Chapter 5 Rising Talent Competition
One thing that the businessman who invested in Real Idols felt to be a pity was that even after so many years, virtual idols had never faded from the entertainment industry. Even if they had already lost the influence of their peak era, even if the virtual idol star’s ‘Replacement Rate’ was faster than that of a real star, they still steadily held power over half the entertainment circle.
A musical beat with lively rhythm suddenly sounded out in the train, pulling back Fang Zhao’s attention. It was from a time long, long ago, a classical music piece written by an emperor-class instrumental musician. There were no lyrics, just the musical performance of that emperor on the stage.
Fang Zhao closed his eyes to feel the music.
This piece was often played by the train driver to help him freshen up. Not only the driver, but even passengers experienced a change in mood. Once, someone joked that this musical piece had already become the Divine Comedy of going to work – listening to this, one would have more energy for work.
The piece came across as fire-like projections, warm and passionate, while the people in the seats matched the rhythm of the beat by tapping their feet. The drowsy people travelling in the afternoon would have their spirits raised as they synchronised the tapping of their feet.
A resonance arose among the passengers in the train who were listening to the song.
How long has it been since I’ve felt this?
Fang Zhao felt as if the blood in his body had started boiling again, making him want to shout out loudly in excitement.
He liked this world!
Even though this train looped only around the smaller half of the city, only around the outskirts of the suburbs, and not the central flourishing city, it was already a profound experience for Fang Zhao. The memories in his brain had also more or less merged.
When he once again reached his boarding station, Fang Zhao got off the train. His mood was completely different. He wanted to integrate into this world as soon as possible, and then enjoy it.
The fare was based on travel time, starting from the moment Fang Zhao had stepped onto the train and had his ring scanned. It had been about quarter of an hour, but public transport was relatively cheap. This trip had only cost him fifty kuai. Compared to other means of transport it was a little cheaper, but for now, given the meagre amount of cash Fang Zhao had on hand, he felt it was a bit wasteful, but still quite worth it.
After returning to black street, Fang Zhao first went to the drugstore to pick up the dog. There wasn’t a trace to be seen of all the dirty knots that had previously formed the dog’s coat. After the shave, the dog looked even thinner. The bones beneath the skin protruded even more obviously.
The pharmacy boss’s expression was also full of uneasiness, much like the dog’s uneasiness after the shave.
“Shaving this dog of yours almost broke down my machine,” the pharmacy’s boss complained to Fang Zhao. “However, since I said earlier that I would only be taking only 50, I won’t increase the rate.”
The dog’s hair had been that hard? Fang Zhao was skeptical. Earlier, because the dog’s hair had been knotted too seriously, and had even been stained with a lot of dirt, the pet did not seem like anything special. Now, the pharmacy boss was complaining. Could it be that after the apocalypse, the dog’s hair had also hardened?
However, the Pharmacy’s boss was not saying the complete truth, perhaps he was exaggerating a bit.
“Ok, hurry up and take your dog, I still need to fulfill my sleep.” The pharmacy boss waved to shoo him. The best time for business on Black Street was at night, so he had to sleep more during the day.
Fang Zhao also said nothing more, and left holding the shaved dog.
After Fang Zhao left, when the Pharmacy boss was cleaning up the shaving machine, he found that the machine was not functioning properly. He swore that he had just been exaggerating right then, nothing more.
“Just shaved a dog’s hair, nothing more. Is this thing really broken?” The pharmacy boss was also stupid, as he went back and forth to carefully examine it over and over again, before determining that he really couldn’t use it again.
“Fortunately, it was a bargain. From now on, I am never shaving any dog hair…” the pharmacy boss muttered.
Since Fang Zhao passed through the Yue Qing store on his way back, he bought some food to take with him.
