Shang Lao is a very old man, and gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He could undergo anagathic procedures, or adopt a cloned body, but much to everyone's surprise he has refused such treatments. He's been refusing them for years. A resident of the ACPS, he wears much out of date clothing, and resembles more a feudal chinese peasant, or meditating wise man and, this very much fits his apparent lifestyle as a wizened and decrepit hermit. In rare public appearances, he will appear dressed in a formal business suit, which typically elicits the thought of the sort of suit a person wears when they are put in their coffin.
Shang Lao has a residence removed from the urban rim of Daoshan, Yunnan province, where he lives a quiet idyllic life on a large estate built around a 3500 year old pagan temple. There, he keeps a large library of books, tablets and scrolls the likes of which would drain the color from a university professor's already pale face. The alcoves and halls of Lao's palace are stocked with antiquities, and relics not of the Petroleum Era, but from places known and unknown, Mesopotamian reliefs, Greek statues, Atlantean coralwork, Imbrian silver, and things that have passed from memory as there are none left living that remember them.
Lu Baoshi Yan-Senshi
Shang Lao is assisted by a number of personal hand maidens, whom he and his staff refer to as the Green-Eyed Maidens. These maidens handle his personal hygiene, dress, and the small functions that the very old man cannot. They are his pets, and he does with them as he pleases and other than the occasional flirting and harmless old man groping, he pays them little mind. it is correctly speculated that the Green Eyed Guardians are high end, well trained, and intensely loyal clones, and they obviously had a good deal of time and effort put into making them physically attractive Chinese women with the size and stature of women more commonly associated with New Themyscira.
If someone were to threaten Lao, they would find that the Lu Baoshi Yan are trained in martial arts, and they know the security systems and defenses of the household. As with almost any remote lair, the Daoshan estate has conventional security, and these hardened soldiers, mercenaries and specialists all know that the Lu Baoshi Yan speak with the authority Shang Lao himself.
Most people do not think of Shang Lao, he is a hermit, a mystic, and a very old man in a world that is young, pulsing with energy and full of it's own might.
The Hidden Master
Many people have met Shang Lao, and never known it. Shang Lao is more than an accomplished and respected member of the occult community, he is a very powerful, very old, very accomplished sorcerer. His magical wheelhouse is shapeshifting and he has a very large portfolio of personas that he has absorbed over the many years he has been alive. He is David Pan, advisor to Ceres Metals of Taiwan, he is Chow Tsung, advisor to the chairman and leadership of China, he is Hu Phan, and a dozen other names, young virile men known for being shrewd, cunning, and having the ability to sniff out the weaknesses of enemies, and very accurately predict future trends and the potential outcomes of investments, shadowrunning ops, and the military operations.
Shang Lao uses sorcery to shapeshift into other people, changing his size, ethnicity, gender, and even clothing with ease. This power has a lesser and greater manifestation. The Lesser Manifestation is a surface level alteration, and while he assumes a person's appearance it is cosmetic in nature. Should he encounter people who know the person he is imitating, his ruse can be discovered. As such, Lao only uses this to create blank or generic personas, such as servants, menial laborers, generic soldiers and the sort of roles where he can become a stranger in a sea of strangers.
The Great Form requires Lao to find the person he wishes to emulate, engage them and then rip their soul from their body. He then uses his innate sorcerous ability to consumer their soul into his, and in the process of gaining the ability to look like them, he gains their memories and abilities as well. This is useful for learning secrets from people who refuse to talk, gaining access to skills he doesn't need other than at rare times, and maintaining strong personas. This level of deception can only be discovered by use of strong divination magics, prolonged observation, or the use of Kirlian technology, which photographs souls. Lao's soul is much like the Portrait of Dorian Grey, a terrible evil thing that shows the true face of the charming Lao.
The Hands of the Hidden Master
In his youth, in pre-industrial China, Shang Lao was a man driven to discover the secrets of hidden temples, finding ancient ruins, cracking open books that weren't meant for human eyes and learning secrets reserved for the insane and the star touched. He learned the power of sorcery, delving into madness inducing, soul shredding, mythos laden mysteries. He gained the singular goal of attaining immortality, and to that end he delved ever deeper into things best left buried.
