The story is set in the Qing dynasty during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The protagonist, Hu Fei, is a young martial artist who was raised by Ping A'si after the death of his father, Hu Yidao. While travelling around the land in search of adventure, Hu Fei encounters Feng Tiannan, a ruthless villain, and wants to kill him to deliver justice for the victims. He also meets a young maiden, Yuan Ziyi, who shows signs of affection towards him. She stops Hu Fei from killing Feng Tiannan each time when he is close to killing Feng.
Based on what Ping A'si told him, Hu Fei believes that Miao Renfeng is responsible for his father's death. He refrains from killing Miao after finding him, because Miao has been tricked by an enemy and temporarily blinded by a deadly poison. He is so impressed with Miao's sense of chivalry that he starts wondering if Ping A'si was mistaken about Miao. He decides to help Miao and journeys to find a cure for his eyes. He meets Cheng Lingsu, an apprentice of a deceased medicine guru known as the "King of Venoms". Hu Fei witnesses Cheng Lingsu defeating her three wicked seniors with her calm and wit. She agrees to help him cure Miao Renfeng's eyes.
When Miao Renfeng regains his sight, he confesses that he did kill Hu Yidao unintentionally several years ago. Hu Fei is filled with sorrow upon hearing the truth and he leaves with Cheng Lingsu. Cheng Lingsu and Hu Fei become sworn siblings. While travelling together, they chance upon an election for a new leader of the wulin (martial artists' community) hosted by the general Fuk'anggan. The election is part of Fuk'anggan's plan to instigate turmoil in the wulin and keep it under the Qing government's control. Hu Fei and Cheng Lingsu disguise themselves and participate in the event. With help from Yuan Ziyi, the trio combine efforts to expose Fuk'anggan's plot and disrupt the election.
They are attacked by enemies and Hu Fei is poisoned while shielding Cheng Lingsu with his body. Cheng loses her life trying to save Hu and reveals to him before dying that she loves him. Hu is filled with anguish after hearing that. After Cheng's funeral, he meets Yuan Ziyi, who tells him that she had already taken an oath to be a Buddhist nun in her childhood, and hence cannot be together with him even though she loves him. She places her palms together and recites a silent prayer for him before leaving.
Hu Yidao (Chinese: 胡一刀; pinyin: Hú Yīdāo; Jyutping: Wu4 Jat1-dou1) is a forthright and gregarious hero whose skills are legendary. He hopes to resolve the past feuds between the four families that have lasted since their ancestors' time. He is instigated into a fight with Miao Renfeng but becomes friends with his foe. He is killed by Miao Renfeng unintentionally, as Miao's weapon had been secretly smeared with poison.
Miao Renfeng (traditional Chinese: 苗人鳳; simplified Chinese: 苗人凤; pinyin: Miáo Rénfèng; Jyutping: Miu4 Jan4-fung6) is a powerful martial artist of equal fame as Hu Yidao. He is nicknamed "Golden Faced Buddha" (Chinese: 金面佛; pinyin: Jīn Miàn Fó; Jyutping: Gam1 Min6 Fat6) and "Undefeated Champion" (traditional Chinese: 打遍天下無敵手; simplified Chinese: 打遍天下无敌手; pinyin: Dǎbiàn Tiānxià Wúdí Shǒu; Jyutping: Daa2-bin3 Tin1-haa6 Mou4-dik6 Sau2). He is slightly more conservative and does not know how to express his feelings well. He fights with Hu Yidao and is so impressed by Hu's chivalry and skill that he befriends Hu. His enemies secretly smear poison on his weapon and he kills Hu Yidao unintentionally after inflicting the latter with a minor cut.
Cheng Lingsu (traditional Chinese: 程靈素; simplified Chinese: 程灵素; pinyin: Chéng Língsù; Jyutping: Cing4 Ling4-sou3) is the apprentice of the "King of Venoms". She falls in love with Hu Fei when she first meets him while he was searching for a cure for Miao Renfeng. She later follows Hu Fei on his adventures and becomes his close companion. She gives up her life to save Hu Fei, who has been poisoned. Hu Fei is deeply saddened by her loss and he buries her beside his parents' grave.
Yuan Ziyi (Chinese: 袁紫衣; pinyin: Yuán Zǐyī; Jyutping: Jyun4 Zi2-ji1), also known as Yuanxing (traditional Chinese: 圓性; simplified Chinese: 圆性; pinyin: Yuánxìng; Jyutping: Jyun4-sing3), is Feng Tiannan's illegitimate daughter. Her mother gave birth to her after being raped by Feng Tiannan and was forced to commit suicide by Tang Pei. She vows to avenge her mother and kill her beastly father (she needs to fulfil a promise to save his life thrice before she can kill him). Having taken an oath to be a Buddhist nun in her childhood, she cannot be together with Hu Fei even though she loves him.
