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During the Snowstorm


Tide of Fate


The plane touched down early morning, and Yin Guo sat in the car next to Meng Xiaodong. She had changed into a black dress during the flight, and now Meng Xiaodong handed her a shoebox containing a pair of black flats he had fetched from her home the previous night.


"How is Jiang Yang?" Since her flight lacked an internet connection, they could not discuss Jiang Yang's condition before boarding. Finally, she seized the chance to inquire, "Has he been discharged from the hospital?"


"He's out. He will definitely attend the memorial service today," Meng Xiaodong replied, starting the car. "Your family is unaware of the tournament."


A wave of relief washed over her.


"But don't take your parents for fools. Mr. He always kept in touch with your mom over the phone; she must have guessed something and asked me about it."


Her heart raced as she anxiously inquired, "...What did you tell her?"


"I told her..." Meng Xiaodong smiled helplessly. "I've known all along. You two are a good match."


In truth, Meng Xiaodong had planned for this revelation from the very beginning. He had even informed his father beforehand, patiently awaiting the opportunity to address the situation.


During the early years of his career, when he was just starting out, Yin Guo's mother was still serving as a referee and would often accompany him to various matches. As a result, Meng Xiaodong developed a close bond with her since childhood. And because Meng Xiaodong had achieved considerable success, his position in Yin Guo's mother's heart remained steadfast. By personally taking the first step, they would undoubtedly make significant progress.


Since his return, Lin Yi Yang's conduct and behavior have been remarkable. He has carried himself gracefully throughout this journey, achieving exceptional results in the Chinese Open, reconciling with his mentor, and assuming control of Dongxin City.


His subtle influence has left a lasting impression.


"Don't worry," Meng Xiaodong reassured her. "I can tell she's fine. She's not angry."


Yin Guo let out a sigh of relief. "Thank you, brother."


"I'm relieved that you didn't come back," Meng Xiaodong expressed his greatest concern, fearing Yin Guo would abandon the competition and return home, jeopardizing her accomplishments and leading her parents to believe that she prioritized love over responsibility. "Congratulations to you, the champion of the US Open."


Yin Guo smiled faintly.


The joy of the championship had long been overshadowed by the desire to see him as soon as possible.


Yin Guo's mother and colleagues from the Sports Bureau had gathered at the venue.


Upon arriving at the location, Yin Guo first greeted her mother and then accompanied Meng Xiaodong into the hall, representing the delegation from Beijing.


The memorial service was arranged in a modest manner, with a portrait of Teacher He placed at the center. The hall was adorned with numerous floral wreaths that had been sent in tribute.


Old He had two daughters. Unfortunately, the eldest daughter passed away several years ago, leaving behind a grandson. The younger daughter had a granddaughter. The family was relatively small with the early loss of Old He's wife. The younger daughter, her husband, and a few disciples had been busy attending to all the post-funeral arrangements in the past few days.


Yin Guo entered the hall, and Meng Xiaodong picked up the pen from the reception desk, signing his and Yin Guo's names in the notebook.


She scanned the room, but Lin Yi Yang was nowhere to be seen. Thinking whether to send him a WeChat message to inform him of her arrival, she suddenly heard a familiar voice from the right side. It was Wu Wei. A group of people was ascending the stairs, with Lin Yi Yang and Jiang Yang leading the way.


Dressed in black shirts and trousers, they stood out amidst the crowd.


Since her early return from the Open Championship today, three days had passed without them seeing each other. There shouldn't have been any significant changes, but Yin Guo noticed Lin Yi Yang had visibly lost considerable weight. His face appeared thinner, and his arms had become more slender. His shirt no longer fit him as well as before.


Yin Guo's eyes met his, and a pang of pain coursed through her heart like a blade had sliced it.


Lin Yi Yang's steps gradually slowed, sensing the moment's weight. Alongside him, Jiang Yang and the older generation from Dongxin City halted in unison, aware of the delicate situation.