Once again, he reached his rented studio on the second floor. In this multi-storey building, except for those residing on the eightieth floor and above, who were able to enjoy the sun, the residents of the floors below that level could not even hope to see the slightest bit of sun, let alone Fang Zhao here on the second floor, which was even darker. After entering the room, he didn’t turn on the light, so it was still as dim as the time when he had woken up.
He simply tidied up the room. As Fang Zhao swept his vision across the screen on his bracelet, it showed seventeen calls.
Out of the seventeen calls, three were from the manager responsible for the company’s interns, four were from Wan Yue, and ten were from Zeng Huang.
Wan Yue and Zeng Huang were both childhood friends of the original host, but even though they had been unable to spend time with the original host on weekdays like Fang Sheng, the two were quite sincere towards him, unlike the latter. However, the original host had been incited by Fang Sheng to gradually distance himself from them after joining university. Contact with them had been little and far between after he had joined the Silver Wing internship.
Not even two minutes after switching off the screen, it started flashing to show an incoming call.
Fang Zhao pressed the bracelet to connect, and a screen popped up from the bracelet. An anxious-looking Zeng Huang appeared on the screen.
“Big Zhao are you ok?” Zeng Huang breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing Fang Zhao, and seeing him acting so serene, the words that he had initially wanted to say were caught in his throat. He carefully analysed Fang Zhao’s complexion, saying, “I was just worried that you would not take it too well and that you’d do something stupid.”
‘The stupid thing is already done,’ Fang Zhao said in his heart.
Seeing that the worry on Zeng Huang’s face was genuine, Fang Zhao said, “I’m fine.”
“That’s good, it’s good to get over it, Little Hong…” Zeng Huang wanted to mention Xi Hong, but thought again. This talented person had just had a bad break-up, mentioning his girlfriend wasn’t good, so he swallowed his words. Instead, he angrily said, “That fellow Fang Sheng is acting really proud! Big Zhao, want to sue him? Those three songs are unknown to others, so what are we waiting for? Those were obviously your work! It’s impossible for them to have been composed with Fang Sheng’s ability!
“No need, for the time being,” said Fang Zhao.
“If you are worried about money, Wan Yue and I still have some savings.”
“There is really no need. I have no time to tussle with him at the moment,” Fang Zhao said. “The rookie competition has already begun, I have to hurry.”
Zeng Huang went blank for a moment. He didn’t think that Fang Zhao would still bear the idea of competing. Two months of this season’s rookie competition had already gone by, and only June, the final month, was left now. The time to turn in submissions was here, but Fang Zhao would be unable to properly showcase his work.
Even though Zeng Huang was secretly not very optimistic, since Fang Zhao was gathering courage, he did not want to dissuade him. As long as Fang Zhao could survive this greatly challenging phase, it was good.
“Then, you… Work hard, and if you have any necessities you must definitely talk to us. Do you still have money at hand?” Zeng Huang anxiously asked just before he hung up, worried about hurting Fang Zhao’s self-esteem. After all, usually, Fang Zhao particularly disliked people talking about his money situation.
Only Zeng Huang didn’t explain, so Fang Zhao sidestepped it, saying, “There’s still some money left, I won’t have a problem getting through another month.”
“Ah…Oh, that’s good, then. You must tell us if you’re facing any difficulties.”
“En, I will be going into seclusion starting with today.”
‘Seclusion’ was a slang term that many composers used, which meant that they wanted to immerse themselves into their compositions, and refused to be disturbed by the outside world.
Zeng Huang understood. This meant that Fang Zhao was preparing a new song, and unless there was an urgent matter that needed his attention, then he would not be bothered. Previously, when Fang Zhao said these words they usually carried an apparent feeling of resentment. Now, however, that feeling was not there. It was simply a statement.
After undergoing betrayal at the hands of Fang Sheng, not only had his attitude towards them not taken a turn for the worst, but on the contrary, it seemed to have improved by leaps and bounds. This made Zeng Huang exceptionally happy. They had all grown up together, and had faced all trials and tribulations side by side. Zeng Huang was the oldest amongst them, and ever since the accident that affected their families he felt that he had to take care of all of them, just how an elder brother took care of his younger brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, growing up, the five of them had gradually become estranged.
