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During the Snowstorm

5.3

The Tide of Time

84

As Yin Guo stared at the screen of her phone, she felt a sudden rush of emotions flood through her. The words "Trust me" echoed in her mind, stirring up a mix of doubt and longing. She leaned against the sink, clutching the edge with white knuckles as if searching for some sort of anchor to hold onto.

 

Despite her doubts, she couldn't help but feel moved by the sincerity in Lin Yi Yang's messages. The repeated plea of "Trust me" struck a chord within her, tugging at the softest part of her heart. At that moment, Yin Guo was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions, feeling both guilty for taking advantage of an honest person and powerless against the force of her desires. Without any additional words, she knew her heart was already beginning to give in.

 

As Yin Guo read the message, she couldn't help but wonder if Lin Yi Yang's sincerity matched his words. She had seen him on the billiards table, cold and ruthless, his face expressionless even after a victory. He was a champion, but he didn't have the face of a sportsman, let alone an honest person.

 

She knew that their sport demanded the highest level of sportsmanship, with an emphasis on being a true gentleman. But she also knew that off the table, these men were just ordinary people with flaws and imperfections like everyone else. Some would tell dirty jokes and flirt with girls in private, while others liked to boast and exaggerate their achievements. And then there were those, like her cousin and Li Qingyan, who were more reserved and restrained.

 

Yin Guo couldn't help but wonder which category Lin Yi Yang belonged to. Was he truly sincere and honest, or was he just another player with a façade of sportsmanship? She knew she needed more time to figure him out, but for now, she chose to believe his words, hoping they held some truth.

 

It's hard to imagine Lin Yi Yang being reserved in the past. If you asked him to describe himself, he would probably say he was a reckless and rebellious teenager. Yin Guo could easily picture the type of person she often saw in junior high school: those who hung out on the parallel bars, skipped classes to smoke, and got into fights with other groups at the pool hall. Lin Yi Yang seemed to fit that profile perfectly.

 

However, despite his tendency to keep a low profile and not boast about his accomplishments, Lin Yi Yang possessed an undeniable charm that was hard to resist. He wasn't the type to spend lavishly on others or engage in grandiose self-promotion, but something about him made him irresistible.

 

The days seemed to crawl by at a snail's pace, taunting Yin Guo as she longed to see Lin Yi Yang. Sunday...Thursday. It felt like an eternity until they could be together again.

 

Realization hit her that there were still five more days of waiting. Five days of yearning, of feeling his absence like a dull ache. But she knew it would be worth it when they finally reunited.

 

Lin Yi Yang stood there, tapping his foot to the beat of the hand drum. His eyes were glued to his phone, waiting for a reply from Yin Guo. He didn't want to risk losing signal again, so he stayed on the platform.

 

The station was located in the heart of the bustling downtown area, with skyscrapers towering above and a sea of people flowing in and out. Despite the chaos, the sound of the hand drum managed to cut through the noise, luring Lin Yi Yang towards the musician.

 

It was only one stop away from her hotel, yet it felt like an eternity until they could meet again. Lin Yi Yang yearned for her company and couldn't wait to hold her in his arms. But for now, he stayed by the old man's side, swaying to the rhythm and waiting for his phone to vibrate with a message from Yin Guo.

 

One minute later, Yin Guo finally replied.

 

Red Fish: I'll go to the train station to see you off.

 

Just then, a subway train pulled up, disgorging a group of rowdy teenagers, all wielding cue sticks. They were clearly gearing up for a public competition next week. They passed by Lin Yi Yang, chattering and laughing. Two dark-haired girls caught sight of a tall, handsome Asian man with black hair and piercing black eyes.

 

They turned back to look at him, giggling and whispering behind their hands, clearly taken aback by his striking appearance. Seeing such a man on the busy city streets was a rare sight.

 

However, the man who caught their attention could only see the text before him.

 

Lin Yi Yang's eyes were fixated on his phone screen as he typed out a reply to Yin Guo amidst the rhythmic beat of the hand drum.

 

The lively atmosphere of the subway station seemed to fade into the background as he sent the message: "I'll be at the next station. On the platform."

 

Meanwhile, Yin Guo dashed into the subway car, panting as she watched the doors close. She couldn't help but reflect on herself for a moment and acknowledge that she was easily distracted by good-looking men.