Yin Guo held her breath, feeling the presence of the man she had missed dearly just a meter away from her. He was within arm's reach, the person she yearned for.


In the past few days, Lin Yi Yang had been consumed with making arrangements and taking on numerous responsibilities. However, when faced with his girlfriend, he found himself at a loss for words, unable to articulate his thoughts.


Meng Xiaodong gently placed the pen down, breaking the tense silence. "If there's anything I can do to assist, please don't hesitate to let me know."


Lin Yi Yang gave Meng Xiaodong's arm a reassuring pat and spoke with gratitude, "You've done more than enough."


Meng Xiaodong played a crucial role in calming Yin Guo's emotions, ensuring her successful participation in the competition, and safely accompanying her back. Lin Yi Yang acknowledged his efforts and appreciated him sincerely.


With a lingering gaze, Lin Yi Yang turned his attention to Yin Guo and softly said, "The ceremony is about to begin. I'll go in first."


Although his words seemed directed at Meng Xiaodong, they carried a deeper meaning for Yin Guo.


Yin Guo nodded gently, feeling as if he had just passed by her. As the new leader of Dongxin City, he was surrounded by his former comrades, many of whom were responsible for receiving colleagues from the industry and sports circles.


Standing near the entrance, where natural and artificial light intertwined, Yin Guo observed him from behind the crowd. Her eyes remained fixed on him, capturing every moment.


She observed him as he gracefully shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with the attendees.


The memorial service was on the verge of commencing. The auditorium was filled with distinguished guests, while the younger attendees had nowhere to stand and gather outside the hall or on the stairs. Jiang Yang, who was hosting the memorial, had just been discharged from the hospital and appeared frail.


However, as a man who had led Dongxin City for over a decade, he possessed the strength to stand and preside over the entire event, even if he was soon to undergo surgery.


The funeral ceremony followed a typical format. It was the second time Yin Guo found herself near Lin Yi Yang. Accompanied by her cousin, she joined the line to offer condolences to the family members. They proceeded to greet Lin Yi Yang and a few other disciples. Among the grieving family members, everyone was in tears except for this favored disciple, who remained composed.


Each attendee at the memorial offered their condolences and shook hands with the family members and disciples in turn.


Yin Guo followed the line until she stood before him. Lin Yi Yang reached out his hand, and she reciprocated, feeling the rough lines of his palm glide against the back of her hand before they separated.


Once the handshakes were concluded, individuals began to depart from the hall, one after another.


Yin Guo's cousin retrieved her luggage. He picked up the suitcase and accompanied her to the parking lot, where Yin Guo's mother awaited her.


As Yin Guo walked away, she couldn't help but sense Lin Yi Yang's gaze lingering on her.


Even as she followed Meng Xiaodong to the flower bed near the parking lot and saw her mother waiting, Yin Guo couldn't shake the feeling of Lin Yi Yang's silent gaze lingering behind her.


"Are you tired after flying for more than ten hours?" her mother asked.


Meng Xiaodong took the car keys, opened the trunk, and placed Yin Guo's luggage inside her mother's car.


Yin Guo smiled and replied, "I'm used to it by now."


"Let's go home first," Yin Guo's mother suggested. "Meng Xiaodong, you can come along too. Grandma is at home and wants to have dinner with both of you."


"Alright," Meng Xiaodong agreed. "I'll drive and follow you."


Yin Guo observed the interaction between her cousin and mother, but her mind remained preoccupied with thoughts of Lin Yi Yang.


She yearned to stay, to have a moment alone with him, to exchange a few words.


She didn't want to leave just yet...


Meng Xiaodong turned to head toward the car.


"Mom..." Yin Guo's voice broke the silence, "Can I come home later? Is that alright?"


Meng Xiaodong halted in his steps, and Yin Guo's mother paused.


Coincidentally, a car exited the parking lot and slowed down as it passed by, with the driver bidding farewell to Yin Guo's mother. She smiled and waved back before redirecting her attention to Yin Guo. After briefly pausing, she expressed her concern, "Your grandmother is also looking forward to seeing you. Can't you come home first and spend some time with her?"


