- "Then since that day, I made a solemn vow to myself that I would never leave the emperor's side, even if it costs me my life."
You Houki 揚鳳綺, later known as Empress Dowager Youtaiko in Fushigi Yuugi, is the wife of the emperor Hotohori and the empress of Kounan. She is only a side character introduced in the second season and end of the first half of the manga (she is not mentioned that much), but in Hotohori's light novel Suzaku Hi Den, Houki has a very prominent role. Initially a meager peasant from Seirin Village, she got admitted to the imperial harem due to financial debts and her father's wish for a better life for her.
She is often said by others to bear an unmistakeable resemblance to Nuriko, to the point that Nuriko himself comments that they could be twins in Suzaku Hi Den. She has long lavender hair that is worn atop her head in elaborate styles most of the time and eyes that are a light turquoise. When she appears before the warriors in the series, she wears imperial clothing.
When shown in the beginning chapters of Suzaku Hi Den, she wears a humble skirt and robe underneath a cloak to keep her warm. Her hairstyle also appears more simple.
Houki is gentle and very loyal to her husband. In Suzaku Hi Den, the Empress is said to be hard-working, very kind, honest and pure-hearted.
She cannot bear to lose Hotohori, falling gravely ill after his death as shown in both volume 15 of the Manga and the second OVA. She speaks in a humble and reserved manner. She shows kindness to the Suzaku warriors, Miaka and also to Mayo in the Eikouden Novels and OVA. She is not easily angered and later becomes a strong ruler.
Houki was born and lived as a very poor farmer in Seirin Village of Kounan's Jusou Prefecture. Her childhood friend Shu Tendo, lived three houses away from her and they often spent time together. Tendou loved her dearly, wishing to someday make her his wife, but Houki only saw him as a close friend who was like an elder brother.
In the 2nd Chapter of the novel, imperial carriages led by the harem manager Gentokuin come from the capital of Eiyou in search of eligible girls for the palace harem. At first she refuses and attempts to resist every effort, but Houki's father forces her to go, telling her that she is too good and beautiful to spend her time farming. She climbs into the carriage and though Tendou tries everything in his power to make her stay, Houki remains there and goes to the capital, saying that doing so would lighten the burden for everyone. When she arrives at the palace, it is here she meets Kourin, Suzaku warrior Nuriko, who eventually becomes a close friend. During her time there, Gentokuin, who also happens to be a fortune teller and eunuch, prophesied that Houki will be the empress, which angers Kourin, as he had told something similar to another harem girl.
Nuriko eventually resigns from the harem to become a full Suzaku Warrior when the Priestess, Miaka, appears. He leaves to go on many adventures, but always writes letters to Houki back in the capital. Nuriko also sneaks into the harem quarters to visit her when they return from their journies, but eventually has to travel to the far away country of Hokkan, the land of Genbu. As is known from the main series, this is a journey from which he does not return.
After news of Nuriko's death reaches Eiyou, Hotohori offers to take Houki to visit her home village of Seirin. When they arrive, they are horrified to see that village is in ruins after a Kutou raid, with Tendou as the sole survivor. Houki rushes to greet him, thankful and relived that he is still alive and he asks her to stay in the village and help to rebuild it, as his wife. She sadly shakes her head and that is when he notices Hotohori standing nearby. Enraged, Tendou reveals to the both of them the truth that he had learned from his parents on the night of their death. He is the full-blooded elder brother of the emperor and as such, it is he who should be the rightful ruler of Kounan.Despite parting less than favourably, Hotohori later has a banquet arranged for his elder brother. But as fate would have it, Tendou, along with Gentokuin, have both turned on them, bringing a traitorous army to storm the palace.
Tendou orders his soldiers to await further orders and he forces his younger brother to engage in a fierce battle. At one point, to protect Hotohori, Houki catches Tendou's sword between her hands. Houki's strength was inhuman (which was thought to have been Nuriko lending her his protection) and she refuses to let go. Tears in her eyes, she tells Tendou how excited and happy Hotohori had been for his visit and how he believed that he would take away his sorrow. She continued that he was a kind man who loved his subjects from the very bottom of his heart and did all he could to see them prosper. These words pierced Tendou's heart like a cold knife, and it was not long before Gentokuin ordered Tendou to strike. Tendou could not bear to strike the woman he loved, so Gentokuin, out of impatience and wrath, stabbed him. Hotohori quickly dispatched the evil eunich. He and Houki took hold of Tendou afterwards and he spoke to the both of them, also apologising for slightly wounding Hotohori's face during the battle. Hotohori tried to reassure him that a doctor would come and they would fix the nation together, but Tendou's wound was too grave and he did not live.
Kutou invasion and appearance to the warriors
In the original Fushigi Yûgi, Houki appears before the Suzaku Seven, who mistake her for Nuriko's ghost until Hotohori announces that she is his empress. After the news that Hotohori is killed in action, Houki is seen by his side, mourning and crying copious tears of grief. It is not until the 2nd OVA (and Manga Volume 15) that she is seen again.
Boushin and life as Empress Dowager
Two years later, when Miaka, Taka, and the remaining Suzaku Warriors come to the Kounan Palace in search of Taka's memory stones, the courtiers reveal that due to the death of the emperor, both Houki and the Crown Prince Boushin have not spoken since. It is later revealed that Boushin has one of the jewels that they are looking for. Later on, Hotohori's ghost reunites with his son and wife.
Houki also has a prominent role in the 3rd OVA (and the Eikouden novels) as the Dowager Empress Youtaikou.