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During the Snowstorm

13.2

Voice of Youth

56

All the lights in the training rooms were turned off, except for one where the lights were still on.


Lin Yi Yang and Meng Xiaodong were both athletes who had participated in several major events. With special permission from the head coach, they had the flexibility to control their training time.


Jiang Yang's left arm was hanging around his neck, dressed in the national team's sports uniform, as he leaned against the wall near the door, observing the nearest snooker table. Meng Xiaodong had started the game at that table, and they had an agreement to take turns potting balls, with each player getting two turns.


After pocketing a red ball and a colored ball, Jiang Yang held the cue, stood up straight, and furrowed his brow slightly. He looked at Lin Yi Yang, leaning against the wall, engrossed in his phone. "Are you even practicing?" he asked.


Lin Yi Yang sent a message to Yin Guo: "Going to sleep."


He then put the phone in his sports pants pocket.


"How have you put up with him all these years?" Lin Yi Yang asked, not addressing Meng Xiaodong's question but instead looking towards Jiang Yang.


"It's not about putting up," Jiang Yang played along, "it's about making concessions."


Lin Yi Yang nodded in understanding.


Meng Xiaodong had never been able to tolerate the Dongxin City crew's laid-back attitude, whether on the field or in the locker room, everyone seemed too relaxed... But he had to admit, ever since Lin Yi Yang's return, his own performance had indeed improved.


People admire strength, and the strong seek out the stronger.

Lin Yi Yang's talent spurred every teammate, reminding them — the potential of humans is limitless; don't slack off.


Seeing Meng Xiaodong's frustration, Lin Yi Yang decided not to tease him further, instead taking his cue to the table: "This kind of practice is pointless. Let's play something faster." He bent over the table, seemingly aiming for a shot but actually continuing to talk to Meng Xiaodong.


"I'm fine with it," Meng Xiaodong said, holding back his urge to scold, his tone cold, "Don't think I haven't played fast before, that I can't do it."


Lin Yi Yang raised an eyebrow, smiling.


The challenge was set between old rivals.


For the next half hour, the balls on that table were practically "flying."


Jiang Yang brought a small bag of pistachios, cracking them open to enjoy the show, filling the room with the sounds of balls hitting, pockets swallowing, and the crackling of shells.


"I'm getting thirsty, gonna get something to drink," Jiang Yang finally announced.


Lin Yi Yang, with a flick of his cue, sent a trick shot flying towards him. Jiang Yang, still wrapped in his jacket, dodged the shot with a smile, holding up a bag of white pistachio shells as he sauntered off.


Soon after, he returned carrying an old-fashioned red thermos and several plastic cups, each sprinkled with a bit of tea leaves, stacked together.


"Take a break," Jiang Yang said calmly, placing the plastic cups on a wooden stool. He poured boiling water into all three cups, "Have some tea."


Meng Xiaodong instinctively frowned, "It's past one in the morning, and you want to drink tea?"


The underlying meaning was: "Aren't you afraid of insomnia?"


"I've been drinking tea for over twenty years. I'm immune to it by now," Jiang Yang chuckled as he set down the thermos, "I don't like drinking tasteless water."


Lin Yi Yang casually picked up a wooden cork and sealed the bottle for him.


Jiang Yang lifted his disposable plastic cup and sipped, "The last time the three of us sat together, we were still young."

Lin Yi Yang nodded in agreement.


"Been waiting for this day a long time," Jiang Yang raised his plastic cup.


"The only one who could get the bosses of two major billiards clubs to go to New York together is you," Meng Xiaodong also raised his cup.


Lin Yi Yang smiled, clinking his cup with theirs: "Among us three, I'm the least eloquent."


"That was the past," Jiang Yang countered with a smile, "Now you're the best at making small talk."


It's different.


Lin Yi Yang, looking at his teenage rivals and friends, felt a whirlwind of emotions. There was so much he could say about their unfulfilled dreams of youth and the years they dominated together, but it all boiled down to: "Thank you for coming to find me."


"Thank you," he repeated.


At the Asian Games in August, armies of athletes converged in one city, ready for battle. The Chinese delegation departed in several groups, arriving in the host city over two days. That day, many fans of Lin Yi Yang, Meng Xiaodong, and Jiang Yang gathered orderly at the airport. Yin Guo, blending in with the team, was pulling her luggage, looking down to send a "safely landed" message to her mom when Lin Lin suddenly grabbed her arm: "Look up."


Yin Guo looked up.


It wasn't just Lin Lin; gradually, more people began to notice the airport billboards, a whole row of Yin Guo's competition photos.


"Is it your birthday?" Lin Lin asked.


Yin Guo shook her head in confusion.


