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During the Snowstorm

7.2

The Passion Remains

91

Yin Guo's face turned red as she pressed her left hand on her chest. Her throat choked, and she couldn't utter a word for a long time.

 

Lin Yi Yang laughed softly, teasing her, "You spoke so smoothly to Meng Xiaodong, but now that you see me, you can't say a word?"

 

Yin Guo felt her heart beating so fast that she could barely catch her breath. She pushed Lin Yi Yang gently, trying to hide her embarrassment.

 

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" she said, trying to regain her composure. "You scared me so much that I thought I was having a heart attack."

 

"Aren't you happy?" Lin Yi Yang asked with a teasing smile.

 

......

 

Yin Guo's eyes lit up as he posed his question, already anticipating the answer. He couldn't help but feel a sense of excitement, knowing that the response would bring him great joy. His smile widened as he awaited the response, unable to contain his eagerness.

 

Yin Guo observed Lin Yi Yang's appearance closely as he half-crouched down on her left side. His jacket was soaked with water from the rain outside, and his sneakers were wet. She noticed a hint of redness in his eyes as if he had been crying earlier. Yin Guo couldn't help but feel empathy toward him despite not knowing the true extent of his emotional turmoil.

 

Her initial concern was his wet clothes and the fact that he didn't have an umbrella, and she guessed that he must have walked over from the subway station. As she settled in the corner, he gently placed the plastic box and sandwiches on her lap before securing the lid. Then, he crouched down before extending his arms toward her.

 

Yin Guo's heart skipped a beat as she hugged Lin Yi Yang, holding onto his neck like a child for a long time. After a while, she sniffed and lowered her face, burying it in the nape of his neck. "You didn't even bring an umbrella. Your hair is all wet," she said softly.

 

Despite being full of dust and the scent of a train, Lin Yi Yang's presence was powerful enough to conquer Yin Guo's heart. The length of the trips back and forth between New York and Washington on these trains was enough to leave an impact on her.

 

Yin Guo expressed her concern, "With all the running around you're doing, are you still on track to graduate?"

 

Lin Yi Yang appreciated her concern and teasingly asked, "Would you leave me if I didn't?"

 

Yin Guo's response was serious, "Of course not. But you have to graduate, even if you don't want to."

 

Yin Guo nestled closer to him, enjoying the moment of intimacy and connection. The rustling of their clothes was the only sound as they held each other, cherishing the moment.

 

They huddled in a corner, with Lin Yi Yang half-crouching and Yin Guo sitting on a small chair, holding each other and speaking softly. Lin Yi Yang held Yin Guo tightly without any pretense, and they were utterly lost in their world, paying no attention to anyone else around them.

 

The people on the other side of Dongxincheng were taken aback, including Jiang Yang.

 

No one expected Lin Yi Yang's display of affection would be so intense and genuine, causing some to feel envious and others to feel a bit queasy. Those who were once intimidated by Lin Yi Yang, as well as the students who admired him, finally understood what "failed" meant, as Wu Wei had been saying for the past two days.

 


 

The little junior sister from Beijing had made quite an impression; that much was certain.

 

Jiang Yang watched from afar with great interest while Chen Anan whispered, "Don't kiss. If this gets out, it will ruin Meng Xiaodong's sister's reputation." After all, it was an international competition representing the Chinese team, and it's not something an athlete should do in the pre-game waiting room.

 

"Don't worry, Old Six has a sense of propriety," Jiang Yang said in a low voice. "He has respect for this competition."

 

An athlete's respect for the competition is related to the depth of their love for the sport. The more they love it, the more they respect it. Only with a sense of reverence will a person be willing to devote their entire life to their passion.

 

As expected, Lin Yi Yang didn't do anything out of line. He quickly said goodbye to Yin Guo and left the waiting room, his mind entirely focused on the upcoming competition.

 

Before the last match of the women's group stage, three groups of people appeared in the audience seats.

 

In the east were the people from Dongxincheng.

 

Jiang Yang was in the first row with Chen Anan and Fan Wen. The participating nine-ball players, including Wu Wei and Cheng Yan, were in the second row. The third row was occupied by young players from the youth and junior groups, all eagerly discussing stuff about their "sister-in-law."

