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During the Snowstorm

2.5

The World Under the Snow

30

In their youthful days, before they rose to fame, the billiards club was a place where everyone had a nickname.

 

He was known as "Stunner (Duncuo)," Jiang Yang as "Big Thief (Da Dao)," Wu Wei as "Who Cares (Wu Suo Wei)," Fan Wencong as "Vendor (Xiao Fan)," Lin Lin as "Chief Chief (Zong Zong)," and Chen Anan was called "An Mei" because his name had a feminine ring to it. Nicknames were everywhere in the club. The club had several instructors, each with their own group of apprentices. He and Jiang Yang were the most gifted pupils under the tutelage of Instructor He. It was said that Instructor He took on six apprentices in his lifetime, and finally, near the end of his career, he found two kids with exceptional talent. Among them, Lin Yi Yang had the greatest potential and sought out Instructor He on his own accord.

 

In their youth, participating in the national professional group competition was a rite of passage for aspiring billiards players.

 

The winner was not only crowned with glory but also earned a respected nickname. Jiang Yang was the first to claim the championship title and proudly went by "Grandfather Yang." But when it came to Lin Yi Yang, he had to settle for the humbling moniker of "Little Grandfather" due to the presence of two senior players with similar last characters.

 

"What are you doing here playing billiards?" Lin Yi Yang asked Jiang Yang.

 

Jiang Yang is a snooker player and has taught a group of disciples to play nine balls, which is a bit strange.

 

"They are my disciples, but An Mei is teaching them. An Mei switched to nine-ball a few years ago, but he has family issues and can't come early. So I brought the kids here early."

 

"Isn't the competition in April?" Lin Yi Yang remembered correctly that Wu Wei and Yin Guo both competed at that time.

 

"The youth and young adult groups are in March." Wu Wei answered on behalf of Jiang Yang.

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded, "Oh, I see." He then took a sip of his beer.

 

The young adults sitting on the couch were eagerly waiting to chat with Lin Yi Yang.

 

Suddenly, Lin Yi Yang announced, "You guys chat. I'm going to grab some food."

 

He strode into the room, quickly threw on his warm clothing, slipped on his sneakers without socks, grabbed his keys and wallet, and made his way through the living room. Just as he reached the door, he noticed the group of children all staring at him with expectant expressions. Feeling slightly overwhelmed, he gave them a quick wave, considering that as a farewell to them before disappearing out the door.

 

Lin Yi Yang descended the staircase, his steps slow and steady.

 

Two minutes later, he found himself at the same noodle restaurant he had visited before. He had a good memory, and the memories of the delicious noodles that Yin Guo had enjoyed that night still lingered in his mind. The restaurant was quiet, with only a few customers scattered about. The owner, a friendly man whom Lin Yi Yang had known for a year, was free and seated opposite him.

 

They communicated well, each speaking a different language but still able to understand each other. Lin Yi Yang spoke Japanese, while the owner spoke English, and their conversations were lively and enjoyable.

 

"The girl you brought yesterday was quite a looker," said the owner with a nod of approval as he leaned back in his chair.

Lin Yi Yang chuckled and continued to twirl his noodles around his chopsticks. "She's the one you wanted to get to know the moment you laid eyes on her," the owner added, with a knowing smile.

 

Lin Yi Yang didn't deny it.

 

"When did the two of you meet? I mean, what day?" The owner asked, intrigued.

 

"That night, the night I slept here," Lin Yi Yang replied, and the owner's eyes lit up in recognition.

 

"Oh right, the snowstorm!" the owner exclaimed, now fully recalling the night in question.

 

...

 


 



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 



 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 

......

 

Lin Yi Yang took a deep breath and focused on his noodles. The warm broth and the perfectly cooked noodles comforted him, but his mind was far from the food.

 

"Last night, you two were here, but you didn't say a word to her," the boss chuckled.

 

"I used to be quick-tongued and hurt many people," Lin Yi Yang replied. "And with texting and messaging, I'm always worried about misunderstandings since you can't see the person's expressions."

 


 

He sighed, feeling like speaking face-to-face wasn't much better. That conversation on the subway last night felt like a forced date arranged by someone else.

 

"To be honest, we just met, and I don't know much about her," Lin Yi Yang added.

 

He was, in fact, talking about how Yin Guo doesn't know much about him.

 

Lin Yi Yang sat there, staring at the steaming bowl of noodles in front of him, lost in thought. He couldn't shake the feeling that he and Yin Guo were fated never to cross paths. But then, the noodle shop owner spoke up and brought him back to reality.

 

"You know, I used to have the same problem," the owner said with a smile, "My wife was my classmate in high school. I couldn't speak to her normally for a long time, and she thought I hated her. But then she told me she felt wronged, and I finally realized my mistake."