Seeing all this, Lin Yi Yang and the head coach, who were leading the team, also stopped. The head coach, known for his sense of humor, whispered to Lin Yi Yang, with the team's members glancing at Lin Yi Yang, wondering if the captain had arranged this.


But that didn't seem right.


After all, Lin Yi Yang was the national team's captain, and with the entire team competing, such a grand romantic gesture for his girlfriend seemed out of place.


Until a casually dressed young man appeared among the crowd waiting to greet them, wishing Yin Guo luck in winning the gold medal under the watchful eyes of dozens of Chinese team members.


He was surrounded by friends, a group of well-off young men similar to the affluent Chinese students Lin Yi Yang had met during his studies abroad.


Yin Guo recognized this loyal fan, quickly thanked him, and pulled Lin Lin to the other side of the group.


The team remained stationary.


Lin Yi Yang's expression was unreadable, still at the front of the team in his national team tracksuit, his demeanor commanding as captain. His lack of any visible reaction only added to the tension.


But the team wasn't afraid of trouble; they were just eager for some excitement.


Jiang Yang wrapped an arm around Lin Yi Yang's shoulder: "In our sports industry, many marry well."


Fan Wen seriously agreed: "We've lived simple lives since childhood, focused only on training and competing. Simple, hardworking people adorned with honors are attractive to anyone."


...


Suddenly, Meng Xiaodong said, "He's been pursuing Yin Guo for over a year."


Everyone turned to look at him.


"Xiao Guo has a fan at every match," Meng Xiaodong added, "He's quite shy, hardly daring to speak to her. He even asked someone from the business world to approach Yin Guo's dad, hoping for a formal introduction."


Jiang Yang looked at Meng Xiaodong appreciatively — a timely and piercing intervention.


"My sister has had many admirers since she was young. Hasn't she ever mentioned it to you?" Meng Xiaodong looked at Lin Yi Yang.


Once again, he hit the mark perfectly.


Jiang Yang smiled appreciatively, thinking: Maybe it's because of the reputation of "Double Lin" in Dongxin City when we were young, which made Meng Xiaodong misunderstand something? Otherwise, how could he be so precise and merciless with his remarks?


......


Yin Guo was at the end of the team, with the others ahead of her.


Naturally, she couldn't hear what they were saying. She thought there shouldn't be a big deal about it; Lin Yi Yang had fans all over the sports arena in the United States, and she didn't feel anything significant about it. But why did she feel guilty?


After all, she hadn't done anything wrong.


After arriving at the hotel, everyone was arranged to undergo a medical examination.


Male and female athletes were scheduled separately, and she didn't see Lin Yi Yang.


In the evening, they had some free time.


Considering the "little incident" that happened earlier, she decided to quietly visit Lin Yi Yang.


She didn't inform him beforehand, wanting to surprise him.

Yin Guo arrived at Lin Yi Yang's hotel floor and lightly knocked on the door.


Yin Guo knocked on the hotel room door, and Jiang Yang opened it, giving her a warm smile. He gestured toward the bathroom, indicating that he was taking a shower.


"Is it okay?" she asked in a low voice.


"Of course," Jiang Yang replied with a smile, taking a key card from the cabinet. "I'll step out, take your time to talk." His smile was full of unspoken meanings, leaving Yin Guo puzzled about his intentions.


Once Jiang Yang had left and she had closed the door behind him, Yin Guo stealthily opened the bathroom door. The sound of water and the mist of steam revealed a tall figure's silhouette behind the white shower curtain, unmistakably Lin Yi Yang.


She remained silent, waiting beside the marble sink for him to finish his shower.


The man inside, mistaking the door's sound for Jiang Yang's return, called out, "You haven't left yet?"


Yin Guo bit her lip, holding back a laugh, trying not to make a sound.


The water stopped.


"Been holding back all afternoon, didn't even eat much—" As the shower curtain was pulled aside, Lin Yi Yang reached for a towel on the silver metal rack, his hand pausing mid-air.


Catching her first glimpse of him entirely bare under the warm yellow light, his body glistening with water droplets, defined muscles... Yin Guo's heart raced, her gaze wandering, struggling to focus.


Caught between looking and not looking, Lin Yi Yang had already grabbed a towel, hastily drying his hair and upper body before silently approaching her.


Their knees and thighs were wet from contact, and his semi-damp hand covered her waist, pulling her close: "What are you looking at?"


Concerned about her clothes getting wet and not being able to leave, she protested, "Dry off first, you'll get my clothes wet, and I won't be able to go back."


Lin Yi Yang, holding the towel in his right hand, slid the bathroom door shut and locked it.