 

To the west, there was the Beijing group.

 

In the front row, Meng Xiaodong sat alone, his gaze fixed on the players in the arena. Behind him were two groups of players, quietly chatting among themselves. The first group was led by Li Qingyan, a renowned snooker player who was preparing to compete in Ireland after "passing by" New York with Meng Xiaodong. The other group consisted of the 9-ball players eagerly waiting to watch the Little Sister in action.

 

As the matches progressed, Lin Yi Yang entered as a "coach," with no grand team to support him.

 

He sat with two boys who had come all the way from Washington in the south. One of them had just advanced in the tournament and was too nervous about having lunch at noon. Finally, after winning, he bought a hamburger to eat. "Brother-in-law was awesome in this game. Shinya is the champion of the Singapore Open, right?" he asked excitedly.

 

"Yeah," the other boy added, "ranked third in the world."

 

Lin Yi Yang was seated in the first row, his eyes fixed on the pool table where the final match of the women's group stage was taking place. He sat with both elbows resting on his knees and his fingers interlocking, occasionally rubbing his nose with his index finger. His calm exterior belied the intensity of his focus on every detail in the arena, from the players' movements to the referee's calls and the scoreboard.

 

Eleven years ago, Lin Yi Yang had dreamed of winning a Grand Slam, but circumstances had prevented him from leaving the country to compete on the international stage. Now, he had finally returned to the competition, although not in the way he had once envisioned. As he watched the match with rapt attention, he couldn't help but feel a sense of nostalgia and longing for the days when he was a player himself.

 

As the game began, Shinya confidently took the serve, and the balls scattered across the table. The commentator's voice boomed across the sports arena, "Shinya's off to a great start. She's taken the serve with ease. It seems like she's a strong contender for the win today."

 

The break is widely considered one of the most crucial moments in a game of 9-ball. A successful break can set the tone for the rest of the match and determine the outcome.

 

Yin Guo sat still, focused on the game in front of her as her opponent took the first shot. She felt the weight of her cue stick in her hand, the smoothness of its surface soothing her nerves. Despite the opponent's impressive start, Yin Guo refused to give up. She knew that anything could happen in a game of pool and was determined to make a comeback.

 

The audience erupted in applause as her opponent won the first four games in a row, but Yin Guo remained calm and collected. She observed her opponent's every move, analyzing her strategy and looking for weaknesses to exploit. As the fifth game ended, Shinya still held the right to serve, but Yin Guo felt a surge of confidence. She knew that the game was far from over.

 

The open tournament featured an extensive 20 rounds, where the first player to win 11 matches would emerge as the champion. However, Shinya had already secured 5 points, leaving Yin Guo scoreless so far. Lin Yi Yang continued to observe the game closely, his attention alternating between the pool table and Yin Guo, who sat composedly on the spacious sofa. He understood Yin Guo was biding her time, looking for a chance, waiting for her adversary to slip up.

 

"Remarkable performance by Shinya!" exclaimed the commentator, triggering a fresh wave of applause in the arena.

 

The two boys behind Lin Yi Yang were so nervous they couldn't even speak, their eyes fixed on the pool table. The scoreboard showed a 5-0 lead for Shinya, and it looked like it was about to increase to 6-0. However, luck was not on her side this time, as the ball hit the edge of the pocket and didn't go in.

 

The audience gasped as an opportunity presented itself for Yin Guo. With a calm demeanor, she stood up from the sofa and made her way to the pool table, her eyes locked on the two remaining balls. It was now her turn to take control of the game.

 

In the final group match, Yin Guo's true professional skills were on full display on the tournament stage. She was a fierce competitor, always ready to seize any opportunity that came her way. Lin Yi Yang had seen her play before and knew she would go all the way if given the slightest chance.

 

During their conversation in Washington, Yin Guo had asked Lin Yi Yang why he played so fast and whether he was afraid of losing. Lin's response was that, during his time away from competition, he had come to understand the true joy of playing billiards - the freedom to play without any restrictions on winning or losing. Playing fast was simply a reflection of his happiness in the game.

