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Trail of Ascent

The only thing I had heard about idols was their astonishing popularity a thousand years ago. I didn't know what happened to them, nor was I curious about it. But, since I was going to be the manager of an idol group, it was essential to know about it.

I skipped the first result explaining what an idol was and tapped on the article beneath. The website loaded instantly and I began reading.

As I had heard, their popularity hastily declined over the span of a century. There wasn't one exact reason why it happened. Instead, many factors played a role. Morals, climate change, pandemics, and political conflicts between countries impeded their international growth. However, the drop that spilled the glass was the creation of humanoid holograms.

Humanoid holograms had become incredibly realistic and cheap enough by the twenty-third century. For idol fans, it meant the possibility to have their favorite idols in their homes to do whatever they wanted. For the popular idol agencies, it meant a huge business opportunity. They began selling holograms of their idols and, not long after, they realized it was more profitable to create their idols from zero instead of being based on a human.

Due to the popular idol groups disappearing as they were known, fewer and fewer groups emerged. Because the small groups didn't have the money to create their holograms, they had no other choice but to disband.

By the twenty-fourth century, the term idol was barely used anymore. It had been replaced by Humadream—or simply Huma—the term used to refer to a humanoid hologram created by the buyer; the human of their dreams. Instead of selling predefined holograms, the companies gave buyers the option to customize their holograms. The more customization they had, the more sales the company would have. Soon, holograms had become indistinguishable from real humans.

"Interesting," I said.

"Isn't it a shame?" Sanae commented. "Being replaced by fake humans…"

"Well, it's hard to compete against something like that. They perfectly resemble a human."

"Are you on their side already? Have you seen one in real life?"

"I have. Some of my friends have at least one."

"Sure, friends…," she remarked.

"I'm not lying. I wouldn't waste my money on that, it's expensive."

"Sure," she joked again.

"Whatever. We need to do something unique to win against the holograms. Do you have anything in mind?"

"Didn't you say we are going to be the best in the galaxy?"

"Yes, we will travel to other planets. But we need to change something in the core."

"Why?"

"Idols have already disappeared once. Something needs to change to prevent it from happening again."

"And what could that be?"

"I don't know."

Swiftly, Risa raised her hand asking for permission to talk.

"You don't need to do that," I said. "What is it?"

"I-I think nothing needs to change," she confidently said.

"And why is that?"

"Well, idols disappeared almost one thousand years ago. Maybe their return is already new enough to draw attention."

"Maybe. But what if it only lasts for a few months? There needs to be something to keep the fire burning."

"Right… I'm sorry for my dumb suggestion!" she bowed.

"No, it's a good point."

"Maybe you will get more ideas after researching more," Sanae said.

"True."

I tapped the return button and opened the definition of an idol.

An idol was an entertainer marketed for image, attractiveness, and personality in Japanese pop culture. Although they were primarily singers, they were also trained in acting, dancing, and modeling. They were commercialized through merchandise and endorsements by talent agencies. One of their main selling points was the parasocial relationship they developed with a passionate consumer fan base.

"Parasocial?" Sanae wondered.

I explained, "It means that the fans feel a close connection with an idol, even though the idol doesn't personally know their fans. It's a strange concept."

"I see. It would be a nice way of keeping the fire burning, but impossible."

"I guess that's why holograms replaced idols. Anyway, I should get started with my project."

The next two hours were filled with interesting information about idols, mostly taught by Sanae and Risa. They seemed ecstatic to share their knowledge. I understood the feeling.

What shocked me the most about what they told me, was how restrictive agencies were with their idols. They couldn't even have a romantic partner. Though I comprehended a bit more after Sanae and Risa gave examples.

Finally, I felt confident enough with my knowledge about idols. The remaining work was to describe the aspects of the business; its activities, goals, contracts, jobs, and more boring stuff.

Sanae and Risa seemed dead. They kept yawning and their eyes kept closing as their heads gave up on staying straight.