As his occult knowledge and power grew, so did his mundane, worldly power. He became a man of great wealth and importance, and created a criminal empire to support himself and his pursuit of antiquities and ancient things. In his first mortal lifespan, he created a criminal syndicate known as Lian Zhimeng. The Lian Zhimeng dealt in opium, human trafficking, piracy, and exploiting trade with other criminal enterprises. Aside from the mundane resources of money, drugs, and power, the Lian Zhimeng played itself off as a kingmaker and advisor. Through the centuries that followed, the Zhimeng grew, matured, and it's influence spread. It was friends with the Khmer Rouge, and Lao took tea with Pol Pot and Ho Chih Min. Many of the humanitarian disasters of the industrialization and later Communist take over of China benefitted Lao and Zhimeng.
The Lian Zhimeng
The Lian Zhimeng is a secret society in China, and it is the sort of thing that some of the other criminal enterprises, the tongs and triads know about, the Yakuza has met, and they don't talk about. It has been versed in the basics of parapsychic abilities, sorcery, and the mythos for centuries. When the lights went out, the Lian Zhimeng was one of the forces that held China together. As arcanotech rose, and the Second Renaissance saw the world rise from the darkness, the Zhimeng were already ahead of the ball, and applied the new theories to their existing mythos.
The Lian Zhimeng counts many parapsychic martial artists and occult scholars in it's ranks. Far more than almost any other organization has, and these mystics and warriors all serve the ultimate goals of Shang Lao. The members are broken down into gangs and cells across China, SE Asian, and the Pacific where they work the drug trade, black market business, and recruit pawns to serve them. Many have learned ancient parapsychic martial arts techniques from the Zhimeng in exchange for favors later, which can be as simple as leaving a security system off one night, or as dramatic as performing an assassination, or accidentally killing someone in a set up.
The Lian Zhimeng is opposed by organizations such as the Black Dragon Society, the ninja Lin Keui clans, and ShadowLaw as their interests overlap, and organized crime doesn't like rivals or competitors. The greatest animosity is largely between the mainland ninja and shinobi clans, who have similar black market interests as well as having common interests in the mythos. The fact that the Zhimeng has fought several proxy wars against the Lin Keui as well as several mundane wars (China invades your country and burns all your temples, oops) hasn't helped this.
The White Lotus Society opposes the Zhimeng on the basis of the fact that Lao and many of those who serve him are fallen beings, contaminated by alien energies, and deeply involved in criminal activities and supporting a status quo that favors oppression of the weak, exploitation of the poor, and promoting vice and spiritual blindness.
Your Soul is Mine!
Shang Lao is a Desolate One.
When a human being is infested with a Hundun spirit the result is typically a nearly mindless monster, driven by human emotion and alien urges. These have been encountered in the distant past and were known as Kami, Oni, Demons, and Monsters. A sorcerer, well versed in the blackest of the mythos arts can summon a powerful avatar of an Elder God, and with the proper offering, can induce said avatar to take a very weak Hundun, or Spirit of Chaos, and implant it into the Sorcerer. This end result is a Yaoguai, a human demon hybrid, a Desolate One.
The weakened state of the Hundun prevents it from manifesting and consuming the soul of the sorcerer as it does in a normal host. Instead, the spirit of chaos become a powerful engine, drawing power from the cosmos and pumping it into the soul of the sorcerer, rendering them ever more powerful and godlike. Most yaoguai eventually burn out, and collapse into death. Their hybrid soul is constantly consuming itself, and while this process generally is generally played out over a lifetime, it can be avoided. Sorcerers who discover the arts of soul displacement magics can use this power to steal the souls of other people and use them to replenish their own soul, keeping the spirit of chaos fed, and staving off death nigh eternally.
Shang Lao conjured a servant of a fallen god, and coerced the servant to grant him the power of the Yaoguai, and became an immortal. So long as he consumes the souls of others, he will continue to exist.
Sorcery: in an era of gleaming chrome and throbbing neon, with hypertech computers and all that, Lao is a sorcerer of impressive skill. In the Lovecraftian style he can perform divinations, summon eldritch beings, lay out curses, and perform powerful rites and rituals to ensure certain things happen, revitalize his body, kill, and almost anything else he can think of. He is bound only by the Conservation of Power, and healthy fear of retaliation. Once summoning an avatar of an elder god would have rendered him a king, ruling from a throne, but in the Cosmic Era, people with giant robots and plasma swords aren't as intimidated by cosmic horrors as they once were.
