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During the Snowstorm

11.6

Tide of Fate

48

In the rest area, everyone observed Lin Yi Yang's current state.

 

He wanted to grab a piece of fruit, only to discover the platter was already empty. His hand hovered in mid-air for a moment, and then he snatched half a bunch of grapes from Chen An'an's hand. After eating a few grapes and finding them unsatisfying, he turned his gaze toward the others.

 

"So, is that all?" they looked at everyone, seeking confirmation.

 

The crowd also looked at them, slightly puzzled.

 

They thought to themselves, "Wasn't it you who called us here?"

 

Of course, Lin Lin skillfully seized the opportunity: "I have something small to discuss. The World Nine-ball Championship is about to begin."

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded in acknowledgement. Of course, he was aware that Yin Guo would be participating.

 

"We're leaving on Thursday, a week in advance," Lin Lin added.

 

Initially, the statement didn't seem inappropriate.

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded again and placed the grapes back into the fruit platter. "Alright, let's end the meeting."

 

As they left the main building, Lin Yi Yang finally realized what was wrong and asked Lin, "We're leaving this Thursday?"

 

"Yes," Lin Lin replied, descending the stairs and swiftly making his way out.

 

Lin Yi Yang was still contemplating the news. It meant the plan to have dinner at Yin Guo's place this week was off the table.

 

Unaware of Lin Yi Yang's thought process, everyone went their separate ways, retrieved their cars, and headed home.

 

Lin Yi Yang stood at the entrance of the building, watching as his brothers' cars drove away one by one through the iron gate, still pondering over the dinner plan. He received another message from Yin Guo on his phone.

 

Lin Li Guo: My grandmother always stays at my place and doesn't go out. Let me know which day is convenient for you.

 

Lin Yi Yang smiled as he read the words on his phone screen.

 

Silly girl, she still doesn't know anything.

 

Yin Guo noticed that Lin Yi Yang hadn't replied for a while.

 

Is he still busy?

 

Lin Li Guo: Let's talk after you're done with your busy schedule.

 

This time he replied immediately.

 

Lin: Don't you know I'm leaving for the World Championships on Thursday?

 

Yin Guo was a little confused but realized Lin Lin must have received the news firsthand since she was part of the coaching team.

 

Although it was only Monday, arranging the dinner for the next couple of days wouldn't be a problem. However, Yin Guo could sense that Lin Yi Yang was in a low mood, and she didn't want him to have any social obligations. These days were too special for him.

 

Lin Li Guo: Let's wait until I return in two weeks.

 

He didn't reply immediately.

 

After half a minute, Lin Yi Yang sent a voice message.

 

Lin Yi Yang returned to his office and didn't turn on the lights. He poured a cup of hot water and placed it on the coffee table.

 

He put his phone on speaker and placed it beside him.

 

Sitting on the leather sofa with his legs crossed, he rested them on the edge of the coffee table. He thought about how, in the past, when his teacher was still around, he would often sit in this posture, in roughly the same position.

 

These past few days, he had been so busy that he hadn't had a moment for personal reflection or a moment to grieve.

 

As tasks piled up and plans unfolded, each had to be executed flawlessly. Lin Yi Yang couldn't afford to let others think that his teacher and Jiang Yang had made a mistake in their judgment. After all, he had been absent from the scene for over a decade and needed to earn the trust of others.

 

Despite being busy for so long, he felt a sense of emptiness within himself. Losing his mentor was something he couldn't quickly recover from.

 

Although he had opened the voice message, he didn't say much.

 

"Do you want me to talk to you?" Yin Guo asked on the other end. "Or would you like us to video call so I can keep you company?"

 

She understood him well and knew that he needed companionship, not just words of consolation.

 

In a soft voice, Lin Yi Yang said, "Just talk about anything."

 

The place was too quiet there. The main building had no dormitories, and he was the only one left in the entire building. He wanted to hear her voice.

