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恵子は若く美しかった。やつれてはいたが、柔らかい、優しげな雰囲気のままだった。

I'm struggling to understand how 若く is being used. Is it used like an adverb for 美しかった?

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~く is the 連用形 for an い adjective. As has been covered on this site before, the 連用形 can be used conjunctively to join separate clauses. 'Keiko was young, and [she was] beautiful.' The 連用形 is more formal to use for this purpose than the て form, and it might just be me, but I feel 若くて美しい has more of an implication that she's beautiful because she's young.

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