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During the Snowstorm

7.3

The Passion Remains

112

Lin Yi Yang felt the weight of their laughter like a heavy stone on his chest. He had been a dominant king on the field since he was thirteen years old, but now he was being ridiculed by others. It was a stark reminder that times had changed, and people's hearts were not as good as they used to be.

 

With a deep breath, he stood up and faced the two boys behind him in the billiard room. They continued to laugh, seemingly unaware of the tension in the air. Lin Yi Yang fiercely scraped the back of the head of one of the boys and said, "Let's go."

 

Lin Yi Yang walked off the billiard area and went backstage. As he entered the restroom, he looked around, making sure no one else was present. He splashed his face with cold water, trying to calm his racing thoughts but he still felt unsatisfied. Without a second thought, he scooped up more water and wet his short hair, staring at himself in the mirror, his face covered in steam.

 

The familiar sight of the pool and the marble countertop brought back memories of all the athletes who had come and gone, competing for the same glory. He wondered how many of them had felt the same way he did now.

 

As he stood there, lost in thought, it all felt like a dream.

 

He remembered walking into an open hall with thirty-four billiard tables arranged inside; each placed very close together.

 

Beside each table stood a referee dressed in black, and rows of black leather chairs were arranged for the players to rest. The sound of balls being struck and dropping into pockets could be heard everywhere, and with more than thirty billiard tables and sixty to seventy players playing together, it was a lively and bustling scene. The impression was profound, and he realized how much this place had shaped him into the player he was today.

 

Lin Yi Yang wiped his chin and short hair with a piece of paper, the steam from the restroom still hanging in the air. As he crumpled the paper and tossed it into the bin, he noticed several male coaches from China walking in.

 

They smiled and greeted him, and he nodded back before leaving. The atmosphere was as lively as making dumplings, with everyone in high spirits and energized by the competition.

 

Note: Describing the process of making dumplings is sometimes used to create a lively and warm atmosphere.

 

Outside the lounge, Meng Xiaodong was with a group of people from Beijing, all of them carrying their cue sticks and luggage, preparing to leave the competition venue.

 

As Lin Yi Yang stepped out of the lounge, he couldn't help but notice Meng Xiaodong among the group. He wore a well-pressed shirt and trousers, every button from his cuff to collar carefully fastened. The two of them had crossed paths numerous times in the lounge, exchanging disdainful glances and brushing past each other without a word.

 

"Do you want to have a drink?" Meng Xiaodong suddenly stopped before Lin Yi Yang, breaking their usual silent exchange.

 

The people from Beijing behind Lin Yi Yang exchanged confused glances, wondering what had gotten into Old Six Meng. His sudden enthusiasm was out of character for him, even as their future brother-in-law. Little did they know that Meng Xiaodong had intentionally arranged the trip to New York before the Ireland competition to watch Yin Guo's match and reunite with this old friend whom he had previously snubbed in the lounge many years ago.

 

Lin Yi Yang grinned, feeling touched by Meng Xiaodong's gesture. He turned to face the group behind him and said, "Sure, let's grab a drink together."

 

Jiang Yang's eyes lit up with excitement as he led the people from Dongxincheng to stand behind Lin Yi Yang. "It's not often that two snooker players come to watch a 9-ball game. Why don't we make the most of it and watch it together? It'll be a good chance for everyone to get to know each other," he suggested.

 

"How about we rent a suite in the hotel?" Jiang Yang proposed, placing his hand on Lin Yi Yang's shoulder. "I'll buy some drinks, and we can enjoy them there."

 

Meng Xiaodong chimed in, "I'm happy to split the bill with you. Alcohol isn't cheap, after all. Let me take care of the drinks."

 

......

 

Lin Yi Yang did not participate in their conversation. Instead, he instructed the two boys from his pool room behind him to disperse and rest, as one had already made it to the quarter-finals the next day and needed to prepare before the match.

 

As the crowd thinned out, he was left standing alone, lost in thought.

