Chapter 16: Graduation
Translator: Min Lee Editor: Tennesh
Quality situational glasses and headsets allowed Fang Zhao to better experience the mood at the scene. They resurrected the event in question.
Situational technology was the same as simulation technology, or what people often call virtual reality technology.
Virtual idols staged two types of concerts—live shows and virtual concerts.
Live shows refer to actual, real-life performances that fans buy tickets to attend. Virtual concerts were staged online with the help of situational equipment.
The advancement of virtual technology allowed people to experience the volcanic energy that radiated from the stage in a different space and time.
Regardless of whether the glittering scenes on stage were real or simulated, as far as the fans were concerned, their sole focus was the people on stage the moment they arrived at the arena.
The epic scale of the event and the shuddering sound effects were recreated with utmost authenticity. But what Fang Zhao dwelled on was which performers could set the tone on stage, regardless of the quality of the songs they were singing.
There were all types of hit virtual idols, just like real celebrities staked out different styles. Virtual idols were launched by their production teams with a specific personality in mind, be it the happy-go-lucky type, slightly depressed, mature, or utterly adorable.
But unlike real people, virtual idols were ageless. A 16-year-old virtual idol would always be 16, unlike a real idol who needed to cover up the passage of time.
Fang Zhao couldn’t possibly watch the performances of every hit virtual idol, so he just browsed. The current crop of virtual idols seemed to be tailored to younger fans. That made sense—young men and women were a demographic willing to follow pop stars closely and spend on them. Older people like Yue Qing didn’t bother.
Fang Zhao was still clueless after watching all that footage.
There were many types of virtual idols who made it big, especially in the age of Reg Smith, the father of virtual idols. Humans, animals, crossbreeds, fairies and demons—you name it. You could say that the abundance of talent made the golden age of virtual idols. Otherwise, virtual idols wouldn’t have all but relegated real idols to a historical footnote.
The golden age of virtual idols was also known as the Reg Era. Many of the idols might not have been created by Reg Smith himself, but they were all products of Reg Dimension technology.
The virtual idols who are popular now had traces of their predecessors from that era. You could find similarities between the virtual idols from the two periods.
How about basing his design on a hit idol during the Reg Era?
Fang Zhao couldn’t make up his mind, and he didn’t want to do a half-assed job as Du Ang had suggested. For him, it was all or nothing.
He decided to consult a professor specializing in virtual technology when he attended graduation the next day.
The next day was the last day the imminent graduates appeared in school as students. When the day was over, they would shed their identities as students and join their respective professions.
The talk of the school was naturally the outstanding graduates. The composition department accounted for six of the composers behind the New Pioneers Chart’s top 10. Setting aside the two virtual idols, six of the eight remaining composers were Qi’an Academy of Music graduates.
The composition department was in a great mood, and the school leadership in an even better mood. They ordered everyone to brag about their illustrious alums, no holds barred.
The graduation of one batch of students meant it was time to recruit a new freshman class. The more people knew about how well their alums performed in the new talent contest, the stronger their applicant pool.
So the entire campus had been reveling in a celebratory mood the past few days. The head of the composition department was especially boisterous, striding around in a confident gait—until he heard that Silver Wing Media had stuck Fang Zhao with the virtual idol project.
"I don’t care. You’re hazing a newcomer, wasting talent. It’s a travesty."
When Fang Zhao arrived, the department head was videoconferencing. The other party was Du Ang, the head of Silver Wing’s composition department.
Du Ang wore a look of resignation. He kept his temper and offered an explanation—Fang Zhao was indeed being mistreated, after all. He could also tell where the department head was coming from.
He had to do something when a star student from his department was being treated this way. So what if Silver Wing was one of the Big Three, Qi’an Academy of Music was a top school too. A big-name school had to project the aura of a big-name school—it should speak up when it was called for. He would have done the same thing for any other student.
He knew his call wouldn’t change things, but changing the outcome was one thing and speaking up was another. He had to at least posture.
Du Ang thought the sly fox showed a great knack for timing, calling just as Fang Zhao was visiting. Who knows—the timing might have been intentional.
After hanging up angrily, the department head shifted to a gentler mood when he turned to face Fang Zhao. He looked like he felt for Fang and uttered a few words of consolation.
"Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Their top professionals couldn’t put together a decent virtual idol, so don’t be too hard on yourself."
