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    Chapter 53: Double Flower Temple II

    In her sleep, she felt a tight grip around her waist, followed by a deep, husky male voice whispering, "I've missed you so much~"

    That man was being coquettish!

    How disgusting!

    An Zhi jolted awake, opening her eyes to a blast of cold air that sent shivers down her spine and raised goosebumps all over her body. As she looked around, she realized she was in a cave.

    The cavern was dim and frigid, with icicles hanging from its ceiling, piercing the ground like towering spears. Each one was so thick that it would take three or four people stretching their arms wide to encompass them. They emitted a gentle white glow in the darkness.

    The voice whispered in his ear again, "I miss the peach cakes, pinwheels, and candy beans you brought me. But most of all, I miss you. I would resurrect you a million times over, Jing Long."

    Looking down, An Zhi was stunned to see He Mengfang!

    An Zhi scoffed, "What's wrong with you? How old are you, He Mengfang?!"

    He Mengfang released An Zhi, fury blazing in his eyes as he seized An Zhi's chin. "Look closely at who I am! He Mengfang, He Mengfang, both you and Jing Long said I could never compare to him! Hahaha, at least I won't develop unspeakable desires for someone I shouldn't have feelings for!"

    An Zhi realized the truth – after He Mengfang retrieved Shen Yuan's body from Jing Tan, she perished. The He Mengfang standing before him now was Zhe Dan!

    A green-glowing glass bottle dangled at Zhe Dan's waist. Within it likely resided Jing Long's fragmented soul.

    Footsteps echoed behind Zhe Dan, drawing ever closer.

    Looking over, An Zhi saw the man who, in the Realm of Ghosts, had joined forces with Zhe Dan to kill him!

    The man inquired, "Is there truly a way in this world to bring the dead back to life?"

    Zhe Dan replies, "Of course not. But there is the option of possession, provided you find his soul and a vessel that suits your liking."

    The man removes his mask.

    Xia Huan!

    In the dim cavern, An Zhi's eyes widen in astonishment.

    Good heavens, both his nephews are trying to kill him!

    Xia Huan pulled out the jade pendant from his waist. "That day in the Ghost Realm, you killed my uncle to obtain Jing Long's soul, and I got hold of the Feng Lingyu."

    Zhe Dan released his embrace and turned to Xia Huan. "With the Feng Lingyu, you can forever imprison Chi Huan's soul within a vessel."

    The words Zhe Dan spoke inside Fu You's body echoed in An Zhi's mind: Feng Lingyu... After searching for so long, it was on you all along! Haha... Just how far will he go? Before achieving my goal, I'll enjoy watching you two tear each other apart.

    Understanding dawned on An Zhi, who shouted at Xia Huan, "Idiotic nephew, don't listen to Zhe Dan. He just wants to see us turn against each other!"

    Zhe Dan choked An Zhi, interrupting him. His eyes narrowed with an ambiguous intent as he gently traced An Zhi's cheek. "So alike..."

    Looking into Zhe Dan's eyes, disgust swelled within An Zhi. Zhe Dan's love for Jing Long was pure and untainted, cautious and hesitant to touch. But towards him, it was an overwhelming desire, brutal and decisive, ready to devour him whole.

    An Zhi couldn't bear to imagine what Zhe Dan would do if he couldn't revive Jing Long and instead sought to replace him.

    Fixing his gaze on Xia Huan, An Zhi said, "Xuan Zhu is the one you've been searching for. What else are you looking for?"

    Xia Huan staggered. "No. Chi Huan wouldn't be willing to meet me without recognizing me. How could he bear to deny who I am? That Xuan Zhu must be deceiving me!"

    ...An Zhi was left speechless.

    His waist was constricted by bindings.

    A massive, milky-white icicle pierced down from the cave's ceiling, the rope coiling around his waist several times to securely pin his arms to his sides, trapping him on the ice column that radiated coldness. His feet were bound in a similar manner.

    Unable to move, he could only turn his head to survey his surroundings. The cave was damp, with periodic drips of water echoing through the space.

    There were four such ice columns in the cave, and three of them held people captive.

    The cavern was dimly lit, and at this distance, An Zhi could only discern the outlines of the individuals, unable to tell their genders.

    "Hey! —" he called out to them loudly.

    "..." None of the three responded to him.

    Their prospects did not seem promising.

    Looking at Zhe Dan, he asked in surprise, "Are you the Cave God?"

    Zhe Dan shook her head. "No, but the murals in the Double Flower Temple depict you and me." As she spoke, she gently brushed against An Zhi's face.

    An Zhi turned his head to avoid it.

