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During the Snowstorm


The Passion Remains


Lin Yi Yang rested his forehead against hers and thought, "I really shouldn't call you Xiaoguo."


But then he changed his mind and decided to let it go.


He couldn't help but reminisce about his youth when he was at the peak of his career and felt invincible. Back then, he would have taken her to bed and conquered her body without a second thought. He had been naive and arrogant, thinking he was untouchable.


But now, as he held her close, he felt a different kind of power. It was a power that came from vulnerability and the trust they had built. He didn't need to prove anything to her or anyone else.


Yin Guo tried to hide her discomfort, but the soreness from his actions made it difficult to keep her composure. Lin Yi Yang noticed her unease and quickly helped her adjust her clothes.


"It's pouring outside. Why don't you wait for me inside? I'll be back shortly," he suggested.


Yin Guo silently nodded, relieved to have a moment to herself to gather her thoughts.


Her fingers traced the contours of his face, lingering on his chin and nose before traveling upwards to the back of his neck. The short hair there felt stiff under her touch, with the tips brushing against her palm and leaving a teasing itch. It was clear that he had recently trimmed it, especially the back, which was noticeably shorter than the rest.


Her eyes met his, and she thought, "You're so tempting."


Lin Yi Yang was softened by her touch. In fact, he was just about to check for upscale restaurants nearby to buy dinner for her. He looked at her and asked, "Is there something you want to say?"


"I don't know," she said. Her mind was both empty and full, with a jumble of thoughts and emotions.


It was all her first time in life. He was the first man to have such intimate contact with her.


She suddenly thought of Cheng Yan and how Lin Yi Yang looked when someone pursued him. She brought up Cheng Yan's name, pretending to say casually, "Oh, I saw Cheng Yan the other day. She looked really pretty."


Lin Yi Yang raised an eyebrow, sensing that there was more to her statement than met the eye. "Cheng Yan? Why are you mentioning her all of a sudden?"


Yin Guo hesitated for a moment before blurting out, "I guess I get jealous when I think about how other girls might pursue you. It's silly, I know."


She had never been possessive in the past, but now she couldn't help but feel jealous whenever she liked someone.


As he held her hand, Lin Yi Yang could sense her restlessness. He didn't know how to respond to her mention of Cheng Yan, someone he had little to do with. But he could see that her jealousy was consuming her, making him feel a mix of emotions.


He squeezed her hand tightly and spoke with a gentle tone, "Let's go."


He knew that seeing the person you like getting jealous can deepen their bond. However, he also understood the difficulties of controlling jealousy, as it was a natural human emotion that could cause unnecessary strain on any relationship.


As Lin Yi Yang left to buy food, Yin Guo went to the bathroom to freshen up. She cracked open a new bar of soap and washed her hands and face, feeling the grime of the competition wash away. Despite her discomfort, she had to admit that the makeup did make her look good on stage.


As she washed her face, she felt the tension in her body ease. But there was still one thing bothering her. No matter how much she adjusted it, her bra was still uncomfortable. She unhooked it and put it back on, hoping it would fit better this time.

She couldn't help but notice the red marks on her neck slowly fading away. A reminder of the intense passion from the night before. She pulled down her collar to get a better look in the mirror.


As she stood in front of the sink, lost in thought, her face glowed with soft light, and her eyes misted over. She absentmindedly picked up a strand of white thread from the towel and rubbed it between her fingertips, lost in a memory that reddened her face. With a sudden jolt, she dropped the towel and went to an empty room.


A large, single-shoulder sports backpack rested on the carpet in the corner of the room. Yin Guo had noticed it the first time she met Lin Yi Yang, and since then, it has always seemed to be present in his apartment. She had never seen him use any other backpack beside the black one that accompanied him on his travels between the two cities.


Yin Guo sat at her desk, a satisfied smile on her face as she gazed at Lin Yi Yang's large sports backpack. With her phone in hand, she couldn't help but ponder Lin Yi Yang's true playing ability, especially after he deliberately asked about her weak skills. Coincidentally, someone close to her had played with Lin Yi Yang before. Despite never bothering to message Meng Xiaodong before, Yin Guo eagerly turned to the perennial iceberg for answers.


Yin Guo: Is there anything Lin Yi Yang isn't good at on the court?


M: Not really.


