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    Chapter 52: Double Flower Temple I

    When they arrived at the couple's residence, Chi Zi'e said to Madam Jian, "I have a plan in mind. Please prepare a wedding attire and bring it to my room."

    Madam Jian replied, "Before the incident with Dong Niang, our daughter had already found her heart's desire. Both families had prepared for their union." She shook her head helplessly and sighed deeply. "I will fetch the ready-made wedding gown right away."

    As soon as Madam Jian left, Wen Yan yawned and informed An Zhi, "I'm going for a nap." With a stretch, he returned to the bedroom they were assigned.

    Wen Yan actually ignored him!

    An Zhi's eyes widened as he stared at his back, muttering indistinct sounds in frustration.

    Defeated.

    Wen Yan waved dismissively and truly left.

    Chi Zi'e placed the unconscious Ju Lang back on the bed and carelessly threw a blanket over him.

    His head was buried beneath the covers, but his feet remained exposed.

    Ignoring the commotion, Red Misfortune brushed off the dust on his hands.

    After a night of entanglement with the Jia family, dawn was breaking.

    Suddenly, a series of lock-picking sounds echoed outside their bedroom.

    Bound as An Zhi was, Red Misfortune didn't move to open the door. Following that, the door swung open on its own, revealing a young maiden standing in the entrance.

    As she appeared, a peculiar fragrance engulfed them, as if transporting one into a blooming peach forest.

    She carried a broom, a dustpan, a mop... a full set of cleaning tools, and immediately began tidying up upon entering.

    An Zhi realized she was a cleaner.

    Surveying the surroundings, he noticed the cleanliness and polished floor that could reflect a person's entire face.

    The place was already spotless.

    Being fellow laborers, An Zhi intended to remind the girl, but with his voice sealed by Red Misfortune, he couldn't utter a word.

    As Mrs. Jian rushed in, she called out, "Jiaojiao... Jiaojiao..."

    The girl paid no attention, her lips curved in a smile, her eyes bright with focus as she busied herself with cleaning, humming a pleasant tune.

    Her voice was melodious, the tune enchanting.

    It seemed something delightful had recently transpired in her life.

    Mrs. Jian approached the maid, pulling her to her side, and said, "Excuse me, this is Jiaojiao, our daughter. She has a key to the house and let herself in. Please forgive any inconvenience caused."

    Upon hearing this, An Zhi gave Jian Jiaojiao a fresh appraisal.

    Her face was like a blooming peach blossom, her age appearing to be around twenty-three or four.

    Mrs. Jian sighed deeply. "The Lady of the Flower-Falling Cave, with a face like a peach blossom, eyes like stars, a voice like a silver bell, and a body exuding an unusual fragrance. Now, Jiaojiao's illness has reached its final stages."

    A wave of sorrow washed over An Zhi.

    "Madam," a servant's voice echoed from outside the door, "the wedding attire."

    "Divine Lords, allow me just a moment to fetch my attire," said Lady Jian, turning to retrieve her clothes.

    "No need," Chi Zi'e swiftly flicked his wrist, gesturing towards the wedding gown held by the servant. With a light beckoning motion, the vibrant red robe obediently flew into his arm.

    An Zhi gazed at the half-hanging red garment on Chi Zi'e's arm, perplexed: What could he possibly want with a wedding dress?

    "Women favored by the Cave God soon transform into Jian Jiaojiao's state – humming tunes, wearing a blissful expression, ceaselessly tending to household chores, and being exceptionally virtuous until they exude an unusual fragrance. That's when death is near," Chi Zi'e turned around, unfolding the wedding gown, and holding it up against An Zhi. "They bind them and marry them to the Cave God before Dong Niang passes."

    Disregarding supernatural forces and regarding it as mere superstition, An Zhi saw it as a gross disregard for human life. He frowned, looking at Jian Jiaojiao with sympathy, her face radiating happiness bordering on foolishness beside Lady Jian.

    "Still think it's none of your business, that it doesn't concern you?" Chi Zi'e asked, undoing An Zhi's gag.

