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During the Snowstorm


The Scenery After the Snowstorm


"There's a DIY Menglong store nearby," Lin Yi Yang said, pointing in a certain direction. "It's just a short walk from here."


Yin Guo's eyes lit up with excitement. "Really? A custom store? Can we go check it out?"


As Lin Yi Yang observed, all girls seemed to love this type of thing.


In fact, Wu Wei doesn't need to send the location; he has been there once.


Lin Yi Yang remembered his previous visit to the DIY ice cream shop. It was that time when he met the couple who went to the hotel who had a wild time. They had customized identical ice creams and shared a kiss while eating. Despite drinking his coffee, Lin Yi Yang remained expressionless throughout the experience and was critical of the limited seating available, anticipating that customers would have to stand if the shop got crowded.


But his perspective changed when he saw the gleam in Yin Guo's eyes. The sight of her joy made him realize that perhaps the atmosphere and experience of enjoying ice cream together were more important than having a seat.


But just 20 minutes later, Lin Yi Yang's perspective on the shop changed again.


As they walked through the crisp, cold wind, they arrived at the shop only to find it empty and without a single employee in sight. The two of them looked at each other, and Lin Yi Yang decided to give Wei Wu a call.


"Wei, I'm at the DIY Menglong store, but it's closed," he said.


"Oh, I forgot to mention, it closes in October," Wei Wu responded after realizing the store was closed. "I didn't notice that either. During the winter, everyone is inactive, so I wouldn't have seen anything. Where are you guys? I'll bring Meng Xiaotian there over in a bit."


"I'll send the address to you in a moment," Lin Yi Yang said before hanging up the phone. "The store is closed."


After a brief moment of contemplation, he turned to Yin Guo and said, "Come on, let's find a sheltered place to wait for them. I'll send the address to Wei Wu."


The two continued down the street in SOHO, and after several turns, they found a cozy restaurant where they could wait.


Lin Yi Yang walked into the restaurant, with Yin Guo following close behind. The owner was sitting alone at the bar, intently watching a baseball game broadcast, when Lin Yi Yang approached and knocked on the counter. The owner turned around, his face breaking into a warm smile upon seeing the two of them.


"Did you visit this week?" the owner inquired.


"Yes," Lin Yi Yang answered. "We'd like to have afternoon tea, and I'd like an ice cream, something similar to the customized Menglong."


"Of course," the owner replied. "I'll prepare that for you right away."


Lin Yi Yang guided Yin Guo to a cozy spot inside the restaurant, offering respite from the cold wind outside. Before long, the owner returned to their table with a generous scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream and an array of decorating tools.


Lin Yi Yang went back outside to purchase a package of fragrant edible rose petals and a handful of bright red berry chips. Upon his return, he eagerly presented the ingredients to the owner, who then expertly topped the ice cream with a layer of rich white chocolate coating and sprinkled it with rose petals and berries. It was a stunning, visually appetizing masterpiece that looked as good as it tasted.


Finally, the owner drizzled a rich chocolate syrup on top of the ice cream and presented it to Yin Guo with a friendly smile.

"Thank you," Yin Guo said politely, her eyes lighting up at the sight of the beautifully decorated treat.


"No problem, this kid pays anyway," the owner chuckled, giving Lin Yi Yang a friendly pat on the arm. "Hey, want to watch the Dodgers game with me? I've got live tickets."


Lin Yi Yang shook his head with a bittersweet smile. "I'm too busy with graduation to watch the game," he said. "But thank you for the offer."


The owner nodded understandingly and then turned back to the TV. "Just let me know if you need anything," he called out over his shoulder as he settled back into his seat.


Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo sat at the table, enjoying their ice cream.


"Is the person who made the ice cream your friend?" Yin Guo asked in a soft voice.


"I know him from the ball room," Lin Yi Yang answered. "He's a retired baseball player, and he's also pretty good at pool."

As they spoke, Lin Yi Yang checked his phone and sent the address to Wei Wu. He also grabbed the menu from the next table and started looking it over.


"Graduation is coming up. Aren't you busy?" Yin Guo asked as she savored her ice cream.


"It's manageable," Lin Yi Yang replied with a shrug.


Actually, Lin Yi Yang was drowning in work. His classmates in Washington, having heard of his visit to New York, have told him that he was crazy.


She ate a couple of bites and asked curiously, "Are you planning to stay here, or are you going to return to China after graduation?"


Between staying in the bustling city or returning to his home country after graduation, he hasn't thought much about this. Each option presented its unique set of opportunities and challenges, and he had yet to make a final decision.


