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During the Snowstorm

10.3

The Return of the Glory

63

Five days later, Lin Yi Yang accomplished yet another flawless score of 147, marking his third maximum break in his illustrious professional career. The swift succession of these remarkable achievements sparked an outpouring of passion among fans, captivating even those previously indifferent to the sport, who now found themselves engrossed in discussions about Lin Yi Yang.

 

In his triumphant return to the domestic tournament stage, Lin Yi Yang wasted no time rewriting the record books with his awe-inspiring performances. His remarkable feats in his first year back served as a testament to his extraordinary talent and dedication.

 

Notably, Meng Xiaodong and Jiang Yang also displayed exceptional progress, leading the charge for the new generation of players and garnering accolades as they achieved the best results among their Chinese counterparts in the prestigious China Open. Their performances on home soil ignited the imaginations of the Chinese audience, leaving an indelible mark of excitement.

 

As the tournament progressed, both Meng Xiaodong and Jiang Yang fought their way into the semifinals, showcasing their formidable skills. Meanwhile, Lin Yi Yang, the undoubted star of the competition, advanced to the highly anticipated final, where he would face his toughest challenge yet.

 

Unfortunately, Yin Guo's aspirations to reach the final were dashed by a last-minute decision from the 9-ball association, which extended the training period. This unforeseen circumstance meant she missed the entirety of Lin Yi Yang's remarkable comeback tournament on his native soil.

 

On the day of the highly anticipated final, Yin Guo found herself in a race against time as the training camp drew to a close. Immediately after the World Championship mobilization meeting concluded, she had to rush off to the U.S. Open without a moment's respite.

 

Seated in the front row, she faced the leaders of the Sports Bureau, among whom was her mother. Nervously, she refrained from making any unnecessary movements, unable to glance at the clock ticking away... Her heart raced, its tension reaching new heights.

 

As the president concluded the speech, the room erupted in applause. Yin Guo rose to her feet, clapping with fervor, her enthusiasm surpassing that of everyone present. There was no one in the room more eager than her for this mobilization meeting to come to an end.

 

"Alright, it's time for everyone to disperse and rest," the association president, with a kindly demeanor, addressed the gathering. "Considering that many of you have flights to catch this afternoon, I won't detain you with lengthy remarks."

 

In an instant, the crowd began to disperse, each person heading off in their own direction, driven by their personal agendas.

 

Yin Guo observed her mother preoccupied with various responsibilities, leaving no room for attention towards her. Determined to catch up with her commitments, she swiftly maneuvered through the bustling crowd, hastening towards the exit. As soon as she stepped outside, she ascended a flight of stairs, simultaneously retrieving her phone from her pocket.

 

Without the need to refresh any web pages, her WeChat notifications bombarded her screen, indicating an influx of messages. Numerous individuals, including Zheng Yi and her cousin Meng Xiaotian, had reached out to her, yet she hesitated to open any of them, wary of the potential contents within.

 

The second-floor window stood wide open, allowing the wind to caress her face, though it failed to quell the warmth radiating from her flushed cheeks. At that moment, a new message suddenly appeared.

 

Lin: Congratulations to me?

 

Her heart contracted abruptly, causing a surge of overwhelming emotions. Yin Guo instinctively covered her mouth, her eyes welling up with tears of joy. In a matter of seconds, the tears streamed down her cheeks, slipping through her fingers. Lin Yi Yang had emerged victorious, becoming the champion of the China Open.

 

Concerned about attracting attention from the passing leaders on the first floor, Yin Guo sought refuge by the wall, her right shoulder pressed against it as she attempted to regain control over her emotions. Just as the leaders jovially approached the exit, Lin Yi Yang sent another message on WeChat.

 

Lin: I miss you.

 

Clutching her phone tightly, she wept like a fool. After his triumph, after raising the trophy, he expressed his longing for her.

This scene was more poignant than any display of sentimentality.

 

This gentle fool never relied on grand gestures or elaborate words; instead, he conveyed his deep affection through the simplest and most sincere actions.

 

Within the confines of the sports arena, the crowd had dispersed, leaving behind an empty space. Holding the trophy, the champion occupied the front row, facing the northern direction. His suit jacket lay beside the trophy on an adjacent seat. With both arms draped over the high backs of the chairs to his left and right, he reclined and relaxed, his gaze fixed upon the deserted arena.