 

Lin Yi Yang looked at Yin Guo with a sense of admiration and respect. He knew how difficult it was to make a career in a sport that is often overlooked and not widely recognized.

 

"Enjoy it, Yin Guo," he wanted to say to her, "because this is your professional career for the next decade."

 

Only by finding joy in the game can you endure the grueling training and long hours of practice. Billiards may not be included in the Olympics, and even the Asian Games have canceled it for many years, but it is a niche sport that requires passion and dedication to succeed.

 

Yin Guo's comeback was nothing short of miraculous.

 

On the scoreboard, the numbers steadily climbed in her favor - 5:1, 5:2, and 5:3 - a testament to her unwavering focus and determination.

 

The boy behind Lin Yi Yang praised Yin Guo's mental strength, and Lin Yi Yang silently agreed. But he knew that the match was far from over.

 

Yin Guo's confidence grew stronger with each win as the game continued. The scoreboard slowly but surely ticked upwards, 5:4, 5:5, 5:6, and so on, until it reached an incredible 9-5 in her favor.

 

Lin Yi Yang watched in awe as Yin Guo won nine consecutive games without a single mistake. He knew that he was witnessing the birth of a true billiards champion.

 

Yin Guo, the season's biggest dark horse, again showed remarkable stability in this final match as she fought back from a large score deficit. Her impressive performance caught the attention of the commentators, who expressed their high expectations for her future career path.

 

"This Chinese player has given us a big surprise this season, and there is finally a new face that cannot be ignored," one of the commentators said.

 

"She's incredibly familiar with the nine-ball table, executing every shot perfectly from rail bounces to table edges," added another commentator with a smile. "One can only imagine what a great doubles partner she would be if there were a women's doubles match."

 

"It's a shame that doubles aren't included in this open tournament," replied the first commentator.

 

"But we can look forward to the upcoming Singapore Open," said the second commentator. "I have no doubt she'll sign up and participate in the eight-ball, nine-ball, and women's nine-ball doubles events."

 

The commentators' words only added to the growing buzz surrounding Yin Guo's rise to prominence in the sport.

 

......

 

The scoreboard now showed a new score - 5:10, and the sound of applause grew even louder. Every ball that Yin Guo potted was greeted with another round of appreciation from the audience.

 

However, Yin Guo seemed to hit a hurdle in the final game as she slowed her pace. Twice, she tried to lean over the table with half of her body hanging in the air, but she still couldn't reach the white ball.

 

The big screen magnified this scene, and Lin Yi Yang couldn't help but laugh.

 

"Shorty, do you need to use the extension cue?" he asked.

 

Yin Guo reached into her case and retrieved her extension cue, twisting it a few times to fix it. She returned to the table and gestured, indicating she could reach the ball now.

 

"The player has chosen the extension," the commentator's voice echoed throughout the arena. "She's going to give it another try."

 

Yin Guo took the shot without hesitation as soon as the commentator finished speaking.

 

With a snap, the ball fell into the pocket. With another snap, another ball went into the pocket. The commentators struggled to keep up with Yin Guo's speed as she quickly pocketed two balls, then aimed for the nine ball.

 

Yin Guo paused again.

 

She circled the black cue stick with her right hand, from the top down to the bottom, and slowly rubbed the cue stick with her palm as if it was a psychological signal. "Come on, let's win," she silently told the cue stick in her mind.

 

"The last shot is very difficult," commented the commentator, "The nine ball is close to the middle of the bottom rail, making it hard to pocket it in the bottom pocket and even riskier to pocket it in the side pocket."

 

Yin Guo leaned forward, her gaze fixed on the yellow 9-ball. She took a moment to assess the situation, then confidently chose to aim for the bottom pocket.

 

Her shot was thin, and it seemed like she barely put any force behind it. The yellow ball glided along the edge of the table, heading towards the pocket. The crowd held their breath as the ball neared the pocket and then let out a collective cheer as it dropped in with a soft sound.