Yin Guo pleaded with her eyes, silently conveying, "I'll come home in the evening."


The momentary silence filled her with unease.


She was cautious, fearing that being too direct might yield unfavorable results. She glanced at Meng Xiaodong, who subtly asked her to postpone and go home first. Unexpectedly, during the silent exchange between the siblings, she heard her mother sigh and reluctantly say, "Alright."


Before parting, her mother gently reminded her, "Just don't stay out too late."


A radiant smile spread across Yin Guo's face, the happiest she had been in the past few days. Excitement bubbled inside her; she expressed her gratitude to her mother and hurriedly made her way forward.


As Yin Guo's mother observed her daughter's retreating figure, she turned to Meng Xiaodong and remarked, "Do you know, Xiaodong? Almost everyone present here today has been touched by Mr. He's kindness."


The so-called kindness doesn't solely pertain to material gestures but rather the invaluable spiritual support provided.


When Yin Guo's mother graduated from university and ventured into this field, she underwent the referee qualification exam and frequently encountered Mr. He Wenfeng. In those days, billiards was even more niche than it is now.


She nurtured a deep love for the sport and aspired to become a referee, yet her family failed to grasp her unwavering passion. Progressing step by step through referee exams and evaluations, she confronted various challenges along the way. Workplace conflicts permeated every industry, including refereeing. There were countless instances when she felt like surrendering, but during those moments, she would engage in conversations with Mr. He, who would often frequent the arena to observe competitions.


While Mr. He usually carried a serious demeanor, he possessed a subtle sense of humor. He frequently imparted wisdom to her, saying, "Life is a journey that unfolds one day at a time. Embrace the choices that align with your deepest desires and bring you the utmost joy each day. Avoid excessive pondering and excessive speculation about the future. Focus on the present moment, on the authentic path that lies beneath your very feet."


Mr. He Wenfeng never employed the word "dream" to inspire others. Such language belonged to the new generation, who often beat their chests and proclaimed that this kind of passion ignited their spirits, hindered their sleep, and compelled them to take action. Their blood ran fervently, boiling with enthusiasm.


Lin Yi Yang was fortunate to have He Wenfeng as his mentor during his formative years. As a young man, he may not have fully grasped its significance. Still, witnessing the presence of countless seniors from across the nation attending today's memorial, along with all of Mr. He's disciples, the people of Dongxin City should have gained a profound appreciation.


Dongxin City, rather than being labeled solely as a billiard club, embodies a legacy. Its future may witness fluctuations or even thrive further, but the importance of its name remains unaltered.


Moreover, Lin Yi Yang has been designated as the future leader of Dongxin City, a decision personally made by Mr. He before his passing.


Lin Yi Yang's car was not parked in the main lot but in a secluded corner behind the hall. He emerged carrying a cardboard box filled with miscellaneous items he intended to bring back to Dongxin City. Casually tossing the box into the trunk, he settled into the driver's seat, and the passenger-side door was opened by someone who greeted him with a warm smile.


With his right hand still securing his seatbelt, he paused for a few seconds upon seeing her face, then broke into the only genuine smile he had displayed in the past few days. "Fearless of being caught," he remarked playfully.


Yin Guo couldn't help but laugh. "My mother found out," she shared. "But my cousin took the blame for you. He claimed he played matchmaker for us. With him around, everything will be alright."


Lin Yi Yang turned his head to meet her gaze, and she leaned against her seat, their eyes locked in a mutual exchange. Taking the initiative, she reached out and held Lin Yi Yang's right hand on the steering wheel, and he responded by firmly clasping her hand, his fingertips gently tracing over her skin.


"Where were you planning to go just now?" she asked proactively.


"Back to Dongxin City," he replied.


"Then let's go together," she said, her voice filled with determination. "I'll accompany you."


She had never been there before.