 

He picked up a dish of spicy wasabi octopus and placed it in front of Lin Yi Yang's bowl of noodles. "The key is to speak your most honest words. She'll feel it." The owner gave him a knowing nod as if to encourage him to be true to himself.

 

Yin Guo and Su Wei were playing billiards in the billiard room. Yin Guo, however, was not at her best today and made several mistakes, causing Su Wei to tease her with a grin. "Did you spend the night with the person who beat the regional champion? That's why you're so off your game today," Su Wei teased.

 

At first, Yin Guo simply smiled and didn't say anything, but as the teasing continued, she felt she had to clear the air. "Nothing is going on between Lin Yi Yang and me," she said, trying to put Su Wei's mind at ease.

 

Yin Guo even thought that before last night, Lin Yi Yang may have had a bit of dislike for her. But, of course, Su Wei wasn't buying it. "Come on, I know you're hiding something," Su Wei said with a smirk.

 

Yin Guo brought out her phone and eagerly showed Su Wei the chat logs between her and Lin Yi Yang on WeChat. Su Wei perused the messages, taking in each exchange between the two.

 

The logs clearly depicted Yin Guo always being kind and making long self-introductions, trying to establish a friendship with Lin Yi Yang. However, Lin Yi Yang's replies were always curt and uninterested, consisting of simple responses such as "You're welcome," or "Okay," or just an emotionless expression.

 

There's also that particular painful conversation that took place in Washington. After thanking Lin Yi Yang for entertaining her younger cousin, she received a cold, dismissive "Okay" and an emotionless expression. The conversation ended there, and there was no communication between the two for ten long days.

 

Yin Guo raised an eyebrow and said, "If you're getting worked up over this and thinking that he is interested, then maybe you have a bit too high of an opinion about me."

 

"Never mind what I said before," Su Wei handed the phone back to Yin Guo, "Did you do something to offend him?"

At least Yin Guo has a good temperament. If it was Su Wei, he would have given up on him by now.

 

Yin Guo smiled helplessly, "I may have slightly upset him when we first met."

 

As Su Wei and Yin Guo were practicing billiards, Su Wei noticed that they both seemed to be a little tired. She suggested taking a ten-minute break and stepping outside for a walk to clear their heads.

 

Yin Guo, who had been aimlessly flipping through WeChat on a billiards chair, suddenly remembered she hadn't checked Lin Yi Yang's friend circle. She couldn't help but be curious, so she secretly opened it.

 

To her surprise, the friend circle was completely empty. Not a single post was visible.

 

She was taken aback. Lin Yi Yang was someone who didn't have any friends or connections online, a person without a friend circle.

 

Lin Yi Yang leaned against the wall of the ramen shop, his phone in hand as he scrolled through the chat logs between himself and Yin Guo. He studied each conversation from when they became friends to the previous night, leaving no detail untouched. He rubbed his finger against the empty glass bottle, turning it around in thought as he tried to figure out what he should say.

 

Just then, Jiang Yang, dressed in a sleek black cotton coat, approached the steps of the shop and gestured to Lin Yi Yang inside. The shop owner called out through the glass door, "Is he looking for you?"

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded, grabbed his coat, left the payment on the table, and stepped out into the crisp, cold air. He took a few steps down the stairs.

 

Jiang Yang filled him in, "I had the coach take the children back to the hotel first. Let's go play a game of billiards. When brothers see each other, this should be a perfect way to spend time together."

 

Lin Yi Yang reluctantly agreed to Jiang Yang's invitation, despite initially wanting to decline. However, for some reason, his mood was much better than when he woke up this morning. Maybe because he was just thinking about how to send a message to Yin Guo.

 

Jiang Yang was seemingly deep in thought as he took out an e-cigarette, assembled it, and took a deep puff.

 

"You know," Jiang Yang began, with a hint of amusement in his voice, "you've always impressed me. Of everyone in our group, Wu Wei was the only one with decent grades, but you've managed to make it this far, which no one expected."

Jiang Yang let out a hearty laugh, "If I recall correctly, our middle school grades were counted in reverse, right? Out of the 40 people in our class, I think you ranked around 30th?"

 


 

"During Middle school? Just about right." He remembered.

 

Lin Yi Yang was one of the children in the billiard club who didn't have good grades. Most members of the billiard clubs were either sent there by their parents or were from families involved in the billiard business.

 

Eventually, he chose to leave the club and work hard to improve himself in middle school. His determination to make a change paid off, as he studied day and night, committing himself not only to earning money but also to learning.

 

Despite the odds against him, he dedicated himself to his studies, putting in long hours and working hard to achieve his goals. This paid off, as he went on to study abroad for three years, but throughout that entire time, he never stopped working or pursuing his passions. What work has he not done in the three years of studying abroad?

