Follow TV Tropes


Series / Word of Honor

Go To

"One is the head of the Window of Heaven, and the other is the head of the Ghost Valley. It's getting more and more interesting."

Word of Honor (山河令: Shān Hé Líng) is a 2021 Chinese series starring Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun. It's loosely based on the novel Tian Ya Ke (天涯客: Tiān Yá Kè, also called Faraway Wanderers) by Priest.

The leader of an assassination organisation, Zhou Zishu, decides to quit his position with a heavy price, and sets off to travel the world. Along the way he gets embroiled in a conspiracy in the martial arts world and meets Wen Kexing, a mysterious martial artist who wants nothing but revenge.

The series can be watched on YouTube, Viki, and Netflix, and Primenote  with English subtitles. However, the epilogue is only available on Viki and Youtube at the moment behind payment.

Contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Multiple women throughout the series are shown to be capable of martial arts.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Wen Kexing calls Zhou Zishu "A-Xu" and Gu Xiang "A-Xiang", and Zhou Zishu calls Wen Kexing "Lao-Wen".
    • Zhao Jing calls the Scorpion King "Xie'er" (lit. “My son Xie”), though their relationship is hardly as affectionate as this nickname implies.
    • Wen Kexing calls Chengling "little idiot". It starts as an insult then becomes a term of endearment.
  • Adaptation Deviation: Word of Honor follows the novel to an extent. It has the same world, same major plot points and until half of the show, the same pace. But there are differences, including:
    • There is more focus on the worldbuilding compared to the novel. The reason for this is the novel is a sequel to one of Priest's other novels, Lord Seventh, which goes into more detail about the worldbuilding, while Faraway Wanderers simply focuses on the main couple.
    • Side characters such as the top ten ghosts, the Five Lakes Alliance, the Scorpions and many others are given more screen time and development with their own fleshed out stories.
    • Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing are made to be childhood friends and share the same sect. This change was done probably to allow for more physical intimacy between the two; it wouldn't have passed censorship if they were strangers like in the novel.
    • Starting from Episode 30, a big part of the plot doesn't happen in the novel, which renders most of the episodes from that point almost entirely original. In the novel Wen Kexing doesn't fake his death, so Zhou Zishu doesn't have to pull out his nails and therefore, Wen Kexing doesn't have to sacrifice his meridians for Zhou Zishu. All of this leads to a completely different ending.
  • Adaptation Inspiration: To an extent. The series adapts the core concepts of the novel and its main characters, however, it made some radical changes to some characterisations, major/minor arcs and side characters in order to fit Word of Honor's script.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Or Bi in Zhou Zishu's case. In order to avoid China's censorship, the series gave hints about the characters' sexuality rather than state it explicitly like in the novel. They weren't exactly subtle about it though.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Zhou Zishu is horrified to discover Wen Kexing has gotten innocent people killed. Wen Kexing retorts with, "Do you dare to say that you've only ever killed bad people?"
  • Belated Happy Ending: Many thought that Episode 36 was the finale of the series, making the show end with a tragedy. However, the bonus episode, which is taken as Episode 37 or epilogue, turns out to be the true ending for the series, supported by the fact that the thanks to the author is in it, and not Episode 36. It does not help that this Episode was not announced, nor is it available on Netflix.
  • Bury Your Gays: At first it looks like it'll be played straight, but then it's completely inverted. Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing become immortal and have been living on the snow mountain for at least a decade happily.
  • Big Eater: Ye Baiyi eats so much that an astonished crowd gather to watch him eat.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Shows up frequently when a character is injured.
  • But Not Too Gay: Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing are the novel's Official Couple. Thanks to China's censors, their relationship is changed to friendship in the series — though the subtext still exists, and the series makes their romance as obvious as possible. It takes some serious denial to think they are just friends.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: The Scorpion King finally tells Zhao Jing what he thinks of him after Zhao Jing's crimes are revealed.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Wen Kexing jumps up after a nightmare about his parents' deaths.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The hairpin that Wen Kexing gives Zhou Zishu is actually the real key to the armory.
  • Combat Hand Fan: Wen Kexing uses a fan as his main weapon.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Anyone who has entered the Ghost Valley knows that they can't get out easily, or at all if they didn't want to go through violent means, most of them had made peace with that.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: The Scorpion King and Zhao Jing's relationship isn't explicitly romantic, but the Scorpion King hates Zhao Jing spending time with anyone else and will go as far as murdering the competition.