 

Having developed a year-long long-distance relationship, they had established a level of understanding and often spent their evenings on voice calls while doing their own things. So Yin Guo was accustomed to this kind of interaction. On the other end of the phone, she continued to pack her luggage and tidy up the room, engaging in idle chit-chat with him.

 

She spoke about trivial matters of daily life, and he listened.

 

He recalled that year when he had argued with Chen An'an and the coaches on An'an's behalf. He had hidden there to sleep and was awakened by his teacher covering him with a coat the next day.

 

Without opening his eyes, he heard his teacher say, "From now on, learn how to interact with people without being confrontational. Stand tall and don't fear the judgment of others. The most fearsome thing is the power of words spoken by people."

 

......

 

"On the day my parents passed away," he suddenly said, "I didn't cry at the memorial service. I don't know why. I didn't feel the urge to shed tears. On the other hand, my younger brother cried intensely, and our relatives criticized me for talking behind my back for several years."

 

There was a pause on the other end of the phone as she remained silent, processing his words.

 

"Did you find it strange to see me like that today?" he asked softly.

 

At that moment, she recalled the scene vividly. He stood at the very end among all the family members and disciples. Everyone was in tears as they shook hands, except for him, the favored disciple, who remained composed.

 

She could tell that others noticed it, too.

 

Hearing Lin Yi Yang's question, she became a bit worried, afraid there might be gossip and speculation behind their backs. To put it nicely, it could be attributed to overwhelming sorrow, but in a harsher sense, anything could be said.

 

"No," Yin Guo said softly. "I didn't think so. My mother paid attention to these things and said nothing about you."

 

On the other end of the phone, there was silence.

 

After a while, she heard him say, "I'm going to bed. I'll see you off on Thursday."

 

Yin Guo was waiting for him to hang up, but the call remained connected, and he didn't end it.

 

She had finished washing up while chatting with him. Now, she had slipped under the thin air-conditioned blanket, resting her head on her arm with the phone on speaker mode by her pillow. She turned off the light and settled into her pillow, slowly drifting off to sleep.

 

She didn't sleep soundly that night, waking up several times, but the call remained connected. Around 4 o'clock, there was some commotion on his end, perhaps the sound of a police car or a fire truck passing by, which stirred her from her sleep. She considered calling him but decided against it. When she opened her eyes again, she saw sunlight seeping through the curtains—it was morning.

 

The call had been ongoing for 6 hours, 27 minutes, and 34 seconds, and it still hadn't ended.

 

"...Lin Yi Yang?" she murmured, her eyes closed, softly calling out to him.

 

"Are you awake?" His voice echoed softly in her ears as if his breath lingered in the air.

 

Feeling the weight of drowsiness, she responded with a soft

 

"Mmm."

 

"I'll hang up now. You can go back to sleep."

 

"Mmm, I want you to kiss me," she murmured gently, a phrase that had become a small pleasure in their long-distance relationship.

 

He replied, "Kissed."

 

It felt as if Yin Guo had truly been kissed, and she hugged the space in front of her, nestled in her air-conditioned blanket, a smile gracing her face.

 

The call ended quietly, coming to a close at 6:28:19.

 

Lin Yi Yang finished washing up and headed to the cafeteria to grab a meal. As he collected his food and found an empty table for four, he noticed three senior coaches occupying the remaining seats.

 

Calmly unwrapping a steamed bun, Lin Yi Yang began eating, patiently waiting for the coaches to initiate the conversation.

 

"Xiao Liu," Teacher Fan Wencong spoke up, taking the lead, "Your plans appear overly simplistic. Sending thirty players—isn't that excessive?" Dongxin City only had three players who had the potential to enter the snooker world rankings, so sending thirty seemed like a waste of resources.

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded, as if acknowledging their concerns.

 

"You're right," he agreed.

 

A collective sigh of relief swept through the group.