    An Zhi remained silent for a moment. Then, he sighed, conceding, "What do you need me to do?"

    Chi Zi'e's lips curved into a smile. "Put on this wedding dress."

    ...

    An Zhi donned the wedding attire, complete with phoenix coronet and brocaded veil.

    The silver threads accentuated her face with an icy sheen, like snow that remained untouched by warmth.

    The golden hairpins with dangling ornaments tinkled softly as they brushed against one another.

    Her almond-shaped eyes sparkled with a purity rarely found in men, and her appearance was soothing to behold.

    Pushing open the door, An Zhi stepped into the view of the crowd waiting outside. "I'm ready."

    Chi Zi'e didn't rush to speak. Instead, he first scrutinized An Zhi from head to toe before nodding in approval. "There are a few things you need to remember. First, you're a substitute bride. Jian Jiaojiao is the main bride, while you're the stand-in. Therefore, you mustn't remove the veil throughout the entire ceremony, or the matchmaker might suspect something."

    An Zhi nodded, and the sound of his hairpins chimed. He assured, "Understood."

    "Make sure to play your part thoroughly. You'll also need to carry Jian Jiaojiao's unique scent," Chi Zi'e extended his arm, palm open.

    In his hand rested a small, gilded bell, intricately carved with patterns, and exuding a subtle fragrance.

    Upon closer inspection, the aroma was identical to the peach blossom scent emanating from Jian Jiaojiao's body.

    Chihao suddenly asked, "Does it look familiar?"

    "Ahh?" An Zhi took the bell.

    Eddied Scarletwater reminisced, "Back then, we came to know each other through a battle on the Scarlet Water River, where neither of us emerged as the clear victor." The memory seemed delightful, and he couldn't help but chuckle. "Hehe, in the end, it was only when Scarlet Water fell from the sky and drenched us that the fight concluded. I invited you to my Cloud Terrace Pavilion to change clothes, but after you took the palace bell from Penglai, you never took anything else with you."

    An Zhi smiled and said, "It's not too late to return it to its rightful owner now."

    Chilun O continued his explanation about the function of the bell: "This incense bell contains two types of scents. Apart from peach blossom incense, there's also Soul Anchoring Incense. I hid this scent within the bell as a precaution to ensure your safety."

    "Certainly!" An Zhi fastened the incense bell to his waist, tying it securely with several tight knots to ensure it wouldn't fall off.

    After the deed was done, he asked, "Was that Cave God formidable?"

    The proud and aloof child crossed their arms, remarking, "Merely an aged artifact spirit."

    Though An Zhi couldn't comprehend the discussion, it was likely a trivial matter for the candid and poised Yi Shujun.

    It seems that your request is for me to translate a piece of text into English in a manner that is elegant and contextually appropriate, but you haven't provided the actual text to be translated. Please provide the text you'd like translated, and I will certainly assist you by rendering it into English with both grace and consideration for its context.

    Today, the sky was overcast, shrouded in a veil of gray, with intermittent light breezes and drizzle. It wasn't much of an issue.

    They had been traveling for hours without any sign of stopping, leaving one to wonder where exactly they were headed in the depths of wilderness.

    Inside the luxurious palanquin, An Zhi felt dizzy from the constant swaying. The golden hairpin adorned with dangling ornaments kept slapping against her face, causing a stinging sensation.

    As time passed, the rocking motion of the palanquin lured her into a drowsy state.

    Already feeling unwell, she thought that a brief nap would suffice, so she closed her eyes.

    The entourage made their way from Ang Liu Bay to the outskirts, halting at the entrance of the cave where the incident occurred.

    The bearers who carried the palanquin were no longer needed and might even be in danger, so Chizi E instructed them to return home.

    Afterward, he requested An Zhi to exit the palanquin outside, announcing, "We've arrived."

    However, after waiting for what seemed like ages, she didn't move to lift the curtain.

    Suspecting something amiss, he promptly rushed inside the palanquin to check on her.

    Only to find An Zhi unharmed, merely deep in sleep and oblivious to his voice.

