Once upon ago, In ancient China, in the costal village of Hongkonga, a tense debate is ongoing for days between the two most prominent martial arts schools: the Guiding Hand and the Dragon Society. The matter of contending is about giving chase to Kan Kuei, a wealthy (and arrogant) merchant who went on to trespass into the forbidden land of the Demon Mouth, a dormant volcano overlooking the area.
Five bold masters have already gone on a mission to dissuade him; no one returned.
Amid the quarrel, some kind of commotion is heard from the streets. The heroes are the first to get there and find out what’s going on: a young fellow with round eyes, strange clothing and a weird accent is about to be given a lesson by a bunch of very upset peasants.
The more erudite immediately gasp at the sight: this cannot be other than the coming of ‘The Chosen One’, as it has been foretold through legends since over 600 years, the living embodiment of the ‘flaming fist’.
They get into the tussle to rescue the stranger, easily dispatching the mob, but also a mysterious slimy demonic blob enters into this, dissolving two of those ill advised people to the bones. The fruit cart doesn’t survive the fight either, as of custom.
A local thug, Chieng Chieh, appears on the scene with his gang demanding payment for the damage. He is handed what he deserves and forced into a resentful retreat.
Time to dispatch the demon blob now [it turns out that being a player character doesn’t let you get away with deliberately murdering people in gruesome ways!], with the Chosen One seemingly producing fire from his hand to create an explosive bottle of rice wine landing with perfect arc over the foul creature, which appears to melt away without leaving trace.
The Chosen One introduces himself as ‘Jake’ and looks actually quite spaced out. He mumbles something about being in a place called ‘video shop’ and then finding himself here, in the middle of the ladies’ hot springs.
Back at the pagoda, the grand master is startled by the appearance of the Chosen One, as he knows too well what that means: the ‘flaming fist’ has come to unite Hand and Dragon in striking together as one. Decision is taken to send him and the heroes together to the Demon Mouth. Suddenly the earth shakes and a rumble comes from the sky as smoke emerges from the top the volcano.
The climb to the top of the Demon Mouth is an impervious one, leaving most of the heroes breathless along few days, till a huge boulder almost tramples them as they approach the summit. Investigation reveals this was in no way accidental.
From the very top of the volcano lips the inside of the caldera can be seen: a scorched landscape of leafless trees, with carrion birds idly flying above. Towards the center lays a ruined shrine beside a pool of fuming green ichor, surrounded by unnaturally large insects.
As they approach the pool, three figures emerges from it with the form of demonic monks, greeting them to their imminent death.
The heroes think otherwise and deftly dispatch the aberrations with ingenuity and style.
Surveying the area reveals the following:
1) This site has powerful feng shui (geomantic energy) that has someone been corrupted
2) It looks like the Chi energy has been violently syphoned to quickly achieve some mystical outcome
3) There are signs of a battle, indicating few against many, but no corpse left behind
4) A reflection of a large temple by a lake is visible beneath the surface
The temple bears resemblance to the legendary ‘Bountiful Temple by the Lake’, which has been presumed lost since centuries; if the heroes intend to get there somehow they’ll need to find another way, since whatever conduit existed here has now been salvaged by whoever came before.
The pool also appears to react to the proximity of the Chosen One, changing the reflection to that of a pond with a waterfall. The bandit confirms this place is located near the hot springs near the village. The heroes make their way there to investigate.
The location is placid and relaxing. Beneath the waterfall a cave entrance is found, blocked by a massive boulder radiating Chi energy. The martial artist hits it with precise calm, sliding it enough for them to go through.
Inside is an intricate series of tunnels radiating gloomy light reflected on a dense suspension of particles. Some kind of electric guitar riff echoes across the tunnels from time to time; Jake follows it eagerly and falls into a pit, sliding down through a narrow, slippery tunnel. All jump into behind him.
They find themselves into an enclosed large cave, with weird white 6’ tall mushrooms that slowly move around and ‘sing’ to each other… till they start falling apart, trampled by a slimy goo creature that looks like feeding on them, blocking the only exit while doing it. Hitting the goo-thing makes it split, the heroes empirically find out. They also accidentally set fire to the mushrooms. Finally they manage to pin the goo with a stalagtite, leaving it behind to the care of flaming mushrooms.
Some time later they end up in front of a metal door with an intercom (?). Jake buzzes and a crackling voice comes out of it inquiring about his name. After some back and forth the door opens revealing none other than Mr. Hahn, the friendly Chinese neightbour Jake used to spend time with as a kid, watching Hong Kong martial art movies together. This is indeed his basement.