However, this recent matter had left Zeng Huang very worried. Unfortunately, Fang Zhao was not at college, and he hadn’t informed them of his residence’s whereabouts. Try as they might they couldn’t find him, and even the calls weren’t going through. Zeng Huang and Wan Yue were concerned, but couldn’t do anything about it. Now, having ascertained that Fang Zhao was doing ok, Zeng Huang felt relieved.
After disconnecting the call with Zeng Huang, Fang Zhao went on to call manager Duang.
As soon as it connected, Duang roared with a grumpy face, “Fang Zhao, what is going on with you?! Do you not want to go full-time?! Have you given up on entering the rookie competition?! The season has already entered the phase of fierce fighting. Of the company’s ten interns, six have already entered, and only four haven’t entered. Out of those, three have already submitted their works and the company’s arranged people have already finished recording. They will all be entering the fray tomorrow. Only you…! Fang Zhao, what about you?!”
“Still haven’t finished,” Fang Zhao replied. At this time, in front of the Duang erupting like a volcano, saying anything would be an excuse. Duang only wanted results. As for other things, whether or not your work had been stolen, that was none of his concern.
Duang opened his eyes wide in disbelief, then took a deep breath and stared at Fang Zhao with his eyes raised from the screen, as if he was going to explode at any given moment.
Finally, Duang restrained himself. It was not that he did not want to scold him, but that he could not waste time with scolding.
Duang, putting deep emphasis on each word, replied, “Ten. Days’. Time! Ten days later, you must have your work ready. I’ll prepare everything for your entry and keep a spot for you in Rising Talent Competition! If you don’t come out, YOU. CAN. LEAVE!!!” After saying that, without waiting for Fang Zhao to open his mouth, he disconnected the communication link.
Fang Zhao did not get angry at Duang because of his attitude. Duang, having seen Fang Zhao delaying his works’ submission, and having been unable to get into contact with him, it was obvious that he would get very angry. Moreover, that was his duty, and he could not afford to act unaware or ignore it. Now, he had finally gotten into contact, but the person in question still had nothing, so it was only natural that Duang would not have a good attitude.
However, despite the fact that Duang’s words had been ruthless, Fang Zhao knew from his memory of the situation that Duang had helped him. He had won him over ten days’ time after much effort. If it were some other manager, then it would be difficult to even gain him five days, let alone ten days. Perhaps, he would have been kicked out there and then.
The Rookie Talent Competition Duang had mentioned referred to the music industry’s highly-valued ‘Leading Rookie Rankings’.
Not everyone could get a song in these rankings, and if someone wanted to be listed, then they had to formally sign a contract and obtain the qualifications for releasing a song. Among the upcoming graduates and fresh alumni there were some outstanding people who had signed in advance.
Many of the companies that had not signed with any rookies also kept an eye on the rankings to see if they could find someone left out, snatch a promising rookie, or even dig out another company’s wall base.
When talking about the Leading Rookie Rankings, one thing had to be said – the emergence of virtual idols, as far as composers were concerned, was very good!
Singers? The virtual idol company could do the voicing on their own, a frog-like croaking skilled technician could also bring out the sounds of nature. So, compared to the main hosts, virtual idol companies put more value on the behind-the-scenes technicians and creative talent. The Leading Rookie Rankings would naturally throw more attention on the composers.
This was the first step into the realm of music for rookie composers aiming for their first big opportunity.
This was a fight between rookies, but also a contest between companies.
Fang Zhao opened the internet on his bracelet. As Duang had said, out of the composition interns who had joined alongside him at the Silver Wing, six had already entered and had also fought their way into the top fifty. As long as the company continued to push, their popularity would rise, and by the end of the season, their ranking would definitely be even better!