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During the Snowstorm

12.1

Dusty Pride

43

The situation unfolded in an awkward manner.


She wanted to surprise him, but due to an unexpected twist of fate, he was not in Dongxin City...


Yin Guo sat on the sofa on the first floor of the main building of Dongxin City, with her luggage to her right and a cup of chrysanthemum tea in front of her. As the "lady boss" of Dongxin City, she was surrounded and observed from all sides, upstairs and downstairs.


Everyone was present at the memorial service that day, but with so many guests, there wasn't much attention to spare. Now, however, hundreds of people from all age groups in Dongxin City were present.


Some were going upstairs or downstairs, some were heading out for competitions, and others were returning from them.


People came and went, greeting Yin Guo with a smile if they knew who she was, and asking the receptionist who the surrounded beauty was if they didn't. Even those not curious were drawn into the spectacle...


The professional players were a bit more reserved, merely greeting her a bit more than usual as they passed by, but the young boys were different. Now surrounding Yin Guo were a group of teenagers, each around fifteen or sixteen years old, all towering over one meter eighty with long legs.


Kids these days really do grow up well...


Yin Guo was almost hidden from view by the crowd surrounding her.


"It sounds weird to call you Auntie Six," suggested a boy with dimples, smiling, "How about Sister Guo instead?"


Someone beside him gave the boy a kick: "She's Uncle Six's wife, you should call her sister."


"That's not my fault, who asked our Uncle Six to go for someone younger? Right, sister?"


"What are you calling her?" At the entrance, a man hurried back by car, stepping up the stairs to chide, "Where are your manners?"


As he spoke, he pulled something from his pocket and tossed it over, backlit by the light.


The boy was slow to react, and another quick-handed kid caught it instead—a sealed bar of dark chocolate.


"Thanks, Uncle Six!" the catcher exclaimed with a smile.


With a sudden burst of laughter, everyone dispersed.


In order to see her, he had gone out early in the morning to get his overgrown hair trimmed, only remembering after getting a buzz cut that he was supposed to meet her parents that evening. This hairstyle was a bit too bold.


Fortunately, he had ironed his shirt and trousers the night before, which were still in his dormitory, so it wouldn't be too embarrassing.


Lin Yi Yang had originally planned to pick her up from the airport, change his clothes, and then go to her house.


Getting a call from Yin Guo saved him the trip to and from the airport.


Under the watchful eyes of the crowd, he refrained from making any intimate gestures, bending down to whisper to her, "Why not sign up with Dongxin City, seeing how popular you are?"

Yin Guo reached for his hand.


He smiled and clasped her hand in return.


Yin Guo stared at the tattoo on his arm, feeling settled the moment she saw it. It reassured her; he was here.


"Signing me up would be less practical than signing her," she said, nodding towards Liu Xiran not far away.


Honestly, she admired the veteran, who had just returned with a world championship gold medal and immediately got back to training as a sparring partner... whereas she, who had placed third, was enjoying the early summer breeze and drinking tea here.


Lin Yi Yang was reminded by Yin Guo's suggestion and stood up straight to call out to Liu Xiran.


"There will be a celebration dinner in the cafeteria tomorrow night for the world championship gold medal," Lin Yi Yang announced.


Liu Xiran was taken aback: "Forget it... I'm not part of Dongxin City, it wouldn't be proper."


"Be there on time." He didn't give her a chance to argue.


Organizing a celebration dinner for the world championship gold medalist, even if it was just in Dongxin City's cafeteria, was the best gift for a girl who felt adrift and longed for a sense of belonging.


Liu Xiran was silent for a moment before finally saying, "Thanks."


Lin Yi Yang smiled: "No need to be polite."


Lin Yi Yang pulled out the handle of her suitcase, asking, "Aren't you leaving?"


He began to walk out, carrying her luggage.


Yin Guo quickly shouldered her bag and followed him.


Lin Yi Yang's dormitory was on the first floor of the neighboring building, at the very end.


Men of Dongxin City lived on the first floor, while the female athletes stayed on the second floor's south side. Due to the fewer number of female athletes, the second floor's north side was equipped with various restrooms and public bathrooms.


As Yin Guo and Lin Yi Yang passed the staircase, they greeted several people coming down from their showers.


Lin Yi Yang responded and opened the door to his dormitory.


He had left in a hurry that morning, leaving the curtains drawn, with only a sliver of sunlight seeping through a gap on the right side, falling on the floor.


