Lan Zhan falls in love with Nie Huaisang when he is still Nie Fen. Nie Fen is a frivolous boy who cries a lot and is very clumsy. But he holds onto Lan Zhan’s hands and for the first time in his life, Lan Zhan is the older one, the one who gets to provide protection. Nie Fen’s palm is warm in his hand as he leads them back towards the Cloud Recesses.
Nie Fen comes back years later and he is now Nie Huaisang. He is even more frivolous, but less teary. Lan Zhan is now Lan Wangji, and they both miss the feeling of Nie-didi’s palm.
Nie Huaisang is not graceful, but he is beautiful. He hides his face behind fans and he chases birds and he smiles unreservedly at Lan Wangji when he shows off his fans. Lan Wangji’s heart stutters and misses a beat.
They’re fighting a war and Nie Huaisang isn’t on the battlefield because he has an overprotective brother. Lan Wangji is grateful without knowing why.
Nie Huaisang comes to visit the war fronts and he brings provisions and he’s like a tiny light of sunshine. Lan Wangji holds the feeling of warmth he gets from seeing Nie Huaisang close to his heart.
The war is over and Lan Wangji is restless. Gusu has been restored so he starts to travel. He tries his best to make the world a better place. He ends up in Qinghe by accident.
Nie Huaisang is older and even prettier and Lan Wangji spends a lot of time distracted. For once, he’s grateful for how minor his facial expressions are.
Lan Wangji leaves, reluctantly. But Nie Huaisang has made him promise to write letters, so he does. He talks about the places he’s visited, the people he’s seen, he learns to accurately draw various species of birds, and he learns to make his letters longer.
In return, Nie Huaisang tells him news of Qinghe, gossip of the cultivation world, and whines about saber practice. Lan Wangji falls in love a little bit more, which he didn’t think was possible