 

In the heart of the arena stood the verdant snooker table.

 

"Why are you sitting here all alone?" Jiang Yang's voice resonated from behind.

 

"Exhausted," he replied succinctly, devoid of any additional words.

 

"Have you called your girlfriend yet?" the voice behind him inquired once more.

 

Holding his phone in his right hand, Lin Yi Yang awaited a response from Yin Guo. "They had a briefing for the World Snooker Championship in the afternoon," he informed.

 

Before he could finish speaking, the familiar sound of WeChat message notifications began to chime incessantly, one after another.

 

The screen was inundated with a multitude of ❤️ emojis.

 

Yin Guo's messages appeared in quick succession: "I never expected you would actually win the championship in this tournament..."

 

Lin Li Guo: "You're the absolute best."

 

Lin Li Guo: "It feels like I'm in a dream, honestly."

 

Lin Li Guo: "I cried like a fool; give me some time to compose myself..."

 

Followed by a stream of continuous ❤️ emojis being sent.

 

Lin Yi Yang gazed at the screen of his phone, a smile gracing his lips as he imagined her tearful state while sending those messages.

 

Laughter erupted behind him, and it wasn't just one person.

 

Turning around, he cast a glance, and there they were—everyone from Dongxin City, spanning generations, present in one place. They had stood there silently, not uttering a word. But as soon as Lin Yi Yang noticed their presence, they burst into laughter, calling out, "Uncle Liu," "Brother Liu," and various other familiar appellations.

 

In an instant, the northern stands came alive with animated chatter.

 

Lin Yi Yang chuckled, his gaze lingering on them. He stood up, pointing at the trophy, and said to Jiang Yang, "Help me take it back."

 

Having uttered those words, he propelled himself onto the railing, effortlessly leaping down from the stands and landing on the ground below. Without a backward glance, he strode away, his determined steps resolute. It mirrored his actions when he won his first national championship at the tender age of 13. With his suit vest discarded, he had triumphantly traversed the victorious playing field, clad in a humble fabric shirt and ill-fitting trousers.

 

Jiang Yang leaned against the railing, his hands gripping its edge, his gaze fixed upon his friend's diminishing figure.

 

The once young boy moved with agility, and now the man walked with purpose, yet the former exuded an air of fervor and vitality while the latter emanated a composed and formidable presence.

 

After the club coach concluded the registration procedures for everyone, they dispersed on the spot.

 

They all hurriedly made their way to the duty-free shop for some shopping.

 

In a secluded corner of the row of seats near the boarding gate, Yin Guo sat in the innermost seat, taking a moment to rest.

A message popped up on WeChat from Zheng Yi.

 

Zheng Yi: Your man is incredible, flooding the screen.

 

Although Zheng Yi was still an outsider to their circle, it was her Moments that were overflowing with messages.

 

Yin Guo took a sip of her drink, wondering where everyone else was.

 

As if connected by telepathy, not long after, a gentle hand pressed down on her shoulder. "Are you worried?" Lin Yi Yang asked.

 

Upon hearing those words from him, her anxious heart finally found solace.

 

She glanced around, particularly at the duty-free shop, scanning for her teammates.

 

"Come this way. Let's go around," she said, tugging at his wrist.

 

Yin Guo pulled Lin Yi Yang along, circling from the back row to the front. He hadn't changed his formal attire from the morning at the venue, so he entered the plane wearing his black trousers, leather shoes, and white shirt. He had simply unbuttoned the collar of his shirt and rolled up his sleeves slightly to alleviate the overly formal look.

 

As he settled next to her, Yin Guo handed him a black mask. "Put this on first," she whispered.

 

Lin Yi Yang looked at the mask in confusion. "Why?"

 

"Just put it on quickly," she urged in a hushed tone. "There are many colleagues on this flight."

 

He was currently in the spotlight, having just emerged as the champion of the China Open Snooker Tournament, and his name was circulating widely on the internet.

 

This boarding gate would soon be filled with many colleagues flying to the United States to participate in the 9-ball Open. Last year, there weren't many registrations, but this year there was a significant increase, including numerous newcomers who hadn't seen him in the lounge before. Although some people at the North City Club privately knew that Lin Yi Yang was Yin Guo's junior sister, it would draw too much attention if she openly accompanied him as a family member.