"Thanks, Professor, I know. So Rong Zheng said you wanted to see me?" When Fang Zhao had arrived on campus, fellow composition major Rong Zheng told him that the department head was looking for him.
"Oh, it’s no big deal. I just wanted to help you put things in perspective. Silver Wing doesn’t care about the project, and you can keep composing on the side."
After more consolatory remarks, the department head let Fang Zhao go, but not before making sure that he wasn’t as depressed as people had imagined.
"Sigh, bad luck for such a budding talent, and a year down the drain." The department head sighed as he watched Fang Zhao leave, but his mood improved when he thought of his other graduates.
The virtual idol project would definitely take up a good chunk of a year, or even more than a year. Even though he told Fang Zhao that he could still compose on the side, when things got busy, who had the mood and inspiration to compose? So wasting a year was certain. Still, there were other composition department graduates who could make their presence felt in the industry in the coming year. Discounting Fang Zhao, didn’t they have five other graduates among the composers who made the top 10 of the New Pioneers Chart? The "QiMu Posse" still reigned supreme. No other music school could compare.
Meanwhile, Fang Zhao also had an inkling of the old geezer’s thinking. He wasn’t born yesterday, after all, so he didn’t take the lecture too seriously.
What bothered Fang Zhao more was the way his most fervent supporters during the new talent contest avoided him.
Out of the six composition majors who placed in the top 10 of the New Pioneers Chart, the reception given Fang Zhao was markedly different. People weren’t cold or distant, they just didn’t know what to say. The ones that approached him offered consolation. The students knew from alums how important the year following the new talent contest was. To waste a year or even longer on a dead-end project added an element of uncertainty. His future hung in the balance.
Fang Zhao didn’t mind the consolation, though. He just smiled and said thanks.
As one of the outstanding graduates, Fang Zhao got to go on stage during the graduation ceremony and receive an award, along with the other honored students. That was why everyone fought so hard to make the top 10 during the new talent contest. The top 10 offered plenty of exposure and name recognition.
Fang Zhao could also hear the whispers in the audience and see the mournful looks thrown his way. People were probably expecting him to disappear from the composer contingent of the music industry in the next year.
Fang Zhao didn’t leave with his classmates after the graduation ceremony. The original host of his body didn’t have close friends at school. There wasn’t much to say.
He applied for an auditor’s pass for a class on virtual idols instead. Now that he had graduated, he no longer enjoyed student perks. He had to pay for an auditing pass.
The class was held in a large, terraced auditorium. Compared to web lectures, live classes were more interactive. The main attraction was that this particular classroom was well-equipped, outfitted with the latest audiovisual equipment, which enhanced the lecture experience. It was worth the long trip for Fang Zhao.
He ran into Chu Guang when he was applying for his auditor pass. Chu Guang was also a composition major. He placed fourth in the New Pioneers Chart and was also signed to Silver Wing.
"An auditor pass? You’re sitting in on a lecture?" Chu Guang was surprised initially, but it made sense after he remembered Fang Zhao had been stuck with the virtual idol project. "Not too many students sign up for this class, but the professor is my uncle. His name is Chu Hong. I’ll give him a heads up so you can ask him questions. He’s just been called away by a few other professors."
"Thanks," Fang Zhao said.
"Spare the pleasantries. We’re classmates and now we’re signed to the same company. No need to thank me." If Fang Zhao hadn’t been assigned the virtual idol project, Chu Guang may have been more guarded. After all, they were competitors. Now that the situation was different, he was willing to lend Fang Zhao a helping hand.
"So your uncle teaches a class on virtual idols. How much do you know about virtual idols?" Fang Zhao asked.
"Not much. But I do know one thing—my uncle said this, not me." Chu Guang was quick to claim anonymity.
"No worries. I won’t tell anyone." Fang Zhao understood Chu Guang’s concerns.
Chu Guang relaxed after Fang Zhao offered his reassurances. After scanning their surroundings to make sure no one was eavesdropping, he said in a low voice, "Once, I heard my uncle b*tch when he got drunk with my dad, ‘War and chaos breed real men, and prosperous times produce sissies. That’s the direction virtual idols are headed in.’"
Fang Zhao frowned. "Why’s that?"
"Because the market no longer needs a warrior to maintain order."