 


 

It was a single moment in the Chinese billiard room in Flushing that changed her perception of him. He had his back turned to her, clutching a ball in his hand, urging everyone to up the ante. It was then that he uttered those words that sparked something in her: "Let me see what you've got." From that moment on, she started to look at him in a different light.

 

As an athlete, Lin Yi Yang possessed a competitive spirit that ran deep. Whether it was expressed through his actions or kept hidden, it was a trait that drove him to strive for greatness. Some athletes wanted to beat their opponents, while others sought to surpass their limitations. Regardless of their approach, all competitive athletes shared an appreciation for strong opponents.

 

Yin Guo felt her heart racing with anticipation as the train approached the station. She clutched her phone tightly, re-reading the message from Lin Yi Yang. The train announced the upcoming station, and as it slowed to a stop, she stood up, ready to exit.

 

Just as she was about to step off the train, she remembered Lin Yi Yang's request to wait for him on the platform. She hesitated for a moment but then decided to follow his instructions and stay on the train.

 

Lin Yi Yang stepped onto the train carriage, his eyes scanning the sea of commuters for Yin Guo. He carried a sports backpack and looked determined to find her. They had entered the station through the same entrance, so he estimated they couldn't be too far apart.

 

Finally, he spotted her supporting herself on a metal pole and made his way toward her. Yin Guo watched as he crossed most of the carriage and stood before her, feeling a flutter in her chest at his proximity.

 

"I have already seen the coach, and my training schedule is flexible. It's no problem for me to drop you off and come back," Yin Guo said. "It's always you who comes to pick me up, so it's my turn to do it this time."

 

Lin Yi Yang couldn't help but smile at her offer. He admired her determination and independence but also felt a pang of sadness. He knew this would be their last meeting before leaving for his training camp.

 

In public, Lin Yi Yang couldn't make any overly bold moves, but he wanted to express his affection toward her somehow. So, he lowered his head and looked at her, his eyes filled with tenderness and longing.

 

This unfamiliar Lin Yi Yang or the real Lin Yi Yang.

 

At this moment, he was not a gentleman but more like a young man deeply in love, cherishing every moment with the girl he adored.

 

Because of her attractive appearance from a young age, Yin Guo frequently encountered situations where people would give her flirtatious glances. However, her cousin had many friends who warned anyone nearby not to pursue Meng Xiaodong's little sister, so at most, she would only receive occasional looks.

 

Previously, Yin Guo hated these glances, but now...

 

She could feel the warmth slowly rising up her face, layer by layer. It wasn't a burning sensation but a pleasant warmth that made her feel alive.

 

Yin Guo felt slightly frustrated as the train swayed gently along the tracks. She had hoped for a conversation, but it seemed like Lin Yi Yang was content to sit in silence. "If you don't say anything, I might just leave at the next stop," Yin Guo grumbled, her voice barely audible above the hum of the subway.

 

Lin Yi Yang shifted in his seat, frowning. "I'm not very good with words," he admitted, "I don't want to say the wrong thing and upset you."

 

Yin Guo nodded slowly, considering his words. "Were you always like this?" she asked, genuinely curious. "Quiet, I mean."

Lin Yi Yang shrugged. "I guess so. I don't have to worry about offending guys with what I say, though."

 

Yin Guo smiled at that, finding common ground. "I can understand that."

 

Different types of relationships often have different communication styles. For example, among close male friends, insults and vulgar language are common, while among close female friends, gossip and emotional discussions are more frequent.

 

Curious about his communication style with women, Yin Guo asked, "And how about with girls?"

 

Lin Yi Yang replied, "Most girls are probably intimidated by me, so we don't talk much."

 

Yin Guo was skeptical. "Not even one girl that you actively want to talk to?"

 

Lin Yi Yang saw through Yin Guo's intention behind the question and responded with a counter-question, "Has your brother ever shown interest in someone before and taken the initiative to approach them?"

 

Yin Guo shook her head, remembering Meng Xiaodong's odd and overly confident behavior around others.

 

Lin Yi Yang continued, "So, compared to your brother, do you think I'm worse?"

 

The audacity of his question left Yin Guo momentarily speechless, surprised to meet someone who could rival her brother's arrogance finally.

