We finally get to learn why only a certain demographic can be made into a shikabane hime in the beginning of episode 11 of Shikabane Hime: Kuro, “Hundred and Eight Lies”. Akasha explains that the founder of the Kougonshuu developed the method for creating shikabane hime as an attempt to revive his own dead daughter. Unable or unwilling to develop the method further, only people who are sufficiently similar to this daughter can be made into shikabane hime. Not only that, but this first shikabane hime has been preserved all this time as a medium to strengthen the connections between every contract monk and shikabane hime, which were severed when Hokuto killed the first shikabane hime. Incidentally, I was mistaken with the previous episode where I thought the second-in-command of the Kougonshuu was dead: he was impaled by Hokuto, but he survived.
During his exposition, Akasha was gathering the scroll that had sealed the first shikabane hime. It is the original text of the copy that the Seven Stars had stolen from the Hoshimura family. Apparently Akasha either lied about Hokuto having been a shikabane for too long to become a shikabane hime or the means were not available without reaching Joubou, since Akasha uses the scroll to make Hokuto his own shikabane hime. Now that Akasha has accomplished a major part in his goal of “freeing” all shikabane hime, he no longer needs the cooperation of the Seven Stars, and he has Hokuto kill Hazama. I’m not sure what he intends to do now that Hokuto is his shikabane hime, though. Maybe he thinks that cleanup is necessary? But before Hokuto also kills the second-in-command of the Kougonshuu and Honda, Ouri and Makina arrive.
Apparently the cleanup of destroying all the shikabane hime is not included in Akasha’s plans, since he would be satisfied with Hokuto destroying only Makina, her recently defined nemesis. Are his plans for the Kougonshuu and the shikabane hime over, and is he wanting a “happily ever after” life from now on for himself and his shikabane hime once Hokuto deals with her preoccupation as an enemy of Makina? With Hokuto having a different fighting style from before (for all I know, now she really is fighting instead of just trying to get to know others), and with Makina having been weakened by losing her connection with Ouri, Makina is having an even harder time against Hokuto than before. But Ouri does manage to repel Hokuto with his sadanjutsuhou before Hokuto finishes Makina off.
Akasha is impressed by Ouri’s sadanjutsuhou, to which Ouri replies that it is not just his, but also Keisei’s and all of the other people who died because of Akasha, that it is the sort of thing that someone like Akasha, who killed his own shikabane hime, would never know. Akasha seems to have thought that killing Ouri and Makina before they learned the truth about the fate of shikabane hime would have been a mercy, but Ouri’s accusation about him not having loved his previous shikabane hime provokes Akasha into revealing the truth. For starters, Akasha definitely loved his shikabane hime: he had loved her even before she had become shikabane hime.
The name of Akasha’s previous shikabane hime is Hibiki. Akasha and Hibiki had known each other since childhood and had grown up to love each other. However, Hibiki had a weak constitution and had died young, apparently from cancer with the way she had lost her hair presumably from chemotherapy. The typical tragic love story changes into something else as Hibiki dies, when she tells Akasha that she wants to be his shikabane hime so as to be able to stay with him, reminiscent of what Nozomi had said at the end of episode 8. Unlike Nozomi, Hibiki had the potential to become a shikabane hime, so Akasha begged the head priest for her to become his shikabane hime rather than one for another contract monk.
Akasha and Hibiki were a very strong contract monk and shikabane hime pair, even said to be comparable to the Takamine and Kamika pair known for being the strongest. Then the fateful day when Akasha and Hibiki were part of the force against Hazama’s trap came. There were over two hundred shikabane gathered by Hazama against the few shikabane hime and contract monks, but unlike what I had thought, it was not so one-sided against the shikabane hime. In fact, it was more of the opposite with most of the shikabane being weak, and it ended for victory for the Kougonshuu despite the lack of forces due to communication problems. Hibiki had actually destroyed 108 shikabane in the fight, which would have meant her going to heaven according to the semi-public Kougonshuu propaganda.
However, it seems this was exactly what Hazama had wanted. Once she had killed 108 shikabane, Hibiki had gone berserk. The reason that the only survivors from the fight were Akasha and Hibiki was not because they were almost overwhelmed by the huge numbers of shikabane: it was a berserk Hibiki that had killed the remaining contract monks and shikabane hime, only to be stopped by Hazama who presumably cut her in half (Hazama’s actions are not shown explicitly, but the other explanation would be that she disintegrated all by herself). The second-in-command does not want Akasha to reveal the rest and tries to stop him by invoking his sadanjutsuhou made even more powerful by sacrificing his life, but before it is completely invoked, Akasha manages to tell Ouri that a shikabane hime that has killed 108 shikabane loses all obsessions or nature, almost like Hokuto, and becomes a shikabane of destruction.
Outside where Ouri, Makina, and Honda had evacuated to, Honda tells Ouri and Makina the rest since Akasha had already revealed the most important secret. In most cases a shikabane hime that has killed 108 shikabane is taken away from her contract monk, who is told that the shikabane hime has gone to heaven. But in reality, the shikabane hime are sealed within Joubou forever, being nearly indestructible and having become mindless creatures of destruction. Akasha is an exception, having seen Hibiki going berserk, and he can’t bear to see her trapped forever in a mindless existence. It’s no wonder that Akasha went on to kill Hibiki, although it hardly justifies what he went on to do, becoming responsible for hundreds to hundreds of thousands of deaths. Unfortunately for the Kougonshuu, the self-sacrifice by the second-in-command turns out to be futile, and Akasha and Hokuto have not been hurt at all.
Elsewhere, the shikabane hime are not going crazy, which was rather unexpected for me considering what had happened to Minai. The death of the first shikabane hime destroyed the medium that allows a shikabane hime to gain strength from their contract monk, which is suspected by Rika even though she knows nothing of the details of what the medium actually is. But it seems that the knowledge that their contract monk is alive and well is enough for the shikabane hime to maintain their rationality, unlike Minai whose contract monk actually did die. The shikabane hime may have lost much of their power, but they are not going crazy. Or maybe it just takes time. Ouri and Makina seem to be an even more special case, since Makina starts regenerating from her wounds to the surprise of Akasha.
Now we know what the terrible secret behind the shikabane hime is, the one which pushed Akasha over the edge and made Sadahiro and Akira into a hunter of humans, making sure Akira would never destroy 108 shikabane. I have no idea what the future course for Ouri and Makina would be, however. Makina and many others may not have believed that they would actually have gone on to heaven, but the truth might have been more than what Makina would have expected. I have a feeling that Keisei would have been OK with the secret, though: unlike Hibiki, Makina has yet to cross the limit, so instead of emulating Akasha, Keisei would probably have kept Makina away from shikabane as far as possible, with the exception of seven particular shikabane.
For that matter, there could have been many other alternatives that the Kougonshuu could have taken to keep shikabane hime away from their fate without having to keep it secret. They could have gone for the early retirement route, with stern warnings not to approach a kill count of 108, and keep shikabane hime away from shikabane once they reach a count of, say, 70. Or they could have had the shikabane hime dealing most of the damage against a shikabane and having the contract monk deal the finishing blow. Then again, the Kougonshuu couldn’t even improve on the shikabane hime creation rituals even a little bit to expand the target demographic, which would have had the double benefit of regaining the sanity of more shikabane and the death that would have been wrought otherwise. Maybe the Kougonshuu needs some new imaginative ideas from people like Ouri to fix their ossified traditions.