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    Chapter 58: Breath on the Cheek

    Outside the car window, Jiang Yuduo stood motionless, his right hand still poised to open the door. His eyes were wide with astonishment and disbelief.

    He was absolutely certain that he wasn't seeing things. The money tree in the passenger seat had come to life!

    The branches trembled, moving upward as if inching their way "upward" little by little.

    This was surreal. Weren't plants considered "inanimate"? Even if they grew, it certainly wouldn't be at such a rapid pace visible to the naked eye.

    Deciding to observe further, Jiang Yuduo remained still, his breathing softening. Just as he noticed the branch visibly ascend another two or three centimeters, footsteps and conversation suddenly echoed nearby – someone had entered the underground garage.

    In an instant, he turned his head, rotating his body to face the newcomers, cursing inwardly,

    Why did they have to appear precisely at this moment?!

    He waited for the pair to pass, aware that the noise would definitely be heard inside the car. Since the rear window didn't offer a view of the money tree, he took a few deliberate steps in place, stomping a bit harder, before casually returning to the passenger door.

    Inside the car, after the earlier commotion, Lu Nanqing had swiftly "replanted" himself back into his hiding spot. Just as he was about to relax, he heard footsteps approaching, indicating that Jiang Yuduo had returned.

    This time, Jiang Yuduo didn't use a key fob to unlock the door. If not for the sound of his voice, Lu Nanqing would have been caught off guard. As the passenger door opened, Lu Nanqing secretly rejoiced that he had managed to withdraw his "foot" in time, avoiding detection.

    Jiang Yuduo appeared calm and composed. He glanced at his money tree, just a fleeting look, before bending down to grab the fertilizer spray and water bottle under the seat to tend to the plant.

    Everything unfolded with such ease, Jiang Yuduo mused. If he were to enter the entertainment industry, he'd surely bag an acting award.

    He tended to the tree with great focus and deliberation, his gaze fixed on it the entire time. Lu Nanqing, accustomed to this level of concentration, found nothing out of the ordinary. However, his guilt prevented him from meeting Jiang Yuduo's eyes, thus missing the hint of curiosity that lingered in the latter's gaze this time.

    Judging by the visual estimate, Jiang Yuduo could ascertain that his "Money Tree" had indeed been "replanted," with its leaves motionless, as tranquil as could be. It was so convincing that one wouldn't believe it without witnessing it firsthand.

    Having finished watering, he squatted down halfway and stretched out his hand, gently tapping the leaves with his index finger. He muttered to himself, "Why do you seem to come alive only at night?"

    The statement was innocent enough, made by Jiang Yuduo simply upon noticing the leaves had perked up. However, upon finishing his sentence, he paused, a mental connection forming with what he had just witnessed.

    By day, it languishes as if near death, but by night, it bounces back as if nothing had happened, and its enchantment also unfolds under the cloak of night...

    Jiang Yuduo remained silent for a few seconds, his mind wandering freely as he thought: Nocturnal creatures? Can they mutate? Might they grow taller than rooftops? Could they transform into humans? Like Groot, perhaps.

    Due to their similar eye levels from squatting, Lu Nanqing turned his head and noticed Jiang Yuduo staring blankly at him.

    Perplexed, he maintained a composed demeanor, silently locking eyes with Jiang Yuduo. After all, the latter was unaware that the tree was animate.

    Moments later, Jiang Yuduo's gaze refocused, still fixed on Lu Nanqing. The two remained locked in a stare for several seconds.

    "Safely stay here, I'll water you again tomorrow morning," Jiang Yuduo suddenly smiled faintly, playfully tapping a leaf with his finger.

    Standing up, he glanced at the rearview mirror as he closed the car door, then locked it. Finally, he cast one last look at the potted plant on the passenger seat before departing.

    Lu Nanqing felt no unease; now watered, he could sleep soundly. It was none of his business when Jiang Yuduo would return.

    Meanwhile, Jiang Yuduo walked while accessing the car's surveillance footage on his phone. He had a task for the night – watching the recording.

    In his quiet hospital room, Jiang Yuduo leaned against the sofa, watching the latest video. The scene in his mind synchronized with the footage. His money tree had indeed come to life, recoiling swiftly upon hearing a sound.

    He slowed down and replayed the two-second "recoil" multiple times, finding it inexplicably amusing. A smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

    He reviewed the previous recordings as well, playing them at normal speed. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, which left him somewhat disappointed. He yearned for more evidence to substantiate what he had witnessed.

    Could it be that the "action" only happened today? He had been as still as a tree before this.

    After over two hours, Jiang Yuduo pulled his gaze away from the in-car surveillance and stretched his neck, muttering softly, "Nothing. Where else could I look?"

    Right, there was still his bedroom and office!

    He seemed to have regained his motivation, like a child eager to explore a new toy. He dug out the bedroom surveillance footage that he had never even bothered to check before.