 

"The crowd is going wild! And what a shot by Yin Guo, that was absolutely stunning!" the commentator exclaimed in amazement.

 

"The last shot was no easy feat, but she made it look effortless. Yin Guo has truly outdone herself today, and her performance has earned her a well-deserved spot in the quarterfinals tomorrow," the commentator continued as the applause continued to roar in the background.

 

"Congratulations to Yin Guo, the Chinese player who has entered the quarterfinals! We can't wait to see her play again tomorrow," the commentator concluded as the cheers and applause gradually subsided.

 

......

 

Yin Guo's eyes lit up with joy as she shook hands with her opponent and then hugged her coach tightly. He was also beaming with pride, patting her back several times. The crowd's applause continued to roar, filling the room with electrifying energy.

 

Meanwhile, Lin Yi Yang observed her from a distance, unable to see her face clearly. He looked up at the live broadcast of Yin Guo on the big screen and saw the tears in her eyes. She was still just a child, and the sight of her overwhelmed him with emotion.

 

Just as he was about to leave, Yin Guo, on the big screen, suddenly turned around and ran towards the stands where he was sitting.

 

"Sister-in-law is here; she's coming," the boys behind him exclaimed.

 

Yin Guo had just won the game and was now running toward the stands. The audience craned their necks to see who she was looking for.

 

Lin Yi Yang was sitting in the front row, watching as Yin Guo approached him with a smile on her face. She looked slightly out of breath as she stood in front of the railing, separated by the advertising board.

 

Her cheeks were flushed, and her eyes were shining as she said, "Hey, come over here!"

 

Lin Yi Yang was at a loss for words, but he obliged her request and walked over to the railing, crouching down in front of her across the advertisement board.

 

He noticed she was still live streaming and couldn't help but smile at her silliness.

 

"Give me your hand," she said from below, looking up at him with a pleading expression.

 

Lin Yi Yang hesitated for a moment before eventually reaching his hand out through the gap in the railing. Immediately, Yin Guo hugged his hand with both of hers. Her hands were sweaty from holding the cue for so long during the match and the joy of winning.

 

She looked up at him with a blush through the railing, her eyes shining with excitement. Lin Yi Yang could feel her energy and enthusiasm, and he couldn't help but feel happy for her.

 

"Almost done," he whispered to her, "we can talk backstage."

 

He nodded at Yin Guo and was about to turn away when she urgently asked him to wait.

 

"Just one more thing," she said, her voice filled with excitement.

 

As she prepared for her last shot, Yin Guo had already planned what to say to him. She wanted to express her gratitude and make him smile, just as he had done for her.

 

She remembered the concern in his eyes when he came to the locker room before the game. But now, as she stood before him, she felt confident and grateful.

 

She stood on her tiptoes with a shy smile, trying to get closer to him. Though advertising boards and railings separated them, she could feel his warmth and support.

 

"Today I won," she said softly, suppressing a giggle, "so... I dedicate this match to you, my queen."

 

Lin Yi Yang and Yin Guo stood facing each other across the railing.

 

Yin Guo thought, "Although I arrived much later than you on this field, my glory will be shared with you from now on. The applause I am receiving is also yours."

 

Lin Yi Yang looked at her with a smile, feeling touched by her look.

 

Winner takes all, today I am the king, and you are the queen

 

The two boys behind Lin Yi Yang laughed out loud as they stood there, breaking the moment.

 

Shaking his hand, she asked, "Why aren't you smiling?" Yin Guo's eyes sparkled with amusement, and her laughter was contagious.

 

Lin Yi Yang felt a warmth spread throughout his body, touched by her carefree and light-hearted nature. He had always been a serious and intense person, but being with her made him feel a sense of ease and comfort.

 

The two boys behind them, who had been teasing them all evening, couldn't help but laugh at the sight of the two of them. "Sister-in-law is so cute. She can make Lin Yi Yang, the pool champion, blush like a little kid!"

 

Lin Yi Yang couldn't help but smile at the teasing, feeling grateful for the good-natured banter. "When I won the championship that year, you had just started elementary school. You were neither too young nor too old," he said in a low voice.

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