"Mr. Fang is the 19th and also our last invitee." You Chuan smiled at Fang Zhao. There was still a slight air of seriousness about him as he continued, "However, if Mr. Fang has his own commitments or he finds the time frame too short, he can choose to reject the offer. I forgot to mention, but the first draft of the piece has to be submitted before March."
As You Chuan spoke, he observed Fang Zhao’s expressions. Ever since Fang Zhao had entered the room, he'd felt that this youngster was not like his peers. His calm demeanor was not faked. Even upon seeing the Fiery Bird Insignia, he'd only been a little surprised. He had not made any effort to conceal or suppress his emotions either.
Even now, upon being informed that he had been invited to create an accompaniment for a game by the reputable Fiery Bird company and compete with great composers across every continent, Fang Zhao did not have much of a reaction. He just sat there, listening attentively, as if… he was listening to a report.
Listening to a report?
You Chuan’s figure of speech flashed across his mind, startling himself. After that, he found it quite funny. Perhaps he had been traveling a lot recently and had been too busy handing out invites, so his mind was playing tricks on him. Brushing aside the thoughts in his mind, You Chuan turned back to Fang Zhao, but he just saw Fang Zhao drumming his fingers without rhythm on his thigh. As for Fang Zhao, he looked… like his mind was wandering elsewhere.
"Cough!" Duan Qianij could not stand by and watch idly, so she coughed to catch the attention of Fang Zhao.
Fang Zhao’s fingers stopped and, tilting his head toward You Chuan, he said, "I would need to see the opening animation."
In his heart, You Chuan was thinking, He was still listening while his mind was wandering?
"Sure. But Mr. Fang has to first sign a confidentiality agreement," You Chuan answered. Fang Zhao’s request was reasonable. If Fang Zhao had agreed without first watching the animation, You Chuan would have been disappointed.
"I understand the rules."
After the confidentiality agreement had been signed, You Chuan passed over a miniature projector with a palm-sized Fiery Bird insignia on it.
As the image was projected into the air, Fang Zhao watched the short two-minute opening animation attentively. "Animation" was what they called it in the industry. But in reality, as Fang Zhao watched, he felt that it was very real, as if an actual scene had been shot. This animation was comparable with the movies that Silver Wing Media invested in every year.
As Fang Zhao was watching the two-minute-long clip, You Chuan was still examining him. In his heart, he wondered whether this person really had to ability to create such quality music and whether there was a possibility of them working together in the future.
Fang Zhao was seriously watching it. At the same time, his fingers starting drumming once again. The extent was not large, and You Chuan could not see the rhythm this time either.
After the two-minute clip ended, Fang Zhao turned his head to You Chuan and said, "No problem. One month. That’s more than enough time."
Everyone in the room stared at Fang Zhao. Duan Qianji had wanted to stop Fang Zhao, but he'd spoken too fast. Beside You Chuan, the other Fiery Bird staffer, Bi Fu, widened his eyes in disbelief at Fang Zhao’s show of self-confidence. Having self-confidence was a good thing, but having too much was just downright stupid.
Bi Fu had gone with You Chuan and invited 18 parties to compose a soundtrack. Of the 18, when some heard the limit of "Before March," they found it a little difficult. After watching the animation, some had said that they would "try their best," meaning that they would only strive to do it but had no guarantee it could be completed by March. The higher one flew, the more they cherished their wings. These people would only submit if they themselves found it satisfactory. If it was unsatisfactory, they would rather give up the opportunity than harm their reputation.
Yet Fang Zhao was number 19 and the last among the list, also possessing the lowest status. He was simply a composer with no reputation at all. To think that after watching the animation, he had the cheek to be that self-confident!
Bi Fu could not bear it and wanted to say something, but You Chuan stopped him with a glance. Bi Fu then could only swallow his words.
"In that case, we look forward to some good music."
You Chuan did not stay long. Taking his leave, he and Bi Fu headed straight to the rooftop garage and left in their flying car. The car the two of them had come in did not bear the distinctive Fiery Bird insignia and was inconspicuous. They did not want to let the outside world know that, even though they were approaching the publishing date, the opening sequence animation was still lacking a soundtrack.
