- This is the article on Mei's guardian. For the race of experimental immortals, head to Hōko.
Hōko's entire body was made up of tree branches. His head had a single hole, which acted as his eye, along with a nose and a mouth.
Hōko was polite and showed no signs of hostility. He provided Gabimaru's group with food, a bath and was willing to provide them with information about the elixir and the island. This act of kindness was mainly due with the fact that he honored the final wishes of those who come to the island because of their eventual fate of meeting their demise by Lord Tensen. He stated that he was incapable of lying. Despite Hōko's accommodating demeanor, he wished to live peacefully on the island and made it bluntly that he did not want Gabimaru and his group to cause any problems for him and Mei.
Hōko was a firm believer of the religious façade Lord Tensen provided and viewed them as gods because of their overwhelming power. Even after learning that his religious beliefs were false by Mu Dan, Hōko still viewed him as a god and thought of his actions as divine punishment. However, he was not particularly loyal to Lord Tensen and was willing to defy one of them if it was for good reason.
1,000 years ago, on Kotaku, Hōko lived with his wife and daughter in the village of Hōjō. During those times, his family, along with the villagers, underwent Arborification and traveled to Hōrai to sit in Zazen pose. Hōko then found Mei unconscious, after she had escaped from Lord Tensen, and decided to raise her in the abandoned village.
Lord Tensen Arc
After Gabimaru chases Mei, Hōko appears to defend her but is taken down by Yuzuriha. Hōko asked them to unhand Mei and offers to tell them about the elixir and take them to the village. Yuzuriha rejected his offer but persuades her by telling her about the village having a bath. As they are traveling, they wonder if Hōko would turn on them but he assures them that he would not and the village is save from the Sōshin and human-faced insects. They arrive to Hōko's house and he offers them food. Hōko explains to them that the Elixir of Life, also known as Tan, exist on the island and guarded by Lord Tensen at the center of the island. He tells them that they will soon meet their end once they meet them and he was honoring their last wishes. Gabimaru and Yuzuriha point their weapons at Hōko, thinking that he was showing hostility. Hōko reassures them that he was only speaking the truth. Hōko then shows prove that the elixir exists by showing them his regenerative abilities.
Hōko offers the group lodging before they depart. Later, the group finds out that Gabimaru has left for Hōrai while Hōko notices that Mei has also left. Hōko offers to guide them through the thick fog to find the two. After Yuzuriha asked Hōko about Lord Tensen, Hōko explains that Lord Tensen are seven immortal beings who were once one single person. He then goes on to explain the villagers having undergone Arborification and how he and his family were among the few. Along with this information, he explains to tells them that Lord Tensen uses a power known as Tao and that everything that exist possess it.
Once the group had finally reached the gates of Hōrai and entered, Hōko's head is severed from his body and sees that it was caused by one of the Tensen's known as Mu Dan, who he addresses from his religious epithet. Mu Dan figured that he would still be alive but knew that the Aborification would take its effect. Hōko accepted his fate, believing that his soul will rest in Hōrai. After hearing this, Mu Dan buntly tells Hōko that his religious beliefs were a lie in order to maintain order on the island, which baffles him. Mu Dan then attacks the group while Sagiri asks Hōko if Mu Dan had a weakness they can use against him. Hōko believes that it is impossible to defeat him and says that he accepted this punishment. Sagiri encourages him to give her any hints by mentioning the fact that he won't be able to see Mei again. After Sagiri attempts to fight Mu Dan, Hōko yells out to her to cut his tanden, which is his source of power to emit Tao. Sagiri's attack has no effect but not until she releases her own Tao and cuts Mu Dan's face, causing his healing process to stop. In the end, Sagiri, Yuzuriha, and Senta manage to defeat Mu Dan. Afterwards, Sagiri comes to Hōko worried about his Arborification, but says that he will endure for now. He then witnesses Mu Dan transform into his true form while fighting Yamada Asaemon Shion who has arrived to protect them. After removing the flowers from his earlier infection from Mu Dan, Sagiri asked Hōko if there was anything they can do to help Senta, to which he answered saying that it was beyond his control. He then witnesses the events of Mu Dan's demise and accompanies them as they enter Hōrai.
The next day, as the group travels back to the gate to see if other have made it, Hōko reflects on what Mu Dan said about humans being experiments on the island and how the current humans might bring a change to Kotaku since they were able to bring down one of the Tensens. After arriving at the gate where they meet with Yamada Asaemon Fuchi, Tamiya Gantetsusai, Gabimaru unconscious, Mei, and Tōma, Hōko sees that Mei has change since she used her power and expresses his gratitude to the group that they kept her safe. He then asked if they traveled from the Sōshin nest, which Gantetsusai says yes and states that they killed all the Sōshin. He then becomes shock to see that they have a Dōshi hostage, which Fuchi states that they have also defeated two others. Hōko becomes speechless that they have managed to achieve such feats and wonders if Lord Tensen attracted humans beyond comprehension.
After relocating to a near by cave, Hōko sees that Mei's conditioning is worsening and offers her his Tao to recover. Mei becomes hesitant but Hōko insists, stating that this was a way for him to atone for his sins since he did not honor her wish to leave the island ever since they met and only wanting to raise her as his daughter. Mei accepts his offer and tells Hōko that she believes that they are family. After absorbing Hōko's Tao, Mei returns to her child body and says goodbye to her father.
Abilities and Powers
Having been Arborified, Hōko received the powers of Flower Tao, giving him the ability to regenerate broken limbs instantly. However, this ability was less than beneficial since the more he regenerated the more he would succumb to the effects of Arborification, resulting in him losing consciousness as his body accelerated more into a tree.
- Hōko's rankings in the Popularity Polls:
- In the first popularity poll, Hōko ranked 22nd place.
- In the second popularity poll, Hōko ranked 23rd place with 28 votes.
- Hōko was included in the Jigokuraku Fashion Review of Volume 3 but could not receive a score due to not wearing any clothes.
- Hōko shares the same birthday with Moro Makiya.
- Hōko's Arborification affects his vocal cords.