Yun He’s brow creased, but as she glanced at Jiang Ling and Gu Yun, they both nodded.
Yun He put down her misgivings, nodding as she replied: “A ling, go and investigate the bandits’ current situation.”

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Jiang Ling heeded her words, swiftly changing into her night-traveling garments.
She headed off in the direction Chu Yue mentioned, disappearing into the night. 

Gu Yun was a little worried.
He paced around the dilapidated temple, wearing out his mouth as he repeated “I knew I should have gone with A Ling,” but Yun He only commented that even if he went along, all he would be able to do was shadow Jiang Ling. 

The firewood burnt in the temple for the entire night.
The lingering sparks crackled and the temple was shrouded in an air of drowsiness.
At the break of dawn, Jiang Ling returned to the temple, covered in dew. 

The sleepiness of the resting travelers vanished at once. 

“Shijie, I’ve investigated thoroughly.” Once Jiang Ling returned, she wasted no time in conveying the information to Yun He.
She reported that the bandits were few in number, and their fortified hideout had two layers, but there were not any holding cells.
She guessed that the main portion of their hideout lay underground.
Altogether, there were less than forty bandits with some level of martial arts.
It would be difficult to rescue them, but not impossible. 

“I listened in on two guards.
Their da-ge1 is getting married today.
We should act then.”

“Unbelievable, they really will use any means to plunder.” Gu Yun’s fists clenched in anger, wishing nothing more to immediately bring the brigands to justice. 

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Chu Yue’s face went white as she heard them speak: “It couldn’t be my sister…”

“Rest assured, even if it is your sister, he will not be getting married today.” Jiang Ling tightened her fist, revealing some of her fighting spirit. 

“A Yun, those bandits are bound to be drinking wine tonight.
Go to the nearby garrison and collect some knockout drops and antidotes.” Although these people were not anything to dread, there was, after all, strength in numbers and the kidnapped A Xin to consider.
To avoid unnecessary trouble, Yun He made a plan, “Then, when the bandits have been knocked out, we will rescue them.”

Gu Yun and Yun He would lay in wait on the mountain path.
If they encountered the wine cart, they would cut it off and mix in the knockout drops, and if there was no wine cart, then they would grab two guards and use their clothing to sneak into the kitchen and poison the wine there.
Jiang Ling was responsible for keeping watch over Chu Yue from the outside.
After waiting for a day, they did not see the wine-filled horse cart, but as the day darkened and Yun He was preparing to give up, a horse cart meanderingly arrived with two bandits on board.
One was lean, his cheeks sunken, and the other was robust, his face covered in a sheen of oil.
Both of their faces were bright red as their lips chattered away.
In one glance, it was obvious that they had already sneakily had some of the wine. 

Gu Yun picked up a stone in the palm of his hand and threw it.
The stone smashed into the back of the lean bandit’s skull, making him fall off the cart.
He landed on his head and was immediately knocked out. 

The robust man woke up from his wine-induced stupor at that moment, immediately drawing the saber at his side and standing on top of the cart: “What son of a bitch dares to steal from this master…” The man had hardly finished speaking before Yun He chopped his neck with a hand, and he was knocked out as well. 

The two of them mixed in the knockout drops.
Yun He thought to take a jar of wine and fed the passed-out mountain bandits two mouthfuls of wine. 

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The two of them easily changed into their clothes and swaggered into the hideout. 

The bandit in the back kitchen saw that they had brought the wine and could not help but reprimand them, “Old Six, Old Eight, did you sneak some wine on the road?”2

Gu Yun and Yun He kept their mouths shut and did not speak. 

The bandit looked again and realized that it was not Old Six and Old Eight.
His eyebrows, which were already crowded together, pinched even more in scrutiny, “You two look unfamiliar.
Where did you come from?”

“Brother, you are really insightful.
Brother Six and Brother Eight did sneak some wine, and they passed out, drunk! We had to bring the wine for da-ge ourselves.” Gu Yun changed his voice and bent his waist to toady up to him, smoothly grabbing a jar of wine and filling the bandit’s bowl, bringing it up to his mouth, “Take a rest, have a bowl.” He pulled out a small bit of silver and put it into the bandit’s belt, patting as he said, “Don’t tell the higher-ups, or Brother Six and Brother Three will meet with disaster.”3

The bandit narrowed his eyes at Gu Yun and Yun He, “You’re a sweet talker, I’ll give this bowl to you.”

“Thank you, brother.
I’ve wanted to try the celebratory wine for a while now!” Gu Yun was overjoyed, drinking the wine in one gulp. 

The bandit looked at Gu Yun, but the wrinkle in his brow eased. 

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“Go bring the wine over.
Don’t let the other brothers keep waiting.”

Gu Yun hurriedly nodded in acknowledgement, pouring the bandit another bowl of the celebratory wine so he could enjoy it too. 

“Shijie, good thing you told me to buy some antidote.” Gu Yun commended Yun He’s foresight. 

“You performed well, too.”

Nearby, two people kept watch silently on a treetop. 

Jiang Ling remained outside of the hideout.
She first saw Gu Yun deliver some wine to the bandits guards, and in no time, the bandits at the entrance to the mountain hideout were all lying on the ground. 

Chu Yue urgently wanted to rush in and rescue the others, but Jiang Ling held her back and made her wait. 

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They waited until Gu Yun signaled his success with a whistle, then entered the hideout to join up with Gu Yun and Yun He. 

The four of them entered the main area of the base.
The inside was decorated with lanterns and streamers, red silk symboling festivity draped everywhere.
Since they were mountain brigands, there was not much elegance.
Things were draped where they could be draped and laid out if otherwise, overall incongruous with the surroundings.
The mountain bandits were indolently heavy-jowled and pot-bellied.
The scene was a complete mess, as some reclined beside the path hugging wine jars, and others laid on their stomachs beside the long table, food on their faces.
Yun He motioned for Gu Yun to search for any imprisoned victims.
Three people entered the main hall. 

The head of the mountain bandits sat in the main seat in the hall, clothed for the occasion, his head drooping.
His face was concealed, a nine-ring saber4 propped up by his hand.
The bride was also knocked out, her head covered with red silk as she laid off to the side. 

1 大哥 da-ge, older brother, likely referring to their leader here. 

2 老六, 老八, Old Six and Old Eight, the bandits’ names.
Later, Gu Yun calls them 六哥 and 八哥 (same ‘ge’ as in the first footnote), meaning ‘Older Brother Six’ and ‘Older Brother Eight’. 

3 Uh, the raws say 三哥, or ‘Brother Three/Third Brother’, but I think the author meant Brother Eight? I left it as is, but if you’re wondering, I was confused too. 

4 See image

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