Chapter 4 Virtual Idols
On the one side, Fang Sheng was heading off with his heart full of ambition, leaving behind the discussions on Black Street which took a long time to fade. On the other side, Fang Zhao decided not to get himself entangled in Fang Sheng’s matter anymore.
Betrayal and loyalty were perhaps things that everyone encountered in their lifetime. During the apocalypse, such things were even more common. Blood relations could also turn into deep-rooted enmities.
The original host definitely needed to have his vengeance, but for now, the most pressing matter was to make a new song for Silver Wing Media. Otherwise, not only would he throw away the good job he had at his fingertips, he would also miss the rookie competition’s last bus. It would be even more difficult later on in life.
At the time, it was the end of may. ‘Leading Rookie Rankings’ was the rookie-exclusive seasonal ranking list of the music industry. With two thirds of the season already gone, the most intense competition among the rookies took place at this time of the year, which was also when the major entertainment companies were watching the most attentively.
By staking their all and solving their difficulties, people could gain absolute fame and fortune. After that, one could advance unhindered on an even smoother road, not to mention that the company would also invest more resources to push you to the top. If you were unable to piece together a good performance in the rookie season, and if the business insiders deemed that you did not have good prospects in their preliminary judgment, then future development would become very difficult.
The original host had considered this opportunity of the utmost importance. There were only two days left to enter in June, so Fang Zhao did not have much time. If this time was wasted competing with Fang Sheng for the copyright over those three scores, then the gains would not outweigh the losses. Moreover, he did not have evidence of any sort, while the other person was obviously well prepared. It was not guaranteed that he would be able to seize the copyright even at the cost of two seasons, and on top of all that he would also lose the opportunity right before his eyes.
After Fang Zhao returned the store’s things, he took the dog and walked a hundred meters before arriving at a pharmacy. The drugs that the original host had used to commit suicide were difficult to buy in a general drugstore, and the dangerous drugs needed a medical certificate to be bought. However, there was a rule here in Black Street – one could buy whatever one wanted to buy.
The pharmacy was not very big, and at this point in the day it was very desolate. A casually clothed person wearing a white coat was lying on the counter, sleeping. As Fang Zhao entered, the scanner at the doorway issued a jingle tone.
The person in question reluctantly lifted his head. With a still sleepy expression he looked at the door, yawning, and stared blankly at Fang Zhao.
The drugstore shopkeeper was inwardly very surprised. He remembered that this young man had come in here yesterday with an expression of ‘I just don’t want to live’ to buy medicine. He had also given advice, but the other party would not listen. Originally he had thought that it would be just another person who would silently disappear from Black Street. This kind of thing was much too common there. Whoever found it impossible to make a living would commit suicide. Just like the insects on Black Street, they also died with a little spray of pesticide.
So seeing Fang Zhao right now, the drugstore shopkeeper was quite surprised. Although he could boast of having seen a lot of cases, he had not expected to see this man in a state of mind entirely different from the previous day.
Did this man actually come over to buy medicine yesterday, and not to commit suicide? the shopkeeper pondered.
Wrong. He believed in his judgment as a practicing physician. Yesterday, this person had bought the drug with 99% intent to commit suicide, but that had changed due to some unknown reason.
However, he was only taken by surprise for a mere moment and he soon regained his original attitude.
Black Street could have people fall from grace to their deaths, and could also have one who rose back up.
“Buying medicine?” the shopkeeper asked.
“No, please just take a look at it and see what’s wrong with it.” Fang Zhao handed over the dog that he was holding to the shopkeeper.
The shopkeeper jerked back to avoid it, saying, “I am not a veterinarian.”
Fang Zhao did not bother to explain to the other, and only asked him, “Can you or can you not see?” Around that place there were no veterinarians, the clinics were few and the charges were high. However, he remembered that he had once seen this shopkeeper treat a bird for someone.
“… I will give it a try,” the shopkeeper said. It wasn’t like he was doing anything of importance anyway. Business had been brought to his doorstep, it was no good to ignore such an opportunity. The low payment was not an issue, at least he was earning properly.
Although the shopkeeper couldn’t check it in detail with the instruments and apparatuses he had, he could still do a few basic checks.
Fang Zhao noticed the instruments that the shopkeeper was fiddling with. He combined his memories to form an image. Science and technology had indeed developed a lot. Bulky instruments were now lightweight, single function items had diversified. They had been developed to be foolproof. Even someone who was unaware of the basics of medicine, even an ordinary person could perform basic checks, let alone professional doctors!
Two minutes later, the shopkeeper had come to a conclusion. “There is no significant problem, it’s malnutrition. It’s hungry, and after it gets to eat to its fill, it will naturally get better.”
At the time of the apocalypse, some dogs had become feral, and enemies of mankind; others were trained by humans to become guard dogs – they cooperated in combat, and in times when all electronic tools failed to function they provided a lot of assistance. In some cities there were also canine statues, commemorating their contribution to the world war in the Extinction Era. As part of the troops, Fang Zhao had also once raised one.
There was also a subset of wild dogs that had neither turned crazy, nor had they been picked up for training. They hid themselves during the end of the world era, and very few of them had managed to survive.
As for the one before him, he didn’t know if it was the descendant of those meritorious dogs, or that very small minority of wild dogs that had survived. However, looking at its hair colour, even if it were the offspring of the meritorious dogs, after a string of failed breedings, there was little to no value in raising it. The shopkeeper gave the dog a seal of ‘No Money Route’ in his heart.