 

Lin Yi Yang pulled out a black wallet from his back pocket, opened it, and took out a bank card, handing it to Wu Wei. Wu Wei was taken aback at first, but then he understood. He had been hanging out with Lin Yi Yang for years and knew his character better than anyone. Lin Yi Yang placed his hand on Wu Wei's shoulder and said, "You're used to living here and are more familiar than them, so go buy the alcohol."

 

Before the leaders of the two clubs and the ball society could speak, Lin Yi Yang looked away and watched Yin Guo walk out of the court with her pool cue. "You don't need to fight with me tonight," he said. "I was poor in the past and couldn't afford to treat everyone. Now, I'm not doing that well either, but I can still afford to buy everyone a drink."

 

Lin Yi Yang gave instructions to Jiang Yang in a calm voice, "Send me the hotel room number on my phone, but don't make the appointment too early. I have to accompany her for dinner."

 

After that, he walked past Meng Xiaodong and the group of people from Beijing towards Yin Guo, who had already spotted them at the door of the rest area.

 

While most girls were usually attracted to the charming and successful men on the field, Yin Guo had always been immune to their charms. She had seen too many of them - men who had won countless matches and applause, dressed in sharp suits and leather shoes, who were everywhere in the clubs and rest areas before matches.

 

But at this moment, as Lin Yi Yang walked out of the group of men from Dongxingcheng and Beijing and approached her alone, Yin Guo realized that her immunity wasn't due to overexposure but rather to the fact that she hadn't met the one she truly liked.

 

She liked this humble owner of the affiliated club of the youth hostel, this ordinary international student who takes long-distance trains to come to this city to watch the game, and this "coach" who only had two players and didn't even have a large rest area.

 

This man never boasted about his past achievements but instead focused on the present and future. This man...

 

Every time they met, Yin Guo noticed that Lin Yi Yang's first action was to extend his right hand and ask her to hand over her cue stick.

 

"Brother, I'm leaving first," she said, waving to Meng Xiaodong in the distance.

 

Meng Xiaodong waved back, letting her go.

 

"Going back to the hotel?" Lin Yi Yang asked her, his voice calm and collected.

 

She nodded but then realized something was off. Walking beside him, she leaned in and whispered: "The room is not for me alone."

 

He chuckled, "I know."

 

Yin Guo felt a warmth spread across her chest. It was not the first time she had been to a hotel with Lin Yi Yang.

 

It's a short walk from the gym to the hotel, only ten minutes away. Lin Yi Yang borrowed an umbrella from a staff member at the hotel entrance, and they walked under it to the lobby together. Despite the umbrella, he was still drenched as if he hadn't used it at all. Yin Guo, on the other hand, was completely dry.

 

As they approached the elevator, Yin Guo was still contemplating whether to tell her roommate to return later. She knew that if she did, her roommate would understand the implication. But saying it outright would be too bold for her.

 

The elevator arrived, and they stepped inside. As they ascended, Yin Guo stole glances at Lin Yi Yang, admiring how his wet clothes clung to his toned physique. She wondered what it would feel like to run her fingers over the water droplets on his skin.

 

But she quickly shook the thought away, feeling embarrassed at the idea of being so forward.

 

After days of not seeing each other, Lin Yi Yang couldn't resist the urge to hold Yin Guo's hand, touch her face, and kiss her. As they walked towards the elevator, he whispered to her, "We're almost there," his gaze locked onto hers.

 

Yin Guo held her breath and nodded slightly in response. The elevator doors opened with a "ding," Lin Yi Yang led her out while holding her hand, heading towards Room 1207.

 

Lin Yi Yang retrieved the room key from the back pocket of his jeans while holding her cue stick. As he lowered his head to do so, she couldn't help but admire how he looked, with his sharp jawline and messy hair.

 

As soon as they arrived at the door, he kissed her on the forehead, nose, and down, leaning her against the edge of the door frame. "We're already at the door," she said, but they didn't go in just yet.

 

After days of being apart, they finally arrived at the hotel room door. Lin Yi Yang's hand holding the door key card had slid down from Yin Guo's hand and was now wrapped around her waist, pulling her closer to him.