Inside the car, Bi Fu puzzledly asked You Chuan, "Why didn’t you probe more? Test him a little to find out if he was really the creator of the three movements and if he is really capable enough of producing work with sufficient quality within a month or so?"
It was already nearing the end of January. A deadline before March meant that, essentially, there was only the month of February to come up with a composition. A month’s time to produce a compatible soundtrack to such a large-scale gaming project was really difficult. Even a newcomer in the industry would know that.
You Chuan laughed and shook his head. "There would be no meaning to that. We do not understand Fang Zhao, nor do we understand Silver Wing Media. This is all our own assumption. The answers will be made known to us when their work is submitted."
After the two left, Duan Qianji no longer had any misgivings. She told Fang Zhao, "You don’t have to force yourself. If you are uncertain, it is still not too late to retract your previous words." As long as You Chuan and Bi Fu had not left Yanzhou, Duan Qianji could still stop them.
"I’m not forcing myself. I agreed to their invitation because I could guarantee that, within a month, I can create a piece that is satisfactory to me. As for whether they like it or not… that I cannot guarantee."
"Other than the four movements of the 'Period of Destruction' series, do you still have the inspiration to create something of a similar quality?" Duan Qianji was astounded. Although she did not know much about composing, she also knew that inspiration was very important to creative personnel. For the deputy department head to personally rush around every continent to hand out requests, the difficulty for this task would certainly be high.
"Previously, no, but now I do."
Duan Qianji watched Fang Zhao silently for two seconds. "OK. Got it."
Fang Zhao went back downstairs to keep an eye on the production of the fourth movement. In Duan Qianji’s office, an assistant with a concerned and puzzled look asked, "Director Duan, are you sure handing it to Fang Zhao is all right? When the time comes, if Fang Zhao’s finished work does not match up to the expectations of Fiery Bird, will Fiery Bird take it up against our company?"
"Do you all reckon the specialized staff members of Fiery Bird’s sound effects department would understand music and know how to differentiate quality?" Duan Qianji asked.
The assistant did not reply because the question was too simple. Would an unreliable person be able to stay at Fiery Bird? Previously, You Chuan had mentioned the one who requested a personal invitation for Fang Zhao was the sound department’s own department head. To be able to make it all the way to the top of the sound effects department of Fiery Bird, the undisputed best game company in the world, there was no way the department head was a knucklehead.
Duan Qianji was not testing them. She continued on by saying, "From what I know, of the 19 parties that You Chuan handed the invitation to, there is only one from Yanzhou."
In Yanzhou, there was Silver Wing Media’s "Flying Pegasus," Neon Culture’s "Metal Torrent," and Tongshan True Entertainment’s "Fourth Dimension." These three elite cooperatives of the respective media conglomerates had each worked with Fiery Bird before. Silver Wing Media had not had success with virtual idols in the past, but as You Chuan had said, Fiery Bird had many different departments, each with their own duties, and they would not interfere with each other. Virtual Idols were just virtual idols, and music was just music. You Chuan’s side was in charge of music.
Downstairs, after Fang Zhao returned to his department, he made no mention of Fiery Bird’s request. The others did not probe Fang Zhao. Their expectations were not high. They would be happy just by working hard and making more money.
Fang Zhao sat down in his own office, brought out a notebook, and starting jotting down some scores. He wrote down all the inspiration in his mind that he'd gotten from watching that two-minute animation.
The first three movements of the "Period of Destruction" series were something Fang Zhao had come up with in his previous life. After getting a second life, Fang Zhao only made minor adjustments to the arrangement of the scores. The fourth movement was a collection of his inspiration after he had been reborn. As for the little characters and scribbles appearing on the paper, this was his inspiration gathered after his visit to the Cemetery for Martyrs today and after viewing the two-minute animation provided by You Chuan.
After the first draft was completed, Fang Zhao continued thinking about the day’s experiences, especially the Cemetery for Martyrs and the two-minute opening sequence. The first draft needed amendments, so Fang Zhao continued to look for places that could be improved to make it more outstanding.