    In the past, he thought installing a camera in the bedroom was a bit "perverted," as it could monitor him sleeping naked. However, it was for safety purposes, and the probability of a burglary was one in a billion. Although the property management didn't have the right to access the footage without permission, homeowners could view it anytime they wanted.

    Today, the surveillance came in handy. Looking at his "workload," Jiang Yuduo realized he wouldn't need to play games for a while; entertainment had arrived.

    Another two hours passed, and his eyes began to tire. Jiang Yuduo found no new leads, so he paused the footage. Meanwhile, the in-car surveillance continued to be monitored in real-time after he left. Unfortunately, there were still no new discoveries.

    Frustrated by the lack of results, he started to wonder if it was all an illusion. He re-watched the car footage several times to reinforce his determination to uncover any trace of evidence.

    Rubbing his temples, he glanced at the person on the hospital bed and headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth and wash his face.

    While someone had strained their eyes watching the surveillance fruitlessly, the other person slept soundly, whether in human or tree form.

    The following morning, the alarm sounded promptly at five o'clock. This time, Jiang Yuduo woke up at the first ring due to the mental cues he had given himself before falling asleep.

    He switched off the alarm and, wearing flip-flops, approached the sickbed, looking down attentively.

    "Lu Nanqing, Lu Nanqing?" Jiang Yuduo gently shook Lu Nanqing's shoulders, calling out his name.

    No response.

    "Lu Nanqing, wake up," Jiang Yuduo called louder and with more force.

    The person in the bed remained unresponsive. However, the potted plant in the car, situated in the passenger seat, swayed slightly.

    Lu Nanqing vaguely heard someone calling him. Upon recognizing the voice as Jiang Yuduo's, he blinked and scanned the area but found no one.

    "It's five o'clock. Aren't you getting up? Didn't you say you wanted to find the master?" came another voice.

    This time, Lu Nanqing was certain that Jiang Yuduo was disturbing his slumber, addressing his human body.

    Now that they shared a connection of five senses, Lu Nanqing also wished to return to his body. However, he couldn't – the familiar "dizziness" hadn't yet arrived.

    Listening to Jiang Yuduo drone on in his ear like an annoying fly, alternating between threatening to buy out his company and begging not to compete for the project, and finally even offering compensation, he said,

    "…A million is too little? Then I'll give you five million."

    "You should open your eyes. Five million can buy you a Mercedes G-Class, isn't that better than your two million plus Bentley?"

    "…Alright! I'll raise it to ten million, as long as you're still alive."

    On the hospital bed, the person who had been unconscious suddenly fluttered his eyelids, but did not open them.

    "I don't need ten million, my family doesn't have much liquidity to spare..."

    Jiang Yuduo crouched ungracefully by the bedside with his arm resting on the bed, occasionally shaking Lu Nanqing's hand.

    It was probably half past five now. After thirty minutes of Jiang Yuduo's monologue, his mouth was dry, and his feet were numb. He was about to call the on-duty doctor when, in the split second he turned around, the corner of his eye caught sight of Lu Nanqing's face, and he noticed...

    Huh? Why does it seem like he's smiling?

    Jiang Yuduo spun around abruptly, only for the curve of his lips to immediately flatten. He returned to the bedside, propping himself up on one hand at the head of the bed and the other on the pillow, leaning down to face-to-face, gradually closing the gap between them.

    Lu Nanqing sensed a shadow descending above him. He maintained his breathing as normal as possible, but gradually, he found it difficult to remain calm, for he could feel the breath brushing against his cheek.

    At this moment, Jiang Yuduo was incredibly close to Lu Nanqing, so close that just a few more centimeters would bring their noses into contact.

    The breathing continued, steady and rhythmic - or so it seemed. Now, it had slowed down and become irregular.

    Jiang Yuduo's eyes narrowed slightly. He freed his right hand to lift the corner of the blanket, placing his palm over Lu Nanqing's heart.

    Tsk, the heartbeat has accelerated.

    Jiang Yuduo was utterly exasperated to the point of laughter, hissing through gritted teeth in a low voice, "Lu Nanqing, are you still not awake?"

    No one replied to him.

    "Very well, since you wish to be a sleeping beauty, I shall grant your wish. I'll sacrifice myself to give you a kiss and rouse you from your slumber," Jiang Yuduo said with a mischievous twist to his words.

    These words left Lu Nanqing instantly stiff, their noses almost touching. He could no longer hold back and abruptly opened his eyes.

    The moment he opened his eyes, he found himself gazing into a pair of strikingly close and dark orbs, belonging to none other than Jiang Yuduo.

    Noticing that Jiang Yuduo had stopped feigning sleep, anger still simmered within him, yet he refused to withdraw his body, maintaining their locked gaze in this position.

    A tree and a person could maintain such an intense stare for several seconds, but when it was two people, Lu Nanqing couldn't hold out for more than two. He averted his eyes, pushing at Jiang Yuduo's chest with a hand, his voice rough and low, "Get off me..."


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