Their maximum physical contact over the past seventy days of training had been kisses and hand-holding; anything more was unexplored territory. The mere intertwining of gazes in such an atmosphere was overwhelming. Lin Yi Yang pulled her close to the sink, kissing her, his grip on her shoulder alternating between gentle and firm, eventually sliding downwards.


"Stop it..." She felt dizzy from the heat, noting the strength in his grip, which usually meant he truly desired her.


In the lingering mist, Lin Yi Yang's eyes were intensely dark, humorously asking, "What counts as messing around?"


Struggling for a moment, Yin Guo suggested, "Just kissing..."


"Okay," he agreed slowly.


Lin Yi Yang lifted her, wrapping the clothes set aside on the towel around her, and took her back to the room, not forgetting to lock the main door on their way.


Inside, Lin Yi Yang and Jiang Yang's suitcases lay open and unpacked. Jiang Yang's bed was cluttered with miscellaneous items, while Lin Yi Yang's was beside the window, his dirty clothes tossed on the sofa. He placed Yin Guo on the bed, leaning over to kiss her lips, forehead, and eyes... One was completely undressed, and the other fully clothed, their actions never crossing boundaries.


The fire was burning intensely, threatening to turn their hearts and bodies to ashes. Though they were both lost in desire, they still tried to hold back from going too far. They had competition ahead and didn't want to risk any negative consequences.


Even though they had locked the door and no one would know, they still felt the need to keep that boundary within their hearts.

With her eyes closed, Yin Guo reached out to touch his body, wanting to help him. But Lin Yi Yang gently caught her hand and placed it on her own abdomen, firmly pressing his body against hers. He chuckled softly and asked, "What are you touching?"


......


"It was you all along, not me," she met his gaze. "You mentioned feeling pent-up this afternoon?"


He didn't deny it.


"...It wasn't because of me, was it?"


"What do you think?" he countered.


Yin Guo's hand slid down again, only to be caught and pulled back up by him; this time, he truly laughed: "Looking for something?"


The word "looking" was their unspoken cue for teasing, often mentioned in bed.


"I just wanted to touch my name," she playfully argued.


This time, he didn't stop her, allowing her to continue.


Yin Guo touched his waist and traced his abdominal muscles until she found her name. With her palm resting there, she felt an indescribable warmth knowing that her name was on this man's body.


The thought of him competing in multiple events and winning many gold medals, gaining more and more fans in the future, and the fact that her name was already on his body, made her feel a sense of complete satisfaction and even a hint of vanity.

He ran his fingers through her long hair and suddenly asked, "Will you stay at my place?"


Living together?


"My parents don't like cohabitation," Yin Guo thought about the possibilities, "It might not be possible if we live together all the time."


Occasionally staying for a couple of days shouldn't be a problem, she pondered.


Lin Yi Yang didn't say much, and Yin Guo noticed that his gaze hadn't shifted away. She wanted to comfort him, assuring him that it was okay and that she had plenty of excuses to stay at his place. Her nose was lightly touched.


"Silly girl, letting you stay isn't about wanting something with you; it's about wanting to marry you," he said with affection in his eyes.


He rolled off the bed, pulled out underwear and pants from the suitcase, finally dressing his lower body neatly, covering up the boundless allure.


Yin Guo didn't dwell on the matter for too long; instead, she noticed a guitar lying on the sofa. "Did Jiang Yang bring this?" she asked.


"Yes," Lin Yi Yang glanced at the guitar, "His blind date partner likes artistic and literary types. He picked it up recently. He used to play it before, but it was abandoned for more than ten years. He picked it up again to impress the girl."


"My brother learned to play the piano when he was young."


"In our generation, if families had money, they would send their kids to learn the piano," Lin Yi Yang commented, "Guys like Jiang Yang would self-learn the guitar." Otherwise, they would join a band or use it as a tool to pick up girls.


Jiang Yang's family background is similar to Lin Yi Yang's before his parents passed away. He has had multiple girlfriends, so he naturally excels at this.


"And what about you?" Yin Guo asked.


"Me?" Lin Yi Yang shook his head, "I'm not interested in those things."


It seemed like he was the most boring person; apart from competitions and practice, he didn't have any other memories.

Yin Guo hopped off the bed and approached Lin Yi Yang, her hand gently sliding down from his waist tattoo. As he wrapped his arm around her lower back, she pressed her fingers against his skin, feeling the warmth of his touch.


Noticing the stubble on his chin, she couldn't resist running her fingertips across it, savoring the roughness against her skin. Lin Yi Yang met her gaze, and a playful smile danced on his lips as he said, "Why don't you go out for a while? If I stay any longer, I won't be able to control myself."


Today had been intense. In the afternoon, a fire was burning in his heart, and now, he felt the same intensity pressing against his body.


It felt like a great weight pressing down, waiting for a moment of release to stretch and move freely.

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