of years had suddenly erupted, triggering a tidal wave that could blanket the entire world.
The principal color of the footage had gradually changed from a stifling blue to a brilliant yellow glow, the color of the sun shining through a layer of clouds, the brilliance of an intense blaze. The brightness of the projection had doubled since the beginning of the projection and was getting stronger.
"When are trees able to shine so brightly?
When one has a burning desire."
The projection faded as the deeply moving symphony came to an end.
Lead character: Polar Light
Species: Longxiang Tianluo
Song Title: "100-Year Period of Destruction" Third Movement, "Mission," producer: Fang Zhao
Production team: Polar Light project team, Fang Zhao, Zu Wen, Song Miao, Pang Pusong, Zheng Huang, Wan Yue, Fu Yingtian, Stiller, Zhang Yu, Rodney.
A Silver Wing Media release
Fang Zhao turned off the projection and audio equipment before raising the blinds. He did not check the web for opinions, nor did he observe the number of downloads. Rather, he gazed out the window on the 50th floor of the tower, taking in the view.
Reminiscing a conversation he'd once had with an old friend.
"What exactly is a mission?"
"Who knows? When we are fighting here and there and we suddenly feel like we ought to do something."
Without going through hardships, one would possibly never know how much one could change.
People could transform into something they absolutely loathed, yet they could also become something worthy.
In the beginning of that period of endless struggle, people fought in order to survive. Yet toward the end, accepting that they might not get to see the flourishing world they were fighting for, many still voluntarily participated in the fight, trading their lives so the future would burn much brighter,
During that dark age, people were the real miracle.
Fang Zhao had attended the summit at Polar land in person. Ultimately, toward the later stage of the all-out war, he had died during a military campaign. During the period depicted at the end of the third movement, he had lost his life at the Qi’an warzone, which would come to be known in the New Era as Qi’an city, the center of Yanzhou, one of the twelve continents.
"Farewell, my old friends."
At the same time, in the continent of Leizhou, with a three-hour time difference.
8 a.m. in Yanzhou was roughly 11 a.m. in Leizhou.
The first day of a new year was also the highly anticipated showdown of the two blockbusters the entire Leizhou entertainment community had been waiting for. However, Wireless Media had announced that "God of War" would be screened at 11 a.m. sharp on the Jan 1.
This piqued the curiosity of many. Rarely were there premiere screenings in the afternoon. Some believed that this was a disguised form of backing down.
However, "King of Snipers" responded in the same way, pushing back the screening to 11 a.m. as well.
Zaro’s agent had been very busy the past few days marketing "God of War." Even though he did not have high hopes for the movie, in order to break even, he and his team had been generating as much buzz as they could. As long as there was enough buzz, lots of people would watch the movie, and when that happened, only then would they be able to recoup the expenditure.
As the clock struck eleven, all that he could possibly do was done. Whether the expenses could be recouped or not, he left that all up to the heavens.