 

Lin Yi Yang gazed at the mask in his hand, a helpless smile playing on his lips. He made the decision to put it on, covering the lower half of his face purely as a self-deception. With his lower face concealed, his eyes remained fixed on her, speaking volumes without uttering a word.

 

Having been apart for an entire month, it was only natural that they desired to look at each other a little longer. With only their eyes visible, it felt like a clandestine exchange of emotions.

 

"My mom told me today that Mr. He called her several times to catch up, and they were all talking about you," she whispered.

 

"Teacher was quite happy when Jiang Yang mentioned our relationship," he replied. "When I have the chance, I'll definitely take you to visit him."

 

His voice, muffled by the mask, lowered a few degrees.

 

"Go to your teacher's house?" she exclaimed in surprise.

 

"Yes," he said casually, not thinking much of it. "He can't go out anymore. He's getting old and has difficulty moving around."

 

"No, it's not that I want to go outside," she explained her surprise. "Since I started playing at the age of ten, I've heard people around me talking about your teacher, but I never thought I would actually have the opportunity to meet him."

 

He neither confirmed nor denied it. "As the girlfriend of his direct disciple, it's only appropriate for you to meet him."

 

Although he said so, there was still a sense of mystery.

 

She spoke honestly, "Before I met you, I thought all of Master He's disciples were older, like uncles and elder brothers. Even the youngest, Jiang Yang, is six years older than my brother. I never expected there would be an exception like you."

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded and gently ruffled her hair, saying, "I may be younger, but you can just call me 'brother,' no need to call me 'uncle'."

 

Yin Guo smiled in embarrassment and playfully swatted his hand away, muttering, "You big tease."

 

Before they could exchange more words, the rest of the team returned.

 

Lin Yi Yang, instinctively and voluntarily, inserted his hands into his trouser pockets and walked towards the floor-to-ceiling glass, gazing out at the tarmac.

 

Observing his silhouette, facial features, and distinctive attire of a shirt and trousers, those unfamiliar with the industry wouldn't recognize him. Still, those within the field could immediately identify his true identity. Yin Guo's senior jokingly asked her, "Are you accompanying the team as a family member?"

 

"Yeah," she couldn't deny it, "After his match...he didn't have anything important to do, so he decided to return to New York and visit old friends."

 

Her senior gave her a thumbs up. "That's great."

 

It was truly admirable to skip the victory celebration banquet and head straight to the airport with luggage to accompany his girlfriend to a competition.

 

Another senior also appreciated this supportive family member. "When you two first met, were you the strong one and he the weak one? Xiaoguo, how did you see potential in him? Did you recognize his talent at first sight?"

 

Who knows, maybe...it was just based on appearances?

 

While they were discussing the beginning of Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo's relationship, on the other side, a group of people from Dongxin City approached and greeted Lin Yi Yang according to the customary rules. The calls of "Sixth Brother" and "Sixth Uncle" resounded one after another... Lin Yi Yang responded with a couple of acknowledgments, feeling that the black mask on his face was completely unnecessary, so he removed it directly.

 

He told Chen An'an that next time there was no need for everyone to come and greet him.

 

After pondering over this for half a minute, Chen An'an earnestly said, "That's impossible. Dongxin City values respecting teachers and emphasizing etiquette, with seniors taking precedence."

 

Lin Yi Yang understood the child's stubbornness in front of him and decided not to argue further. He pointed to the boarding gate and said, "You go ahead. I'll wait a bit longer."

 

"Not going together?" Chen An'an's eyes carried a hint of doubt.

 

"Your sister-in-law is self-conscious and afraid of being seen," he said. "I'll board last."

 

Once on the plane, Yin Guo was seated on the left side of the business class with three senior sisters. Chen An'an and a girl from Dongxin City were seated on the right side. The girl was originally sitting beside Yin Guo but voluntarily switched seats with Lin Yi Yang.

 

Both Dongxin City and Beijing Club had unified economy class tickets, and those who wanted to upgrade to business class had to pay the price difference themselves. However, due to limited seats in the business class, there was an unwritten rule that the main players and senior members had priority. The younger ones usually didn't want to join in the excitement and preferred to gather together and be more casual at the back.