 

Yin Guo quickly caught the inconsistency in his statement. Lin Yi Yang had indeed taken the initiative and pursued her. She looked at him, waiting for an explanation.

 

Lin Yi Yang also noticed his verbal mistake, but instead of correcting himself, he just gave her a brief glance. They both understood each other without the need for words. Yin Guo realized that he wasn't being arrogant or narcissistic, but rather he was just someone who had yet to find someone worth his time. Proud people often believe in equality among all beings, but that doesn't mean they easily give their attention to just anyone.

 

Soon they arrived at a new station, and Yin Guo couldn't help but feel a pang of disappointment that they had one less stop together. She turned her attention back to Lin Yi Yang when he spoke in a low voice, his words hovering above her head.

 

"Why do people say I have a girlfriend in Washington?"

 

Yin Guo's heart skipped a beat. She finally confessed, "I feel like it's too fast. I don't feel very secure about it."

 

Even though she was standing in the subway car with him right before her, it still didn't feel real. It felt fantastical, mysterious, and impulsive. She couldn't quite shake off the feeling of uncertainty.

 

It's hard to explain; she knew she wasn't being rational, but what she feared more was regretting it later.

 

Yin Guo couldn't help but imagine the worst-case scenario if she rejected Lin Yi Yang. They would likely drift apart and stop interacting altogether, or worse, he might move on and start a family with someone else. The thought of him being with someone else made her feel uneasy, to say the least.

 

"Just tell me, how can I prove my innocence?" he asked again, this time with a much more relaxed tone.

 

Yin Guo replied with a chuckle. "There's no need for you to prove anything to me. I'm here to see you off, not to question your innocence."

 

She wouldn't have come to see him off if she didn't believe him.

 

He chuckled too.

 

He wants to say that since he started studying, he has always been busy making money, earning credits, and setting aside time for regular training. During graduation season this year, he was working and applying for a Ph.D. program at the same time. Even he couldn't imagine that he could travel back and forth to New York every week during this time. Indeed, a person's ability to push themselves is limitless.

 

In such a state, having a girlfriend was a luxury, let alone engaging in ambiguous relationships.

 

......

 

At the train station that day, Lin Yi Yang was in a rush and barely made it to his train on time. He quickly scanned his ticket at the gate and waved frantically to Yin Guo, waiting outside the elevator.

 

But despite his urging, Yin Guo remained rooted to the spot until Lin Yi Yang disappeared into the crowd, leaving her feeling lost and dejected for a moment. Just as she was about to leave, a message from Lin Yi Yang popped up on her phone with a screenshot of an Uber ride.

 

Lin: Take the car back.

 

Xiao Guo: I'll take the subway back. It's very convenient.

 

Lin: The car is already here. You don't have to take the subway.

 

Lin: Come on, be a good girl.

 

Lin was gentle but firm, and Yin Guo couldn't resist. She reluctantly agreed and followed him to the car waiting outside the station. The driver in the front row turned around and smiled, asking if it was their ride.

 

Yin Guo nodded, feeling a little uneasy about the situation. She wasn't used to being treated like a child who needed to be told what to do.

 

As the train to Washington departed, Lin Yi Yang took a seat and surveyed the nearly empty carriage. To his surprise, he recognized a fellow passenger - the dark-skinned mother he had encountered on the train during a blizzard with her two babies.

 

Although he couldn't recall her face, he vividly remembered the babies. One was crying while the other played quietly, while the mother desperately tried to prepare formula.

 

Moved by her struggles, Lin Yi Yang threw his sports backpack onto the seat and offered to help.

 

"Let me give you a hand," he said in a soft voice.

 

She didn't immediately recognize him but gratefully smiled and thanked him.

 

As Lin helped mix the formula, memories of their previous encounter flooded back to him. He shook the bottle vigorously and handed it to the African-American mother, hoping it would calm the crying baby. When she received the bottle, the recognition finally dawned on her, and she exclaimed, "Last time, a few months ago, we met on this train?"

 

Lin nodded and replied, "Yes, it was about two months ago."

 

As the mother fed the baby, she introduced herself as someone who had to visit her husband regularly and had to bring two babies with her back and forth. She also asked if he frequently traveled between two places and for what reason - work, girlfriend, or family?