Meng Xiaodong eventually relocated the Beijing Club because he found the previous location inconvenient and not centrally located enough. However, Dongxin City remained at the same address since its establishment. The court rented by Lin Yi Yang may not have the best location, but it made up for it with its spaciousness.


The main building stood grand, boasting three floors.


After stepping out of the car, Yin Guo was guided by Lin Yi Yang to the entrance of the main building, where she laid eyes on the sign that proudly proclaimed "Dongxin City Billiards Club." Unable to resist, she allowed her gaze to wander, taking in her surroundings.


The spacious courtyard was enclosed by red walls and an iron gate, giving it a distinct character. The main building stood on one side, while the other was occupied by one- and two-story structures. Behind the smaller buildings was an open parking space designated for vehicles.


Today, most club members have attended the memorial service, resulting in only a few people returning. Alongside Lin Yi Yang's car, there were just three vehicles in total.


As Yin Guo caught sight of Lin Yi Yang, his somber mood seemed to lift slightly. With the day's affairs settled, he felt a sense of closure, and his state of mind had improved compared to the previous days. However, the shadow in his heart had not completely dissipated, and he remained reserved in his words.


Yin Guo, too, had no desire for an extensive conversation with him today; she simply wanted to be by his side.


On the ground floor, young children were engrossed in practicing billiards. They were pretty young, all appearing to be under ten.


Yin Guo followed Lin Yi Yang up the stairs, and on their way down, they encountered Cheng Yan and several young female players from Dongxin City. Cheng Yan had not participated in the recent All-American Open and World Championships, so this was their second encounter since their first meeting in New York.


Cheng Yan was taken aback when she saw Yin Guo; there were too many people at the memorial service, and they hadn't noticed each other.


"Big Brother Six," Cheng Yan called out to him.


The rest of the people joined in, referring to him as "Uncle Liu (Six)."


Lin Yi Yang nodded in acknowledgment.


The girls hurriedly descended the stairs, occupying most of the staircase. Observing Yin Guo's hesitation, Lin Yi Yang immediately took hold of her wrist and guided her up the stairs, choosing the right side. As they turned the corner, their figures vanished from sight.


Cheng Yan remained by the stair railing, grappling with mixed emotions within her heart.


Walking alongside Lin Yi Yang, Yin Guo's attention was divided, partly due to Cheng Yan. She had momentarily forgotten about this concern: with Lin Yi Yang returning to Dongxin City, he would encounter Cheng Yan daily. Meanwhile, her focus would be on competitions and training, resulting in limited time spent with him...


Lin Yi Yang went to the first office on the south side of the second floor and retrieved the key to unlock the door.


The door swung open with a creak, revealing a simple office setup with a desk and a sofa. The coffee table was strewn with cigarette ashes scattered and piled up—a remnant of the late-night conversations held by a group of men. The windows had been open for half the morning, allowing the smoke to dissipate. Lin Yi Yang took it upon himself to close all the windows and draw the curtains, bringing a sense of tranquility to the room.


Taking Yin Guo by the wrist, Lin Yi Yang guided her toward the sofa. He gestured for her to take a seat, and then, visibly exhausted, he lay down on the couch, resting his head on her legs. His voice was hoarse as he murmured, "Feeling a bit uncomfortable... I'll take a nap."


She had never witnessed such vulnerability in him before, not even during his bouts of illness or their long-distance relationship. He had always projected an air of control. However, at this moment, he had let go of the pride that had sustained him in the past few days and revealed his most genuine self.


This was the moment he had yearned for sleep the most since his return, and it was the only time he felt he could truly succumb to it. The decision to take over Dongxin City had only been made yesterday, and all his personal belongings still resided in his own billiard room. The dormitory here had yet to be organized, and there wasn't even a bed in the office—only a leather sofa. Yet, it felt right to return here.


He reminisced about the day during the Qingming Festival when his younger brother had raised a toast to him, repeating the exact words: "Find yourself a home, bro."




Reclining on the sofa in that office, he yearned for nothing more at that moment than one thing: a home.


With her presence alone, he felt content, for she was the only one who remained.

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