- Part 1: The Iron-Blooded Loyalists
The story is set in the Song Dynasty and at the beginning of the Jin invasion of northern China. The first part of the novel revolves around the friendship of two men, Yang Tiexin and Guo Xiaotian, who become heroes in their own right as they fight the Jin invaders. The bond between the duo is so strong that they pledge to each other that their unborn children will become either sworn brothers (if both are of the same sex) or a couple (if they are of opposite sexes).
The story focuses on the trials and tribulations of their sons following Guo Xiaotian's death and Yang Tiexin's disappearance. Guo Jing, Guo Xiaotian's son, grows up in Mongolia under the care of Genghis Khan. Yang Kang, on the other hand, grows up in Jin as the foster son of Prince Wanyan Honglie. Guo is mentored by the "Seven Freaks of Jiangnan" in martial arts but he is a slow learner and only manages to master part of the skills he is taught. Yang is mentored by Qiu Chuji of the Quanzhen Sect and he learns the evil "Nine Yin White Bone Claw" from Mei Chaofeng secretly.
The boys' personalities are polar opposites of each other due to the difference in the manners they were raised. Guo Jing is honest, loyal and righteous but lacks intelligence. Conversely, Yang Kang is clever, but scheming and treacherous. The pair eventually meet one another and their respective lovers Huang Rong and Mu Nianci. The main plot follows Guo Jing and Huang Rong's adventures and their encounters with the Five Greats. Meanwhile, Yang Kang plots with Wanyan Honglie to destroy his native empire of Song. Yang refuses to acknowledge his ethnicity and is strongly driven to acquire wealth, fame and glory. His treachery is slowly unveiled throughout the novel through the encounters he has with Guo Jing and Huang Rong.
Assisted by Guo Jing, the Mongolian military destroys the Jin Empire, subsequently turning its attention towards Song. Guo is unwilling to aid the Mongolians in conquering his native homeland and he leaves Mongolia. Guo returns to Song and helps his countrymen in countering the Mongolian invasion. On the other hand, Yang Kang meets his retributive end, leaving behind Mu Nianci and their unborn son Yang Guo, who becomes the protagonist of the sequel novel.
To Kei Fung