Mr. Hahn reveals to be part of a secret war for control of Chi sites across the world, as those are connected through a dimensional network called the Nether, spanning across space and time. Four stable junctions exist for travelling across: late VII century, late XIX century, early XXI century and far future. Controlling access to junctions means controlling history. Kan Kuei belongs to a faction in the War, dating back to 69 a.d. (which used to be a juncture, but is now somewhat severed), that pursues devious ends: The Eaters of the Lotus.
Mr. Hahn is part of group called ‘The Dragons’ who fight to defend Chi sites and prevent their exploitation. He reveals he had planted himself the legend of the Chosen One, back in 69 a.d., as he needed someone with a good heart to one day unite the Dragons and the Guiding Hand in the fight against a common enemy. As a consequence other groups have moved to dispatch Jake in 2015 and he had to step in himself to get the boy to safety here while unconscious – which all worked fine, until Jake happened to wonder off on him upon waking up in the Nether tunnels.
Kan Kuei has found what is possibly the only remaining conduit to his own time and has used it to travel back there: his plan there is unknown, but clearly he is up to no good. However he has defiled the site so violently in the process that it’ll remain unusable for years to come. But if the heroes can travel to a future location of the Demon Mouth, in another junction, that may have recovered then and they should be able to use it from there and follow him up to 69 a.d.!
Mr. Hahn suggests they go through the 1865 junction, as he knows someone who can help them there: his own grandmother, Xiang Hahn. They should be able to find her at the port in Canton. He also provides them with a burial urn of one of his ancestors, to give Xiang as a sign of identification.
To get there by following the old man indications: take the second tunnel to the left and carry on towards the light. They emerge in busy 1865 and make their way to the port. Here they get trailed by a bunch who don’t seem to appreciate people seeking out Xiang. Eventually an agreement is found to have them wait for her at the port tavern, while entertaining themselves with local booze and fun games involving knives.
Xiang eventually arrives in time probably to save some fingers. She is a pirate and looks the part. Recognizing the urn, she agrees to get them to the Demon Mouth, which is now an island, severed from the mainland after a quake 15 years before. For the travel they will have to act as the crew on her ship: the Dragon Turtle.
They navigate down the Pearl river till reaching open sea and heading for the island. As they approach it, another boat comes into sight, heading the same way: it is a navy frigate with a British flag on! Xiang warns that they will likely claim the island as British land if they get there first, which will complicate things a lot. To prevent this they will then proceed to board it pirate-style.
At the end of an intense chase and some cannonballs dodged, they manage to board the other ship and confront the crew, while the Chosen One and the Bandit opt to make it there by water instead, confronting the Freaking Huge Shark™.
The commotion brings out the navy officer, with all his wig and pompous attitude along, demanding surrender in the name of Her Majesty. Not understanding a word of what he says, they proceed with kicking his ass for good measure.
The Chosen One finally emerges from the water too, but someone notices something strange about him as he climbs exhausted on the ship…
A sleepy bloke emerges from the bottom of a safe boat on the ship: it’s the Chosen One (again)! Dressed up a sailor and bearing a rather puzzled expression. The other Chosen One immediately claims him to be an impostor, but the ninja keen eye knows better as he unmasks the slimy creature for what it is. Ground rules have to be established for it to be allowed to tag along with the heroes, upon keeping a more sociable behavior: no dissolving human beings, ever.
Turns out the Chosen One took the wrong turn in the Nether (it was the second tunnel, not the first!), ending up in a pocket recursion in 1865 England, just few months earlier. He managed to get on a navy ship heading to China and convince the crew to drop him on the island on their route, and there he is.
The misunderstanding being sorted, the heroes depart for the island. Once landed there, they find the pool to be in a pristine state, but other than that useless. Powerful Chi energy however permeates the whole place: a memorable montage sequence depicts them as they individually attune to it, each in their own fashion. At the end they are able to tune the pool on to different recursions: spreading on the surface the ashes of Hahn’s ancestor from 69 AD finally energize it enabling a conduit there.
They jump through and emerge in a perfectly round pool with in front of a stunning shaolin temple. Monks are patrolling it and it’s up to the ninja to neutralize them one by one.
On the inside a man with white hairs and beard stands with a servant: Chien Chieng, the village thug! The white man is unmistakably Kan Kuei himself, who summons five coffins from the bottom of the lake: from those emerge the five martial artists who went after him initially, now horribly mutilated and brainwashed to attack the heroes.
During the fight the Chose One manages to face off with Kan Kuei on the lake, surfing on a coffin, with Kan balancing on top of his fist. He manages to get some consideration from The evil master only by setting fire to his linen trousers. Kan then appears to syphon Chi energy from the Chose One, tuning the pool to the 2015 junction and diving into it with a backward flip.