 

"But if we had been too calculative about everything, there wouldn't have been Dongxin City in the first place, would there?" Lin Yi Yang humbly responded, posing a question to the coaches. He subtly shifted the focus to the origin of Dongxing, steering the conversation away from further discussion.

 

None of the first batch of students from Dongxin City achieved fame. Even He Laoshi only took on two highly talented apprentices when he was already in his sixties. By referencing the city's origin, Lin Yi Yang redirected the conversation.

 

"Now let's discuss organizing the tournament," Coach Xin transitioned to the next topic. "I understand your ambitious aspirations, much like your teacher. However, I believe we should prioritize our own home first."

 

Lin Yi Yang took a sip of rice porridge and nodded again, giving the impression of agreement.

 

"You're right, Dongxin City will always be our primary focus," he affirmed his stance.

 

The others glimpsed a glimmer of hope.

 

"But this matter itself benefits us. Once the industry thrives, your position will be completely different," Lin Yi Yang stated.

Coach Xin shook his head. "I'm old. I don't care about that."

 

Lin Yi Yang smiled. "Even if you don't care, think about our children."

 

Without waiting for a response, he continued, "Let's not talk about snooker. Just take a quick look at the women's nine-ball rankings. The majority of the top players are Chinese. How proud is that? But nobody knows, nobody wants to know, and nobody cares."

 

"I don't want our children to go out and say they play billiards only to be ignored," he concluded.

 

"I want to see the day when they step onto the arena, with a full house and the crowd's roar when they win the championship. But what about now? Apart from the coaches, there are hardly any spectators in the stands."

 

Coach Xin sighed. "But everyone knows that the bottleneck in the industry lies in its lack of popularity. It's not an Olympic sport; even the Asian Games no longer include it. The level of support from the government is definitely insufficient."

 

Lin Yi Yang finished eating the remaining buns, pondered for a moment, and said, in his usual manner, "You have a point."

 

The old coaches couldn't help but chuckle at the situation.

 

Coach Xin spoke up, "Xiao Liu, you don't have to agree with everything right from the start. Let's have straightforward conversations."

 

He lowered his head and quickly finished his porridge in a few mouthfuls. "The Olympic Games started in 1896, and it wasn't until 1988 that table tennis was included. Each sport grows gradually. Billiards associations from various countries are applying for inclusion. Bread will always be there," he placed his unopened milk bottle among the old coaches, "and so will milk."

 

Lin Yi Yang left, placing his tray in the recycling area, and walked through the group of athletes, heading towards the morning sunlight.

 

Everyone was stunned—was this the same guy from before who used to shave his head daily, get into fights for no reason, ignore everyone he met, and be wild and reckless?

 

Unable to convince Lin Yi Yang, the old coaches remained worried and visited Jiang Yang in the hospital under the guise of a "get-well visit."

 

Jiang Yang had just undergone surgery on his arm. He held his plastered right arm with a white cloth draped around his neck, appearing weakened.

 

Struggling to find a comfortable position, he leaned against the corner of the sofa and spoke with labored breath, "You know what kind of temper my young disciple has. He desires rankings, higher prize money than me, and the freedom to roam like a wild crane. He wouldn't have returned if it weren't for emotional ties holding him back." Jiang Yang coughed a few times and offered to pour tea for the old coaches. "Let me pour you a cup of tea to calm your frustrations."

 

It was evident that his recovery was far from ideal. Even lifting the teapot proved to be a challenge, prompting the coaches to quickly take over and receive the teapot.

 

Jiang Yang let out a long sigh, his voice filled with genuine sorrow, "With all these injuries, I can't carry on any longer."

 

His words resonated with profound sadness, reflecting the weight of his decision.

 

The old coaches returned to their contemplation. What else could they do? They had no choice but to let Lin Yi Yang have his way. As the favored disciple of Master He and the rightful successor of Dongxin City, his authority couldn't be challenged.

 

Within a week, the core members of the younger generation expressed their support for Lin Yi Yang through their actions.