Shapeshifting: Through his sorcerous soul stealing shapeshifting, Lao has access to dozens of lives, and their associated skills, meaning that if there is a mundane skill or talent that he might need, all he has to do is assume that person's form and use it through their soul shard. He typically only soul steals people who have excelled in their chosen profession, and anything less is used as fodder to sustain the Hundun Soul.
Pyrokinesis: Lao excels at fire manipulation, and can control flames, start fires, etc through force of will alone. This is a recent upgrade as he has made sport of soul stealing parapsychics and has since gained this as his wheelhouse. This power suits him because it has allowed him to remain dangerous, even in his natural resting state, which is that of a centenarian old man.
Martial Arts: After several lifetimes, and stealing the souls of many foes he has defeated in hand to hand combat, Shang Lao is a grand master of several styles of Kung Fu, and in the last few decades he has started mixing his pyrokinesis into his snake and mantis style kung fu, and telekinesis into his crane style.
Leadership: Lao is charming, charismatic, and utterly ruthless, and as such has amassed over the years a small army of lieutenants, henchmen, minions, and not one, but several organizations that serve either him or his goals. If he were to collect all of his debts, favors, and call in his allies, Lao could in a very short time assume the position as the Chairman of the ACPS, and Command the Dragon to rise, starting WWIV, and would have a decent chance of changing the balance of power in the Cosmic Era. Good thing he is distracted by some of his hobbies, and his goal is immortality and not world domination.
Lao's biggest weakness is his age, he has continued to age, and it is only the Hundun Soul that sustains him now. He must consume souls regularly to maintain his health, on the order of once a month. Less than this, and the Hundun starts consuming the souls he wishes to save for their skills and memories. If he were cut off from soul stealing, the mighty Shang Lao would begin aging rapidly, and would perish in less than 5 years, a testament to the number of victims he has slain and saved.
Using his powers requires his focus and attention, which while impressive, are still limited. His shapeshifting ability can only be sustained for about a day before he has to rest and return to his normal form. The corollary to this is that he can chose to 'burn' a soul, and doing so he is reverted to his youthful appearance, a man in his mid 30s, with black hair, a handsome if cruel face, and the musculature of a well fed warrior monk. This only lasts a few days and is one of the most wastrel uses of a stolen soul.
As a Yaoguai/Desolate One, Lao has certain vulnerabilities. He is physically vulnerable to Hong Mu Rosewood, and as such has quietly supported a biochemical company and has seen to the systematic destruction of this plant for hundreds of miles around Yunnan. He is also vulnerable to certain spells and rituals that affect the soul, though these are now almost completely forgotten, and the once proud Senshi mystic and warrior traditions have fallen into history and legend.
Author's Note: Who could defeat Shang Lao? Yes, Sailor Moon.
Shang Lao is based off of Shang Tsung (Mortal Kombat) who in turn himself was based off of David Lo Pan (Big Trouble in Little China). Shang Lao is a hybrid of both Tsung and Lo Pan, and is the quintessential Chinese Devil. Integrated into the Cosmic Era, he is both frighteningly powerful, an anachronism (he is personally disgusted with the Cosmic Era and it's ideals and imagery) and an almost god-like figure. The thing most keeping him from dominating the world is that he doesn't care about it. In the fashion of Chinese devils, he is more interested in immortality and then from there, deification. Shang Lao wants to become a God, and given enough time, he will succeed.
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? Responses (2)
Let me begin by saying that I have found my new hero. Lao is AWESOME. I love him in all the tiny little details. At first he was an ordinary old geezer. Harmless.
Then he stated eating people's souls, starting criminal organizations, and inviting demons into his body. Oh, and chucking fireballs for kicks and gigs. This is an awesome old geezer.
There is one thing that bothers me slightly: you say in the summary that he's one of the hidden masters manipulating the world, but you don't put anything about that in the actual sub. In fact, the impression I got was contradictory: Lao didn't care about the world, and simply wanted deification (did I mention that that was another thing I loved about him?). Everything else was simply a means to that end. The Lian Zhimeng don't seem to provide much global influence, and seem to stay within China's borders.
But this is just a minor point; I'd just change the summary to reflect Lao instead of the other way round- Lao, as I have said before, is extremely awesome. An excellent submission, and I've talked myself up from a lowly 4.5 to a full score. Excellent job, Scras.
This is a perfect Cosmic Era villain. Props for Big Trouble in Little China. Loved that movie.