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During the Snowstorm

5.5

The Tide of Time

70

Lin Yi Yang took off his coat and casually tossed it onto the coffee table. He was dressed in a simple white short-sleeved shirt, which contrasted with the chill in the room. As he leaned over, he noticed Yin Guo's rosy cheeks but hesitated to reach for her hand as she seemed to be avoiding his touch.

 

He recalled borrowing a thicker jacket from a classmate when the weather was warmer a few days ago. However, today's sudden drop in temperature caught him off guard, and he didn't have time to change before coming over. He couldn't help but feel regretful as Yin Guo's hands were still icy cold, even after some time had passed.

 

Lin Yi Yang's elbow rested on the armrest, his hand cupping Yin Guo's chin, and his face inching closer to hers. The narrow sofa bed they sat on barely accommodated the two of them, but they didn't seem to mind as they sank into its soft cushions. Lin's breath tickled her nose and lips, and she couldn't help but hold her breath in anticipation.

 

But instead of kissing her lips, he changed direction and planted gentle kisses on her chin and behind her ear. Yin Guo let out a small gasp, her heart beating faster as she felt his warm lips on her skin. She turned her face to meet his gaze, a silent question in her eyes.

 

When Lin Yi Yang caught sight of Yin Guo at the Union Station that day, he was struck by a feeling of overwhelming affection. As they reunited, he could see her every concern and worry reflected in her eyes like a mirror. The thought of opening up one's heart to someone only to be met with insincerity was a terrifying prospect for him, but he was willing to take the risk for her.

 

I'll give you ten points; you give me back ten points, no holding back from me, and no backing out for you.

 


 

He knew that he would treat Yin Guo with tenderness and care, even if they encountered rough patches in their future together. Even if she were to fall out of love with him or leave him for someone else, he would never forget her.

 

Once he developed feelings for someone, he could never let go, and that was a quality he valued in himself above all else.

 

......

 

As he deepened the kiss, Yin Guo felt a familiar rush of excitement and nerves wash over her, reminding her of her first kiss. Her breaths became shallow, and her heart thumped erratically in her chest.

 

She couldn't help but think of her friend's long-distance relationship, where every meeting was a cherished opportunity to make up for the lost time. Her friend had described how they would cling to each other, not wanting to waste a single moment together, and how even their kisses felt like the first time.

 

And now, as Lin Yi Yang kissed her, Yin Guo felt the same intensity of emotion and desire as if they had never kissed before. It was a feeling that she never wanted to let go of.

 

Lin Yi Yang gently lifted her and placed her on a soft cushion, his lips trailing kisses on her neck, forehead, ears, and hair. The intensity of their passion increased, and their breathing became heavy as they lost themselves in the moment.

 

But then, Yin Guo remembers something that broke through the spell. "Wait a moment... let me book a hotel first," she said, "there won't be any rooms available if I wait too long."

 

Lin Yi Yang's breath was warm and close, making it hard for her to focus. He whispered in her ear, "Don't bother booking one."

 

His words sent shivers down her spine, and she couldn't help but give in to the moment. They were lost in their world, with nothing but their passion and desire for each other.

 

As Lin Yi Yang's lips pressed against hers, Yin Guo's mind went blank with desire. But suddenly, a loud bang reverberated in her head, like a bomb exploding. It jolted her back to reality, and she pushed Lin Yi Yang's arm away with her elbow. In that split second, a sharp image of the colorful little bags in the living room drawer flashed in her mind, and she couldn't shake off the fear that Lin Yi Yang would go and get them. The bang echoed in her ears, and the sensation lingered, leaving her uneasy and confused.

 

Lin Yi Yang immediately recognized her apprehension and unease. He knew his fervent kissing had caused her to feel uncomfortable and misunderstood.

 

"It's impossible to jump into bed as soon as the window paper is pierced. What would that make us?" she thought.

 


 

Lin Yi Yang retrieved his phone from the coffee table and leaned back against the wall as if holding Yin Guo in his arms. He quickly typed a message in the memo and showed it to her: "I just want to be with you, doing nothing."

 

Her heart skipped a beat as she read the words, but she remained silent, unsure how to respond.

 

Lin Yi Yang was eager to prove his innocence and clear the air between him and Yin Guo. As he got out of bed to find a computer, he accidentally hit her shin with his elbow, causing her to cry out in pain and move away.

 

Concerned, Lin Yi Yang sat back down and gently pulled her leg over, rolling up her pants to examine the injury. A dark bruise was visible below her knee.

