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During the Snowstorm

5.4

The Tide of Time

69

Yin Guo grabbed Lin Yiyang's left hand, feeling its clammy texture. "Do you have a fever?" she asked, concerned.

 

He doesn't have a fever. He's fine.

 

Feeling suffocated and panicked, she could sense a knot forming in her throat as she asked, "Is it serious? Did you see a doctor, or did you just self-medicate?"

 

Yin Guo reached for her phone and spoke softly, "Tell me quickly. I'm worried."

 

As Yin Guo looked at Lin Yiyang's phone, she noticed he seemed hesitant to respond. She watched as he put his phone away and instead wrapped his arm around her tightly, pulling her close in a one-armed embrace. He used his other hand to gently hold her head, allowing her to rest it against his shoulder.

 

 

In a soft, hoarse voice, he whispered in her ear, "I'm okay, really." Yin Guo could feel the warmth of his breath against her skin and the steady beating of his heart. Despite the fear and worry that had been building up inside her, she felt a sense of comfort and safety in his arms.

With her nose pressed against his collarbone, Yin Guo took a deep breath and found herself lost in the moment. The five days of waiting and the six hours of traveling were all worth it to be in his embrace.

 

As she savored his scent, she couldn't help but recall a conversation with her friend Zheng Yi about how a man's refinement could be judged by his scent. Despite being unable to smell him through his coat, she was relieved that at least he didn't stink.

 

Yin Guo's thoughts were a jumbled mess, consumed with worry for Lin Yiyang. "You didn't tell me anything, you didn't say anything today, and you didn't say anything the day before yesterday," she said, her anxiety palpable.

 

Lin Yiyang leaned in and pressed his face against her forehead, comforting her. "It's okay, it's okay, let's not talk about it anymore," he said softly.

 

He was exhausted, his body wracked with sore muscles, joint pain, and a weakened immune system. He couldn't even get up a couple of days ago, but he was feeling better today. However, he had to cancel his trip to New York for two reasons. Firstly, he had gotten sick, and there were pressing matters that needed his attention. He's not a young person anymore. Secondly, although his sickness was due to overwork, it was still a genuine illness that made him feel uncomfortable, and his face looked unwell. He worried that if Yin Guo saw him like this, it would negatively affect her mood for the competition.

 


 

To his surprise, the silly girl appeared out of nowhere without any prior notice. He had encountered girls in the past who went to great lengths for him, doing things that seemed insistent and selfless, but he remained indifferent. Yin Guo, however, was unlike any of them right from the beginning.

 

It was he who had fallen in love first and pursued her relentlessly. Yet today, she traveled hundreds of kilometers to see him before the competition, reversing their roles. Even if his voice was hoarse and he wasn't feeling his best, it didn't matter as long as she was by his side.

 

He gently patted her back and reluctantly said, "I must go now."

 

Despite his words, he held her tightly, not wanting to let go.

 

"Where are you going?" she asked softly, her lips quivering slightly, before quickly adding, "I already ate on the train."

 

Yin Guo was well aware of Lin Yiyang's tendency to invite people out to eat, so she had memorized her response in advance: "Not hungry."

 

He embraced her warmly and reached for his phone, typing a quick message in her notes app. "Did you manage to book a hotel?" he asked.

 

She shook her head in response.

 

Without skipping a beat, he typed another message, "No worries. Where do you want to stay? I'll help you make the arrangements."

 

She didn't want to stay in a big, fancy hotel. "Let's not rush," she suggested. "It's not peak season, so finding a place to stay shouldn't be too difficult."

 

He smiled understandingly and typed one more message. "Would you like to walk around and enjoy the night view instead?"

 

She rubbed her lower back, wincing in pain. "My waist hurts from sitting too much. Let's go to your place," she suggested, hoping to gain insight into his daily life.

 

This city held a different meaning for her now that she knew Lin Yiyang. It wasn't just a collection of iconic buildings and museums to be crossed off a list. She had lost interest in those things and yearned to see the streets and apartments where he had lived for almost three years. Even the tree in front of his apartment building seemed more alluring than the White House.

 

"Is everything alright?" she asked, sensing Lin Yiyang's hesitation.

 

After waiting for a while without a response, Yin Guo lightly bumped her knee against his leg, feeling a little upset. "Can you say something?" she asked.

 

He finally responded by typing in the memo: "I was thinking the bed is quite messy."

 

Confused, Yin Guo asked him what he meant. "What are you doing with the bed?"

 

"It's normal to be messy. Men's beds and rooms are usually messy," he replied. Although Lin Yiyang had some inappropriate thoughts about the girl he liked, he wasn't making that comment with those intentions. He typed out another line and showed it to her: "It's not about wanting to do anything with you. You'll understand when we get there."

 

......

 

Initially, Yin Guo had innocently asked about his life because he wanted to get to know him better, but now they have come to the subject of whether they should do something there.