 

He wanted to kiss her lips badly, but he resisted the urge and instead asked her about their shared love for billiards. "Why did you sink the last ball in the corner pocket? It would have been more impressive if you had banked it off the side and into the middle pocket."

 

After they reached the door, he leaned in closer. Yin Guo's lips parted slightly, each seeming like it would touch his.

 

"I'm good at playing thin shots," she whispered, "not good at bank shots..."

 

His hand holding the door card slid down to grip her waist, pulling her closer to him. As their lips met, a wave of tingling sensations shot up from her waist, causing her to let out a soft moan.

 

Lin Yi Yang chuckled and asked in a low voice, "So you still dare to call me queen?" His tongue pressed against his teeth, making her feel even more dizzy and breathless.

 

Just as the intensity of their kiss was growing, they heard the sound of the door being opened.

 

"I'll make you cry on the court a few times; then you'll behave." Lin Yi Yang chuckled, but then he was overcome emotionally and lifted Yin Guo off the ground, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist.

 

He placed the cue stick on the tea cabinet near the door, not wanting to waste more time. His heart was pounding so hard that he could feel it in his ears, every movement of their kiss sending waves of pleasure through his body.

 

He had been consumed with thoughts of her for a week, longing for her touch and presence. He had gone through the motions of daily life, traveling between school, the apartment, and the billiard room, but all the while, his mind was focused on her. How had he survived with just ten minutes of chatting every night for a week? It was a mystery to him. All he knew was that he needed her, and he needed her now.

 

Lin Yi Yang didn't lead her toward the bed, despite his desire to be close to her. He knew that if things got too heated, they might be unable to stop themselves. He wanted to be intimate with her but also wanted to take it slow and make the moment last. He suggested they go out and get some food instead.

 

The rain was pouring down outside, making it difficult to walk the ten minutes back to the hotel. Lin Yi Yang didn't want her to get wet again, so he bought food and returned it to the room.

 

As they ate, Lin Yi Yang kissed her softly, savoring the taste of her lips. He held her close, occasionally squeezing her waist. Suddenly, he noticed that her eyes were red and asked her why.

 

There was a moment of silence before she replied, "I'm leaving next week."

 

Lin Yi Yang's heart sank. "What day?" he asked.

 

"Wednesday," she replied.

 

He knew he didn't have much time left with her before she had to go. He thought of the competition in Hangzhou in late April.

 

Lin Yi Yang wasn't surprised by Yin Guo's tight schedule and asked, "Can't you hold on until the first open tournament is over?"

 

Yin Guo felt a sudden surge of sadness and pushed his chest, not in the mood for jokes.

 

"Are you thinking about me yet pushing me away?" Lin Yi Yang laughed softly, teasing her, "Let me do the math for you. Today is Friday, and your competition ends on Sunday, so there are only a few days until next Wednesday. Just hold onto me tight; every extra minute counts."

 

Yin Guo looked at him skeptically.

 

Lin Yi Yang noticed her downcast expression and hugged her tightly, letting out a soft sigh. He pressed his chin against the top of her head and held her for a few minutes until he heard a vibration from his phone.

 

It wasn't his phone ringing; it was hers.

 

Yin Guo hesitated to answer the call. She thought her friends and family would know she was busy with the competition and wouldn't call her unless necessary. Her club members were also present at the event, and she had been in touch with them regularly. However, the persistent ringing made her take out her phone and check the caller ID.

 

"Li Qingyan."

 

......

 

Yin Guo's heart sank when her phone rang, feeling inexplicably guilty for receiving a call during her private time with Lin Yi Yang. She saw him glance at her phone and knew he must have also seen the incoming call. Wanting to hang up, she hesitated, not wanting to be rude in front of him.

 

After a moment, she cleared her throat and answered the call, putting it to her ear. "Hello?"

 

"Couldn't talk just now," Li Qingyan's voice said from the other end, "Congratulations on advancing out of the group stage."

She replied with a "Hmm" and looked up at Lin Yi Yang.

 

As Lin Yi Yang stared down at her, Yin Guo felt a mixture of excitement and guilt. His fingers traced the curve of her ear, sending shivers down her spine. Then his hand trailed down to her neck, where he began to play with a strand of her hair.