 

"It wasn't this bad earlier when I came in," Yin Guo explained, "I accidentally bumped into it again on my way back from the bathroom."

 

Lin Yi Yang left the room without a word; his mind focused on getting an ice pack for Yin Guo's bruise. He rummaged through the medicine box until he found a clean gauze and headed to the fridge to grab some ice.

 

The guy across the room had been keeping an eye on Lin Yi Yang's movements here. He felt thirsty but hesitated to come to the restaurant's dining area, afraid it might disrupt them.

 

The sound of the sliding door caught the guy's attention. Assuming it was halftime, he quickly slipped out to grab water and saw Lin Yi Yang icing Yin Guo's knee. His mind raced with thoughts, imagining countless scenes.

 

He couldn't help but secretly admire Lin Yi Yang's care and attention, thinking to himself, "Wow, this guy is amazing. He started with such an intense kneeling position."

 

......

 

While he was rummaging through the drawers in the dining room, his roommate happily patted his shoulder, trying to strike up a conversation. Communication between men is often straightforward, especially when it comes to sex. But Lin Yi Yang was in no mood for small talk. He grabbed the ointment, took his medicine, and popped a lozenge into his mouth, ignoring his roommate's attempts at conversation.

 

Once he was back in his room, he locked the door behind him.

 

Yin Guo held the small pack of ice with both hands, gazing at Lin Yi Yang curiously. "What did he say to you?" she asked.

 

Lin Yi Yang smiled and pulled out his phone to type a message. "He asked what we're having for breakfast," he showed her the message.

 

Yin Guo giggled at the message. "No wonder they are roommates. These guys get along pretty well," she said to herself.

 

The ice pack was proving to be too uncomfortable, and Yin Guo eventually gave up after only a few minutes. Lin Yi Yang felt a sense of disappointment wash over him. He had been looking forward to spending the night with her, but now the mood had been ruined.

 

He decided to turn off the floor lamp to create a more peaceful atmosphere in the room. As the tiny flame of the scented candle flickered, he extinguished it, and the room was plunged into darkness.

 

Lin Yi Yang grabbed a cushion and covered himself with his jacket, making sure to leave enough space for Yin Guo. He slept on the inner side of the bed to make it easier for her to get up and go to the bathroom at night. As he lay down, he turned his back to Yin Guo and faced the wall.

 

He conveyed his intention to Yin Guo through his actions, silently reassuring her that he wouldn't make any advances. Closing his eyes, he felt his jacket lifted off of him, and a warm blanket tucked up to his waist.

The bed shifted as Yin Guo settled beside him, but he remained still. After a few moments, she spoke softly from behind him, "Goodnight."

 

Xiaoguo: Hey, are you there?

 

Zhengyi: Yes, I'm here.

 

Xiaoguo: Can I tell you something? I'm staying at Lin Yi Yang's place now.

 

There was a moment of silence, then suddenly, the room filled with the sound of a voice call.

 

Yin Guo's heart raced as she quickly declined the call.

 

Xiaoguo: No! He's right behind me!

 

Zheng Yi: COVID-19? Have you taken precautions?

 

Xiaoguo: It's not COVID-19. I haven't told you yet, but he's been pursuing me.

 

Zheng Yi: ???

 

Xiaoguo: And then, I came to see him and didn't stay at a hotel, just slept at his place...

 

Zheng Yi: ???????

 

Zheng Yi: That's quite bold of you.

 

Yin Guo's heart skipped a beat as she nervously pulled up a corner of the blanket and blocked the light.

 

Xiaoguo: I want to tell you I have a boyfriend now.

Yin Guo had a heart-to-heart talk with a close friend, which made her feel like her relationship with Lin Yi Yang was finally out in the open, basking in the sunlight. Previously, they had always sneaked around, uncertain about their status, and engaged in ambiguous intimacy.

 

Zheng Yi: If he's your real boyfriend, then just enjoy it. Turn off your phone, get under the covers, and pounce on him. After all, it's your own relationship, don't waste the opportunity. Men tend to slow down as they age.

 

Xiao Guo: That's not what I want to hear.

 

Zheng Yi: Okay, seriously, no matter what you do, use protection.

 

Xiao Guo: Okay, I know. Goodbye.

 

Zheng Yi: Wait, don't go! I rushed out of the cafe just to chat with you, squatting on the roadside to find a signal. If he sleeps with you too quickly, he's probably not looking for a serious relationship. Don't just give it away like that.