 

Lin Yiyang remained calm as he carried Yin Guo's golf club case on his right shoulder and led her away from the Union Station.

 

On the way, Yin Guo pulled him aside and carefully typed on her phone, inquiring about the various illnesses he had gone through. Lin Yiyang showed her the WeChat messages he had sent to his classmates, complete with photos of his friend helping him buy medicine, in an attempt to reassure her.

 

In response, he mentioned that besides Vitamin C, the supplements were for soothing the throat and that he had no fever, cold, or anything serious.

 

Lin Yiyang's apartment was located quite far from the school, in a remote area that was more affordable for him and his financially challenged classmate. To get to school, they relied on second-hand bicycles.

As they entered the apartment, Lin Yiyang guided Yin Guo in without turning on the lights. Unfortunately, Yin Guo bumped her knee into a large object, causing her to cry out in pain. When the lights finally came on, she saw a half-sized delivery box next to the door, which had been the cause of her mishap.

 

The dining area was dimly lit, with the only light source coming from Lin Yiyang's phone. As Yin Guo rubbed her knee, she noticed a large box near the entrance. "Is that yours?" she asked Lin Yiyang.

 

Shaking his head, Lin Yiyang explained that the box wasn't there when he left in the morning. Yin Guo's concern turned to the box's fragility, and she scanned it for any warning labels that might indicate how delicate it was. Upon finding the label "Wooden Joint Furniture," she breathed a sigh of relief, knowing it wouldn't likely break easily.

 

The living space barely passed as a living room, with an open kitchen and a small dining table squeezed in. Only one person could stand between the table and the sink, leaving no room for extra movement. The distance from the table to the front door was enough for one person to pass, and the delivery box resting there made it even narrower.

 

To the left of the dining table, a narrow hallway led to a bathroom and another room. Yin Guo glanced towards the right, noticing a sliding door connected to the dining area. "Which room is yours?" she whispered.

 

Lin Yiyang pointed to the sliding door, indicating it was his room.

 

Yin Guo observed the sliding door once more, wondering if it could provide any sound insulation.

Lin Yiyang moved the delivery box to the side, clearing the area near the door. With a gentle push, he opened the sliding door, unveiling the whole room.

 

The room was no more than ten square meters. On the left side stood a double bed, pulled out from a sofa, occupying almost half of the space. The rest of the room was cramped, leaving little space for Yin Guo and Lin Yiyang to stand comfortably.

 

As soon as Lin Yiyang entered the room, he turned on the lights and began straightening up the bed. It was a double bed pulled out from a sofa, taking up almost half the room. With no chairs, tables, or space for a couch, guests would have to sit on the bed or at the small dining table by the entrance.

 

The bed was cluttered with books and clothes, a result of Lin Yiyang falling ill a few days prior and neglecting to tidy up until now. He considered changing the sheets but hesitated, unsure if it was necessary. Yin Guo watched as he worked, realizing why he had said the bed was messy earlier.

 

The door across the hall swung open, revealing a bleary-eyed guy who had just woken up. He stumbled out, disoriented, and mumbled a greeting to Lin Yiyang before making his way to the bathroom. But halfway through, he realized his mistake and hastily retreated, his eyes widening in surprise at Yin Guo's presence.

 

Yin Guo felt a twinge of unease as he stared at her, but she managed a friendly wave. "Hi."

 

He stood there, his expression morphing from confusion to recognition and then excitement. In a few quick strides, he reached Yin Guo and enthusiastically extended his hand for a handshake. "Lin's sister?" he exclaimed.

 

......

 

Yin Guo shook her head, trying to ignore the other person's excessive enthusiasm that made her uneasy. Sensing that something was off, her roommate became even more excited and kept asking, "Is she your girlfriend? Your girlfriend?"

 

Despite feeling uncomfortable, Yin Guo couldn't help but notice the other person's curiosity about Lin Yiyang's love life. She wondered why this was the first time he had seen a woman in their home.

 

Lin Yiyang seemed to have noticed the situation's awkwardness and suggested that Yin Guo needed to rest, hinting to his roommate to leave. As the sliding door closed behind them, Yin Guo let out a sigh of relief.

 

As expected, the sliding door did little to block out the sound. Yin Guo had been trying to ignore the muffled voices coming from outside, but eventually, she caught snatches of Lin Yiyang's roommate's conversation. It was a detailed account of Lin Yiyang's past relationships, from a certain classmate to a senior sister and even an undergraduate classmate. Suddenly, the voices stopped, and there was an awkward silence.

 

Yin Guo looked sour, and everything didn't seem right to her.

 

Yin Guo heard a sudden silence and decided to go to the bathroom.

 

When she opened the door, she saw Lin Yiyang's roommate taking out small colorful paper bags from a plastic storage box in the corner. The roommate seemed overly enthusiastic and was sharing his personal items with Lin Yiyang. Yin Guo couldn't help but feel uncomfortable at the thought of Lin Yiyang using the items.