The five masters, now freed from Kan Kuei’s control, warns the heroes about the volcano being close to an eruption. However they consider it their final duty to stay back and defend it till the end against the Lotus Eaters.
Chien Chieng is extremely subservient to the heroes and offers his unconditional help if they’ll take him with them away from the eruption. He offers information in exchange for a way out: a) Kan Kuei has somehow managed to bid the island itself to a Nether demon; b) He often went alone to the lake and seemed to speak to it, with the word ‘genomics’ recurring. They decide to take him along, also to keep a close eye of this dodgy character.
They jump in the lake and emerge in a swimming pool at the base of a modern, luxury hotel that’s been newly built on the island. From the shore the breathtaking skyline of modern Hong Kong by night can be seen.
They manage to provision themselves with clothes from the hotel personnel changing room: all rigorously with purple trousers or skirts. Then they call Mr. Hahn.
The old man says they should seek the help of Sang Kwai, the current headmaster of the Guiding Hand Wing Chun school dating back to the academy from their own village in 690 AD: it is still there, now surrounded by skyscrapers.
To reach the mainland, they ‘borrow’ a jet ski, attaching two sets of water skis to it and a paraglide kit (Chien Chieng gets the paraglide, his protests about that being ignored). A police boat spots them and gives chase, resulting in daring water stunts being performed, till the sorcerer’s just stops its engine with magic.
At the school entrance they are met by a senior student, Wu Wang, who eventually manages to get them into the training session the headmaster is currently holding. Here Sang Kwai deliberately matches the participating heroes with advanced students for sparring, to test their skills. The heroes respond with and impressive display of might and cunning, earning the attention of a reluctant Sang, who is keen to remark that, as far as he is concerned, ‘Dragons are always followed by troubles’ (or in some cases, following them).
The headmaster appears unwilling to provide any support to the heroes other then shelter for the night. Wu Wang then meets alone with the heroes to shed light on the reasons behind Sang Kwai reluctance: years ago he lost his own son, Ken Kwai, in a battle involving both the Guiding Hand and the Dragons against the Jade Wheel. However Wu Wang promises he’ll try to persuade him otherwise.
The next day a hurricane emergency is issued, with the whole zone being evacuated. From the docks the heroes can clearly see that the Demon Mouth island is not where it use to be the day before, but much closer to the mainland. They promptly decide to make their way there, across the stormy sea aboard a Zodiac. Sang Kwai and Wu Wang join them, recognizing the greater danger and need.
The island looks mostly abandoned, with only the penthouse at the top of the hotel standing out for illumination. The bandit stays behind by the pool, in case that’ll need activation (and getting the hang of mobile phones while at it!). The others make their way to the top of the skyscraper via the panoramic lift. Close to the top, the engine stops due to a power cut and they need to make their way up climbing from the outside, in a howling wind that makes the whole 40 stores structure oscillate.
The terrace is patrolled by a bunch of guys dressed as hotel personnel (in purple trousers). The heroes dispatch them with ease and make their way into the penthouse, with a loud entrance through the glass roof. Here Kan Kuei lays on the sofa enjoying a football match on a 84’’ 4K TV display; he asks them for a moment till the end of the first half, please.
Enters Sang Kwai, who Kan Kuei addresses as ‘father’ (!), although looking his senior. The twisted truth is revealed: Kan Kuei is actually Ken Kwai, who after the battle with the Jade Wheel managed to survive by entering a coma state via meditation. He was found in 2047 by the Architects of the Flesh and used as test case for genomics (a technology that allows to assimilate DNA from living tissues to sustain oneself), till he managed to escape by freeing the demon Kun Chao from a test tube in the facility. The demon led him through the Nether to junction 69, where he joined the ranks of the Eaters of the Lotus. While junction 69 was shut down, genomics allowed Kan Kuei to outlive that till the newly open junction 690 and seek a way back ‘home’ from there.
He blames all other factions for his fate, but mostly his own father.
Wu Wang now revels his true alliance and stabs Sang Kwai in the back, siding with his long lost brother in arms. A furious fight kicks off from here, culminating on top of the construction crane aside the hotel, with Kan Kuei fiercely fighting against them all, till the goo creature throws itself on him, plunging them both towards the pool down below. The bandit gets the call to activate it, and so he does, with the water from junction 1865, where the Martial Artist does the same with the remaining burial ashes.
Kan Kuei still somehow manages to break the fall, defying gravity itself, but the Chosen One grabs a fire extinguisher and throws it right on his head, knocking him off and wishing farewell in his own way: “Sorry I set your trousers on fire, dude, I hope this helps!”.
Kan Kuei and the creature splash into the pool, falling through time straight into the acidic pond in 690, which the creature can survive, as its native environment, but apparently the corrupted master cannot, as no trace of him is found afterwards.