Lin Yi Yang just smiled and said nothing. He didn't feel comfortable sharing his personal life with strangers, but he couldn't help feeling a sense of admiration for this strong and resilient mother.

 

As the train ride continued, Lin Yi Yang dozed off and woke up with a sore throat and a general feeling of malaise. He knew he was coming down with something but tried to ignore it and continue his journey without complaint.

 

The busyness of his life was already overwhelming, with the constant commuting between two cities and the frequent traveling adding to the fatigue. It was a wonder that he hadn't fallen sick sooner.

 

After returning to his apartment that evening, he took some Vitamin C and promptly fell into a deep sleep. He woke up briefly before dawn and noticed a WeChat message he had composed for Yin Guo but hadn't sent.

 

......

 

At 4 am, Yin Guo's phone vibrated under her pillow. She struggled to open her heavy eyelids and reached for her phone, hoping to see a message from Lin Yi Yang, letting her know he was safe. She had been waiting for hours and had asked him about it once, but he didn't reply, so she thought he was probably too busy to respond.

 

The bright screen illuminated her face as she squinted to read the message:

 

Lin: Arrived.

 

Yin Guo was surprised. Did he just arrive at 4 in the morning?

 

Xiao Guo: Did you have trouble on the way? You arrived really late.

 

There was no response from Lin.

 

Yin Guo assumed that if he arrived so late, he probably still had to go home to pack things, take a shower, and sleep.

Yin Guo didn't think much about it and went back to sleep, feeling relieved that Lin had arrived safely.

 

Meanwhile, Yin Guo continued to train hard for the upcoming competitions. She spent most of her time at the hotel, practicing her routines and occasionally meeting fellow competitors from Dongxincheng at breakfast or nearby restaurants. Ever since the incident with Lin Yi Yang, everyone from that club had started treating her as the future wife of their junior master, which made her feel both amused and embarrassed. Her clubmates teased her about it, but Yin Guo just laughed it off and focused on her training.

 

"After fighting against each other for so long, East and North City are now going to 'unite' through marriage. It's funny how time can heal all wounds..."

 

On Thursday morning, Yin Guo received a message from Coach Chen informing her that she needed to attend the youth group competition in the morning.

 

Yin Guo quickly calculated the time and realized that watching the competition would disrupt her training schedule, and she wouldn't have time to catch dinner. So, she sat alone at a small table by the window in the breakfast room, spooning cereal into her mouth while typing out a message to Lin Yi Yang with one hand.

 

Xiaoguo: I won't be able to accompany you for dinner today because I have to go watch the game. You can eat with Wu Wei first.

 

Lin: I can't make it today. Don't worry about me.

 

Yin Guo felt a sense of emptiness inside and didn't know how to respond. She had meticulously planned everything for the past few days, trying to make time for Lin Yi Yang. Although she tried to hide her feelings, she was counting the days until they could meet again.

 

Xiaoguo: Will you be back tomorrow as usual?

 

Lin: I'm very busy at school this week. It's more than expected. I'll come over early next week.

 

Yin Guo felt disappointed after reading Lin's message. She had been looking forward to seeing him tomorrow, but now she had to wait another week.

 

She absentmindedly swirled the spoon in her bowl of cereal, the clinking of the ceramic spoon against the ceramic bowl resonating in the quiet room. Just as she thought the notification on her phone was from Lin Yi Yang, it turned out to be a message from her cousin.

 

Tiantian: Hey, sis, want to spend the weekend together?

 

Xiaoguo: ...Sorry, I won't be able to accompany you this time. You can have fun on your own.

 

Tiantian: It was Lin-ge who asked me to come.

 

Meng Xiaotian sent her several screenshots, all showing different restaurant addresses.

 

Tiantian: He's already booked the tables and even transferred money to me. He asked me to accompany him for meals from Thursday to Sunday.

 

Xiaoguo: Why does he need to pay for your meals?

 

Tiantian: He said it's a private matter between him and you... I'm just helping out.

 

Yin Guo rested her chin on her hand, feeling a sense of relief wash over her as she read the messages.

 

Xiaoguo: Did he tell you this just now?

 

Tiantian: No, it was last night. Let me check the time stamp.