  • Cry Laughing: The most prominent character to do this is Zhou Zishu.
  • Cuddle Bug: Chengling never hesitates to hug either Zhou Zishu or Wen Kexing.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Wen Kexing defeats the begger group on his own.
    • Ye Baiyi doesn't take much effort to incapacitate Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu.
  • Determinator: Even when belittled, left behind and rejected many times, Chengling never stops asking Zhou Zishu to take him as a disciple.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Cao Weining dies in Gu Xiang's arms. Then Gu Xiang dies in Wen Kexing's arms.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Almost guaranteed whenever a character is sad, for example when Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing have their first fight, both are seen trying to drink their sadness away.
  • Dual Wielding: Some characters duel weapons, specifically swords or blades.
  • Dutch Angle: Used constantly in scenes where Wen Kexing deals with the other ghosts.
  • Excessive Evil Eyeshadow:
    • Wen Kexing wears red eyeshadow when he's acting as the Master of Ghost Valley. Scorpion King also wears a notable eyeliner.
  • Eye Scream:
    • He Yifan screams when Feng Xiaofeng shoots poison into his eyes.
    • Wen Kexing tears out Mo Huaiyang's eyes before he kills him.
  • Faking the Dead: Wen Kexing fakes his death. Unfortunately he doesn't let Zhu Zishu in on the plan, so Zhou Zishu thinks he really is dead.
  • Family of Choice: Zhou Zishu, Chengling, Wen Kexing and Gu Xiang become a family over the course of the series.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Some deleted scenes can be seen if someone takes the broadcasted scene frame by frame.
  • Good Girl Gone Bad: Luo Fumeng (Matrimonial-Funerary Ghost) and Liu Qianqiao (Glamorous Ghost) were both once respectable young women. However, after being betrayed and humiliated by their respective suitors, they become feared members of Ghost Valley and dedicate their lives to terrorizing cheaters.
  • Go Out with a Smile:
    • Episode 32, Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu both smile as they fall off the cliff.
    • Episode 35, after being promised to get her revenge, Gu Xiang smiles just before she dies.
  • Harmful to Minors: While there is censorship, the show didn't pull back on showing Chengling being tortured, Zhou Zishu killing a toddler, Wen Kexing's upbringing and the treatment of Long Xiao.
  • Hidden Heart of Gold: Zhou Zishu might be a cold-hearted assassin or a careless beggar, but he's much warmer towards those he sees as family.
  • Hot-Blooded: Gu Xiang has a very short temper.
  • Humans Are Bastards: The martial arts paints the Ghosts as inhumane beings, hence the name, yet they are the ones to always show signs of greed, betrayal, cruelty, selfishness and cowardice.
  • Ice King: Zhou Zishu starts out very cold towards everyone. He gradually warms up once he meets Wen Kexing and Chengling.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Wen Kexing threatens to tear Cao Weining apart if he ever hurts Gu Xiang.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: All the Scorpion King wants is Zhao Jing's love. He doesn't react well when he realises Zhao Jing will never love him.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happens twice in rapid succession. Mo Huaiyang stabs Wen Kexing. Wen Kexing snaps the sword in half, pulls out the part embedded in his chest, and stabs Mo Huaiyang with it.
  • Incompletely Trained: In contrast to his two brothers, Chengling wasn't the brightest of the bunch in either martial arts or education. Almost everyone looks down on him because of this. Even Zhou Zishu belittles him for it.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: After Cao Weining's death, Gu Xiang goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge while wearing her wedding dress.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Mo Huaiyang kills Gu Xiang and Cao Weining, and promptly gets killed by Wen Kexing.
  • Light Equals Hope: In the beginning, both Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu are shown in dark places with no light, in Episode 35, there is light on Zhou Zishu and Wen Kexing wants to catch it. In the Epilogue, the light casts over both of them, showing that they reached their happy ending.
  • Light Is Not Good: Wen Kexing frequently wears light colours, but he's the Master of Ghost Valley and will kill anyone stupid enough to get in his way.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Or like daughter, in this case. Gu Xiang has a lot in common with Wen Kexing.
  • Locked into Strangeness: Wen Kexing's hair turns white after he saves Zhou Zishu.
  • Lost in Translation: Many of the cultural references, subtext and poetry are lost in the translation, as many English words failed to bring the true meaning. Several Chinese fans have explained and translated some of the references for overseas fans.
  • Master of Disguise: Zhou Zishu. For a decent portion of the story, he wears a fake face to hide his true identity that conceals his facial structure. Liu Qianqiao also has this skill, well enough to disguise as a man, it was revealed later that she gained this skill from the Four Seasons Manor, Zhou Zishu's sect.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Du Yuqian before committing suicide said that there is nothing to live for if his Zhījǐ isn't in this world. Zhou Zishu repeats these words before he pulls out his nails after Wen Kexing's supposed death.
