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During the Snowstorm

13.1

Voice of Youth

65

The training room bustled with activity as snooker tables filled the space, surrounded by familiar faces.


The 6-Red Snooker, a modified version of the game with only 6 red balls instead of the original 15, increased the pace and excitement of the game, making it a women's event at the Asian Games. Yin Guo had secured her spot and aimed to compete for a medal in the 6-Red Snooker event.


Meanwhile, the retired Lin Lin decided to make a comeback, earning a spot as well, with the intention of winning an additional medal for China. Having played snooker since childhood, she had a talent that surpassed most female players.


As for the men's 6-Red Snooker event, it was only fitting that Lin Yiyang and Meng Xiaodong represented China to showcase their skills on the international stage.


In the team event, it was once again Lin Yiyang, Meng Xiaodong, and Jiang Yang provisionally selected as the third player. However, Jiang Yang's recent surgery required a check on his recovery before confirming his participation. Li Qingyan was the backup option in case Jiang Yang could not compete.


Inside the training room, the atmosphere was lively right from the first day. Everyone was already familiar with each other, and their relationships were quite complicated.


Upon Yin Guo's arrival, she found Lin Lin and Jiang Yang chatting in the resting area while Meng Xiaodong sat alone near the door, taking a break.


"Yin Guo is here. Let's get started," Jiang Yang said to Li Qingyan. "Today, I'll practice with you."


Since Jiang Yang couldn't use the cue yet, he could still coach Li Qingyan. That was also one of his tasks during the seventy days of training—to help Li Qingyan make significant progress.


Yin Guo picked up her cue and glanced at her cousin, then looked over at Lin Lin, who was having a drink.


The thought crossed her mind. Why not play with my cousin?


Behind her, a hand gently pushed her towards the innermost snooker table. "You're playing with me," said Lin Yiyang.


She didn't need to turn around to know it was Lin Yiyang.


"You want my brother to play with Lin Lin?" she whispered.


Lin Yiyang glanced at her and tapped her forehead from an angle others couldn't see. "Worry about your match," he said.


Lin Yiyang took his cue from the rack, a specially customized all-black one.


He bent down, racked the balls, and set up a game of 6-red snooker for her. "You did pretty well in the qualifiers; I consider it an entry-level player skill."


She was the first in the national qualifiers... Just an entry-level player?


Snooker was his main discipline, and she, who picked it up halfway through the competition, could indeed be considered entry-level.


"Will practicing with me not interfere with your own training?" She picked up the cue chalk and gently rubbed the cue tip, showing concern for him while stealing glances at her cousin's side.


"I'll have separate sessions with your brother and Jiang Yang. It won't take much time," he said, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.


He noticed that she was still sneakily watching her cousin and Lin Lin, who had already started playing, and it seemed like her cousin wasn't giving in at all.


Before her, he swung the cue, holding the white ball, and said, "Miss, watch me."


Feeling a tad guilty, she gestured towards the snooker table, "Please, go ahead and break."


"I'll break, and then you won't have to worry about this game," he said, handing her the white ball.


Indeed, that was true. If he broke first, he might clear the table entirely.


As she prepared to take her shot, Lin Yi Yang's voice reached her ears, "Snooker is a game of obstacles. You must learn to create obstacles for others," he treated her as if she were a complete beginner, "Even if you're not in the best condition, you must be capable of making your opponent lose the game."


Indeed, it was all thanks to the cunning old man...


Lin Yiyang tilted his chin slightly, signaling her to start.


With a snap, she scattered the balls all over the table.


The four-hour confrontation finally came to an end.


After a break, everyone gathered around the table again.


Meng Xiaodong deliberately set up a challenging position for the black ball and playfully said to Lin Yiyang, "Come on, impress us."


Lin Yiyang grinned in response.


He leaned over the table, seemingly aiming for the bottom pocket, but with a powerful stroke, the black ball didn't go where it expected. Instead, it circled around half of the table and miraculously found its way into the middle pocket near Lin Yiyang's hand. The shot was a success.


"Keep going," Meng Xiaodong urged from the side, a playful challenge in his voice. "Let's see how much trickery you've got."


With the same black ball placed in the same position, Lin Yiyang didn't hesitate for a moment. He flawlessly executed over a dozen different pocketing routes. Each shot was a masterclass in precision and finesse.


Some shots involved the ball circling half of the cushion, others a full circle, and some even completed a circle and a half. With six pockets to choose from, he effortlessly directed the black ball into whichever pocket he desired.


Although it was just one ball, he demonstrated more than a dozen ways to pot it, showcasing his impressive and solid fundamentals. Everyone present, even those unfamiliar with Lin Yiyang's skills, was left in awe by his extraordinary talent.


In her mind, Yin Guo silently practiced, realizing that she could, at most, manage six different routes, and success was not guaranteed for all of them. The precision required for these shots was exceptionally high.


For the final shot, the black ball jumped off the table, landed with a twist, hit the cushion, and rebounded into the bottom pocket.


"That's about it," Lin Yiyang said as he put away his cue.


"Just about it?" Jiang Yang clearly wanted to see more. "Set up some shots."


