Mei Chaofeng

The The Eagle-Shooting Heroes was the last RPG I played in 2012, and it also happened to have one of the most memorable villains I met last year: Mei Chaofeng. It wasn't just that she made an awesome first impression (which she did). She benefited greatly from being originally a literary character. While her history is largely left unmentioned in the game, it nonetheless influences and colors every action she makes. Mei Chaofeng is cool enough with only the backstory provided in the RPG, but as one pores through the online references to the original novels, everything clicks together to make her a perfect mid-rank villainess.

Mei Chaofeng's early life was the sort to make even the most evil of characters sympathetic. Born into poverty, she was sold to the wealthy Jiang family by her own uncle. Unfortunately, at the age of twelve she already showed signs of great beauty, and the master of the house was a lech. When his wife walks in on him molesting their pretty young slave, it's Mei she blames, and the subsequent beating almost costs the girl her life.

Then Master Huang enters the picture. The man known as the Heretic of the East certainly wasn't the nicest of people (for example, rumors said he regularly poisoned all his servants), but he was not one to brook injustice either. He swooped in, rescued young Mei from the Jiangs, and took her to Peach Blossom Isle to be his student. Under his tutelage, she became a very skilled fighter.

Up to this point, Mei Chaofeng wasn't particularly villainous. If anything, she might have ended up as a heroine if matters had gone differently. Every fall from grace begins with a single step, and for her it was love. She fell in love with Chen Xuanfeng, her fellow disciple. It just so happened that another disciple, as well as Master Huang himself, had also become smitten with her, and this love tetrahedron very nearly destroyed the Peach Blossom school. In the end, Mei Chaofeng and her new husband had to flee in the night with Master Huang's most prized possession, a martial arts scroll the secrets of which promised great power.

Branded as thieves and outlaws by martial arts society, the couple became hired muscle and then professional assassins. In the midst of their moral freefall, they deciphered two powerful skills from their master's scroll: The Heart Destroying Palm and the White Bone Claw. A misreading of the text led them to believe that this technique needed to be practiced on the skulls of living humans.

The Jiang family were the first to go.

Armed with these debilitating attacks, the two took the moniker of the "Twin Corpses of the Dark Wind" and began a campaign of carnage that left the three kingdoms of China reeling. In the end, it took the combined efforts of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, a group of the most doughty fighters in the kung-fu world, to take them down. The couple was driven to the steppes of Mongolia, where Chen Xuanfeng was killed. Mei Chaofeng was blinded but managed to make her escape. For years she hid in the mountains, sightless but no less dangerous, a monster in the night to scare young children.

That's about where we meet her for the first time in The Eagle Shooting Heroes RPG. The elderly martial artist Jiangnan Qi Guai (an amalgamation of the Seven Freaks of the novel) leads the hero into the mountain caves to find and defeat the monster therein. By this point in her personal story, there's no doubt that Mei Chaofeng truly is a monster, and she makes an appearance worthy of that status.

An excellent way to start the game, she was. — Michael Baker

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