As he sat across from the girl, he felt a rush of uncertainty wash over him. Their relationship was still a mystery to him, and he couldn't shake the feeling that he was missing something important. He didn't know if she had a significant other or not.


Lin Yi Yang sat back in his chair, the weight of his uncertain future pressing on him. "I haven't decided yet," he replied to Yín Guǒ's question.


She took a couple more bites of her ice cream and then asked, "Are you considering playing professional matches?"


Lin Yi Yang chuckled self-deprecatingly. "Me? Never thought about it," he said, shaking his head.


Lin Yi Yang never thought about going back to playing billiards.


However, in Yin Guo's opinion, it would be a waste for Lin Yi Yang not to give it a try, given his skills.


"I think you should try professional billiards," she suggested kindly.


Lin Yi Yang closed the menu and tossed it onto the neighboring table. "Many talented players choose not to participate in international competitions and stick to regional ones. Do you know why?"


Yin Guo shook her head.


Lin Yi Yang explained, "There are a variety of reasons why some players skip international competitions and only participate in regional ones. Some may not be driven to aim for a world ranking, while others may struggle with performance anxiety in larger events."


He continued, "As for me, I tend to struggle in big competitions and simply can't seem to perform at my best."


Yin Guo couldn't help but chuckle at the thought. "Impossible," she said with a smile.


Lin Yi Yang raised an eyebrow and asked playfully, "Why not?"


Lin Yi Yang understood that as they continued to get to know each other, the topic of their pasts would inevitably come up. And with Yin Guo's older cousin being Meng Xiaodong, it was only a matter of time before she found out what kind of person Lin Yi Yang was.


The thought made Lin Yi Yang feel somewhat uneasy. He didn't even know what kind of person he was, let alone what others might say about him.


Yin Guo seemed to sense his discomfort and awkwardly fell silent.


He leaned back in his chair and cast his gaze to the shelves of wine bottles, a glint of inspiration in his eyes. "Have you ever tried sweet wine?" he asked with a hint of curiosity.


Yin Guo raised an eyebrow, "Is it good?"


Lin Yi Yang chuckled, "It's not a matter of being good or bad. It's just a unique experience. The owner of this place had a bottle opened last time I was here. I'm not sure if it's still available."


She shook her head, "I've never tried it. What's it like?"


Yin Guo eagerly nodded in agreement to try the sweet wine. Lin Yi Yang closed the menu and rose from his seat, making his way over to the man overseeing the billiard match. He returned with a wine glass filled with a dark red liquid in no time.


As Yin Guo leaned forward and sniffed the wine, she asked, "How sweet is it?"


Lin Yi Yang took a small sip, his eyes lighting up as he remembered the taste from last month. "It's not sweet," he explained, "It's a 20-plus-year-old vintage sweet wine that's quite strong. We're lucky. This is the last glass left."


The deep and rich flavor of the aged wine lingered on Yin Guo's tongue as she savored her slow sip. She couldn't help but appreciate the rarity of the opportunity, regardless of one's wealth, to taste a vintage wine that would never exist again once the bottle was consumed.


"What do you think?" Lin Yi Yang asked, his gaze fixed on her reaction.


"It's intense and burns the throat, but it has such depth and character," she replied, still savoring the flavor.


She savored each sip of the rare, vintage sweet wine, knowing it was the last glass available. As she basked in the rich, intense flavor, Wu Wei and the others walked in, observing her and Lin Yi Yang seated across from each other.


Recognizing the color and glass, Wu Wei quickly took a seat and realized the significance of what she was drinking. The wine was served in a special glass, reserved only for vintage sweet wines at the establishment.


"This wine is excellent. Let's open a bottle and savor its unique flavor," Wu Wei suggested with a warm smile.


You've splurged your monthly food budget on this one bottle of antique wine. Why settle for a cheap pizza when you can indulge in the rare taste of this three-hundred-dollar bottle of antique wine for others? If you still think you are not interested in her, I will share the same surname with you.


Wu Wei sat down and took out his phone with a steely expression.


Wu Suo Wei: The purpose behind giving someone vintage wine to drink is lost if there's no action to back it up. Not only is such an expensive bottle unappreciated, but it's also a waste.


Lin Yi Yang glanced at the message from Wu Wei but decided to leave it unopened.


Yin Guo savored each sip of the wine, relishing its depth and complexity.


Although it was strong, the combination of seafood and wine created a comforting warmth in her stomach.


Meng Xiaotian expertly orchestrated the gathering, and the two gentlemen at the table impulsively ordered the most basic champagne. The glasses, filled with sparkling liquid, were arranged on the table. However, the hue of the champagne in Yin Guo's glass was a deep, alluring color that set it apart from the others.