Upon entering, she sniffed the air.


The room was filled with his scent.


Seeing her gaze fixed on him, he wrapped an arm around her and placed the suitcase against the wall: "What time is the appointment?"


Yin Guo knew he was referring to the dinner at her house that evening.


That day, her grandmother had insisted on inviting Lin Yi Yang to dinner, her mother tacitly agreed, but her father was not too keen, reluctantly acquiescing to the elder's wishes. However, her father had unexpectedly brought up Lin Yi Yang during a phone call this week.


Although Yin Guo's father was not in the billiards industry, he was once an athlete himself. He understood the difficulties in developing less popular sports and knew that very few people who achieved success were willing to give back. Lin Yi Yang, unexpectedly, became one of those few.


"Well done, well done. The kids of Dongxin City are fortunate."


In the end, during a phone call, her father even inquired when Lin Yi Yang would come to their house, expressing a desire to be home as well to have a good chat with him.


Therefore, she wasn't worried about tonight's dinner at all, except—


"Six o'clock," she said.


"We have plenty of time then," Lin Yi Yang whispered, leaning in for a kiss.


She dodged, "There's something else..."


She hesitated for a moment, then whispered, "My period is over a week late."


In Shenyang, while everyone was excitedly discussing the Asian Games after the competition, her mind was preoccupied with this. Just graduated... just started playing professionally, the thought of being pregnant before marriage was unimaginable for her.


Lin Yi Yang stopped.


He had been planning to spend a couple of hours together in the room, having just reunited, before meeting his future in-laws in the evening and picking up the motorcycle he had bought last time.


Now, all those plans were scattered.


His girlfriend mentioned that they might have a child.


Such matters, during the wildest days of youth, were common among his peers, often dismissed casually. Usually, a brooding statement like "let's chip in for a buddy" was almost always about this.


...


He appeared calm, seemingly without reaction, but in truth, he was unsure how to respond. Seeing her unease, he couldn't help but control his thoughts, resisting the urge to glance down at her abdomen.


An extremely unfamiliar emotion was controlling his nerves, his hand around her tightening unconsciously, wanting to kiss her. He kissed her forehead, his lips pressing against her bangs for a moment.


After a while, he didn't say a word.


Eventually, he tightened his embrace, "It's okay, it's okay. I'm here."


No matter what, they needed to confirm it first.


"Let's talk on the way," he said, drawing from his past experience with his friends, the first step was always to go to a hospital, "We can still go to the hospital."


"No need for a hospital. Let's go to a pharmacy first... we can check it ourselves," Yin Guo pulled on his arm.


A pharmacy? Lin Yi Yang paused for a moment.


Most men know how to make love, having grown up watching videos together, fully versed in the methods. They also know a few ways to prevent pregnancy, as they are educated young people. But how to test for pregnancy...


"Okay, wait here," he agreed immediately.


He took out his phone to search. Surely, there would be information online.


Lin Yi Yang left the room.


Yin Guo sat on the sofa, waiting anxiously, her eyes scanning the room.


He had shipped back all the books from his student days, arranged on the bookshelf next to the sofa. At first glance, she thought she was in the apartment where he had lived during his studies, only more spacious.


That apartment was too small, they had to sit side by side on the edge of the bed to talk. After becoming intimate, they naturally spent their time on the bed, chatting, watching movies, and doing other things.


On his birthday, after returning from the pool hall to the apartment, they turned off the lights, groped each other in the dark, stripped, and crawled under the covers—it was their first time since Hawaii. He felt her pain during the act, stopped in the darkness, kissed her for a long time, used the palm of his hand to relax her, and whispered, asking if it hurt the second time too.


After that, he slowed down, stopped for a while to let her get used to his presence.


At the most intense moments, he restrained himself and stopped. He was a rare man, both in life and in bed... those were some of the most beautiful days they had together.


It felt like just yesterday.


Yin Guo took off her shoes and sat in the corner of the sofa, hugging her knees.


It seemed that as long as Lin Yi Yang was there, he would take care of all her troubles. She emptied her mind, resting her chin on her knees, waiting obediently.


Lin Yi Yang drove to the nearest pharmacy.


After turning off the engine, he saw her message.


Yin Guo: Remember to wear a mask.


Yin Guo: You have a lot of fans. With the competition approaching, make sure you're not recognized.


He always kept the items Yin Guo gave him, never losing them.