M: He's good at everything. It just depends on whether he wants to play or not.


Yin Guo sighed as she thought about Meng Xiaodong's truthful and straightforward evaluation of Lin Yi Yang's skills. It only made her want him more. As time passed, she grew increasingly restless, wondering where he was and if he got caught in the rain. Unable to resist the temptation, she sent him a private message on WeChat to vent her complaints.


Xiaoguo: Secretly, it's a bit sore there.


Lin: ?


Lin: Be gentler next time, okay?


Lin Yi Yang sat by the window of the pizza shop, his sneakers drenched from the heavy downpour outside. Even with an umbrella, there was no escaping the rain. He absentmindedly gazed at her profile picture on WeChat and then looked out at the running and drenched crowd outside.


Despite the miserable weather, he couldn't help but laugh as he watched the people outside struggle to avoid the rain. The sight was almost comical, and he found himself smiling at the scene.


After escorting Yin Guo to her room, Lin Yi Yang made his way to room 1000. As he approached the door, it was opened by Li Qingyan.


"Hey, they're inside," Li Qingyan said, stepping aside to let Lin Yi Yang pass.


Lin Yi Yang nodded, a small smile playing on his lips. "Thanks, man. We should play some games later," he suggested, giving Li Qingyan a friendly pat on the shoulder.


"Sure, I'm always down for some games," Li Qingyan replied, returning the gesture.


Lin Yi Yang entered the suite, feeling the warmth of the cozy atmosphere.


Inside, the makeshift round table dominated the center of the room, surrounded by a group of people with nothing on the table but bottles of alcohol. Meng Xiaodong and Jiang Yang led the group, chatting and laughing softly while the others took turns sharing jokes and stories. As soon as Lin Yi Yang walked in, everyone paused, turning their attention towards him.


"Better late than never. Let's have a round first," Jiang Yang said with a smile, rolling up his sleeves and swirling his half-filled glass of wine.


Without any hesitation, Lin Yi Yang grabbed the full bottle of wine and poured a generous amount into a glass, going around the table to fill up each person's glass. As he did so, the room was filled with clinking glasses and cheerful chatter.


As Lin Yi Yang arrived, Meng Xiaodong stood up to welcome him, but Lin Yi-yang gestured for him to sit back down. "Don't get up. I'm not the emperor," he joked, sitting beside him. He clinked his cup with Meng Xiaodong's and downed it in one go, showing off his drinking prowess.


After a few rounds of drinking, Lin Yi Yang started to feel the effects of the alcohol. He took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.


Around the table, the men reminisced about their younger days in Dongxincheng, recalling the challenges they set for each other, like downing buckets of cold beer in the scorching summer heat. Despite the passing years and the distance between them, they were grateful to be able to gather together once more.


As the night wore on, the group of friends continued to drink and chat. Chen Anan, the honest child, was the first to fall down, succumbing to his poor alcohol tolerance. Wu Wei, the thoughtful child, took it upon himself to help Chen Anan to the bathroom to vomit. The sudden departure of two of their group members didn't seem to faze the rest.


Meng Xiaodong, who typically drank little, looked a bit tipsy after finishing a full glass. He sat there silently without saying a word.


Jiang Yang leaned in with a smile and asked, "Xiaodong?"


Meng Xiaodong shook his head when asked if he was okay.


Jiang Yang then slowly poured him another glass of alcohol and said, "Old Six, if you want to know something, now is the time to ask."


Lin Yi Yang, who had been observing the exchange, glanced at Jiang Yang but didn't bother with his teasing.


"You want to know about my sister's childhood sweetheart, Li Qing Yan?" Meng Xiaodong said, his voice slurring slightly. He was feeling dizzy from the alcohol, but his mind was still clear.


"I haven't asked about the specifics of their relationship, but Yin Guo's parents seem to like him," he added, rubbing his temples absentmindedly.


Meng Xiaodong looked at Lin Yi Yang for a moment, his eyes unfocused. "You know what I'm talking about. That incident with the other team. The one that got you suspended."


The room fell silent for a moment.


Everyone could sense that he was referring to Lin Yi Yang's last professional game, and they all turned their attention to him.


Jiang Yang quickly took charge, clearing his throat and instructing the vendor to bring some hot tea for Meng Xiaodong. Fan Wencong hurriedly complied, eager to be of service.