    • Wen Kexing says that dying with Zhou Zishu is a fine ending, Zhou Zishu snaps back that who wants to die with him. During the wedding, when Wen Kexing questions why Zhou Zishu is here, Zhou Zishu tells him that he's here to die with him.
  • Ominous Fog: Whenever the Ghost Valley makes an appearance.
  • Papa Wolf: Wen Kexing, for Gu Xiang. He also has hints of being a Boyfriend-Blocking Dad, as shown by his reaction when he sees Cao Weining talking to Gu Xiang.
  • Professional Killer: Zhou Zishu, the ex leader of Tian Chuang, and Scorpian King, the head of the Scorpians.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Gu Xiang usually wears purple and is a powerful martial artist.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Wen Kexing wears lots of brightly coloured robes, including a pink one patterned with blossoms.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Ghost Valley Chief Wen Kexing who wears red and Window of Heaven Master Zhou Zishu who wears blue.
  • Plot Parallel: The series is filled to the brim with these, mainly to slip under censorship:
    • Both Wen Kexing and Gu Xiang struggle with hiding their identity as Ghosts from their significant other.
    • Two are a couple that come from the same sect, and one has no martial arts, is that the description of the Four Sages of Anji, or is it a description of Wen Kexing, Zhou Zishu and Chengling?
    • Du Yuqian breaks his zither when his Zhījǐ are dead, Wen Kexing breaks his flute when he learns about Zhou Zishu's inevitable death.
    • Both Cao Weining and Zhou Zishu would protect Gu Xiang and Wen Kexing whenever someone wants to kill them for their identity as Ghosts.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: This is Gu Xiang's reaction to Cao Weining's death and Wen Kexing's reaction to Gu Xiang's death.
  • Self-Harm: Zhou Zishu purposefully put the nails in his body as a form of penance for all the people he killed.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Gu Xiang uses more vulgar language than anyone else in the series.
  • Slasher Smile: Wen Kexing often wears one. It's usually followed by someone dying.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Gu Xiang and Cao Weining, who are brutally killed on the day of their wedding by the leader of the latter's sect. However, the Word of Honor concert trailer hints that they eventually reincarnate and find each other again.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Zhao Jing learns the Scorpion King didn't follow all his orders. When he confronts the Scorpion King about it he abruptly changes from speaking calmly to yelling.
    Zhao Jing: Xie'er, I remember telling you to destroy all the Drug Men. Did you take my words FOR NOTHING?
  • Tender Tears: Chengling cries frequently, both when he's happy and when he's sad.
  • * The So-Called Coward: Chengling is often dismissed and belittled for of his inexperience and because he's the weakest character in the series. But he's far from a coward, as shown when he shields a stranger with his body from an incoming stab and withstands being tortured by two assassins.
  • The Social Darwinist: In order to live in the Ghost Valley, one must kill or they will be killed, it is said that fights happen almost daily.
  • The Dead Have Names: Zhou Zishu's reaction to Prince Jin dismissing Han Ying's death.
    Zhou Zishu: He's also one of the people! He was only twenty-two.
  • Together in Death: Gu Xiang and Cao Weining. They die close together, and Wen Kexing places their bodies beside each other and covers them with one of the wedding decorations.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Wen Kexing loves walnuts and is often seen eating them.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Most of the characters seem to have an endless supply of different robes while being on the road.
  • Wedding Smashers: The wedding of Gu Xiang and Cao Weining turns into a massacre as soon as Mo Huaiyang shows up, and both the bride and groom are killed.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The epilogue shows Chengling as an adult telling his students about Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu, and reveals Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu have become immortal.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Cao Weining is murdered during his wedding to Gu Xiang. She outlives him... by a few minutes. Then she's killed too.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The Scorpion King is an assassin who'll do literally anything for Zhao Jing, but he also desperately wants Zhao Jing's love and is heartbroken when he finally realises Zhao Jing is only using him.
  • Wuxia: Like most of Priest's novels and their adaptations.
    • However, the finale has a scene where the characters cultivate, slightly shifting it into a Wuxia/Xianxia.
  • Yandere: The Scorpion King isn't the most stable at the best of times, but he well and truly snaps when he finally realizes Zhao Jing doesn't really care about him.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Zhou Zishu has six nails implanted into his body, and has three years to live as they slowly destroy his physical and mental health.