Emperor Chien Lung (Jason Pai) is not the emperor by birth since he was exchanged as a newborn infant with the previous emperor's newborn daughter. He learns the truth when two senior members of the Hung Hua society, a subversive anti-Qing movement, secretly contact him years later with hopes of enlisting his aid in fighting the real Qing. In order to hide the truth about his origins, Chien orders the men to be killed, but one escapes only to be captured later. Hung Hua's leader Chen Chia-lo (Ti Lung) turns out to be the blood brother of Chien and the two develop a tenuous relationship as the society attempts to rescue their imprisoned comrade. Hung Hua members unleash an elaborate plan to kidnap the Emperor to exchange him for their friend and hopefully persuade him to join their cause. While the exchange takes place, history tells us that Chien must ultimately ignore his ancestry in favor of continuing to rule as a Qing Emperor. Nevertheless, Chien's chief lieutenant, Chang (Lo Lieh) is bound and determined to wipe Chen and his society out and an elaborate martial arts challenge provides him with an opportunity.