He found the black mask she had given him in the storage compartment in front of the passenger seat. Stepping out of the car and walking towards the pharmacy, he thought about putting it on but then decided against it, reasoning he wasn't a celebrity and unlikely to be recognized by many passersby.


His hesitation to wear the mask caught the attention of a young girl at the entrance of a nearby supermarket. She stared at him twice, thinking, "Wow, so handsome, from his face to his demeanor, and that height, he must be a celebrity, right? Is he not yet famous? A contestant in some competition?"


The girl thought about taking a photo, but Lin Yi Yang had already put on the mask and walked past her quickly. She followed him for a few steps, wanting to take a picture but feeling hesitant. After Lin Yi Yang's figure disappeared, she regretted not capturing the moment to share with her group, missing a chance encounter.


Lin Yi Yang was completely unaware of this as he turned right into the pharmacy.


The pharmacy had open shelves, and after browsing twice without finding what Yin Guo needed, he approached the counter where an elderly lady and a gentleman in white coats were standing.


Lin Yi Yang cleared his throat, his dark eyes shifting from the elderly lady to the gentleman.


He couldn't bring himself to speak.


......


The elderly gentleman and lady both looked at him.


After a moment of silence, he took out his phone and showed them the search results on the screen.


...


The elderly gentleman and lady exchanged looks.


"We have these," the elderly lady said, retrieving two boxes from beneath the counter, "Most people buy two boxes."


He looked at the two boxes, pondering for three seconds. A double-check for assurance seemed wise.


Thus, he took out his wallet, paid, and left.


Upon his return, the car was parked in the courtyard of Dongxin City.


Lin Yi Yang rested his left hand on the steering wheel, eyeing the two boxes inside a transparent plastic bag, feeling they were too conspicuous. He feared bringing them in could lead to recognition, which would be fine for him but not for Yin Guo, as she was a girl and it would be inappropriate for others to know about this.


Therefore, he took the items out, stuffed them into his trouser pocket, kept one instruction manual, and discarded the boxes in a trash bin.


Yin Guo received the two sealed plastic bags and an instruction manual from Lin Yi Yang's hands.


He said, "I'll wait outside for you."


She nodded lightly and entered the bathroom.


After a moment, she locked the door, feeling extremely anxious as she looked at the two bags in her hands.


Lin Yi Yang experienced what felt like an eternity waiting in the room.


In three hours, he was supposed to visit his future mother-in-law's house for the first time, and now, he was anxiously awaiting another life-altering event.


A minute later, she asked from inside, "Why are there two?"

Lin Yi Yang coughed unnaturally, "To test twice. The people at the pharmacy said it's more accurate."


"Oh."


Two minutes later.


"Lin Yi Yang?"


He hummed in response, holding his breath in anticipation.


"What if... it's positive?"


She hadn't seen the results yet. He breathed a sigh of relief.


"First, tell me what you think," Lin Yi Yang asked her from behind the door.


"I want to hear what you think..."


...


"Lin Yi Yang?"


"Give me a moment to think of how to explain." He leaned against the wall next to the bathroom, sorting through all his thoughts before slowly speaking, "From your perspective, there are three months until the Asian Games. This, shouldn't be a big issue for your event." Competing in the Olympics and Asian Games while pregnant isn't uncommon for athletes in less physically demanding events, so participating in the Asian Games shouldn't pose a major issue.


He continued, "But you've just started your professional career. Is it appropriate to have a child so early? You'd need at least a half-year's recovery period."


Suddenly, the bathroom door opened.


Lin Yi Yang thought she had completed the test and straightened up.


"I haven't done it yet," she said, shaking the bags in her hand, looking at him nervously, "I'm scared."


...


This back and forth had him sweating too.


"I want to watch you do it," Yin Guo was nearly panicking.


Lin Yi Yang stared at her for a long while before saying, "I would be very happy."


He repeated, "Very happy."


There's no need for nervousness or unease; the man standing before you is much happier than you are.


When Yin Guo had once traveled by train alone to find him, he had considered all possibilities, even if she lost interest or left him, he would still care for her. Even if she fell for someone else, he'd still remember her. He knew once he liked something, he couldn't let go, but he wasn't one to insist.


His past experiences taught him that the connections between people cannot be forced. Loving truly was enough; he didn't insist on her staying with him till the end. But now, his mindset was different. If it turned out to be true, it was her decision to keep it or not; he wouldn't insist.


But on one thing, he would have her listen to him—they must get married first.

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