 

She tried to focus on the call with Li Qingyan, but Lin Yi Yang's touch was too distracting. She could feel his other hand sliding up her waist, pushing her shirt. Her heart raced as she tried to keep her voice steady on the phone.

 

"Xiaoguo," Li Qingyan's voice crackled over the line, "I was planning on waiting until after the Irish Open to tell you... There are some things that can't be explained today. Maybe we can talk when I return to China."

 

Yin Guo fiddled with the volume button on her phone, trying to block out the sensual sensations coursing through her body. But as Lin Yi Yang's touch grew more urgent, she found it hard to concentrate.

 

He stopped and looked at her, silently pointing at the phone, indicating he wanted to take the call. Feeling dizzy and confused, Yin Guo couldn't discern what Lin Yi Yang intended to do. She hesitantly looked at him, wondering, "What do you want to do?"

 

"It's something important," he said firmly.

 

Yin Guo was hesitant for a moment but eventually decided to hand over the phone to him. She had nothing to hide, so it was fine. However, she wanted to explain politely to Li Qingyan on the other end, "Lin Yi Yang is with me, and he wants to talk to you about something important."

 

Li Qingyan immediately agreed, "Okay."

 

Lin Yi Yang took the phone from Yin Guo's fingers, his expression inscrutable as he put it to his ear. After a long silence, he spoke in a low, measured tone, "Li Qingyan, this is Lin Yi Yang. I'm borrowing Yin Guo's phone to ask you a question."

Li Qingyan's voice crackled through the phone, "What is it?"

 

"I need to know if Meng Xiaodong bought the wine," Lin Yi Yang said without preamble.

 

There was a pause, and then Li Qingyan responded, sounding a bit surprised, "Yes, I bought it already. Twelve-year-old Chivas."

 

Lin Yi Yang nodded as if this was the answer he was expecting. "Good, good. That's what I wanted to hear."

 

Li Qingyan seemed to be struggling to keep up with the conversation. "Is there anything else you need to know?"

 

"What time and room number did you book?" Lin Yi Yang continued, his voice still calm and even.

 

"Room 1000, at 8 pm," Li Qingyan replied.

 

"Okay, thanks. That's all I needed to know," Lin Yi Yang said simply. "You can continue your conversation now."

 

Yin Guo felt her anxiety rise as she adjusted the volume to its lowest, hoping Lin Yi Yang wouldn't hear anything that might set him off. She knew that Li Qingyan had a fiery temper in the past and could make the other person lie in bed for three days. In other words, this kind of person was asking for trouble, and as they say in the dialect of Dongxincheng, "looking for a fight."

 


 

As she ended the call, Yin Guo decided it wasn't urgent enough to bring up the conversation with Lin Yi Yang. She would wait for a more appropriate moment later in the evening when they could discuss it calmly.

 

With a sense of relief, Yin Guo hung up the phone and turned her attention back to Lin Yi Yang, who was still standing close to her, his gaze fixed on her.

 

Yin Guo met Lin Yi Yang's gaze, searching for something that she couldn't quite put her finger on. His dark eyes held a hint of mystery and depth that she found intriguing, and she couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking.

 

After staring at her for a while, Lin Yi Yang finally broke the silence and asked, "What are you thinking about?"

 

She shook her head, pretending everything was fine, but her mind was far from calm. The conversation with Li Qingyan still lingered in her thoughts, and she couldn't help but wonder what it all meant.

 

"Xiaoguo?" Lin Yi Yang called her by her nickname, his voice gentle and soothing.

 

She was about to speak but suddenly took a deep breath and hugged his neck. The unfamiliar sensation of being so close to him left her at a loss, but she held onto him, frowning as she struggled to determine whether it felt good or uncomfortable. Her heart raced, and she found it difficult to catch her breath properly.

 

Lin Yi Yang's eyes were fixed on her the whole time, and his hand moved from left to right as if trying to grasp onto something. His throat tightened, wanting to look directly at her or even kiss her, but he held back. He tried to grasp and pinch, but it was all soft, and he couldn't hold it.

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