    Zhe Dan's gaze sharpened, fiercely turning An Zhi's face back towards him, forcing eye contact. "Back then, we were like husband and wife, with a love that was the envy of all, leaving behind the tale of the Double Flower Temple. You've forgotten, you even held our child in your arms! Everyone at the Double Flower Temple seeks me for love, and you for offspring... hahahaha..."

    "Go to hell!" An Zhi didn't believe a word of it!

    Suddenly, a shrill scream pierced the air.

    The sound was like a mating cat in spring, mournful yet piercingly sharp.

    Then, the voice of Crimson Misfortune echoed, "You're the Grotto God? Pathetically weak! Lead me to them, and I'll spare your life!" He commanded fiercely.

    No sooner had he finished speaking than Zhe Dan departed, urging An Zhi before he left, "Examine the murals in the temple, and you'll know whether what I said was true or not."

    As soon as Zhe Dan left, Xia Huan followed suit.

    Before she could fully process what was happening, a beam of light shot from the side.

    Instantly, the cavern was illuminated with a brilliant glow.

    Having acclimated to the dimness of the cave, An Zhi found the light unbearable, causing him to shut his eyes tightly.

    After a moment, he adjusted.

    At that moment, a series of scraping sounds echoed from not too far away, as if something was being dragged across the ground.

    They turned to investigate the source of the noise.

    A slender figure, draped in red, approached them against the light, holding something in their hand.

    The object they carried was enormous, at least three times the size of the person's own frame.

    And yet, the individual towed it effortlessly towards them.

    Following this, a cool gust of wind swept through the cavern.

    Within the breeze, there lingered a faint scent of peach blossoms. Strangely enough, An Zhi felt as though he saw pink petals fluttering down before his eyes.

    "Chi Zi E!" The moment the figure came within An Zhi's line of sight, he cried out in surprise.

    In his hand, he was dragging a statue! After freeing An Zhi from the ropes, they both exited the cave together. Outside the cave, there was an entirely different world. Flowers carpeted the ground, peach blossoms bloomed brightly, incense smoke swirled, and a delicate little temple stood. Most importantly, the temple's walls were covered in paintings. The murals were vivid and colorful, although some had faded and lost patches of pigment, indicating their great age. Despite the dust covering them, one could still discern the general scenes depicted. A woman with white hair and a blue robe held a child in her arms, walking hand in hand with a man dressed in black and red, both of them enjoying the world together in harmony and joy. An Zhi moved slowly along the wall, studying each painting carefully. Suddenly, a thunderous boom echoed behind him. The earth shook, and his body jolted up and down.

    Startled, he patted his chest and consoled himself before turning to see where the sound had come from.

    Chi Zi'e was roughly returning the giant stone statue to its original position, lifting it by a corner like a chick and carelessly tossing it back.

    The moment the statue returned to its place, a loud crack echoed as it split down the middle.

    A beam of spiritual light emerged from the statue, ascending slowly before darting into another female stone statue used for incense offerings in the temple.

    "Mountain Deity!" An Zhi pointed at the statue, exclaiming in shock. Sensing danger, he disregarded the murals and hurriedly hid behind Chi Zi'e.

    Unexpectedly, just as he reached Chi Zi'e's back, he suddenly sprang forward, leaping to land in front of the statue.

    An Zhi was at a loss.

    Chi Zi'e threatened in a cold voice, "You'd better reveal yourself, or don't blame me for being ruthless."

    An Zhi understood that Chi Zi'e was addressing the Mountain Deity, who would soon manifest.

    True enough, the spiritual light emerged from the center of the statue's forehead, gently descending to the ground.

    A gentle breeze carrying the scent of peach blossoms swept by, causing the golden hairpin with wind chimes on An Zhi's head to tinkle softly. Her silver tresses danced in the air for a moment before settling back down – Dongshen appeared before An Zhi.

    "No! You..." An Zhi was struck speechless by the sight of Dongshen's true form.

    Before her stood a person with a rosy face and cherry lips, a dot of vermillion on their forehead, their delicate and soft features captivating.

    Dressed in a green robe with a pink scarf lightly draped over their arms, they seemed ethereal, a goddess-like figure with their charming combination of red and white. Their almond-shaped eyes shimmered with a watery glow, as lively as rippling spring water, exuding a playful vivacity.

    Dongshen resembled Shen Yuan identically! The only difference being their gender!

    Extending an arm, Dongshen pointed an elegant jade finger at the stone statue behind them, explaining, "I was originally a peach blossom in this temple. Recently, with assistance from someone, I borrowed the form of the temple's stone statue to assume human shape. My appearance has evolved along with that statue."