 

Meanwhile, Lin Yiyang reached into the orange cabinet above and pulled out a small storage box, oblivious to his roommate and Yin Guo. As he turned around, he saw Yin Guo opening the door.

His roommate had already closed the drawer, realizing that his personal items might make Yin Guo uncomfortable. Though he believed there was nothing shameful about scientific contraception, he respected Eastern cultural norms regarding these matters.

 

"Excuse me, I'm going to the bathroom," said Yin Guo, her face flushing with embarrassment.

 

Completely bewildered, Lin Yiyang watched as Yin Guo went inside the bathroom. His roommate immediately opened the drawer again, grabbed a handful, and placed it on the dining table. He then silently used one finger to press down on the purple package, sliding it over most of the table and stopping it in front of Lin Yiyang.

 

The other person strongly recommended it with his eyes, saying it's good and girls like it.

 

Lin Yi Yang put the plastic storage box on the table and raised an eyebrow, "What are you so excited about?"

 

......

 

After coming out of the bathroom, Yin Guo found the living room to be dimly lit. As she walked towards the door, she accidentally kicked the same spot on the delivery box, causing her to wince in pain. Despite being bruised, she tried to remain composed and limped towards the door.

 

Lin Yiyang was in the bedroom, changing the sheets. Yin Guo quietly walked in and closed the door behind her. The room was small and enclosed, with the only source of ventilation being the open window.

 

"Please sit here," Lin Yiyang pointed to the bed, indicating it was the only available seating.

 

Yin Guo silently sat down, feeling the weight of the awkward silence between them.

 

Noticing Lin Yiyang's discomfort as he leaned against the sliding door and winced in pain, Yin Guo spoke up. "You're still not feeling well," she observed. "It might be more comfortable if you sit down."

 

She patted the edge of the bed next to her, indicating that he could sit there. Despite the awkwardness between them, Yin Guo couldn't bear to see him suffer.

 

Lin Yiyang sat down next to Yin Guo. He can't remain standing for too long.

 

"You're still not feeling well?" Yin Guo asked softly.

 

Lin Yiyang nodded in response.

 

"I heard everything you guys were saying in the room earlier. The soundproofing isn't good, is it?" Yin Guo remarked.

 

"Yeah, the walls here are pretty thin," Lin Yiyang agreed.

 

Feeling embarrassed and unsure of what to say, Yin Guo suggested, "Since you can't talk, do you want to use WeChat?"

 

Lin Yiyang nodded and grabbed his phone to connect to the wifi.

 

As they sat on the edge of the bed chatting on WeChat, Yin Guo noticed the curtains blowing in the night breeze, with a faint scent of a burning candle in the air. She realized it was the coconut-scented candle Lin Yiyang had gone out to get earlier. He had feared the room would smell bad due to his sickness and had opened the windows. She smiled, grateful for his thoughtfulness.

 

Yin Guo: Did you buy this candle?

 

Lin Yiyang: No, it belongs to Wu Wei.

 

Yin Guo: Oh, I see. I was wondering why you would choose this scent, especially when you're not feeling well.

 

Lin was about to extinguish the candle but was pulled back by Yin Guo.

 

"It's not that it smells bad. It's just not the scent you usually prefer," she said, her grip tightening around his sleeve.

 

Lin's eyes lingered on her hand, wishing to hold it in his. However, before he could even make a move, she let go.

 

The sound of heavy metal music blasted through the wooden door from the room opposite theirs. Lin furrowed his eyebrows, realizing that it was playing quite loudly.

 

Meanwhile, Yin Guo was engrossed in chatting on her phone.

 

Xiaoguo: How do you usually go to class?

 

Lin: I ride my bike.

 

Xiaoguo: Isn't it far?

 

Lin: It's not too bad.

 

Xiaoguo: :)

 

Xiao Guo: Can you suggest a topic? I'm running out of things to talk about.

 

Lin: How about we take a break from chatting? Typing can be tiring.

 

Stop chatting? Are you just going to sit there, then?

 

Lin flung his phone onto the coffee table with a sigh of frustration, his eyes scanning the room for a solution to their boredom. Spotting the biggest cushion at the foot of the bed, he snatched it up and flung it to the head of the bed, motioning towards the spot.

 

"Go over there," he directed with a sly smile. "It's the most comfortable spot in the room."

 

Yin Guo raised an eyebrow, sensing his intention wasn't just to help her rest. She complied with his request, making her way to the cushion and settling in with a contented sigh.

 

As Lin leaned closer to Yin Guo, his teasing voice becoming even huskier, she felt her heart rate pick up. She couldn't help but be drawn in by his magnetic presence, despite his inability to speak.

 

In Lin's raspy, gravelly voice, which had been filtered to remove noise, Yin Guo's breathing gradually slowed down. "You can't talk even while lying down. Plus, my throat may not improve for a week, and it might take longer."

 

He smiled at her reaction, knowing full well the effect he had on her.

 

"Who wants to talk to you?" she thought.

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