 

The most influential players in Dongxin City, including Lin Yi Yang, increased their ownership shares from the original 20% to 50% in their respective clubs. This strategic move effectively silenced any criticism or doubts.

 

Two weeks later, Jiang Yang was discharged from the hospital, and Lin Yi Yang went to pick him up and brought him to his private billiards room.

 

Jiang Yang's surgery had been successful, and he was recovering quickly. Despite his arm still being in a sling, he retained the charismatic aura of a seasoned player. Unsurprisingly, he could still captivate and charm people, including the ladies.

However, that day was merely a facade, a deliberate act of displaying weakness.

 

Inside the lounge area, Lin Yi Yang had Sun Yao brew a pot of coffee, and they both settled down on the sofa to chat.

 

"You really frightened the old coaches in the beginning. As people age, they tend to become more risk-averse," Jiang Yang remarked with a smile.

 

Lin Yi Yang maintained his silence, his mind still immersed in the words he had finally expressed after keeping them buried for so long.

 

Meanwhile, Jiang Yang took a slow sip of his coffee, relishing the taste as he savored the well-deserved leisure. He casually asked, "She's returning today, right?"

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded in confirmation.

 

"Well, why don't you go and pick her up?" Jiang Yang attempted to keep the conversation going.

 

Lin Yi Yang gave him a knowing look as if to say, "Do you think I've forgotten?" He glanced at the clock, acknowledging the time.

 

He went to the far right of the cue rack, selecting a cue and casually bouncing it in his hand. Rather than focusing on potting the balls, he used the cue to gently nudge the red balls on the table, allowing them to scatter freely.

 

In the end, he positioned a black ball and a white ball on the table.

 

"In all seriousness, I have some good news," Jiang Yang said, taking out a cigarette from his pack but refraining from lighting it. He played with it in his hand, wearing a smile as he looked at Lin Yi Yang, deliberately prolonging the suspense. "Snooker will be included in this year's Asian Games."

 

Lin Yi Yang, who had been preparing to take his shot, froze, his hand suspended in mid-air for three or four seconds.

 

Since the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, snooker has been excluded from major multi-sport events. It had been so many years, and he had almost lost track of how long it had been removed.

 

"I thought you had forgotten our childhood conversations," Jiang Yang said, still smiling.

 

Lin Yi Yang remained silent, his gaze fixed on the solitary black ball amidst the cluster of red balls. With utmost precision, he executed a beautiful curved shot. The ball traveled along an incredibly challenging angle, striking and successfully potting the black ball.

 

Even though he had retired many years ago, and even though he now maintained a detached attitude towards world rankings, this was something he could never forget.

 

It was deeply ingrained in his heart, the earliest seed planted within him.

 

Every child who ventured into sports from a young age has experienced this. Parents or coaches would gather them as young children, pointing to the Asian Games or Olympic Games on the television screen, urging them to watch as the national flag was raised. It would ignite their fighting spirit, allowing them to envision themselves standing on the same grand stage as future sports heroes.

 

Lin Yi Yang and Jiang Yang shared the same experience in their youth, watching from their teacher's office. It was the initial spark of their dreams.

 

This dream had nothing to do with prize money, and it had nothing to do with rankings.

 

Thousands upon thousands of children embarked on their journeys at a tender age, navigating through daily and yearly cycles of relentless training, enduring injuries, and engaging in fierce competition. From a young age, this was the sole focus of their lives, and it would continue to define their paths for many years to come.

 

But on that prestigious podium, there are only three coveted spots, and only one grants the privilege of hearing the national anthem resound.

 

As an athlete, even in a sport like snooker that may be considered less popular and has been excluded from the Asian Games for numerous years, who wouldn't yearn to proudly don the national flag on their chest and seize a championship for their country?

 

Even if that chance may come once in a lifetime.

 

Let this generation of snooker players have the opportunity to strive for the honor and glory of their nation.

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