As he left the room, Jiang Yang glanced at Meng Xiaodong and then at Lin Yi Yang. He had been teasing Lin Yi Yang earlier, but now he realized the situation was more serious than he had thought. Meng Xiaodong's drunken ramblings had revealed a connection between them all that was unexpected and concerning.


The sliding door creaked open, and Wu Wei stumbled out with an unconscious Chen Anan draped over his shoulder. He carelessly tossed her onto the bed before making his way to the table, picking up his half-empty cup and downing its contents in one gulp. "I'm exhausted," he muttered under his breath, oblivious to the awkward silence that filled the room.


Jiang Yang shook his head, indicating to Wu Wei that he shouldn't ask what was happening. Lin Yi Yang fidgeted with his cup, keeping his emotions hidden. It was impossible to tell if he felt nostalgic, angry, regretful, or at peace. After a moment of silence, he placed his cup on the table and asked if a pool table was available.


Meng Xiaodong responded, "I've already reserved half of the billiard room, so you're welcome to play whatever you want."

Jiang Yang suggested, "Let someone clear the table for you first."


However, Lin Yi Yang waved his hand and declined the offer.


He stood up from the round table and informed Meng Xiaodong, "I arranged to play two rounds with your guys."


"They're preparing for the Irish Open, so don't go too hard on them," Jiang Yang reminded Meng Xiaodong.


"I understand," Lin Yi Yang replied without looking back, then left the room.


The atmosphere outside was electric, with the crowd abuzz with excitement. People from both Dongxincheng and Beijing had gathered here, filling the area with a sense of anticipation. As Lin Yi Yang exited the room, he signaled to Li Qingyan, who had been waiting for him.


Without delay, Li Qingyan rose from the sofa and instructed Hua Xiuzi, "Watch Xiaodong inside."


The two of them quickly made their way to the billiard room, where the ambiance was relatively quiet. The intense group stage had just finished, and most players had retired for the day. Only a handful of scattered tables had hotel guests enjoying a leisurely game of billiards, none of whom were professional players.


Lin Yi Yang picked up the shared cue stick and pointed to a neglected eight-ball pool table, a glint of mischief in his eyes. "Do you know how to play small eight-ball?" he asked Li Qingyan.


Small eight-ball was a popular informal playstyle in Lin Yi Yang's hometown pool hall. Unlike traditional eight-ball, the balls were manually racked in a triangle, and the white ball served as the cue ball. There were no specific rules or requirements - after the break, players could hit whichever ball they wanted, and the one who potted the black eight ball would win. It was a fast and profitable game for the pool hall owners, who charged one dollar per game.


For the wild kids, winning quickly and playing with excitement was what it was all about. Li Qingyan couldn't help but feel a rush of nostalgia as he stepped up to the table.


Since Li Qingyan and Lin Yi Yang are from the same place, they naturally know this type of game. They used to play it often after school during their elementary school days.


"Played it before," said Li Qingyan. "It's pretty simple."


"Back when I played this with others, the rules were also simple," said Lin Yi Yang as he picked up a chalk from the tableside and wiped the cue stick. "Whoever loses has to code a ball for the other person."


"I'm okay with that. If you can make me give you a few points, you'll probably be able to brag about it in our circle for years," said Li Qingyan, as he also picked up a cue stick.


Lin Yi Yang chuckled and glanced at him.


Looks like it's time to teach this kid a lesson. Lin Yi Yang thought as he watched Li Qingyan silently arrange the eight balls into a triangle on the table and position the white cue ball at the center of the head string. They were about to play a game of small eight-ball, a simple game that requires skill and precision.


According to the nine-ball rules, they competed for the right to break. It was no surprise that Lin Yi Yang easily won the right to break. He picked up his cue and walked around to the front of the pool table, examining the angle from which he would hit the ball. He wiped the cue tip with chalk again before bending down for the second time.


The whole person and the cue stick formed a straight line, with Lin Yi Yang's focus solely on the pool table. As he entered the game state, the smile on his face gradually faded away.


With a powerful stroke, the sound of impact echoed through the billiards room, drowning out all other sounds. The balls scattered in a single-stroke clearance, rolling and racing towards each pocket until all eight balls were pocketed, leaving none remaining.