 

Zheng Yi: The faster a man sleeps with you, the more it shows that he has already slept with you countless times in his heart. The easier it is to sleep together, the easier it is to break up. It's an eternal law.

 

Xiaoguo: He didn't sleep with me.

 

Zheng Yi: Did you kiss and touch? That's not a big deal. It's normal for young people, and it's also a way to develop a relationship.

 

Yin Guo was clearly uncomfortable with the conversation and ended it abruptly.

 

Xiaoguo: Goodbye.

 

Yin Guo quietly pulled down the corner of the blanket from her face and placed her phone on the edge of the coffee table. Suddenly, the phone vibrated, causing her hand to tremble. It was Lin Yi Yang's phone. Her heart skipped a beat, but the man beside her didn't stir. He was probably in a deep sleep. She hesitated for a moment before placing her phone next to his on the table. In the darkness, the two rectangular screens went out one after the other.

 

The next time Yin Guo woke up was because of the alarm clock.

 

In her dream, she murmured and, out of habit, assumed that the little girl sleeping in the billiard club on her left had set her alarm too early, saying, "What time did you set your alarm? It's too early..."

 

No one answered the alarm's incessant ringing. Yin Guo furrowed her brows and pouted her lips, feeling annoyed at being roused from her slumber. She tugged at the blanket, but it refused to budge, and a ticklish sensation on the tip of her nose added to her annoyance.

 

As she opened her eyes, the blurry scene gradually came into focus. It was the same white short-sleeved shirt without any designs or words on it, just like the one Lin Yi Yang wore last night.

 

Lin Yi Yang reached over and turned off the alarm clock, noticing that Yin Guo had woken up.

 

Yin Guo stirred awake to find Lin Yi Yang staring at her. His phone was in his hand, but the alarm had already been turned off. She wondered if he had been watching her for a while.

 

It took her a moment to remember the events of the night before. They had fallen asleep after talking about their relationship, or lack thereof. Yin Guo felt a knot in her stomach at the thought of their conversation.

 

With a heavy sigh, he turned his gaze to her and asked in a husky voice, "Are you awake?"

 

His voice sounded hoarse as if he had smoked several packs of cigarettes overnight. Yin Guo couldn't help but notice his Adam's apple and the stubble on his chin.

 

Is willpower the weakest when waking up?

 

The atmosphere in the room felt even more intense than last night, whether it was because the windows were closed or because of the lingering scent of the candle from the previous night, mixed with their morning breath, it all blended into the air.

 

His half-sleeve collar was close to her nose, and she felt an itch, but she didn't think to use her hand to push it away. "What time is it?" she asked softly, her eyes still adjusting to the morning light.

 

"It's seven o'clock," he replied, his breath warm against her forehead.

 

Lin Yi Yang was lying on top of her, his weight supported by his forearms. The blanket was still separating them, but she could feel the heat emanating from his body.

 

He knew that his body was craving her now, not just because of the tension in his heart but because of his physical longing for the person he cared for. There was no right or wrong, only honest reactions.

 

Yin Guo's heart was racing, knowing she had unintentionally triggered his desire. She shifted her leg to the left, trying to avoid further contact.

 

Her embarrassment grew as she felt his eyes burning with longing, but he remained silent. Lin Yi Yang finally broke the silence by sitting up and leaning against the wall. "Go back to sleep," he said softly.

 

Yin Guo nodded and closed her eyes, trying to calm her racing heart. She felt the covers being pulled up over her, and the warmth of the blankets was comforting. She could hear his slow and steady breathing and the sound of his fingers pulling the covers to make her more comfortable.

 

Yin Guo feigned sleep as Lin Yi Yang got out of bed and quietly left the room.

 

At 8 am, Lin Yi Yang was already up and about, his mind racing with the things he needed to do. He rushed to the supermarket as soon as it opened, determined to get everything he needed quickly. As he walked through the aisles, he scanned the shelves for the perfect toothbrush and towel. The stacks of toothbrushes seemed endless, but eventually, he spotted a light blue one that caught his eye. He grabbed a matching set of towels and headed for the checkout counter.

 

As he approached the cashier, his eyes caught sight of a vendor selling Apple power cords. His gaze fell upon a beautifully crafted pink cord, and without hesitation, he reached out to take one. With the thought of charging her phone in mind, he added it to his purchase.