 

There was a partition between the two of them, and they could easily see each other by leaning forward.

 

Yin Guo initially wanted to exchange a few whispered words with Lin Yi Yang before takeoff, but the flight attendant seemed to recognize him. During the meal service before takeoff, she maintained a professional demeanor and showed no special treatment.

 

Feeling self-conscious, Yin Guo quickly withdrew her head and continued playing with her phone.

 

After the plane took off, Yin Guo went to the restroom and overheard the flight attendant chatting with her colleague, saying, "Lin Yi Yang is in the front; he's quite a talented player. I've seen him on TV before, and he's even more impressive in person."

 

The flight attendant responsible for the passengers at the back curiously asked, "Is he approachable? Can I take a photo with him?"

 

"Getting his autograph should be no problem. As for a photo, I asked him just now, and he politely declined. I guess he prefers to maintain his privacy," the flight attendant replied.

 

Yin Guo listened silently to their conversation.

 

After the two flight attendants left one after another, Yin Guo peered through the partially open curtain, searching for the man mentioned in their conversation. Sensing her presence, he looked around and soon spotted Yin Guo at the back. He immediately left his seat, crossing the aisle.

 

"What caught your attention?" he asked, lifting the curtain and addressing her.

 

"I overheard the flight attendants talking about you," she playfully asked, extending her hand towards his face as if requesting an autograph. "They mentioned that you don't like taking photos. How about giving me an autograph?"

 

Lin Yi Yang enjoyed her playful act and chuckled, leaning closer to her face. "If you keep teasing me, I might just steal a kiss from you."

 

Suddenly, the light blue curtain was lifted, revealing a silver food trolley being pushed by a flight attendant.

 

The flight attendant wore a curious expression but maintained a professional smile as she observed the interaction. Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo quickly made their way on either side, allowing the trolley to pass. Yin Guo turned around and walked away, only to realize that she hadn't even entered the restroom upon returning to her seat. She had been waiting outside for nothing.

 

A wave of guilt washed over her, and she couldn't quite understand why she felt that way.

 

After dinner, the flight swiftly transitioned into nighttime mode.

 

Most passengers had dozed off, and the flight attendants had ceased their movements.

 

Lin Yi Yang had his headphones on, engrossed in watching a movie, while Yin Guo observed him for a while before feeling drowsy herself. Deciding to take a nap, she understood the importance of rest due to the tight schedule and the upcoming competition immediately upon arrival. Adjusting to the time difference quickly was crucial.

 

In a semi-dreamy state, she felt the blanket being tugged gently.

 

Lifting her eye mask, Yin Guo saw Lin Yi Yang standing beside her seat, leaning down to cover her with the blanket. Their eyes met in the dim blue cabin light, and she asked, "Aren't you going to sleep?"

 

She also removed one side of her earphones, allowing her to hear his response.

 

In the subdued cabin lighting, Lin Yi Yang's features had an ethereal quality, but as he drew nearer, they became more defined. He whispered softly in her ear, his warm breath caressing her earlobe, "Thought you were already asleep."

 

High above, thousands of meters in the air, surrounded by emptiness, they were among the hundreds of passengers bound for the same destination.

 

With partitions separating them from the rest of the cabin, even if there were awake passengers, they could only witness their communication, not their kisses.

 

Lin Yi Yang's breath danced along Yin Guo's ear, trailed down her neck, and eventually met her lips. Like their first encounter in the New York apartment, they surrendered to each other in the darkness, exploring and embracing with utmost sincerity, indulging in the purest form of physical intimacy.

 

After a moment, he paused and gazed at her, their breaths intermingling.

 

"Today's victory is yours too," he whispered, his voice hushed. "My little queen."

 

Two maximum breaks of 147, a championship in the China Open—everything I achieved was not just for myself but also to repay a silly girl who once dashed towards a struggling coach on the stage in New York. At that moment, she disregarded the live cameras and willingly took the hand of an unknown person. Regardless of what the future holds, I wanted to share my best moments, my most glorious achievements, with him.

 

In the blink of an eye, a year has passed, and that struggling coach remembers. He never forgets.

 

Never forgets.

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