    Chi Zi'e gently tapped An Zhi's shoulder, attempting to rouse him. "We've arrived—"

    After a while, An Zhi still showed no sign of waking up.

    This was truly a disastrous turn of events!

    In the next instant, a dark figure dashed out from the cave entrance.

    The shadow was incredibly swift, like a bolt of lightning, reaching Chi Zi'e's side in the blink of an eye.

    With a raised palm strike, it whistled through the air, revealing the figure's formidable inner strength and deadly intent.

    The hand knife descended straight towards Chi Zi'e's head.

    A sharp glint appeared in Chi Zi'e's eyes as he swiftly reacted, firmly grasping the attacker's wrist.

    The shadow struggled to free its arm, but Chi Zi'e's strength was immense, like a mountain immovable. No matter how hard the shadow tried, it couldn't break free.

    With a fierce gaze, Chi Zi'e turned his eyes towards the shadow, his eyes piercing through the darkness as if attempting to see through the fog and discern the figure within.

    Unfortunately, the other party seemed well-prepared, clad in a black cloak with their face concealed under a veil, leaving not even their eyes exposed for fear of being recognized.

    Chi Zi'e was disdainful.

    At this moment, he held the person captive before him; no matter how tightly wrapped they were, it would be effortless for him to reveal their true identity.

    Without hesitation, Chi Zi'e ripped off the black veil from the person's face, sparing no dignity.

    "Xia Huan?!" Chi Zi'e's eyes widened in disbelief. "That brat said you went to Shangchicheng with Xuan Zhu!"

    Just then, Xuan Zhu called out from the side, "An Zhi has been taken away!"

    "Neither of you went to Shangchicheng?" Chi Zi'e was both puzzled and astonished, but now was not the time for inquiries.

    ...

    As Chi Zi'e engaged in combat with Xia Huan, He Mengfang emerged from the depths of the cave.

    Xuan Zhu summoned her long sword and slashed forward. With a "pfft," the sword pierced He Mengfang.

    He Mengfang, however, chuckled and reached out to grasp the sword, snapping it with force. After the crisp sound of the broken blade, he pulled the shattered sword from his body without any change in expression.

    Startled for a moment, Xuan Zhu intended to seize the opportunity to counterattack but felt a constriction around her waist. The world spun before her eyes, and she crashed onto a tree trunk in the outskirts with a "thud." Her body slid down the tree, spewing blood that instantly stained the white veil on her face crimson.

    Earlier, He Mengfang had delivered a powerful palm strike, sending her flying.

    With Xuan Zhu injured and Zhe Dan possessing He Mengfang, Chi Huan was now occupied. Thus, He Mengfang effortlessly brought An Zhi back to the cave.

    On one side, having accomplished her task, Xia Huan disappeared into the cave, leaving no trace behind.

    Under the tree, the dazed Xuan Zhu muttered, "Master, Zhe Dan has taken over He Mengfang's body and is manipulating Xia Huan to activate some resurrection array... He deceived Xia Huan into believing that by killing Shen Yuan and extracting Feng Lingyu from his body, Chi Huan could be revived... I followed them to prevent this..."

    Chi Zuo'e couldn't help but scoff. "Nonsense! Resurrection goes against the natural order."

    Xuan Zhu, who valued Chi Zuo'e greatly, struggled to maintain consciousness as she explained, "Yes, I entered Shangchicheng to confront Zhe Dan, hoping to awaken Xia Huan. But..."

    "Enough. You can't wake someone pretending to sleep. Save your strength, rest well. I'll go deal with that boy."

    Chizi Ebara dashed into the cave, intertwining paths with Xia Huan inside until they traced their way out from beneath the Twin Flower Temple.

    Surveying the temple, Chizi Ebara noticed something amiss.

    Within the Twin Flower Temple stood two stone statues, one male and one female, symbolizing the dual flowers.

    The male statue held no unusual presence, but the female figure exuded a subtle scent of peach blossoms alongside a thick aura of black malevolence.

    The Cave Spirit had been dwelling within the temple's stone statue!

    --------------------

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