 

Lin Yi Yang's first year of studying abroad was a challenging one. Despite not being allowed to work, he didn't let that stop him from making money. He found ways to earn cash, even if it meant doing illegal labor. Making money wasn't easy.

 

Wu Wei had tried to advise him to attend a cheaper school to save money. But Lin Yi Yang was stubborn and chose a more expensive school. After a few reminders from Wu Wei, he stopped bringing it up, understanding that this was just part of Lin Yi Yang's stubbornness.

 

With his hands buried deep in his pockets, Lin Yi Yang gazed up at the busy street, watching the cars come and go in the distance.

 

Lin Yi Yang stood tall and proud, reflecting on the past decade of his life. All of his hard work was driven by a powerful phrase from his former teacher: "You, Lin Yi Yang, don't even have a home. Without the billiard club, you won't amount to anything."

 

But now, he was here, standing tall, having overcome all the challenges that came his way. He was no longer bound by the constraints of his past and was free to live life on his terms. He had the power to hold a cue stick, lay it down, and live his life the way he wanted.

 

Jiang Yang, his senior brother, gazed at him with admiration. "These years, it's not been easy, right?" he asked. Lin Yi Yang turned around, flashing an easy smile. "For someone like me, will there be anything difficult?" he replied, still as confident and steadfast as ever.

 

Jiang Yang chuckled as he took another drag from his cigarette, affectionately patting Lin Yi Yang's shoulder. "You're right. For Little Master Yang, there's nothing that he can't handle."

 

Lin Yi Yang glanced at the electronic cigarette in his hand before turning his attention to his senior brother. Jiang Yang seemed to know what he was thinking and pulled out a brand new box of cigarettes from his pocket and a lighter. "I've been trying to quit," he said as he offered them to Lin Yi Yang.

 

Lin Yi Yang glanced at the items before shaking his head. "Nah, I'm good," he said, handing the items back to Jiang Yang. "I prefer a different type of vice." With a teasing smile, he patted Jiang Yang.

 

As Jiang Yang asked with a hint of surprise in his voice, "Why? This is so unlike you."

 

Lin Yi Yang turned to him with a smirk, "How many years have you not seen me?"

 

The two of them continued their banter as they walked into the billiard club, the sound of clinking billiard balls and the murmur of patrons filling the air.

 

The boss, who had noticed Lin Yi Yang's arrival, couldn't help but smile and quickly grabbed a large bucket of ice. He placed it in front of Lin, filled it with seven or eight cold bottles of beer, and pointed towards one of the pool tables.

 

Lin Yi Yang picked up the bucket and walked over to his usual pool table. He placed the bucket down and opened a beer bottle, taking a sip.

 

"You can drink beer here, but you can't smoke that thing," he said, pointing to the electronic cigarette in Jiang Yang's hand.

"Put it away, and grab a cue stick," he added, gesturing towards the rack of cue sticks.

 

Lin Yi Yang took another swig of beer and put the bottle down. He watched as Jiang Yang casually selected a cue stick from the rack.

 

Jiang Yang positioned nine balls in a diamond shape on the blue felt of the table. He looked up at Lin Yi Yang and said, "Are you ready? Let's see who's the better player today."

 

Lin Yi Yang's hand hovered over the white ball as he heard Jiang Yang's nonchalant question. "Last night, I saw a post on WeChat from Wu Wei." Hearing his name caught Lin Yi Yang's attention, and he paused.

 

Jiang Yang was curious, "What girl? From what country? What skin color?"

 

Lin Yi Yang looked at him, pointing to his dark, inky pupils, and replied, "Chinese." He then returned to the white ball, gently rocking it in his hand. "I just met her. She's not as mysterious as Wu Wei made her out to be. And who knows, she might not even take a liking to me," he added with a shrug.

 

Lin Yi Yang aimed with his cue stick, focusing intently on the white ball. Jiang Yang's teasing words lingered in his mind, but he pushed them aside and steadied his shot. Just as he was about to strike, Jiang Yang spoke up again.

 

"So little confidence, Lin Yi Yang? People should know their strengths and bring them out. For example, you have an effortless way with women. Seduction should be the least of your worries, little junior brother." Lin Yi Yang looked up at Jiang Yang, his expression was unreadable. He didn't respond; instead, he bent down and made some final adjustments to his shot.

 

Lin Yi Yang took aim at the white ball, and with a strong shot from his right hand, the white ball made a loud crack as it hit the full table of colored balls. The sound of balls dropping into the pockets continued until only three balls remained on the table. Finally, even the number nine ball rolled into the pocket in front of Jiang Yang.

 

With just one shot, he won the first round.

 

Jiang Yang let out a whistle, impressed by his friend's skills.

 

Lin Yi Yang took a sip of his bottle of wine as he stood up, analyzing the two remaining colored balls on the table. He wondered what message he should send to Yin Guo. Should he start with an emoji or a direct message?

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