As the night progressed, Lin Yi Yang inquired about Yin Guo's practice schedule. Upon discovering that it was almost time, he bid farewell to Wu Wei and Meng Xiaotian, who were still deep in their revelries at SOHO. Lin Yi Yang then escorted Yin Guo to the ball room.


The single room remained unchanged, but with the pull of a wooden door, the outside world was shut out, and the room was transformed into a private sanctuary.


Lin Yi Yang regretfully informed her that he had to return to school, as the city was a mixed bag of personalities, some good and some bad. "It's not exactly the safest place," he warned, patting the pool table. "But don't worry, this table is my turf. If you ever need anything, just come find me."


The young woman softly acknowledged his words with a murmured "um."


She couldn't shake the feeling of being coddled and protected.


Lin Yi Yang gazed at her as if he had something important to say. She felt a flutter of anticipation as she waited for her to speak.


But then, Lin Yi Yang broke the silence by calling out to the owner's 14-year-old son, who was outside. He took a bill from his wallet and whispered something to the boy. The teenager nodded, took the money, and ran off. A few moments later, he returned with two steaming paper cups of latte and handed them to Lin Yi Yang. As an afterthought, the boy closed the door behind him, leaving the two in a quiet, private space.


"You didn't have to buy me a coffee, really," she said, feeling guilty for having made him pay for everything. "I should have offered to treat you."


Lin Yi Yang took a sip of the latte and smiled. "Don't worry about it. I wanted a coffee and thought you might like one too. Plus, I was up late last night working on a thesis and could use the pick-me-up."


Did he stay up all night?


She remembered seeing the lights in the living room turn off late into the night and wondered if he had returned to his room after their conversation.


Yin Guo was still lost in thought when Lin Yi Yang handed her the paper cup of coffee. She took it absently and held it in her hand without really paying attention. Suddenly realizing what she was holding, she quickly withdrew her hand and apologized with an embarrassed smile, unable to find the words to say.


Lin Yi Yang, too, was feeling awkward, clearing his throat and forcing a smile. "I have to catch a train, so I'll be off now," he said. He placed the coffee cup on the edge of the pool table, his hand that was held by Yin Guo slipping into the pocket of his pants. He then opened the door and stepped out.


Outside the door, people were gathered around every table, chatting and laughing.


Lin Yi Yang greeted a few familiar faces, exchanging quick hellos and goodbyes before shutting the door. As he turned to leave, he fixed her with a stern gaze, his tone resolute. "Just remember, don't hesitate to come find me if you need anything. And keep in mind, I won't be back next week."


She strained her ears, trying to pick up the sounds of his footsteps fading away. But all she could hear was the boisterous music and drunken laughter coming from outside, punctuated by the irresistible aroma of crispy fried chicken seeping in through the cracks in the door. Despite the distractions, her focus remained unwavering.


As she listened, the sounds of conversation and laughter began to wane, and she could tell that Lin Yi Yang was finally making his departure. She listened as he said goodbye to the boss and the others, his words lost amidst the din of the bar.


With Lin Yi Yang gone, she took a deep breath and turned to the pool table, taking the cue stick from its holder and setting it down beside the neatly arranged balls. She took a moment to steady her nerves, placing her hand on the felt surface and feeling its familiar texture. It was time to focus and start her training.


Unfortunately, Yin Guo struggled to maintain focus during her training session today. Despite playing billiards on and off until 7 PM, she couldn't seem to get into the right mindset. She eventually decided to take a break and contemplate whether to focus solely on billiards training for the next hour.


As she was considering her options, she received a phone call from Coach Chen. As the coach in charge of the 9-ball at the club, Coach Chen was responsible for managing the daily lives and training of the female players. Although he couldn't come to the competition two months early, he kept in touch with Yin Guo by calling her regularly to keep track of her progress.


Yin Guo answered the call and quickly got down to business with Coach Chen. They discussed her training progress, tasks completed, and plans for the next day. After a brief talk on work-related matters, Coach Chen shifted to a more relaxed tone and asked with a chuckle, "I saw the news. Did you have another snowstorm there?"


"Yes, it snowed, but it has stopped now," replied Ying Guo.


In an uncharacteristic move, she decided to steer the conversation toward a personal matter. "Coach, have you heard of Wu Wei? He's a player in this year's open tournament."


The club they were at was a bustling hub of activity, with a wide range of billiards games being played, including nine-ball, straight pool, and snooker. It was home to top-notch players and champions and was staffed by an impressive team of coaches. At the moment, the coaches were all gathered in the gym for an early morning workout, eager to get their day started.


"Wu Wei is from Dongxin City and has great potential but hasn't been competing in recent years," one of the snooker coaches chimed in after hearing the name.