At this moment, Zeng Huang came over to find him.
"Big Zhao, the fourth movement is progressing smoothly. We can probably complete it before the 25th. You mentioned that, after the fourth movement is complete, the entire department will be given a vacation. Just like previous years, Wan Yue and I are not going back."
What Zeng Huang meant by "going back" was going to the city where they were all born, Yanbei City. Back then, after the accident with their housing block, the government had given them quite a bit of compensation. There were a few relatives who'd lusted after the compensation, but Zeng Huang was unwavering and held on to it. Wan Yue was in a similar situation, just that it was not as severe as Zeng Huang’s. However, Wan Yue did not want to go back either. After graduating from university, the two of them had never gone back to Yanbei City.
"Will you be joining us to celebrate Memorial Day? After all, it’s only me and Wan Yue; one more person would would make it more lively. This year, we got a new house that's even bigger, and the guest room has already been prepared," Zeng Huang said.
Following Fang Sheng’s betrayal, he was now behind bars in some prison. After breaking up with Fang Zhao, Xi Hong had yet to reappear. This year’s Memorial Day, Fang Zhao would celebrate it alone—no, there was still a dog.
"I won’t be going over to your place." Seeing Zeng Huang about to say something, Fang Zhao opened his mouth first. "I’m going back this year."
"Going back?" Zeng Huang clearly had not expected that Fang Zhao would make that choice. Back when they were all in university, they never wanted to go back. At the start of university, he still heard Fang Zhao saying that he never wanted to go back, and at that time, he was at loggerheads with his second uncle.
Not understanding the family situation of Fang Zhao’s original body, all Zeng Huang heard was Fang Zhao’s complaints. Thus, hearing that Fang Zhao wanted to go back, Zeng Huang was flabbergasted and skeptical.
Fang Zhao did not say a word, he just selected an electronic mail from his bracelet and showed it to Zeng Huang.
[Second Uncle: Are you coming back for Memorial Day this year? (Jan 20, 10:23 p.m.)]
[Fang Zhao: Going back. (Jan 21, 7:02 a.m.)]
[Second Uncle: What happened?! (Jan 21, 7:36 a.m.)]
[Second Uncle: What did you change your contact number to? (Jan 21, 7:36 a.m.)]
[Second Uncle: My number is ******, give me a call! (Jan 21, 7:37 a.m.)]
Zeng Huang realized that of the full page of electronic mails, there was only one reply from Fang Zhao, The others were all sent by his second uncle. Most likely, he had been shocked by Fang Zhao’s reply. In the past six years, he had never received a reply. Every year, he only received a "Not coming back" answer. This year, Fang Zhao’s second uncle was probably prepared to receive the same reply.
This, this, this... this was confirmation that something had happened!
This was the first thought that came to Fang Zhao’s uncle’s mind, thus his urgent questioning.
"You haven’t returned a call to your second uncle?" Zeng Huang was guessing that Fang Zhao deliberately did not want to return the call.
However, Fang Zhao had really forgotten. He had settled the matter regarding Pang Pusong’s and Fu Yingtian’s military posting in the morning before being called upstairs by Duan Qianji. After coming down and checking on a few notifications, he was informed of Fang Sheng’s situation. After heading down to the Police Station, he then went to the Cemetery for Martyrs and was called back for the meeting with the Fiery Bird staff when he returned to the office. Only after Zeng Huang had mentioned it did Fang Zhao realized he had received a number of notifications but had not yet replied.
He had no choice. In his previous life, toward the latter stages, Fang Zhao simply did not have any relatives. Unconsciously, he still did not realize that he had relatives.
"I forgot," Fang Zhao said.
Zeng Huang did not believe him one bit. Leaving the office, he advised Fang Zhao, "Have a good talk with your second uncle. I feel that he is really sincere. It is getting late, hurry up and return the call. If your second uncle believes that something happened to you, what if he makes a police report?"
Fang Zhao glanced outside the window. Indeed, it was getting late. The sky had turned dark.