 

Back at the apartment, Lin Yi Yang boiled a pot of water and carefully placed the toothbrush and towel inside to sterilize them. The boiling water steamed around his hands as he delicately picked up the softened towel, wringing it out before hanging it on a clean hanger on the metal handrail outside the bathroom.

 

With everything arranged, he raised his hand to knock on the door, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves. "Get up and go to the bathroom. There are new toothbrushes and towels," he called out, his voice echoing through the house's silence. A muffled reply came from inside, barely audible.

 

Standing there, he gazed at the door to the room where he had slept night after night. For the first time, he found himself outside while someone else was inside - she had just woken up, hadn't freshened up yet, and was sleeping inside on an empty stomach. It all felt somewhat strange.

 

His mind wandered back to a drunken call he had received from his younger brother on his wedding night when he had slurred out, "Find yourself a home, bro." At the time, he had brushed it off as just drunken rambling, but now the words echoed in his mind with a new weight and significance.

 

......

 

The door slid open with a soft hum, and Yin Guo's eyes squinted against the sudden brightness. Peeking out from the crack, she saw Lin Yi Yang standing there, looking a little guilty. As their gazes met, she could see a storm of emotions roiling in the depths of his pupils, threatening to break free.

 

"What are you looking at?" he asked, his voice hoarse with sleep and emotion.

 

"I'm afraid your roommate might come," she replied awkwardly as if trying to justify her presence.

 

Yin Guo felt a pang of discomfort. She tried to push past him to make her way out. "Excuse me, let me pass," she muttered, trying to ignore the tension between them.

 

But Lin Yi Yang remained rooted to the spot, his eyes locked on hers. At that moment, Lin Yi Yang wondered if she had changed her mind.

 

The thought crossed Lin Yi Yang's mind - would she regret being with him once she saw his modest lifestyle? He couldn't help but feel a pang of insecurity at the idea.

 

He knew he should give Yin Guo a chance to choose to understand his situation before making any decisions. But how could he broach the subject without seeming desperate or insecure?

 

Lost in thought, he didn't even notice as Yin Guo slipped past him and into the bathroom. He turned to watch her go, feeling a mix of confusion and frustration. He was still trying to process everything that had happened when she suddenly popped her head out of the bathroom door.

 

"Live your life with me the way you normally do," she said, looking at him earnestly.

Lin Yi Yang felt a wave of relief wash over him. It seemed Yin Guo wasn't put off by his simple lifestyle after all.

 

"You don't have to go out of your way to eat and live extravagantly," she added as if sensing his concerns. He couldn't help but smile at her kindness and understanding. Perhaps this could work after all.

 

Yin Guo's worried expression didn't escape Lin Yi Yang's notice, but he could see the determination in her eyes. He smiled reassuringly and nodded in agreement, understanding her fear that he might spend money on her unnecessarily.

 

......

 

As they walked to the subway station, Lin Yi Yang felt a sense of excitement building up inside him. He wanted to show Yin Guo a side of the city she had never seen before. They rode the subway for more than ten stops, getting off at a bustling district filled with people and colorful shops.

 

After a few minutes of walking, they arrived at a small red building resembling a youth hostel. The lobby was buzzing with guests, but Lin Yi Yang led her to an elevator in the northwest corner of the first floor.

 

Pressing the button for the basement floor, they descended into the depths of the building. The sound of billiards colliding echoed through the halls as they stepped out of the elevator. Lin Yi Yang led her through a maze of dimly lit corridors until they arrived at a spacious room filled with pool tables and lively chatter.

 

About half of the ten or so pool tables in the room were occupied. A man with dark hair behind the counter was wiping down a refrigerator near the entrance. When he turned and saw Yin Guo and Lin Yi Yang, he smiled and called out, "Brother Yang."

 

The sound caught the attention of everyone in the billiard room except for the two tables of foreign tourists from the youth hostel.

 

Young men's voices called out to Lin Yi Yang one after another, "Yang-ge."

 

Like in the billiard room in New York, everyone here seemed to know him well. But there was a difference. It felt more like they were his own people rather than just friends who called each other brothers. At the North City Club, everyone treated Meng Xiaodong the same way.

 

Yin Guo watched as Lin Yi Yang responded to everyone's greetings, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the warm reception. "Make us some breakfast," Lin Yi Yang said to the man behind the counter, placing Yin Guo's cue on the counter. "And clear the table for your sister-in-law for 9-balls."

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