"What about Lin Yi Yang? Have you heard of them?" asked Yin Guo.


A laugh echoed through the gym, and Coach Chen flipped on the speakerphone, ready to join in on the discussion.

"I remember the kid," said Coach Fu, who coaches the male nine-ball group. "He's a skilled snooker player. My wife was a referee when he won the championship his first year in the professional circuit."


"Did he play professionally?" asked Yin Guo, surprised.


"Yes, but it's been a while since he's competed," Coach Fu replied.


"What competition was it? And what was his best result?" probed Yin Guo.


"He won the championship; it was a big achievement for him. Your older cousin and Lin Yi Yang debuted in the same competition. You could ask him about Lin Yi Yang," Coach Fu suggested.


Yin Guo fell silent, considering the information.


"It's been over a decade, so don't expect anyone to have a clear memory of it. Why don't you ask Meng Laoliu, although he probably won't remember either," Coach Chen suggested, trying to lighten the mood with a laugh. "What club was Lin Yi Yang from? I haven't heard of him. Does he still play?"


"Lin Yi Yang retired over ten years ago and was from Dongxin," Coach Fu added, his memory suddenly jogged. "We had a new coach arrive two days ago who's from that same club. Let me call him over and ask."


The line went silent for a moment.


Soon, the new coach was called over, and upon hearing the name 'Lin Yi Yang,' he laughed, "He Wenfeng, do you guys know him?


Who wouldn't know He Wenfeng? The coach was renowned in the industry, despite having a small number of official disciples. However, he left a lasting impact as the mentor of numerous successful players, many of whom still credit him as the starting point of their careers.


The new coach added, "Lin Yi Yang is Master He's closed-door disciple. Although I haven't seen him personally, they say he's a genius. But he's also known to be a bit of a scoundrel, the kind that nobody can handle."


The new coach explained that Lin Yi Yang was known for his wild behavior during his teenage years, which led to a falling out with his mentor, Coach He. Despite this, Lin was still well-regarded by his younger peers, and no one dared to bring up his past misdeeds while Coach He was still working. After Coach He's retirement, Jiang Yang, who was Lin's senior brother, took over the club and made it clear that speaking ill of Lin was not tolerated. Over time, people stopped discussing the events of over a decade ago.


Lin was still remembered in Dongxin City, with many referring to him affectionately as "Liu Ge" or "Little Master Yang."

"If you're interested in knowing more, I could ask Yang Ye for you," the new coach offered.


But as soon as Yin Guo heard they were going to ask Jiang Yang, he quickly replied, "No need, no need to ask specifically. And please don't tell my older cousin. I've already done some research on my own."


After the phone call ended in a hurry, Yin Guo was still unsatisfied with the little information he had heard and tried to search for him online.


The reputation of Lin Yi Yang lingered on in the Dongxin City Billiards club, with many people still talking about his accomplishments and his presence in the club's history. Despite his achievements, however, information about him was scarce, with only a few mentions of his name on old web pages and records of past competitions. Despite the lack of online presence, his name had left a lasting impact in the small community, cementing his place in the club's history.


In a country with a vast array of sports programs, Lin Yi Yang's success was a testament to the hard work and dedication he put into his craft, even in the face of competition from tens of thousands of athletes in niche sports. Despite the passage of time, his name remained remembered, serving as an inspiration to aspiring athletes.


The contrast between Jiang Yang's success and Lin Yi Yang's obscurity weighed heavily on Yin Guo's mind. Despite being taught by the same coach, Jiang Yang was now a world-renowned name in the billiard world. At the same time, Lin Yi Yang was almost completely forgotten, with only a few people in the Dongxin City Billiards Club even remembering his name.


As Yin Guo stared at Lin Yi Yang's WeChat profile, she felt an overwhelming desire to reach out. She hesitated, her fingers hovering over the keyboard, before ultimately closing the app without sending a message. However, the urge to take action remained, a nagging thought at the back of her mind.


Yin Guo finally stumbled upon an old photo of sweet vintage wine she had in the warm afternoon light. She hesitantly sent the picture to a friend's social media circle, accompanied by a brief caption. Despite spending half a day editing the text, she felt unsatisfied and could only write a simple line: "Forgot to ask about the year."


As the day dawned in the country, the photo garnered attention, and the notifications on her phone rang incessantly with messages and likes pouring in. She grew restless, logging in and out multiple times before finally mustering the courage to check her message notifications.


Her fingers hovered over the phone screen, finally stopping on a short message.


Lin: The year you were born.


Her eyes widened as she quickly refreshed the screen. Another message appeared.


Lin: I'm talking about the wine.

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