Fuk'anggan (Chinese: 福康安; pinyin: Fúkāng'ān; Jyutping: Fuk1-hong1-on1) is a general and aristocrat who appears to be generous and gentlemanly, but is in fact a scheming, selfish and ruthless person. He organises a "Meeting of the Leaders" as part of a plan to keep the wulin (martial artists' community) under the government's control. He has a secret affair with Ma Chunhua and has a pair of twin boys with her. He tries to murder Ma later.
Tian Guinong (traditional Chinese: 田歸農; simplified Chinese: 田归农; pinyin: Tián Guīnóng; Jyutping: Tin4 Gwai1-nung4) is a descendant of one of the four bodyguards of Li Zicheng. An immoral, unscrupulous and flirtatious villain, he seduces Nan Lan and causes her to abandon her husband and marry him instead. Seeking wealth and fame, he pledges allegiance to Fuk'anggan, who promises to help him become chief of the wulin in return for his loyalty and service. His dream is shattered when Hu Fei and his friends show up to disrupt the "Meeting of the Leaders" and cause a twist of events.
Feng Tiannan (traditional Chinese: 鳳天南; simplified Chinese: 凤天南; pinyin: Fèng Tiānnán; Jyutping: Fung6 Tin1-naam4) is a ruthless and cruel villain, who uses his wealth and authority to bully people. Hu Fei seeks to kill him to deliver justice for Zhong A'si and his family, who were murdered by Feng. He is rescued by his illegitimate daughter Yuan Ziyi, who has made a promise to save his life thrice before killing him to avenge her mother. He dies in the chaotic fight during the election for the leader of the wulin.
Shi Wanchen (traditional Chinese: 石萬嗔; simplified Chinese: 石万嗔; pinyin: Shí Wànchēn; Jyutping: Sek6 Maan6-can1) is the evil junior of the "King of Venoms". He causes the death of Cheng Lingsu, but is blinded by her and meets his end at the hands of Zeng Tie'ou.
Nan Lan (traditional Chinese: 南蘭; simplified Chinese: 南兰; pinyin: Nán Lán; Jyutping: Naam4 Laan4) is Miao Renfeng's wife. She feels unhappy after marrying Miao Renfeng, who leads a simple and frugal life as opposed to her luxurious lifestyle before her marriage. She is seduced by Tian Guinong and abandons her husband to marry Tian instead.
Ping A'si (Chinese: 平阿四; pinyin: Píng Ā'sì; Jyutping: Ping4 Aa2-sei3) is a young man indebted to Hu Yidao, who saved his life once. He risks his life to save the infant Hu Fei and raises Hu after the latter's parents died. A humble, unassuming and shy man, he often feels inferior to others.
Ma Chunhua (traditional Chinese: 馬春花; simplified Chinese: 马春花; pinyin: Mǎ Chūnhuā; Jyutping: Maa5 Ceon1-faa1) is an old friend of Hu Fei. She helped him years ago during the incident at the Shang Family Castle. She has an illegitimate affair with Fuk'anggan and secretly bore him a pair of twin boys. Fuk'anggan sent his men, disguised as bandits, to kill her husband and seize the boys from her. Hu Fei helps her and the twins escape from Fuk'anggan's clutches.
Tang Pei (traditional Chinese: 湯沛; simplified Chinese: 汤沛; pinyin: Tāng Pèi; Jyutping: Tong1 Pui3) is a guest at the "Meeting of the Leaders". Initially a popular man, he is blackmailed by Yuan Ziyi and becomes despised by everyone after his dirty secrets are revealed. He is killed by Yuan.
Shang Jianming (traditional Chinese: 商劍鳴; simplified Chinese: 商剑鸣; pinyin: Shāng Jiànmíng; Jyutping: Soeng1 Gim3-ming4) was the master of the Shang Family Castle who was killed by Hu Yidao several years ago. Hu Fei stumbles upon the castle and runs into trouble with Shang's widow and followers when they discover that he is Hu Yidao's son.
Zhong A'si (traditional Chinese: 鐘阿四; simplified Chinese: 钟阿四; pinyin: Zhōng Ā'sì; Jyutping: Zung1 Aa2-sei3) is a peasant who owns a vegetable farm. Feng Tiannan has been eyeing his farm and intends to seize that plot of land for himself. Feng accuses Zhong's son of stealing and eating a goose from his house. Zhong's wife kills the boy and cuts open his belly in a desperate measure to prove that their son is innocent. Zhong and his wife are murdered by Feng Tiannan later.