When it comes to traveling or spending time together, Gu Yun is the one who usually decides where they go or what they do. Chang Geng is the type of person who doesn't mind as long as it’s not too extravagant.
But one day, Chang Geng asks him if he wants to take a trip down to Jiangnan.
Gu Yun is surprised — they usually don't travel far — but in the end, he agrees.
They take the train. The railroads haven't been opened to the civilians quite yet, still going through a series of tests and modifications for widespread use. Anyways, he and Chang Geng tend to use carriages, ride their horses, or (in some extreme cases on Chang Geng's part and very often on Gu Yun’s) an Eagle to fly where they need to go.
It's a new experience.
They talk about everything and nothing, falling into a comfortable quiet afterwards. Gu Yun leans to the side and looks out the window for most of the way, seeing the scenery pass by in a way that’s different than flying above using the Eagle or galloping through on his horse. There are towns and cities, long stretches of farmland and woods, mountains and hills rising and falling away.
An unknown feeling touches his heart. He looks over at Chang Geng.
Chang Geng is already looking back at him, almost like he never looked away in the first place, captured with watching the scenery outside reflected in Gu Yun's eyes.
The feeling in his heart settles, warms up. He sends Chang Geng a smile and ends up asking, "By the way, what did you want to do in Jiangnan?"
"Not much," Chang Geng says. "Just travel with you."
Gu Yun probes him more about it, but Chang Geng stubbornly keeps the reason sealed behind a gentle, closed-lip smile. Gu Yun can see the laughter in his eyes.
When they disembark, they go around the city without plan or direction. They walk through the streets. Chang Geng stops to buy some osmanthus cake. He breaks off a piece for Gu Yun, who refuses it, then takes it back and eats it himself with a small laugh.
A stomachache averted, Gu Yun breathes out a sigh of relief, but not a moment later he feels a tug on his wrist dragging him to the side and into the small, shadowed space between two buildings. Lips press over his own before he can say anything. A tongue slips inside his mouth, warm and sweet.
Just as quick, Chang Geng pulls back. His eyes are bright. He asks in a whisper, as if in secret, "Did you like it?"
There’s a sweetness lingering in Gu Yun’s mouth. He makes a face and tells him, "No."
But he also slips a hand to hold the back of Chang Geng’s head and kisses him again.
Chang Geng laughs into it.
In the end, once they’re back strolling through the main street, he buys Gu Yun a meat skewer.
They stop by a nearby post station to borrow a pair of horses to go riding. They aren't anything like the war horses Gu Yun is used to, or even his retired “soldiers”, but they're quick and full of energy and friendly. Chang Geng takes the lead and gallops off ahead of him, his white sleeves billowing out behind him
Gu Yun chases after him, smiling.
There's no telling how far they go. One side is a spattering of mountains, the other is wide, open land. The devastation from before has long faded away, and the burnt earth and withered trees have all regained their vitality. Lush grass sway with the breeze. Fresh, clean air fills their lungs.
Soon, Chang Geng slows to a stop, waiting for Gu Yun.
"What's gotten into you?" Gu Yun asks with a laugh.
Chang Geng smiles back at him. "I got too excited and rushed off."
Gu Yun doesn’t understand at first, but a thought soon comes to him. He counts the months and realizes, "It has been a while since you last went riding."
Chang Geng shakes his head and laughs. It sounds breathless, almost like he’s nervous. He taps his foot to his horse's flank, making it take two steps closer to Gu Yun. "That's not it. Zi Xi, um... what do you think about this place?"
Gu Yun looks around. "... A few years ago, it would've been hard to find one green blade of grass here. That it could become like this is because of everyone's hard work."
Chang Geng listens to him. In his gaze is a layer of gentle, shining sunlight.
He asks next, "What do you think about it as a place to live?"
It takes a moment. Gu Yun blinks and turns to look at him. "What?"
"That year, you said that instead of returning the money for the Feng Huo tickets, a place to retire to would be enough." Chang Geng says, "We can build a manor here. In a few years, when it's time to pass things over to the future generation, we can come here to spend the rest of our days. There's enough space for your horses. The closest city is only a short ride away. If you want to go out, you won't have to go far — "
Gu Yun: "What about you?"
"What about me?" Chang Geng asks.
"Staying here," Gu Yun says. "This place. Doesn't it have things for you too?"
"I don't need much," Chang Geng tells him. "Food, a place to sleep, a roof over my head, and...“ He smiles helplessly, “Well, mostly, just you."
Chang Geng looks at him and asks, "Do you like it?"
Gu Yun's heart is hot. A little uncontrollably, he reaches out and pulls Chang Geng into a hug.
Gu Yun: "Like it."