This wasn't a miraculous feat, but rather, it relied on luck. Even Li Qingyan, who was no slouch at the game, would need a bit of luck to pull off a game where he cleared all the balls in a single shot. He hoped this was just a fluke, but it seemed more like a warning shot from Lin Yi Yang in their first game.


"Good shot," said Lin Yi Yang calmly as he pointed at the pool table.


Li Qingyan, the loser of the first game, had nothing to say and quickly bent down to retrieve the scattered balls from each pocket. He then meticulously racked them up in a triangle formation again, hoping for a better outcome this time.


As soon as the white ball was placed on the starting line, without any pause, Lin Yi Yang suddenly bent down and struck it heavily. The balls of various colors flew out with a sound, one after another, all rushing to enter the pockets. Not one was left behind.


It was another one-stroke clean-up, leaving Li Qingyan feeling even more defeated. "Well played," Lin Yi Yang pointed calmly at the table as if it was nothing extraordinary.


Li Qingyan acknowledged that this was not a coincidence, and he became increasingly silent as he retrieved the balls and placed them on the table for Lin Yi Yang. For the next ten rounds, Li Qingyan would be racking the balls while Lin Yi Yang would be taking shots.


Although it wasn't a one-shot-clear every game, it was obvious that Li Qingyan didn't even have a chance to touch the cue stick.


Li Qingyan even had a hint of relief before the last game that no peers were around to witness him continuously racking the balls for Lin Yi Yang.


He even had to admit that Lin Yi Yang had shown him mercy, as he could have easily invited everyone in Room 1000 to come and watch, but he didn't.


Perhaps this was a favor that Lin Yi Yang was giving to Meng Xiaodong.


A perfect 10-0.


The alcohol had lifted Lin Yi Yang's spirits, and there was a hint of his youthful exuberance in his eyes. He leaned his cue stick against the side of the table and supported himself with both hands, gazing at Li Qingyan across the table and the low-hanging pool table light.


"I lost," said Li Qingyan, conceding defeat.


In fact, Lin Yi Yang had been feeling a bit lightheaded for a while, having downed five shots of strong alcohol as soon as he entered the room and later drinking another two or three. At this point, the alcohol started affecting him, and he chuckled upon hearing Li Qingyan's words.


"Let me tell you something," said Lin Yi Yang, leaning closer to Li Qingyan.


Li Qingyan looked at him curiously, wondering what he had to say.


"Last time on that snooker table," Lin Yi Yang continued, pointing to the table where he had hit 50 balls, "I saw you were training to hit a ball every 25 seconds following the way Meng Xiaodong did. That's a requirement in the league, but not all public tournaments are like that."


Li Qingyan was surprised Lin Yi Yang had noticed his training method during their last brief encounter. He nodded, curious about what Lin Yi Yang had to say next.


"Spending 25 seconds on every ball before hitting it is draining your energy," Lin Yi Yang explained, his words slurring slightly due to the effects of alcohol. "You need to conserve your energy and focus on your shots. You're a player, not a match machine."


Lin Yi Yang felt like he needed a break. He wanted to drink some hot water or tea and, if possible, take a walk around Yin Guo's door before she went to bed to see her. However, he knew she was probably already asleep. Having played three matches that day, she was undoubtedly exhausted.


As Lin Yi Yang leaned against the pool table, he unconsciously reached up to unbutton the top two buttons on his dress shirt. The alcohol had caused his body to heat up, and the crowded room only made it worse. He often made this gesture in non-competitive situations when he was forced to wear a dress shirt. Perhaps it was because he was drinking with his former brothers tonight, or maybe the billiard hall atmosphere made him forget his troubles.


As his fingers hovered over the collar of his round-necked short-sleeved shirt, Lin Yi Yang paused for two or three seconds. He then leaned on the edge of the pool table and spoke, "One more thing."


With a serious expression on his face, he continued, "No matter what kind of relationship you had with Yin Guo in the past, whether you couldn't win her over or you did, it's over now. It's time to move on."


As the alcohol took hold, Lin Yi Yang's eyes became glassy and dark, and his forehead wrinkled with emotion. Despite his inebriation, he spoke slowly and deliberately, "Yin Guo is my wife, and I won't tolerate anyone trying to pursue her. Understand?"

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