"Let's see how much you've improved in these past ten years," Lin Lin joked playfully.


"I'm curious too," Meng Xiaodong chimed in with a smile.


...


Lin Yiyang shrugged good-naturedly, "To watch the show, you must pay."


"Enough with the chatter. Let's get to it," Jiang Yang said, eager to see the display of skills without any further delay.


Lin Yiyang sighed and picked up nine balls, arranging them on the table in the shape of an equilateral triangle.


This was a common habit among professional players - setting up balls for self-amusement.


The regular practice could be tedious, so this form of entertainment involved arranging the balls into visually pleasing shapes and then potting them all with one shot. It had a strong performance aspect and was highly enjoyable to watch.


The equilateral triangle was broken open with a snap, and all nine balls were potted without any suspense.


Privately, Yin Guo also enjoyed playing like this, setting up balls in various shapes. Her limit was nine balls.


As Lin Yiyang set up ten balls, she held her breath and watched in awe...


People from Dongxin City had seen Lin Yiyang's childhood skills before; he could pot a maximum of 12 balls at once, arranged in a square.


But now, with 13 balls on the table, Jiang Yang and Lin Lin were also watching more attentively.


Meanwhile, Yin Guo was already wondering how lonely he must have been during those past ten years of practicing alone to come up with so many different patterns...


With 13 balls, he arranged them into an elliptical shape.


With 14 balls, he created two symmetrical arcs.


When he arranged 15 balls, everyone couldn't help but gather around.


Lin Yiyang cleverly arranged the 15 balls into a very orderly double-layered wave pattern, resembling waves on the ocean.


Lin Yiyang aimed at a specific position, and in the quiet room, he struck the cue ball with one stroke. The wave was instantly broken, and all the balls scattered across the table in a seemingly chaotic manner—1, 2, 3, 4, 5... Finally, the 15th ball slowly came to a stop at the pocket's edge, followed by a soft sound, indicating a successful pot.


Yin Guo was thrilled and applauded along with everyone else.


But Lin Yiyang didn't stop there. He took out 16 balls and arranged them on the table into a perfect square shape.


"I've only tried this once before," Lin Yiyang said, adjusting the position of the square to make it even more perfect. "I didn't succeed last time, so let's give it a try today."


He then grabbed a piece of chalk and gently rubbed the tip of the cue stick.


After positioning the cue ball, Lin Yiyang took aim, then suddenly pulled back his arm and struck the ball with force—

The room fell silent.


Yin Guo held her breath as she heard the balls drop into the pockets one by one, and the table became emptier and emptier... All the balls went in! He potted all 16 balls with a single shot; it was incredibly impressive!


Everyone couldn't help but applaud him, and laughter filled the air.


Li Qingyan, Nishizono, and the two players from the Beijing had complex emotions as they all thought back to last year when they first saw Lin Yiyang. No one knew who this stranger was or where he came from, and they had thought of ways to impress him and give him a hard time. But looking at him now, they were truly amazed.


Not only is he exceptionally skilled in competitions, but even in self-entertainment, he is an absolute dominant force.


Just as the coach had said before— he's only doing it to amuse them, out of consideration for Meng Xiaodong's face.


The welcome banquet began in the evening, with separate tables for female and male athletes.


While Lin Yiyang was whispering with Jiang Yang, he caught her gaze as he picked up his chopsticks. He was still locked in eye contact with her in a room with dozens of people at two large long tables and with leaders giving enthusiastic speeches.


Feeling afraid of being noticed, she shifted her gaze away for a few seconds, then looked back, only to find Lin Yiyang still looking at her. Behind her, a coach patted Lin Yiyang's shoulder and called him away.


Returning her gaze, she realized that Lin Lin had been watching the whole time with a smile.


"You two look like a couple in the early stages of love, sneaking glances at each other," Lin Lin whispered.


Feeling a bit shy, Yin Guo softly explained, "We decided not to show too much affection openly since he's the team captain."


Lin Lin smiled and picked up a piece of food with his chopsticks, offering it to her. "Did you know about your brother's withdrawal from the competition when he was 13?" he asked.


"Yes," she replied.


Public records show that Meng Xiaodong won the championship at the age of 14, but he had initially competed when he was 13. However, he didn't perform well and withdrew from the competition midway, so it wasn't officially recorded.


"But there's probably something you don't know," Lin Lin whispered, "Your brother and Lin Yiyang both registered to compete when they were 13. Your brother lost to Lin Yiyang in the group stage and then decided to withdraw. It was only the following year that your brother was determined to win and claimed the championship, which marked his official recognition in the sport."


......


It's no wonder my cousin holds such fond memories and has a special affection for him. The frustration from his first year's withdrawal probably left a lasting impact. It also explains why the coaches in the club always mention that Lin Yiyang and Meng Xiaodong were from the same generation of players.


Lin Lin glanced at Jiang Yang and Meng Xiaodong sitting across the table, feeling a bit emotional. "Jiang Yang also started competing in national tournaments at 13. During the years they had interactions, the first year was when your brother withdrew, and the last year was when Lin Yiyang withdrew. It's quite interesting."