    "Yet, you," she said, placing her hands on her hips and inspecting An Zhi from head to toe, "why do you resemble the stone statue?"

    "I... I..." An Zhi found herself at a loss for words.

    "This temple is called the Double Flower Temple," Dongshen continued. "In Ang Liu Bay, it's a temple spontaneously built by the locals. In the Double Flower Temple, one flower represents a man dressed in dark purple, while the other is a woman attired in green with white hair."

    An Zhi asked further, "Why did the people of Ang Liu Bay choose to build a temple for these two?"

    Grotto God said, "Love, hate, obsession, and jealousy — love itself is an obsession. People all wish to meet their soulmate, to be together as a couple, holding hands for a lifetime. If they're blessed with a delightful offspring, life would be considered complete."

    Pointing at the mural in the temple, she continued, "Legend has it that this couple was deeply in love, treating each other with respect and kindness. But one day, they encountered a sinister-looking man with phoenix-like eyes who coveted the lady's beauty and intended to make her his wife. Refusing to be separated, they chose to die together. People admired their love and felt sorry for them, hence the construction of the Double Flower Temple..."

    "Ahem!" Before Grotto God could finish, An Zhi cleared his throat loudly, interrupting her. He thought to himself,

    I wonder what happened between Shen Yuan and Zhe Dan that led to such a misunderstanding about their relationship. If Zhe Dan's account is true, then this stern-eyed man must be...

    An Zhi coldly stated, "In the legend, those two weren't in the relationship you assumed. It was just a misconception back then. Perhaps that stern-eyed villain was the lady's true match."

    "Nonsense!" Grotto God retorted fiercely.

    The corners of Child Misfortune's brows furrowed, and his gaze turned sharp. He glared at Grotto God and grunted lowly through his nose, "Hmm?—"

    "Uh..." Grotto God, frightened, dared not provoke An Zhi any further.

    An Zhi asked Grotto God, "Why did you harm people?"

    Grotto God appeared puzzled. With a pure face akin to Shen Yuan's and bright apricot-shaped eyes, she replied, "I didn't harm anyone."

    An Zhi wondered, "What about those corpses in the cave?..."

    The Cave Spirit responded with a hearty "Oh," and said, "If not for your intrusion and all the commotion you caused, I wouldn't have known there was a cave beneath the Double Flower Temple until now."

    Chi Zi'e was skeptical of the Cave Spirit's words. "That cave has a complicated layout. How could you lead me to them if you're unfamiliar with it?"

    The Cave Spirit materialized a handful of peach blossoms, making the petals flutter around her, transforming freely in an ethereal beauty. She explained, "I'm a Peach Blossom Spirit. These petals can help me navigate."

    An Zhi nodded. "I did see peach blossom petals when we were there."

    Adding fuel to the fire, the Peach Blossom Enchantress continued, "This red-clothed young man is quite fierce. He insisted that I find you. Beauty has always been fleeting; flowers bloom and wilt with a snap of fingers. Having just received assistance to transform from a statue into my current form, I don't wish to return to being a short-lived beauty. Hence, I had no choice but to agree to guide you to locate him."

    Chi Zi'e caught on to something. "The person who helped you take human form using the temple's statue?"

    "Precisely!" The Peach Blossom Enchantress nodded, admiration sparkling in her eyes. She grew excited. "If I knew who he was, I would surely repay him within my means!"

    Chi Zi'e asked, "What does he look like?"

    The Peach Blossom Enchantress shook her head. "On that day, he came to the Double Flower Temple and asked a child to pick a peach blossom for him. That child plucked me. Then, he made the child place me on the altar, so I was constantly offered incense and soon transformed into this form. Alas—I never saw his appearance. Otherwise, I might have a clue on how to find him—except that he seemed to travel in a wheelchair."

    "A wheelchair?" An Zhi whispered the word in repetition, his tone filled with curiosity.

    Suddenly, a voice echoed within the temple, " peach blossom calamity, I don't seek a repayment within your means. Ever since I helped you take human form, I have accepted that you would go to the ends of the earth to repay me! ——"

    An Zhi was startled. "That person!"

    As the words faded, half a sword blade zoomed past Chi Zi'e's eyes. "Xuan Zhu's shattered blade!"

    Right before it could pierce through Peach Blossom Calamity's chest, Chi Zi'e brandished the Green Whip, coiling it tightly around the broken blade and sending it back in the direction it came from.

    Soon, a shrill cry of agony resounded outside the Double Flowers Temple.

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

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