 

Tiantian: It was a little after 2 am.

 

Yin Guo realized that Lin Yi Yang had made the arrangements without informing her. She took a few sips of her cereal, deep in thought.

 

Xiaoguo: I'm not going, but don't tell him that.

 

Tiantian: Oh, okay.

 

Xiaoguo: Send me the money he transferred, don't keep it.

 

Tiantian: Got it. I'll transfer it to you now.

 

Yin Guo felt a sense of control over the situation as she watched the money appear in her account.

 

Yin Guo gobbled up her cereal and fruit, finished her breakfast, and hurried back to her room. She immediately logged on to the internet and searched for an afternoon train ticket. After finding one that fit her schedule, she headed straight to Coach Chen's office. She requested permission to leave the hotel for the weekend starting that afternoon but assured him that her training schedule would not be affected. Trusting her abilities and commitment to training, Coach Chen approved her request without hesitation.

 

Yin Guo sat in her seat on the train to Washington, staring out at the empty station platform. She was lost in thought, wondering when she should tell Lin Yi Yang about her visit. This was her third trip to DC, but she felt unprepared this time because she didn't have the address of his apartment and was hesitant to book a hotel too far away.

 

As the ticket inspector made their rounds, Yin Guo watched the scenery outside the window as it became unfamiliar.

 

She felt like she was in a movie, doing something she would never have done in the past - traveling a long distance alone to see someone. As she got off the train and followed the crowd out of the station, she couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement and nervousness.

 

Standing at the station's entrance, she looked up at the sky and noticed it was turning yellow and red, signaling the approach of night. She knew she needed to act quickly if she wanted to make the most of her time here.

 

Taking a deep breath, she pulled out her phone and dialed his number, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.

Xiaoguo: Are you at school?

 

Lin: Yes.

 

Yin Guo smiled as she remembered the burger place Lin Yi Yang recommended to her cousin. She decided to go there and sent him a picture of the restaurant.

 

Xiaoguo: I'm here.

 

As she waited for his response, Yin Guo felt a mixture of excitement and nervousness. She wondered if he would be scared off by her sudden arrival.

 

Just as she was about to say something, Lin Yi Yang responded.

 

Lin: Don't move. I'll come over.

 

Xiaoguo: No, no need. I just wanted to give you a surprise. Give me the address, and I'll call a car to come over. You don't have to pick me up.

 

Lin: Stay where you are.

 

Lin Yi Yang was a serious person and didn't like to argue. Yin Guo knew this about him, so she didn't reply and obediently waited. She stood still and sipped on an iced cola, keeping an eye out for him. She finished the cola, threw the cup in the trash can, and looked outside again.

 

The station was quiet and dimly lit, casting an eerie atmosphere on the surroundings. Yin Guo's eyes scanned the area, searching for signs of Lin Yi Yang. As she was about to leave the station, she noticed a familiar figure entering a disheveled state, holding a black wallet and a phone.

 

Upon seeing him, Yin Guo's heart raced as if it was about to leap out of her chest. She mustered the courage to call his name, "Lin Yi Yang, over here!"

 

He turned around at the sound and saw Yin Guo carrying a backpack and a bag of cue sticks. He felt a little relieved. He walked up to Yin Guo, wanting to see her, then she appeared out of nowhere. He wanted to hug her, but in public, he decided against it.

 

"Aren't you cold?" she asked as she approached him and noticed he was wearing a thin jacket with short sleeves underneath. "It's below ten degrees outside, and it's already dark. You're not dressed warmly enough."

 

He looked worn out, and his face appeared slimmer without shaving. She couldn't help but stare at him, "I came here to see you. You can go about your business. You don't have to worry about me. Just find me a place to practice snooker. There should be one, right?"

 

Lin Yi Yang didn't say anything in response, which made Yin Guo feel uneasy.

 

Yin Guo's gaze dimmed for a moment.

 

Lin Yi Yang looked at her, his pupils reflecting only her figure. He wanted to say something, but it was difficult for him to speak. Finally, he managed to rasp out a sentence with a hoarse voice, "What are you thinking about? My throat is sore."

 

As he spoke, he pointed to his own throat and gave a bitter smile, then added, "Can't speak."

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