Being born the same year, Lin Yiyang was a few months older than Meng Xiaodong and ranked sixth in the family, both prodigious players.


It's no wonder they were fierce rivals but also admired each other.


After dinner, Lin Yiyang was nowhere to be seen. She intentionally waited until the end, hoping to catch a glimpse of him before going to bed. However, as everyone left the dining hall, he was still absent. Disappointed, she eventually left the cafeteria.


Guided by the moonlight, she walked out of the cafeteria's gate and saw a group of girls ahead who had already stepped out. Just as she was about to catch up with them, she heard his voice calling her from behind, "Yin Guo."


She stopped in her tracks, and the other girls also turned around instinctively.


"I'll walk you back to your dormitory," he said as he approached her.


The other girls immediately turned back, trying to suppress their curiosity, but laughter couldn't be contained.


"You came back just for this?" She felt a bit embarrassed by their teasing.


He didn't deny it, and with a slight gesture, he implied that she should walk towards the sports field. Yin Guo followed in his footsteps.


They ended up walking two laps around the sports field, enjoying the moonlit stroll. Yin Guo found it pleasant, but then Lin Yiyang led her to a secluded spot under the shade of a tree, where they could hide away.


Standing under the tree, Yin Guo looked up and said, "I hope no bugs fall down."


Lin Yiyang used his hand to shield her head and asked, "Are you afraid of bugs?"


"Mhm," she nodded and said, "When I was a child, I got bitten by bugs while standing under a tree on the sports field." She turned her back and touched a spot, "See? There's a scar here."


He chuckled and whispered, "I actually never noticed. I'll pay more attention next time."


Ignoring the "hint" from the cheeky guy, she pretended not to understand and played with the zipper on his training jacket.


"What's the matter? Pulling the zipper as soon as we meet?" he whispered with a chuckle.


But Lin Yiyang wouldn't let the moment pass without action. He had finally found a secluded spot and leaned against the tree trunk, his hands on either side, as he lowered his head and kissed her.


In the midst of their intimate moment, something small and black jumped out of the grass, catching Yin Guo's attention. Her heart skipped a beat as the mysterious shadow darted by, but she couldn't quite make out what it was. However, despite the brief distraction, her heart continued to race, and she found herself lost in the kiss as Lin Yiyang leaned in again.


......


As they finally separated, he remained close to her lips, savoring the moment with slow and tender kisses. However, her mind drifted back to their dinner conversation: "Lin Lin mentioned that my brother withdrew from the competition because of you? I must admit, hearing that makes you seem even more formidable than my brother."


He nodded in acknowledgment, "Your brother did admit it when he was 13."


"...He's really not one to be modest," she remarked.


"On the competition stage, there's no room for modesty," he replied with a knowing smile.


They didn't have much time for a longer date, and after ten minutes, he walked her back to the dormitory.


Once inside, Yin Guo took a quick shower, realizing it was already eleven o'clock. The lights were out, and she fumbled in the dark, secretly spending two minutes blow-drying her hair. She then brought her makeup bag to the bed, chatting with Lin Lin while applying skincare products.


Sharing a room with Lin Lin was the greatest surprise for her, as she got to hear many stories about Lin Yiyang's childhood. However, there were also downsides, as Lin Yiyang's family background cast a shadow over those years, no matter how cheerful they may have seemed. Whatever Lin Lin talked about, Yin Guo listened with a heavy heart.


Around eleven-thirty, Lin Lin fell asleep.


Yin Guo turned off the notification sound and considered sending Lin Yiyang a goodnight message on WeChat. Just as she picked up her phone, she received a message from Lin Yiyang at the same time.


Lin: Had enough chatting?


Lil Li Guo: ... How did you know we were chatting?


Lin: I guessed it.


Lin: Can you guess what we were talking about?


Lin Li Guo: Most likely, you were pitying me.


Lin: ... You guessed it so accurately.


Lin: :)


Lin: Open the window.


Yin Guo was startled by these two words, thinking he was outside the window.


After a moment's thought, she realized it couldn't be possible. Resting at eleven o'clock was a rule, and as the team captain, he wouldn't violate it. Still, her heart was beating unsteadily, so she quietly exited the bed and lifted the curtain.


She gently opened the window and pushed it to the left.


Outside the window was a green shrubbery, with the leaves swaying slightly in the early morning breeze. No one was outside, but on the windowsill, there was an unopened piece of dark chocolate.


When did he put it there? Was it while she was taking a shower?


Quietly, Yin Guo took the chocolate back, closed the window, and locked it.


Lin Li Guo: When did you put it there?


Lin: Before leaving.


Lin: I stood outside the window for two minutes.


She guessed that he probably considered that all the rooms in this row were girls' dorms and didn't want to stand there for too long, fearing someone might see him. He didn't call her either but left the black chocolate on the windowsill. It was a little surprise for her.


Lin Li Guo: If you wanted to pursue someone in the past, I bet you could have won anyone over.


This was a heartfelt remark.


Lin: ?


Lin: Ask Lin Lin what I was like in the past.


Lin: Except for you, I couldn't pursue anyone else.

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