"You can go home," I said. "The rest of the introduction is tedious stuff that I don't need help with."

"It's okay. We'll stay with you…," Sanae replied, practically asleep.

Not even a minute later, they both fell asleep. With a smile, I continued typing.

The more I typed, the more I realized how hard and ridiculous it sounded. A topic that had died centuries ago, galactical trips, and lying about Sanae's and Risa's contracts. But I wasn't going to give up. I spent the next two hours finishing and polishing the document.

Satisfied with the results, I shook Sanae and Risa awake. We headed back to their home and we said goodbye. For a minute, I walked alone and scared through the Trading District until I got out of it. I arrived at my apartment ten minutes later. I jumped into my bed without even changing clothes and fell asleep.

I almost woke up late for the first class of the day. After breakfast and a shower, I headed out to the university, wearing an old pair of shoes.

Even in the middle of lectures, I kept revising the document throughout the day. Doing it gave me quite a few ideas, but I needed to wait for the lectures to finish.

The Business Administration lecture began and Professor Fuku started with a speech.

"Three years ago, I told you about the final project of this program. I told you this early to give you as much time as you needed to find the perfect idea for you. Most of you found it right away, while some others didn't. Some have already even started their business to get ahead. Failure or success, you had enough time to learn. Today, each of you will present the introduction of your business."

I'm nervous! I wonder what everyone else will do for their business.

"Miyahara, let's start with yours."

Eh? Me?!

Shaking, I stood up from my seat and walked down the stairs to the front of the room. As I walked past Professor Fuku, she whispered at me.

"Use the board to display your document. Don't take more than five minutes. I can't wait to see your business!"

I nervously smiled and she walked away. I guess my impression of yesterday backfired…

I approached the corner of the board where a small hologram projected my name. I pressed the floating button to synchronize my data and a list with all my files appeared. I opened the project's introduction document and the contents appeared on the board.

I took a deep breath to calm myself down and cleared my throat to give my presentation.

I finished three minutes later. Everyone looked confused after I explained the LOB—line of business—including Professor Fuku. She still clapped and proceeded to give useful critiques, although mostly about the document and my presentation. The only thing she said about the LOB being galactical idols was that it was an interesting proposal.

I returned to my seat and the rest of the students presented their businesses. As Professor Fuku had said, most of them already had very useful data or had been established. Unlike mine, they sounded plausible and logical. Professor Fuku discussed more with them about their LOB instead of their documents or presentations.

One minute remained before the lecture period ended, but Professor Fuku let us go, something she had never done before. As I walked to the exit, she stopped me.

"Miyahara, do you have a minute?"

Oh no.

"Sure. Is something wrong with my project?"

"How to say it? Your proposal is very… unique indeed. I wasn't lying when I said it was interesting. An agency for galactical idols."

"I know. Very crazy, huh?"

"There's nothing to compare it with. Among the businesses presented today, yours is the one with the most uncertainty in terms of success."

"Right?" I giggled.

I should've given up…

"However, it's the one I'm most eager about."

Eh?

"Miyahara, what did you think when seeing everyone else's presentations?"

"That they all are more prepared than me."

"Apart from that."

"I compared them with current companies."

"Exactly. All of them presented businesses with very competitive LOBs. There might be more data for them but, even if they succeed at first, it will be very hard to stay afloat. You, on the other hand, have no information to work with. Even though your success is uncertain, I would say it's more likely to stay for a long time as long as you do it right. It's something new and, more importantly, galactical."

We stared at each other for a moment. It's the first time I see her this eager.

"Oops. I shouldn't have favoritism."

I laughed. "Thanks, Professor Fuku! That's what I needed to hear."

She smiled. "By the way, what is the name of your agency?"

I froze. "I forgot to give it one," I giggled.

She chuckled. "Don't worry, it wasn't a requirement. Just do your best to make the best document throughout the rest of the year. I look forward to it."

"I will!"

Edited by RedPandaChick

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