He sized Fang Zhao up once again. Just yesterday, he had felt that Fang Zhao did not want to live, yet that same person wanted to raise some worthless dog now?
“This dog… You want to keep it?” the shopkeeper asked.
Fang Zhao looked at the dog. The dog didn’t seem like it understood anything, but it looked at Fang Zhao and shook its tail.
“I’m keeping it,” Fang Zhao said. It being the first living thing he had laid his eyes on was fate, in a way. Although at the moment he was sort of strapped for cash, Fang Zhao was confident that this problem would be fixed soon. He could not rely on the little bit of money left behind by the original owner of the body.
The shopkeeper spoke no more. Whatever he chose, it was his business. He just took the money, pointed at the dog, and said “Its hair is all tied up, I don’t know how long it would take to comb, wash, and clean it. It’s a waste of time and money to do so, you might as well just shave it.”
“Then how much for a shave?”
“You just gave me fifty, shaving is a hundred, but since you don’t seem to have much money, I will take only fifty for shaving. Altogether it’ll be a hundred,” the shopkeeper said. He was not setting the price arbitrarily, this was the actual market price. As for why he was willing to make a discount… A man who could climb out of despair… what path he would take noone could tell. He had seen a few examples on Black Street, and he had encountered this several times. Plus, after all, it was merely a convenient impromptu sale, and also good business for him. Even if this person were to die later, he would still have the money.
One of his meals was ten kuai, but giving the dog a shave cost him a hundred. The sin of finding it, eh? Fang Zhao shook his head. However, today he had been reborn, he was happy and capricious. As for the future, the dog could stay or run away, that would be its decision.
After Fang Zhao transferred the money, the shopkeeper told him that the whole process would take about an hour. He conveniently left the dog there, intending to go out for a walk, and learn more about the world. Putting his talent to use was the next matter at hand.
After he left the pharmacy, Fang Zhao took the elevator to the fiftieth floor. Then, he went along the fiftieth floor’s hall, walking straight to its end. There, he saw a prominent platform. It was a station, and people were waiting for the train there.
In front, just like arteries spreading from lowest place to the highest peak, roads spread out from each and every building, just like cobwebs. For Fang Zhao, the visual shock was quite significant, the picture in his mind could not equate to what he felt after personally witnessing the sight.
Five hundred years.
It had been five hundred years since the apocalypse had ended.
The sound of the train entering the station rang out as the nearly hundred-meter long train that the general population used for public transportation slowed down and gradually approached. In accordance with the memories in his brain, Fang Zhao swept his bracelet across the scanning area of the nearest compartment, and once inside the train, he found a window seat and sat down. It was two o’clock in the afternoon, and not many people were riding at this time. There was no trace of the people who usually went to work or school, and the train was quite high up in the sky.
It routed along the high-rise buildings, and then set off with speed.
In that neighbourhood, all the houses were adjacent to each other, leaving few gaps between them. Otherwise, the existence of so many black streets would have been impossible. However, when the train exited that area, the field of vision suddenly widened. The sunshine suddenly darted through the windows. In the distance, pictures of people were flashing on gigantic electronic screens located on skyscrapers.
Celebrities, advertisements, announcements…
Along with the rapid development of science and technology, entertainment had also swiftly advanced. Once the extinction era had passed, everything had been upgraded at an accelerated pace. Fang Zhao couldn’t find the slightest trace of anything reminiscent of the apocalypse and the world before the Apocalyptic Era.
“Quickly, look! It’s Miyu!”
“My idol! Those bracelets she endorsed have already sold out, I couldn’t even book one on the internet…”
“I heard that Miyu is going to hold a concert, have you all bought tickets? The online prices are inflated like crazy!”
Fang Zhao listened to the comments of several young girls in the front row, then looked through the window at the electronic screen on the skyscraper. On the screen, was a near-perfect-looking young woman, blooming and dazzling in brilliance. Both her frown and her smile contained irresistible charm, not a single defect seen on her beautiful face, while her plump figure inspired infinite temptations. Looking into her eyes, it was as if they could discharge electricity, making one’s heart skip a beat.
She was indeed a beauty, and this much Fang Zhao had to agree with. At the end of the world, people had been preoccupied with survival, no man or woman spent time paying attention to their appearance or glamor. There was definitely no such gorgeous view.
It was just that, as Fang Zhao looked at the blooming, fascinating, and charming smile of the lady on the screen atop the skyscraper, at first glance it gave off a strange feeling. Very soon, Fang Zhao’s brain pointed out the reason.
That was not a real person.
Fang Zhao stared at the screen until it moved completely out of sight before he withdrew his gaze.
A product of the perfect combination of art, and science & technology.
The so-called virtual idols were not true and real existences that could be touched by living beings, but rather man-made creations created with the help of technology. Virtual idols were born in the virtual reality world, with an uncanny similarity to real humans, and had once been all the rage. They had once dragged their contemporary Superstar Emperors down from the god altars. At a point in time, the real idol stars were even suffocating under the pressure, nearly forced to withdraw from the historical arena. Even though the real idol stars had eventually regained their brilliance, the influence of virtual idols still could not be ignored. This was a product which had obtained world-wide recognition.
A big media tycoon and investor in human stars had once evaluated them by saying, “Virtual idols are monsters born in the virtual world. As long as they are not destroyed, as long as they have even a sliver of opportunity, they will return, and that will be the day of reckoning for the real idols.”